Who wins WNBA Finals? Las Vegas Aces or New York Liberty? Our experts predict

It has been an eventful five months since the start of the 2023 WNBA season, and one question still lingers: Will the Las Vegas Aces defend their title, or will the New York Liberty secure their first championship in franchise history? Many developments have unfolded since then, with the Connecticut Sun emerging as strong contenders led by Alyssa Thomas. The Washington Mystics, despite facing injuries, showed resilience and pushed the top team in the Eastern Conference in the postseason. The Aces had an impressive regular season record of 34-6, even with star player Candace Parker only participating in 18 games. The Dallas Wings, who handed the Aces a defeat early on, proved to be their toughest playoff opponent, but the Aces ultimately swept them to reach the finals for the third time in four years.

Welcome back to Getting Technical, where The Athletic’s women’s basketball experts Ben Pickman and Sabreena Merchant dive into discussions about the WNBA Finals. We will delve into each team’s journey to the finals, the expectations for MVPs Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson, and make a prediction. But before that, let’s provide some key context about their respective seasons:

No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces
– Record: 34-6 (the most wins in WNBA history)
– Postseason: 5-0 (swept the Chicago Sky and Dallas Wings)
– Ranked No. 1 in offensive, defensive, and NET ratings
– Franchise championships: 1 (in 2022)

No. 2 seed New York Liberty
– Record: 32-8 (most wins in franchise history)
– Postseason: 5-1 (swept the Washington Mystics, won series against Connecticut Sun)
– Ranked No. 2 in offensive rating, No. 3 in defensive rating, and No. 2 in NET rating
– Franchise championships: 0

Pickman: Let’s start by discussing any surprises that have come up in each team’s journey to this point. Merchant: While it may not be a surprise, I find it intriguing how both teams ended up heavily reliant on their star players. In Las Vegas, injuries and absences have limited their rotation, forcing coach Becky Hammon to heavily rely on a core group of players. The Liberty, on the other hand, boasted depth throughout the season but have seen their reserves play fewer minutes in crucial games. How each team manages their bench in the intense finals schedule will be something to watch.

Merchant: One reason I believed the Liberty had a good chance against the Aces is their depth, but it seems like they may need bigger contributions from players like Marine Johannès and Kelsey Thornton to overcome Las Vegas. As for the Aces, they have been without Candace Parker due to injury, but their core group has stepped up. However, I’m interested in Breanna Stewart’s performance, as she hasn’t consistently been the dominant force she was in the regular season. Can the Liberty survive with this version of Stewart, or will they need more from her?

Pickman: While the Liberty can still win games if Stewart doesn’t score at her usual rate, their chances of winning the championship increase significantly if she performs at an MVP level. The Liberty struggled in games where Stewart scored fewer than 20 points, and relying solely on other players like Johannès might not be sustainable. Regarding defense, the Liberty seemed more solid in their final regular-season meeting with the Aces, while Las Vegas acknowledged some defensive shortcomings. Heading into the series, it’s hard to determine who is playing better, as the Aces have had less competitive games recently. A key factor for the Aces is A’ja Wilson, who has been exceptional and will be crucial to their title defense. I’m intrigued to see if players like Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, and Jackie Young can provide enough support to Wilson in this series.

Pickman: Another player to watch is Gray, last year’s finals MVP. The Liberty’s Betnijah Laney, a strong performer in the playoffs, may be tasked with guarding Gray. However, Gray’s shot-making skills make her a formidable threat, and I expect her to have a productive series. It will be interesting to see if the Liberty employ a two-three zone defense, similar to what they did against the Sun, to contain the Aces’ talented backcourt. On the other hand, the Liberty might find an advantage in the matchup between Jonquel Jones and the Aces’ interior players.

Merchant: Jones will indeed play a critical role for the Liberty in this series. Her performance will greatly impact their chances against the Aces.


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