There are WNBA games on tonight!!!
At long last, the regular season is upon us. For many reasons, 2021 is shaping up to be most exciting WNBA season of all time. Between continuous social justice campaigning, Nike jersey implementation, and the Commissioners Cup, there are storylines galore in the 25th WNBA season.
What everyone is looking forward to most is the actual on-court product. We’ve got a deep rookie class mixed with some major roster reconstruction that has shook up league power rankings and could pave the way for incredible parity throughout the season.
Before I go into the opening day matchups, you are going to want a more in depth look at all 12 teams. I cannot stress enough how well done the individual team previews are over at The Next. From breakout sleepers to coaching carousels, they are essentially must-read articles to prepare for the season.
With some players just finishing up their overseas commitments, the opening rosters that were finalized yesterday are not at full strength. Still, we have a great slate of games to salivate over before tip off tonight.
7pm – Indiana Fever vs New York Liberty
The opener features two of the youngest teams in the W, and there will be a lot of untapped potential on the court. Sabrina Ionescu is basically redoing her rookie season after missing all but two games in 2020, but the key to New York’s success will be the additions of Natasha Howard and last year’s most improved player Betnijah Laney. If the Liberty are able to mesh well right out of the gate with all of their new stars than they could steal a playoff spot from a more experienced team.
For the Fever, I am most interested in the impact Kysre Gondrezick will have in her first game. A shocking draft selection at the time, her adaptation to a faster paced professional game combined with her chemistry with budding superstar Kelsey Mitchell in the backcourt will be fascinating to watch. That being said, Indiana is still probably the weakest team in the league coming into the season, so I see New York as the first team in the win column in 2021.
7:30pm – Connecticut Sun vs Atlanta Dream
The Dream season has gotten off to a rocky start. After Nicki Collen left town for the Baylor job, it looked like everything was in place for a successful opening day until new addition Cheyenne Parker tested positive for Covid-19 and will have to miss tonight’s game. Fortunately the rest of her teammates are vaccinated, as a cancellation is not how anyone wanted to kick-off the year. All eyes will be on rookie Aari McDonald in her first professional contest, but Atlanta is loaded with guards, and how McDonald, Chennedy Carter, Courtney Williams, Odyssey Sims and Tiffany Hayes can coexist I simply do not know.
The Sun will also be down a veteran, as Jasmine Thomas just returned from a championship season overseas and will not have cleared protocol. With Alyssa Thomas out for the season, Connecticut’s offense will be lead by the two-headed monster of Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner, who will be playing their first game together. I have to give the edge to the Sun in this matchup given all of the uncertainty in Atlanta, but McDonald has shocked Connecticut fans before.
9pm – Phoenix Mercury vs Minnesota Lynx
This game is loaded with star power on both sides. For Phoenix, the trio of Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi added a fourth member with the arrival of Kia Nurse. The biggest problem for the Mercury might just be who gets to score the ball when so many players are a threat.
The matchup to watch tonight is Griner inside against Sylvia Fowles. Cheryl Reeve has emphasized that team captain Fowles is the heart and soul of the Lynx lineup, and her defense presence can be game-changing. From an expectations perspective, pundits are all over the spectrum on Minnesota. Some people believe Napheesa Collier is a legitimate MVP candidate that can lead the Lynx all the way to the finals, while others think last year’s semi-final run might not carry over into this season. My prediction is the Mercury sour the home opener in Minnesota.
10pm – Dallas Wings vs. Los Angeles Sparks
The nightcap includes two of the busiest teams this offseason, all the way up until yesterday. First we have the Wings who have four rookies on their roster and not a single player with more than 5 years of league experience. Dallas will be fascinating to watch not only from a player perspective but coaching decisions, as first-year head Vickie Johnson will be able to experiment with many different lineup combinations as players gain a footing in the league.
Yesterday the Sparks traded away Sydney Wiese, as well as brought Seimone Augustus from the active roster onto the coaching staff. With Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray out the door, it will be the Ogwumike show in Los Angeles. If Nneka can return to her MVP form from a few years ago, the Sparks could surprise people, and I think they’ll snag a victory in game 1 over Dallas as the heaviest favorites of the night.