WNBA Season Preview: Trade for Cambage Makes Las Vegas Aces League Favorites

Posted on: May 26, 2019, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: May 24, 2019, 08:14h.

The Las Vegas Aces have emerged as the favorites to win the 2019 WNBA championship after make a blockbuster trade to acquire center Liz Cambage last week.

WNBA 2019 Aces Mystics
The trade of Liz Cambage to the Las Vegas Aces has changed the balance of power entering the WNBA season. (Image: Getty)

The Aces are currently listed as a 13/5 favorite according to William Hill, just ahead of the Washington Mystics (16/5).

Stewart Injury Opens Door for New Contenders

The Mystics were the top pick to win a title this year for most of the offseason. Washington reached the finals last year before being swept by the Seattle Storm. But Seattle lost 2018 league MVP Breanna Stewart for the season when she tore her Achilles tendon playing for another team overseas, and 11-time All-Star Sue Bird needs surgery to deal with a loose body in her knee.

That opened the door for the Mystics, who not only brought back a roster led by 2015 MVP Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver, but are also reintroducing Emma Meesseman, who missed all of last year while playing for Belgium in international competition.

“When you have a good team coming back and you see the potential – and you know that you can grow from the experience you had last year – we have a lot to look forward to,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault told ESPN.

WNBA Could Be Wide Open in 2019

But when the WNBA started its season on Friday, it was Las Vegas that took the role of favorite. That’s almost entirely due to the addition of Cambage, last year’s runner-up for the MVP award. The 27-year-old center made it clear in January that she no longer wanted to play for the Dallas Wings, and while she preferred a trade to the Los Angeles Sparks, she eventually opened to the idea of other moves.

“Everyone in the Aces family is excited to welcome Liz to Las Vegas,” Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer said when the trade was announced last week. “She brings an attitude and physical presence that we need. There is no doubt about her physical ability, but what we respect most about her is her basketball IQ.”

A poll of the WNBA’s general managers also found that Las Vegas was seen as the favorite, with 33 percent of the GMs picking the Aces to win the title. They were closely followed by the Phoenix Mercury (8/1), the Sparks (4/1), and the Mystics.

Those results go to show just how open the WNBA is this year. Phoenix brings back All-Stars DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner, but will be missing Diana Taurasi to start the season while she recovers from back surgery. Los Angeles has one of the deepest lineups in the league, with Chiney Ogwumike joining her sister Nneka alongside Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker.

Several other teams are also considered to be in the mix, including the Atlanta Dream (13/2), who opened their season with a win over Dallas on Friday, and the Connecticut Sun (13/2). Even the Storm (18/1) could play themselves into the mix, though it’s hard to see them replacing the production of Stewart even if they get Bird back faster than expected.

The WNBA regular season play through Sept. 8, with the playoffs running through early October.