After an exciting and competitive regular season, the 2023 WNBA Finals begin October 8; which Voice staffer has the best crystal basketball?
[Note: This article was last updated on Saturday, Sept. 16, and therefore does not reflect the outcomes of games after that point.]
Finals: Las Vegas Aces over New York Liberty in 5
When former MVPs Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker announced their intentions back in February to sign with the New York Liberty and the Las Vegas Aces respectively, it seemed the league was destined for a collision course between the two superteams. The Aces led the league with a 113.0 offensive rating and a 97.7 defensive rating (which is good for a 15.3 net rating), finishing with a 34-6 record. New York did not slouch either, going 32-8 and taking three of four from Vegas this season—including winning the Commissioner’s Cup—with a net rating that would’ve finished first in 2022. The Finals are a toss-up with so many interesting matchups, but because the Liberty have to fight through a plucky Mystics team and Alyssa Thomas’s Sun just to get there, gimme Las Vegas in five with A’ja Wilson winning her first Finals MVP as the Aces repeat as champs.
Finals: Las Vegas Aces over Connecticut Sun in 5
So here’s the thing: if New York makes it out of the first round, things suddenly look very different. Fortunately for me, though, that hasn’t happened yet, which means I can make the bold prediction that the Mystics are going to stun the Liberty and advance to the semi-finals. With a healthy Delle Donne and Atkins, Washington might just have their number. If that’s the case, I see a very clear path forward to an Aces/Sun final, because I think New York is the only team that truly has the juice to stack up against either of them in a playoff series.
From there, I’m easily picking Vegas for a couple of reasons. First, they were absolutely humming against the Sky in Game 1, which bodes well for the rest of the playoffs. With our shared South Carolina roots, A’ja Wilson will always be the M’VP of my heart regardless of the way voting goes, and her overall play has been truly spectacular this season. Between her exceptional basketball skills and the inevitable resurgence of playoff Chelsea Gray, there’s no real outcome that makes sense to me other than Aces in 5, with Wilson snagging Finals MVP for the first time in her professional career.
Finals: Las Vegas Aces over Washington Mystics in 4
This is more wishful thinking than actual predicting, but as a D.C. basketball fan, I need to have something to hold out hope for, and it’s certainly not going to come from the Wizards. If Delle Donne and Atkins are playing well, an upset over New York doesn’t feel all that unlikely. Add in Shakira Austin, who is currently set to return from injury on Sept. 22 for Game 3 of the first round, and another upset over the Sun becomes possible, even if it’s improbable.
Turning to the Western Conference, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Aces’ superteam will dominate, even without two-time MVP Candace Parker, who’s been out for most of the season with a foot fracture. A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, and Kelsey Plum are more than capable of holding down the fort in Parker’s absence. In the Finals, Washington will put up a good fight, but Vegas has had a full house this season, and that’s certainly not going to change.
Finals: New York Liberty over Dallas Wings in 5
Hear me out: I know that the Aces are the real talk of the town in some parts of the Voice Sports meeting room, but I’m a smidge spooked by the fact that the Aces have, if only slightly, stumbled at the end of the regular season, losing three of their last nine games. That, coupled with Candace Parker’s injury (that’s former Chicago Sky legend Candace Parker to you), makes this team look less formidable than they did in the offseason. While I don’t love the Wings, they have a favorable first-round matchup with the Dream, a team they’ve played well against all season. Arike Ogunbowale and company have shown throughout the season that they can hang with the top teams in the league, most recently in a Sept. 5 showdown with the Liberty, and with back-to-back wins over the Sun in the last month of the regular season. Can that translate to a full series? My guess is yes.
In the East, I think the picture is a little more cut-and-dry. While Alyssa Thomas and the Sun had a great regular season, the Liberty’s talent level and consistency win out. Despite finishing with a slightly worse regular season record than the Aces, the Liberty entered the playoffs in stride, winning eight of their last nine games. In the Finals, despite a valiant run by the Wings, Breanna Stewart and (former Sky legend) Courtney Vandersloot will make the Liberty cruise to the WNBA title, ending a season that will officially make the 2023 Sky the greatest team that never was.