The 2022 WNBA season concluded with its postseason picture not being completely crystallized until the final day of the regular season. With two games to go for four teams all knotted up at 16-20, two of them took care of business and earned berths to the playoffs.
These playoffs, of course, will have a new twist to them as the 2022 season is the first year for the W’s new playoff format that will see the first rounds be contested in best-of-three series.
And what is a WNBA playoffs without a preview of said playoffs? Here is one (of hopefully many!) previews of those playoffs.
Las Vegas Aces vs. Phoenix Mercury
On paper, the opening round series between Becky Hammon’s Aces and Vanessa Nygaard’s Mercury ought to be a two game sweep (?) for Las Vegas. The Aces have consistently been one of the WNBA’s best teams from wire to wire and Las Vegas arguably has its best chance this year to finally claim a Finals trophy.
Meanwhile, the Mercury have been dealing with turmoil on and off the court. The ongoing saga of Brittney Griner which hopefully reaches a conclusion with her returning to United States soil soon. Tina Charles wanting out of Phoenix. Now Skylar Diggins-Smith is dealing with personal issues that have removed her from the court.
Primarily because of the Griner saga, the Mercury will be a sentimental favorite in these playoffs. Sentiment, unfortunately, has not always won championships. Despite the Aces being thin at their bench and even more limited overall on its roster due to an injury to Dearica Hamby, Las Vegas still has Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum (All-Star MVP), Jackie Young and an A’ja Wilson who seems all but poised to claim this year’s MVP.
Aces in 2
Chicago Sky vs. New York Liberty
This series may be brought to us by the number 16. The Sky won 16 games last season en route to a championship. The Liberty won its last three consecutive matchups to bring its win total for 2022 to 16 – and the No. 7 seed in this year’s playoffs.
At this point, we all know about the core cast of characters that has lifted James Wade’s Chicago assembling to championship status. That includes Candace Parker, Allie Quigley, Kahleah Copper and Courtney Vandersloot. This season, the Sky have also been the beneficiary of stellar play from the veteran rookie that is Rebekah Gardner – who has actually put herself in the Rookie of the Year conversation.
In many ways, New York’s season has been rollercoaster the way a typical Liberty game seems to be nowadays. At one point, the Lib are embarking on a 14-2 scoring binge only to give up those 12 points right back in the ensuing three or four minutes. Sabrina Ionescu has put the Liberty on her back this season in a 2022 that has included an All-Star appearance.
New York has given the defending champions problems – including an 83-80 win at Atlantic and Flatbush. But the Liberty also dropped one to Chicago without Candace Parker. We will give this one the full 3 games – but with the champs prevailing at Barclays. Sky in 3.
Connecticut Sun vs. Dallas Wings
The Connecticut Sun has always been that team that is stacked with talent. This season is no different with Alyssa Thomas, Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner, Courtney Williams and Natisha Hiedeman.
Ever since Arike Ogunbowale went down with a hip injury, Dallas has arguably played better basketball – primarily behind Marina Mabrey. In addition, both Connecticut and Dallas have wins over each other as the Sun and Wings split the season series with each home team prevailing.
This one will be a trendy upset pick by many WNBA scribes – including us. The Sun have built a reputation for being a great regular season, but missing out in the playoffs. Wings in 3.
Seattle Storm vs. Washington Mystics
How deep will the Seattle Storm go in Sue Bird’s final postseason run? How deep will the Storm go in what could be Breanna Stewart’s final postseason run wearing green and gold?
Can the Washington Mystics recapture the same magic the team conjured up in 2019 when Elena Delle Donne – herniated discs and all – led the Mystics to its first-ever WNBA championship? What will we see from Shakira Austin in her introduction to postseason play via the W?
Given how this one is a No. 4 seed vs. a No. 5 seed it seems almost a shoo-in to go three games. But it is also a safe bet that Bird is not ready for her career to be over just yet in the first round of these WNBA playoffs. Storm in 3.