WNBA Opening Night Odds, Picks & Projections: Best Bets for Fever vs. Liberty, Mercury vs. Lynx & Sun vs. Dream
Getty Images. Pictured: Sabrina Ionescu, DeWanna Bonner, Diana Taurasi
- The 2021 WNBA season tips off tonight! And Michael Arinze has you covered with a full betting preview of the opening slate.
- Find his projections for all four games as well as his favorite plays of the night, including on the Fever-Liberty and Mercury-Lynx.
After a year of championing the call for justice and social change, many WNBA players will be back in their home cities to continue the fight as the season gets underway.
Four games are on the schedule for when the season tips off Friday night, which means there's plenty to unpack after a busy offseason that began with a frenzied free-agent period, followed by the 2021 WNBA Draft.
We'll touch on all that and much more as we highlight three games (with picks) on the card, starting with my projections for all four matchups.
|Matchup||Time||Proj. Spread||Proj. Total|
|Fever at Liberty||7 p.m. ET||Liberty -5.04||164.1|
|Sun at Dream||7:30 p.m. ET||Sun -5.06||164.24|
|Mercury at Lynx||9 p.m. ET||Lynx -4.96||168.44|
|Wings at Sparks||10:30 p.m. ET||Sparks -4.59||167.37|
Fever vs. Liberty Odds
|Moneyline||+107 / -134|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings|
A Mulligan For The Fever
No team had a more puzzling experience in the WNBA draft than the Fever. They had seven picks in the draft, including the fourth overall pick, which they used to select Kysre Gondrezick from West Virginia. Gondrezick was actually projected to go 17th by Swish Appeal and 29th by ESPN.
They later used their 24th pick to select Trinity Baptiste (Arizona), who was also ahead of her projection. Florencia Chagas from Argentina was selected with the 31st pick, followed by Maya Caldwell (33rd pick) from Georgia. Both players weren't even projected to get drafted, yet the Fever went ahead and took them.
Even the decision to add Jantel Lavender, Danielle Robinson and Jessica Breland as free agents were head-scratchers as their additions are unlikely to move the needle. None of the three have a career scoring average in double figures.
Unless Indiana knows something that the rest of the teams don't, it's fair to be a bit speculative of the Fever's front office moves to improve a team that finished 11th with a 6-16 record last season.
New Weapons For Sabrina Ionescu
Few players have entered the WNBA with more fanfare than Sabrina Ionescu. The Liberty selected her with the top pick in the 2020 draft, but a Grade 3 sprain on her left ankle prematurely ended her season after just three games.
The biggest question mark is trying to assess her true value in terms of the point spread.
New York had a margin of -6.83 points during the brief time Ionescu on the court. If you look at the Liberty's performance only in the last half of the season, they had an average margin of -11.9 points.
I'd probably say Ionescu is worth somewhere around 3-3.5 points on the spread. She'll have a much better supporting cast around her this year with the signings of Natasha Howard from Seattle and Betnijah Laney from Atlanta.
Howard is a seven-year veteran and three-time WNBA champion. In 2019 she averaged 18.1 points per game, but was a consummate team player who took fewer shots last year (9.5 PPG) following Breanna Stewart's return from an Achilles injury.
Laney won the WNBA Most Improved Player award after a breakout year in 2020 with 17.2 PPG for Atlanta. Her previous high before that was 5.6 PPG.
Sami Whitcomb and Rebecca Allen should also bolster New York's perimeter game as both can light it up from deep. Whitcomb shot 38.6% from the 3-point line, while Allen — an opt-out last year — shot 42.6% in 2019.
The Liberty should be a fun team to watch on the perimeter with Ionescu pulling the strings.
Sun vs. Dream Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday and via BetMGM|
Fast Start Key For Connecticut
Connecticut made it all the way to the semifinals round last season despite starting the season 0-5. The Sun will hope to get off to a better start this time around on the road in Atlanta.
Last year, I backed the Sun in quite a few games down the stretch and in the playoffs as they were extremely undervalued due to their poor start.
The truth is that any team with DeWanna Bonner on its roster should never be taken lightly, considering she can put up 17 or 18 points every night while pulling down seven rebounds.
Alyssa Thomas was also completely unplayable from a defender's point of view, as few players can match her physicality on the interior. Unfortunately for Connecticut, Thomas tore her Achilles while playing overseas, so she'll be out for the season.
They still might have enough to get by an Atlanta Dream team that went 7-15 last year.
Dream In A State of Flux
There's been plenty of changes with Atlanta since the Dream ousted their former owner and U.S. senator, Kelly Loeffler, in February. They then parted ways with team president and general manager Chris Sienko a week after the WNBA draft. And if that's not enough change, their head coach, Nicki Collen, left the team to take the vacant Baylor job, leaving assistant Mike Petersen to take over as the interim head coach.
Atlanta definitely has the potential to improve on its 7-15 record. The Dream drafted Aari McDonald third overall, and she's could pair with Chennedy Carter in the backcourt. The Dream drafted Carter fourth overall in the previous draft, so she'll have gained some experience after her first season.
Tiffany Hayes returns to the team after her opt-out, and she's not that far removed from her 2018 season career-high of when she averaged 17.2 PPG.
The only question with this Atlanta team is whether all the pieces can come together. But one thing is for sure: There should be plenty of offense to go around.
This total is 163.5 across the market as of 1 p.m. ET, but if it falls to 163, the over would be in play. Totals went over at a 8-4 rate over the league's first 12 games last year.
Mercury vs. Lynx Odds
|Moneyline||+100 / -125|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings|
Phoenix Stands Pat
Phoenix has been a mystery to me since last season when Brittany Griner decided to leave the Wubblefor personal reasons. I thought the team actually played better with her gone as the offense was more fluid with players cutting to the basket or getting to their spots on the wing.
The Mercury easily could have made it to the semifinals had they not botched their final possession against the Lynx in a one-point loss.
Griner will be back with the team, but she won't find too many new faces.
Outside of trading for Kia Nurse, the Mercury were relatively quiet in the offseason. They used their only pick in the draft to select Ciera Johnson at 32nd overall out of Texas A&M, but she's not even listed on the roster at the moment.
Phoenix will likely lean once again on the 38-year-old shoulders of their star guard Diana Taurasi, but that may not be enough if the Mercury want to advance even further in the playoffs.
Lynx Already Most Improved
I don't think a team showed more promise with their group of young players than the Minnesota Lynx.
Rookie of the Year winner, Crystal Dangerfield, edged out her former UCONN teammate, Napheesa Collier, to lead the team with 16.2 PPG as a rookie. Collier, in her second year, averaged 16.1 points.
Minnesota made some smart acquisitions in the offseason by adding Aerial Powers (16.3 PPG) from Washington, Kayla McBride from Las Vegas, and Natalie Achonwa from Indiana.
This is one of the deepest teams in the league and one of my personal favorites on paper.
I make the Lynx close to 5-point favorites, and at -1, PointsBet is offering the best line as of writing. I would play Minnesota at -1.5 or better.