Here are three bold predictions for the second half of the WNBA season, including thoughts on the Western Conference’s lack of depth, the rise and fall of the Connecticut Sun and how the MVP will lead their team to a Championship.
1. Only two teams will finish over .500 in the Western Conference
The Tulsa Shock has put up a good fight since Skylar Diggins, the team’s leading scorer and the Western Conference’s reigning Player of the Month, succumbed to an ACL injury on June 28th.
However, Tulsa is only 2-6 without Diggins, compared to their 8-1 record with Diggins in the lineup. Furthermore, even since the return of Odyssey Sims, the Shock is only 1-4. Based on how the Shock have fared since Diggins’ injury, Tulsa is not going to finish above .500.
Also in the West, there is no doubt that the Los Angeles Sparks will benefit from the return of Candace Parker. However, not even Parker can turn the 3-13 Sparks into an over .500 team.
There are 18 games left in the regular season for Los Angeles, thus the Sparks would need to post a 14-4 record in the second half of the season just to reach the .500 mark, which I do not think will happen. 13 of the Sparks final 18 games are against teams that are over .500, and they still have to play Minnesota three more times this season.
Therefore, only two teams should finish over .500 in the Western Conference, Minnesota and Phoenix. Therefore, the final two playoff spots in the West are completely up for grabs.
2. Connecticut will finish amongst the top-two in the Eastern Conference
The Connecticut Sun has had the most up-and-down first half of any team in the WNBA. The team won seven of its first eight games and then lost six of its last seven before the All-Star break. The Sun are currently still above .500 at 8-7 and sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. However, I think by playoff time the team will rank first or second in the East.
In their final game before the All-Star break, the Sun defeated league-leading Minnesota 78-77 in overtime. This game could prove to be a turning point for this young Connecticut squad, who are sometimes just too balanced on offense.
Against Minnesota, their balance paid off as they were able to squeak out a signature win, but for the Sun to move up to the top of the East, Alex Bentley is going to have to be the star she proved she was at the 2015 All-Star game.
Alex Bentley, in her first career All-Star game, led the East with 23 points in 24 minutes of action. She shot 9-14 from the field and hit five threes to keep the East in the game down the stretch. This season, Bentley has proved she is one of the best guards in the league, and that she is the future for Connecticut. However, is she also the present and can she lead Connecticut to the top of the East this season? I think so.
3. The MVP will lead their team to a WNBA Championship
In the first half of the season, Elena Delle Donne and Maya Moore were the two best players in the league. Delle Donne had one of the best starts to a season in basketball history, averaging 28.7 points per game in the month of June as well as 9.8 rebounds per game.
She scored a career-high 45 points vs. Atlanta on June 24th and scored 20 or more points in nine out of ten games in June. She is currently leading the league in scoring at 24.5 points per game and is third in rebounding at 9.8 rebounds per game.
Maya Moore’s first half was almost the complete opposite of Delle Donne’s. Moore got off to a slow start to the season by her standards, only averaging 16.3 points per game in the month of June. However, since June 27th, Moore has yet to score less than 20 points in a game.
She is averaging 26.3 points per game in July, ten more points than in the previous month. The improvement in her play has been tremendous and has turned the MVP race into a two-woman affair. How Delle Donne and Moore perform in the second half of the WNBA season will determine who receives the league’s 2015 MVP trophy.
Finally, in my boldest prediction of all, I predict whichever player (Delle Donne or Moore) wins the MVP trophy will eventually lead their respective team to the WNBA Championship. WNBA fans would love to see a Minnesota vs. Chicago Finals, with Moore and Delle Donne leading the two teams. Both players are having MVP seasons and in the end, I think one of them will win more than one trophy when the season is said and done.