Aces Heavy Favorites to Win 3rd Straight Championship; Caitlin Clark a Boon to WNBA

A’ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces will begin the WNBA season Tuesday night as a heavy favorite to win a third straight title.

The Aces, who were a unanimous choice at No. 1 in the preseason AP WNBA power poll, are plus-100 favorites to win the title again, according to BetMGM. New York, at plus-230, is the only team close to the champs.

Wilson, the WNBA Finals MVP, was a unanimous choice as the AP preseason player of the year. She’s been a star on and off the court since being drafted first by Las Vegas in 2018. She wasn’t the only unanimous choice by the national media panel, who also chose Caitlin Clark as the preseason rookie of the year.

Clark will begin her WNBA career at Connecticut on Tuesday night. She leads a star-studded rookie class that also includes Angel Reese that has already lifted the league to new heights.

Here are a few things to look for in the season ahead:

Charter Flights
Teams will travel on charters instead of commercial flights this season, the league announced last week. The WNBA is still working on implementing the program and it may take a few weeks for every team to be flying charters. Previously, WNBA teams could only charter during the postseason and for regular-season games on back-to-back days requiring air travel.

FILE – Las Vegas Aces’ A’ja Wilson (22) looks to pass during the first half in Game 3 of a WNBA basketball final playoff series against the New York Liberty Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in New York. The Two-time WNBA MVP is getting a Nike signature shoe, in a deal that was announced Saturday, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

Only two of the four teams that traveled for the opening night games used charter planes. The Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx took charters, while New York bused to Washington and Phoenix had a short commercial flight to Las Vegas.

The league plans to fund charter flights at a cost of about $50 million over the next two years in a move that addresses years of player safety concerns. Travel has been a huge topic of discussion for years.

Clark Effect

There’s no doubt Clark has already been a huge boon to the WNBA and its teams, even before playing a game. T icket sales have skyrocketed already, and not just for Indiana games. Three teams have moved their games to bigger arenas to accommodate Fever games. Her No. 22 jersey has already flown off the shelves, and Indiana is the second-most bet team behind Las Vegas to win the title.

Changing Squads

Once again, there was a lot of movement in free agency with All-Stars Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith joining the Seattle Storm, while Natasha Cloud and Kahleah Copper moved to the Phoenix Mercury. Both sets of players hope to get their new teams back in contention for a championship.

Olympic Break
The league will take nearly a monthlong break for the Paris Olympic Games from July 18-Aug. 14. Dozens of current and former WNBA players will be competing.

The WNBA will have its All-Star Game in Phoenix right before the Olympics start. The midseason showcase will most likely pit the U.S. national team against a group of All-Stars. The All-Stars won the contest in 2021 — the last time the format was implemented.

By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer


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