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Kahleah Copper
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Wolf's Wagers

WNBA Best Bets: Picks and Game Preview for Sunday, May 22

by Jake Wolf
Updated On: May 22, 2022, 1:02 pm ET

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The Finals MVP is back, and she added some new hardware to her rapidly growing collection. After taking a massive leap last season to help the Chicago Sky secure a WNBA Championship, Kahleah Copper won MVP of the EuroLeague and will make her WNBA season debut today against the Washington Mystics.

While the Mystics appear to be among the most formidable teams in the league this season, I expect the reigning champs to earn a win in Copper's first game back since the WNBA Finals.

Alysha Clark will miss the game today and that will be a big loss for Washington as the former Defensive Player of the Year is still a lockdown defender despite recovering from a Lisfranc injury suffered last March that held her out of the 2021 WNBA season.

These teams both rank in the top-three for defensive rating and play at the two slowest paces in the league, so the under 160 might be in play. I think Copper, who averaged the second-most fast-break points per game last season, can inject some pace into Chicago's offense to give the Sky a transition advantage over the Mystics, who scored the third-fewest transition points per game so far this year.

Chicago is the only team assisting on more than 70% of the offense's made two-pointers yet the Sky lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, as the team boasts two of the elite playmakers in the league in Courtney Vandersloot and Candace Parker. Add in former Mystic Emma Meesseman, an elite post hub that can carve up defenses in a variety of ways, and it's no surprise to see the Sky topping the league in many playmaking metrics.

A big part of Washington's success came from good control of the turnover battle, but no team relied on points off turnovers for a lower percentage of total points than Chicago, as the Sky scored just 16.2% of points off turnovers to start the year.

Chicago is the only team assisting on more than 70% of the offense's made two-pointers yet the Sky lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, as the team boasts two of the elite playmakers in the league in Courtney Vandersloot and Candace Parker. Add in former Mystic Emma Meesseman, an elite post hub that can carve up defenses in a variety of ways, and it's no surprise to see the Sky topping the league in many playmaking metrics

The only thing missing to propel Chicago to the heights of last season's championship run is a quick and dynamic scorer who can use her athleticism to get the Sky a bucket off feeds from those elite distributors when needed, and Copper certainly fits that description.

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According to Positive Residual, the Mystics allowed the lowest opponent shot frequency at the rim so far this season but allowed the league’s highest field-goal percentage at the rim when opponents made it there. The Sky rank in the top-three for points in the paint and field-goal percentage at the rim, so Chicago should be able to disrupt Washington’s rim-deterrence strategy. 

After losing a single unit on the Mercury and hitting a three-unit play on the Wings last night, my WNBA picks are 11-9 on the season for a profit of eight units, as I’ve gone 6-4 on two-unit plays and 2-0 on three-unit picks. 

My projections have this line around Chicago -5, and I see value on the Sky anywhere up to -2. Since the Mystics are currently favored by 1.5 points, I'm putting two units on the Sky and backing the reigning champs to win this matchup against a fellow contender in Washington.

EDGE: Chicago Sky +1.5 (2 Units)

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Jake Wolf

Jake Wolf is covering basketball for NBC Sports Edge and has worked for FNTSY Sports Network and YES Network. Follow him on Twitter @jakewolf13 for betting content and basketball analysis.