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Lynx Still WNBA Championship Favorites Despite Poor Start

Justin Hartling's picture
Temi Fagbenle of the Minnesota Lynx handles the ball against Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks during a WNBA basketball game

The Minnesota Lynx have been the most dominant team in the WNBA for the past several years – winning four championships since 2011. But something is clearly rotten in Minnesota, as the Lynx have opened the season 2-5 through their first seven games. That’s not a great start – especially when you consider the team finished the 2017 regular season with just seven losses. But despite this, the Lynx remain the +130 favorites to win the WNBA championship.

What Is Wrong With The Minnesota Lynx?

There is no way to dance around it, the once-dominant interior play of the Lynx appears to have deteriorated. Minnesota is hitting 47 percent of its shots inside the arc – eighth in the league – while allowing opponents to convert nearly 51 percent of their two-point attempts.

The per game averages of Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles look good in a vacuum but their shooting numbers are down across the board. This is a major concern with the duo taking nearly 40 percent of Minnesota’s shots through the first seven games. Without a more efficient effort from Moore and Fowles, the Lynx will need others to change their offensive approach.

The Lynx are a great perimeter team – both offensively and defensively – but simply don’t take that many threes. Minnesota is right in the middle of the WNBA in terms of threes made, threes attempted and shooting percentage – thanks to Rebekkah Brunson’s spacing ability.

We may be seeing time catch up with the Lynx. Their traditional style of basketball may be faltering between a combination of age and the evolution of the game to a more shooter-friendly style. It’s still early in the season but there is reason to believe things could be going sideways for the Lynx.

Why Can’t The Connecticut Sun Get Any Love?

The Connecticut Sun have opened the season a perfect 5-0, pacing the WNBA in shooting percentage and opponents’ shooting percentage, but they are listed at +1400 to win the WNBA championship. It’s not like this is some major revelation, as the Sun finished last season second in the Eastern Conference and owned one of the best offenses in the league.

The committee approach to offense has been nearly unstoppable for the Sun with six players averaging more than 11 points per game and at least five players taking 50 shots through their first five. The frontcourt tandem of Alyssa Thomas and Chiney Ogqumike simply don’t miss shots but teams need to play the guards tight with Alex Bentley and Jasmine Thomas hitting from the perimeter.

Connecticut clearly has spent more time and effort on the defensive end of the floor this season compared to 2017. And though that has seen the offense slow down ever so slightly, it has meant that the Sun are no longer required to simply outscore opponents in a shootout to win. The season is early but the Sun look like the real deal.

2018 WNBA Championship Odds
TeamOdds
Minnesota Lynx+130
Los Angeles Sparks+160
New York Liberty+1100
Washington Mystics+1100
Phoenix Mercury+1200
Connecticut Sun+1400
Dallas Wings+2500
Seattle Storm+2500
Atlanta Dream+5000
Chicago Sky+6600
Indiana Fever+8000
Las Vegas Aces+10000

Odds as of June 5 at Bovada

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After meeting in the last two WNBA Finals, it should surprise nobody that the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks are head and shoulders above the rest of the league entering the 2018 season. The Lynx, who have won four of the last seven WNBA championships, are a +110 favorite to repeat while the Sparks are +130 to win their second title in three years.

WNBA Championship Favorite: Minnesota Lynx

Oddly enough, the Lynx have never won back-to-back championships during their current reign of dominance. The last team to defend their championship was the Sparks back in 2002 when Lisa Leslie led the team to the promised land twice in two seasons.  

The Lynx foundation remains intact with their starting five – Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson and reigning league MVP Sylvia Fowles – back with the squad in 2018. How head coach Cheryl Reeve manages this group’s minutes – four of those five have been in the league over 10 years and Whalen was named the head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s team in the offseason – will be critical.

Trading for Danielle Robinson from the Phoenix Mercury could go a long way to help add some energy to the lineup. Robinson will likely be the first player off the bench for the Lynx, bringing her absurd speed to an aging lineup in need of some pop off the bench.

The Other WNBA Championship Favorite: Los Angeles Sparks

The driving force of the Sparks is their frontcourt tandem of Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker, who own three WNBA MVPs between them. Both Ogwumike and Parker finished in the top 11 in the WNBA in points and rebounds last season – something you should expect again in 2018.

The backcourt is in good hands with the duo of Chelsea Gray and Odyssey Sims, who both shot over 48 percent from the floor during the 2017 regular season. Gray was the best three-point shooter in the league last season and while Sims had her ups and downs during the regular season, she stepped up in a big way in the playoffs.

WNBA Championship Sleeper: Dallas Wings

The Wings made the playoffs last season – barely – but got bounced in quick fashion. However, things are looking up for the Dallas franchise.

First, Liz Cambage, the dominant center who was drafted second overall in the 2011 WNBA draft, has joined the Wings. Cambage had issues with the Tulsa Shock during her first WNBA stint and decided to play internationally after just two seasons. Now back in the WNBA, she brings her size and complete game to a Wings team that will look to space the floor under coach Fred Williams.

The second piece is Skylar Diggins-Smith. The point guard is the perfect player for coach Williams’ fast-paced style with her aggressive rim-attacking offense – she shot a league-high number of free throws last season while hitting 89.4 percent from the charity stripe. It will be up to Diggins-Smith to help a young squad mesh but it is clear that the Wings are trending upward.

2018 WNBA Championship Odds
TeamOdds
Minnesota Lynx+110
Los Angeles Sparks+130
Washington Mystics+900
Connecticut Sun+1000
New York Liberty+1000
Phoenix Mercury+1000
Dallas Wings+1800
Seattle Storm+2000
Atlanta Dream+4000
Chicago Sky+5800
Indiana Fever+6500
Las Vegas Aces+8000

Odds as of May 15 at MyBookie

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