While the Dallas Wings, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury should be commended for emerging from a highly competitive playoff race, I expect the WNBA Finals to come down to some pairing of the top five teams in the league. The Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics each completed impressive seasons and will contend for a championship this postseason. I analyzed historical WNBA trends and looked at some of the champions throughout history to see if there's any opportunities for value betting on PointsBet Sportsbook's WNBA Championship Odds.
The 2022 season was only the third time in WNBA history where five teams finished with a net rating of +5.0 or better. The previous two seasons came in 2000 and 2012, and both of those seasons included a team with a net rating of +10.0 or better. The top five teams all finished between +5.0 and +10.0 for the first time, showing the parity that exists among the five premier squads this year.
Over the last 20 postseasons, 16 of the 20 teams with a net rating of +7.5 or better made the Finals, which is good news for the Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces. Unfortunately for those teams, two of the exceptions came last season as the Chicago Sky earned the distinction of worst regular-season net rating by a champion in WNBA history. Playing a chunk of the season without Candace Parker contributed to Chicago's regular-season struggles, just as Washington played much of this season without Elena Delle Donne.
Washington looms as a dangerous sleeper in the title conversation with the fifth-best championship odds at PointsBet Sportsbook. The Mystics posted an impressive +11.1 net rating in 687 minutes with Delle Donne on the floor but that margin flipped to -0.1 in 768 minutes without Delle Donne.
Delle Donne and the Mystics will have a tough test right off the bat with a first-round series against the Seattle Storm. Only four lineups in the league posted a net rating of +10.0 or better in at least 200 minutes this season, and two of those four lineups came from the Storm.
Seattle outscored opponents by 18.9 points per 100 possessions with a lineup of Bird / Loyd / Williams / Stewart / Charles in 220 minutes, which was the best-performing lineup that played 200+ minutes. The third-best qualifying lineup was that unit with Ezi Magbegor swapped in for Charles, so the Storm have options in the frontcourt based on the matchup and situation.
I expect whichever team emerges from the Storm/Mystics series to give the Aces a challenge, and I already have championship futures pending on both Washington and Seattle. Despite Las Vegas's status as the title favorite since early this season, the Aces finished with the worst defensive rating among the top-five teams.
Each of the last 12 and all but two champions in WNBA history finished with a defensive rating below 100, so history isn't on Las Vegas's side. The Storm and Mystics rank as the two best defenses in the league so I think there's upset potential in that second-round matchup.
One positive for the Aces is that Las Vegas posted the second-best net rating in clutch minutes this season, only behind the reigning champion Sky. Chicago will be a difficult test for any opponent with a deep roster filled with players who can create shots at the rim. The Sky set the record for most shots made at the rim in a single season according to PBP Stats, though the database only goes back to 2010. The Sky have as good a chance as any team to win a title this postseason, but I'm staying off Chicago's low odds for now.
Connecticut posted the best net rating in the WNBA this season, but PointsBet Sportsbook lists the Sun with the third-best championship odds. While I agree the top two teams are much better bets after Connecticut struggled as a top seed in last year's postseason, there still may be some value on the Sun at +450. DPOY candidate Alyssa Thomas missed most of last season and was adjusting back into the rotation during the team's second-round loss. After a full season for head coach Curt Miller to experiment with larger lineups, the Sun could have value in the futures market. I'm waiting to see how the first game against Dallas goes before making any bets on Connecticut's championship odds, but that's definitely a spot to watch.