One week into the WNBA season, there’s been some exciting finishes and emerging stars on display as the league continues to grow. With three games on the slate for this Friday the 13th, I looked at each game to find value and notable trends to watch for.
Dallas Wings +8.5 at Washington Mystics
Despite Washington looking like one of the most impressive teams in the W so far this season, the Wings went 7-1 ATS as underdogs of at least five points last season and I'm backing Dallas here as +8.5 underdogs for my best bet of the night.
Washington ranks in the bottom-five for opponent offensive rebound rate so far this season, and the Wings averaged the second-most second-chance points per game last year. Dallas will also have Teiara McCowan, the league's leading offensive rebounder in 2021, available tonight after she missed the season opener.
Arike Ogunbowale should bounce back after being held to just seven points on 3/14 shooting from the field. Dallas's 27.1% eFG% marked the first game in franchise history with an effective field-goal percentage below 30% and there's too much talent on the offensive end for those struggles to continue.
The Mystics exceeded expectations so far due to a league-low turnover rate of 15.7%. While Washington's offense boasts a number of veterans that should keep the team's turnover rate down, two of the team's first three opponents ranked among the bottom four in forcing opponent turnovers.
Washington averaged the fewest points in the paint and fast-break points last season and the Mystics coughed up 1.91 additional turnovers per 100 possessions when Natasha Cloud was off the court. With Cloud in the health and safety protocols for this game, I'm targeting Dallas to have a better performance in the team's second game of the season.
Through the first week of the season, every underdog that covered the spread also won the game outright. It shouldn't take long to get a feel for whether or not the Wings will defrost after an ice-cold performance in the opener, as Dallas went just 4-13 when trailing after the first quarter last year. I think this line should be much closer and I'd consider doubling down with the Wings to win outright with a live bet if the offense gets off to a better start.
EDGE: Dallas Wings +8.5 (2 Units)
Las Vegas Aces -8.5 at Atlanta Dream
Usually I would be looking to target the underdog with a spread this big, but I think the Aces will bounce back from the team's first loss of the season and snap Atlanta's winning streak. I'm staying off the spread for this game and instead looking at the futures market.
Las Vegas leads the championship market at PointsBet Sportsbook in bet count as nearly 30% of bettors wagered that a title is in the cards for Becky Hammon's first season at the helm in Las Vegas. The Aces also received 33% of the total handle in that market, significantly above second-place Connecticut's 18% share of the handle.
PointsBet analyst Michael Korn pointed out that the handle splits are particularly illustrative of the widespread confidence in the Aces, especially since Las Vegas is listed with the shortest championship odds on the board.
"The Aces are dominating the handle so far," Korn said. "There hasn't been much action on long shots."
A'ja Wilson is the biggest reason why the Aces are among the title favorites this season and she received plenty of support in the MVP market herself. Wilson led all players in bets to win MVP at PointsBet Sportsbook as bettors expect her to become the second player in the last seven years to win the MVP award after entering the season as the favorite.
While there wasn't a line offered for the Rookie of the Year award, top overall pick Rhyne Howard was the consensus favorite and is off to a strong start. Howard hit five of her seven corner threes while leading the Dream in average points, threes and blocks through two games.
The Dream went 2-0 to start the season and boast the second-best defensive rating in the league. Atlanta ranked last in defensive rating before the break last season, allowing 106.8 points per 100 possessions, but improved to 99.6 over the final 13 games of the regular season. With Cheyenne Parker back and Howard knocking down her corner threes, the Dream could surprise some teams as big underdogs this season.
Indiana Fever +6.5 at New York Liberty
While I still expect the Liberty to win this game at home, I see value in the spread with Indiana if the line gets up to +7. New York only won two home games by more than seven points last season, and no team allowed more opponent transition points or points off turnovers than the Liberty.
Indiana has a young team that will make plenty of mistakes as well, but the Liberty could struggle to pull away if turnovers lead to easy transition buckets going the other way. The Fever average the third-highest transition frequency in the league this season and ranked in the top five for fast-break points per game last year.
Five of Indiana's draft picks made the final roster, and each of them contributed to the team already. I've been impressed with Destanni Henderson, who has received plenty of attention for her scoring but I'm actually most excited by her passing for a Fever team that totaled the fewest made threes coming from assists last season.
New York should be far better than what the team showed during Wednesday's blowout loss in Chicago so I'm avoiding the moneyline and any spread +6.5 or lower, but I'd lean towards backing the Fever if this line reaches +7.
EDGE: Indiana Fever if the spread reaches +7 (1 Unit)