WNBA Picks | Odds, Predictions for Liberty vs Mystics, Mercury vs Sparks, More (Friday, May 19)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Chiney Ogwumike
We’re here! The 27th WNBA season officially kicks off Friday night with a loaded slate of four games, starting at 7 p.m. ET and running past midnight.
If you are looking for any season-long previews, we’ve got you covered with team previews, win total over/unders, and best bets, but with such a full slate on Opening Night, let’s delay no further!
Sun vs. Fever Odds
-108 / -112
-108 / -112
The Aliyah Boston Era gets underway in Indiana on Friday, as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft makes her official WNBA debut.
There’s a lot to be excited for with this young and hungry Fever team, even beyond Boston. Kelsey Mitchell has proven herself an excellent offensive player, even on recent iterations of this Fever team that have struggled greatly. NaLyssa Smith had a stellar rookie season and then shined even brighter in the offseason.
The pairing of Smith’s offense and Boston’s defense in the post could give teams serious issues when they reach their potential.
However, the Fever are still a very young and very unproven team.
The Sun are on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. They have a roster that has been together for several seasons, with a couple key changes this offseason, but a core that has done plenty of winning together. The Sun lost Jonquel Jones and Courtney Williams in the offseason, but in Brionna Jones (in-house) and Tiffany Hayes (from Atlanta), they have a pretty impressive duo ready and waiting to step up to fill those gaps.
Their new head coach, Stephanie White, is looking to overhaul the team philosophy in a manner similar to how Becky Hammon came in and modernized the Aces offense.
Along those lines, I like a look at the over here. But I am going to be targeted with it and look to the first quarter. This Sun team still has one of the best starting fives in the W, and this Fever team really liked to push the pace last season. I see these two coming out of the gate firing, and as such am looking at over 40.5 -115 in the first quarter.
I also will be looking at Alyssa Thomas player props when they are released, as I project her for an increase in both rebounds and assists this season.
The Picks: First quarter over 40.5; Alyssa Thomas over rebounds + assists
Liberty vs. Mystics Odds
-110 / -110
-110 / -110
This is the best matchup of the night; two of the consensus top-three teams squaring off in a battle of talent versus continuity.
That is obviously oversimplifying things and underselling the talent on the Mystics, but Washington is a team that returns four of its five starters and sees its head coach keep the same last name (Eric Thibault is taking over for his dad, Mike).
The Liberty, on the other hand, brought in a pair of former MVPs and the all-time assists per game leader — not a bad offseason haul.
This line has already moved like crazy since opening at Washington -3.5 and now sits around New York -2.5 at most spots. If you follow in the Action Network App (@TurveyBets), you may have been able to get in on both sides of that line, but as it has settled, it is a pretty fair side and total.
As such, I am going to the player props and looking at Ariel Atkins and her points total. Atkins averaged 14.6 points per game last season, but the books have opened this number at 12.5 (juiced to the over). I believe the thought is that with a fully healthy Elena Delle Donne and a newly imported Brittney Sykes, Atkins will see her touches diminished. And that could certainly be the case, but Atkins is they type of player who doesn’t need the ball to thrive and can actually see her efficiency improve with more talent around her.
I also like Atkins points over as a result of that potential lack of continuity on the Liberty right now. Defensive rotations out to shooters are one of the trickiest parts of a new team coming together, and a deadeye shooter like Atkins is the perfect player to take advantage.
I’d play this number to over 14.5 +100 (or over 13.5 at -130)
The Picks: Atkins over 12.5 points
Sky vs. Lynx Odds
-113 / -113
-113 / -113
The under in this game is my favorite bet of the night.
This line opened at 168.5, but even at its current number I see value on the under. In fact, I would play all the way down to under 159.5.
The Chicago Sky this season are going to be one of my favorite unders until the books adjust. This Sky team has incredibly poor spacing and also no one who can hit threes. Marina Mabrey, the player best suited to stretch the floor, has had very limited practice time with the Sky, and with Isabelle Harrison out, that means even more minutes from Elizabeth Williams. Williams playing more is good for both sides of the under. She is a great defender but doesn’t bring much offensively.
On the Lynx side of things, this is an offense that will be working Napheesa Collier back into the mix after playing only four games last season. It’s also an offense that will have a rookie (Diamond Miller) factoring prominently, which is a great sign for their future, but not a great sign for an offense in that rookie’s first-ever WNBA game.
The Picks: Under 163.5
Mercury vs. Sparks Odds
-106 / -114
-106 / -114
The storyline with this game is obviously the return of Brittney Griner to the court. It’s going to be an amazing moment for both her personally, but also the team, and the league as a whole, who kept her in the spotlight during the past year.
From an on-the-court perspective, this should also make for a fascinating battle. Both teams look very different from last season, and as such, these early games should be quite telling.
For the Mercury, the most notable change to last season’s team is of course the return of Griner, but the differences hardly stop there. Skylar Diggins-Smith (who stepped away from the team for the final few games of last season) is out on maternity leave, and it is unknown if she will even be returning to the Mercury this season, or ever, given how things were between her and the organization late last season. The only thing that is known is that she will definitely not be on the court Friday night.
Neither will Sophie Cunningham, who had a breakout season for the Mercury last year, and was being looked at as a potential breakout player for 2023 as well. She injured her knee in a preseason game, and now joins Shey Peddy, Megan Gustafson and Diggins-Smith on the Mercury out list. Phoenix will have just eight players available on Friday.
It’s rather unsurprising, then, that the Sparks are favored over the Mercury despite coming off a worse season. The Sparks’ biggest addition this offseason was arguably off the court, with Karen Bryant hired as the general manager, and Curt Miller hired as head coach. Miller is one of the best coaches in the sport, and he is one of the reasons I like the Sparks to return to the postseason in 2023.
However, there were plenty of on-court moves this offseason for L.A. as well. Unfortunately, two of their key additions this offseason — Azura Stevens and Jasmine Thomas — are out on Friday. However, the home crowd will get to see the season debut for Dearica Hamby, who joins a strong post presence on this team, in the form of Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike.
Before some of these injuries, I was assuming the Sparks were going to be home underdogs and I was going to be looking to bet on them. However, thanks in part to some of these injuries, the books sniffed out this opportunity, so I am turning instead to a couple of player props. It’s amazing to see player props available on Opening Night, this is yet another bet type that hadn’t been available this early in seasons past.
The first bet is one we all want to make: Brittney Griner over 6.5 rebounds -128 at FanDuel. Griner averaged 9.5 rebounds per game her last season in the W, and while there will obviously be some rust to shake off, she should be incredibly energized in her return to the court and be able to take advantage of an undersized Sparks team.
The other prop I am looking at is Nneka Ogwumike over 16.5 points -122 at FanDuel. Ogwumike averaged 18.1 points per game in 2022, and with Stevens unable to make her season debut, and with last season’s number two scorer, Brittney Sykes, in Washington now, the scoring load should fall once again to Nneka.
Make sure to shop these props around before gametime, as they are only available at FanDuel as of writing, but may be available elsewhere closer to tip-off.
The Picks: Brittney Griner over 6.5 rebounds; Nneka Ogwumike over 16.5 points
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