Last season, the Washington Mystics made their first ever run to the WNBA Finals before being swept by the Seattle Storm. In 2019, Washington is looking to go one step further.
The Mystics will open the 2019 season as the favorites to win the WNBA Championship, ahead of a field of several other contenders that have legitimate title aspirations.
Washington Adds Meesseman, Seattle Loses Stewart
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Mystics are a +230 pick to win the WNBA Championship. It’s easy to see why Washington is getting so much respect, as the team is bringing back former league MVP Elena Della Donne along with other key contributors including Kristi Toliver and Ariel Atkins. They’ll also be getting back Emma Meesseman, who sat out the 2018 season to focus on playing for Belgium in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
Not only is Washington potentially even stronger than the team that made the finals last year, but the Seattle Storm (+1600) will be without Breanna Stewart, who will miss the season after rupturing her Achilles tendon while playing in Europe. That has knocked the defending champs from the list of top contenders, leaving Washington as the team to beat.
The Mystics do have problems to deal with, however. First-round draft pick Kiara Leslie is likely to miss the season after having arthroscopic knee surgery, and Meesseman will miss time in June again while playing for Belgium in the European Championships. But Washington head coach Mike Thibault expects his team to handle that adversity in stride.
“The bottom line is we’re probably going to be playing short-handed all year,” Thibault told ESPN. “The biggest problem is June, when Emma is gone. The good part is she’ll be back here for the most crucial part of the season.”
Cambage Trade Helps Aces Jump to Contender Status
The Las Vegas Aces (+300) are one of the most intriguing stories heading into the 2019 WNBA season. The Aces finished last in the Western Conference last season with a 14-19 record, and weren’t seen as a contender until they traded for Australian center Liz Cambage last week. Las Vegas acquired the league’s leading scorer in 2018 from the Dallas Wings in exchange for two 2020 draft picks along with guard Moriah Jefferson and forward Isabelle Harrison.
Adding Cambage gives the Aces a dynamic one-two punch alongside last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick A’ja Wilson, who scored 20.7 points per game herself in her rookie campaign. The team also features plenty of young guard play, including No. 1 picks Jackie young and Kelsey Plum, along with Kayla McBride, who scored 18.2 points per game herself last year.
The Los Angeles Sparks (+440) are also a team to watch. While Los Angeles didn’t land Cambage in the offseason like many expected, they still have a deep team despite the fact that Candace Parker will start the season sidelined with a hamstring issue. In her absence, the Sparks will be led by sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, though an aging core leaves open the possibility that injuries could be an issue.
The WNBA season tips off on Friday, with regular season play lasting through early September. Other top contenders for the 2019 title include the Connecticut Sun (+550), Phoenix Mercury (+700), and the Atlanta Dream (+750).