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The Big WNBA Western Conference Preview

The Storm are the big favorite to repeat, and might have the best player in the world. Can some new-look teams challenge the throne?

Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm poses for a portrait at Seattle Pacific University during the WNBA media day on May 9, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

Much like the other NBA, the Western Conference is far more competitive than the Eastern from top to bottom once again. There have been only three title-winning teams from the East in the last 25-year history of the league, the latest being the 2019 champion Washington Mystics.

Though the schedule is balanced in the WNBA, for some reason the best teams are on the #bestcoast.

Let’s take a look at each of the six teams in alphabetical order, with their 2021 championship odds from DraftKings Sportsbook included.

Dallas Wings

2020 record 8-14 (missed playoffs). 2021 Championship Odds +6000

You’ll be hard-pressed to remember a team in any professional sport that had both the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in the same draft, but the Wings did just that and took Texas’s Charli Collier and the intriguing 6’5 Awak Kuier from Finland. Add them to the league’s leading scorer last year in Arike Ogunbowale (22.8 ppg), and you’ll have a young, exciting team that’s probably going to struggle with consistency.

Oregon’s Satou Sabally is here for her second year too (13.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg), and the potential of this team is off the charts. But they’ll need to take their lumps and grow as a unit. It would be surprising if this team wasn’t in the mix 2-3 years from now for the title, but it’s not happening in 2021. Just making the Top 8 would be an accomplishment this season.

Las Vegas Aces

2020 record 18-4 (lost in Finals). 2021 Championship Odds +300

They were the best team in the Wubble regular season, had the league MVP A’ja Wilson (20.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg), looked like a force of nature at times ... and now they get back the all-interplanetary-when-she-wants-to-play-in-America Liz Cambage too?

If it wasn’t for season-ending ACL tear for Angel McCoughtry in a preseason game, on paper this would be the best team in the league. But as it is they’re still loaded, as having Dearica Hamby (13.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg) as your third frontcourt option is borderline unfair. Now add back Kelsey Plum (she skipped last season as well), remember Chelsea Gray is here now too (14.0 ppg, 5.3 apg for LA last season), and the 2019 No. 1 overall Jackie Young is too (11.0 ppg).

If the pieces fit as expected, it could be a fourth WNBA championship for Bill Laimbeer as a head coach. But what we do know is this team is going dominate on the glass and at the rim. No one is going to be able to stop them, it’ll be strictly about containment in the paint.

Los Angeles Sparks

2020 record 15-7 (lost in second round). 2021 Championship Odds +550

Who exactly is betting on this team so the price is so low? Candace Parker is in Chicago, Chelsea Gray went up I-15 to Vegas ... you’re telling me there’s a 5-1 chance they win the title without them and with no major replacements? Don’t think so.

Nneka Ogwumike (13.3 ppg) is a nice piece to have, and Kristi Toliver (13.0 ppg, 6.0 apg for Washington last season) returns to the team where she won a title in 2016. Chiney Ogwumike sat out 2020 doing some terrific work away from basketball (9.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg in 2019), and she’s a good player too. Plus 2021 seventh overall pick Jasmine Walker could shoot it in college. But this isn’t nearly enough to be the fourth choice on the odds board.

In a league where the talent is spread across just 12 teams, everyone is really good. This team just won’t have the horses this season, and I’d take them to miss the playoffs if I could find a line for it.

Minnesota Lynx

2020 record 14-8 (lost in semifinals). 2021 Championship Odds +1400

If you want to take a flyer on an unconventional title winner, here’s the value. Crystal Dangerfield went from the 16th pick in the 2020 Draft to the WNBA Rookie of the Year (we totally nailed this by the way). Her former UConn teammate Napheesa Collier (16.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg) has been terrific, and they still have a legend in Sylvia Fowles (14.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg in seven Wubble games).

Now add veterans Kayla McBride (12.5 ppg) from the Aces, and Aerial Powers (16.3 ppg) from the Mystics. This is a team full of very, very good basketball players that would seem to fit together nicely. There’s a winning culture in Minny, and though it’s a different core than the unit which won four titles in from 2011-17, it’s an organization that knows how to handle success.

Seattle and Las Vegas are favored for a reason, but we wouldn’t be stunned if this team could make some noise late in the year.

Phoenix Mercury

2020 record 13-9 (lost in second round). 2021 Championship Odds +1000

They have Diana Taurasi and you don’t, so this is a team to always be feared. But last year despite an talent influx last offseason, the pieces didn’t totally fit and it showed on the court. Skylar Diggins-Smith (17.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) needs the ball to be good, but so does Taurasi (18.7 ppg, 4.5 apg). And they both have to find Brittney Griner (17.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg), only one of the most dominating post presences ever in women’s basketball.

In 2021 they added even more UConn’ers in Kia Nurse and Megan Walker from New York, and Huskies alum Bria Hartley (14.6 ppg, 4.5 apg) was terrific for PHX before an ACL tear ended her Wubble.

There’s plenty of talent, and though women’s basketball GOAT will be 39 this season but still seems to have plenty in the tank. If the tweaks to the roster work, this could be a team that can compete for the ring. But we’ll need to see it on the court.

Seattle Storm

2020 record 18-4 (champions). 2021 Championship Odds +175

Caveat emptor if you want to fade them. Taurasi is generally accepted as the GOAT of the sport, but Breanna Stewart is coming for that one-of-one overall title and in a hurry. She’s already the Center GOAT, and her teammate Sue Bird is the Point GOAT.

This team won it all in 2018, had Stewie (19.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg) suffer an Achilles tear in 2019, and then won it all in 2020. Jewell Loyd (15.5 ppg) also happens to be one of the best players in the game, but she gets overshadowed by two teammates vying for Mount Rushmore status.

Yes they lost two key pieces in Alysha Clark (Washington) and Natasha Howard (New York), but Kennedy Burke and Candice Dupree should fit right in from Indiana. 5’6” Jordin Canada can get to the rim on anyone in the league. And adding another UConn’er in Katie Lou Samuelson and asking her to just stand in the corner and shoot? It’s a recipe for success.

The league is loaded, but they still have the best player when the chips are down. Until Bird slows down (and she sure didn’t play like a 39-year-old last season), they’re the best team in the world. If you come at the queens, you best not miss your jumpers. Because they’re going to score and score and score.