Aces, Liberty open WNBA season as heavy title favorites

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 WNBA season tips off on Friday with the Las Vegas Aces favored to repeat as champions.

But there’s a new challenger on the block in the form of the revamped New York Liberty. The Aces are the +115 title favorites at BetMGM, with the Liberty close behind at +125.

While the Aces will wait until Saturday to get their season under way in Seattle, the new-look Liberty play at the Washington Mystics on opening night Friday. New York loaded up in the offseason, adding former WNBA MVPs Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones along with the league’s all-time leader in assists average in Courtney Vandersloot to a roster that already included start Sabrina Ionescu.

“Winning a championship, that’s the ultimate goal,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said.

“(But) we don’t win championships in the preseason. … So, win the day. We have to come to work and get better.”

Meanwhile, the Aces have been in the headlines for the wrong reasons entering the season. Coach Becky Hammon will miss Las Vegas’ first two games without pay as part of penalties levied by the WNBA following a league investigation.

The Aces opened at +130 to repeat as champions, but those odds shortened to +115 by opening day with the public backing Las Vegas with 19.0 percent of the title bets and 25.6 percent of the money. However, that was well behind the Liberty, whose odds opened at +150 before drawing 23.6 and 33.7 percent of the action, respectively, with both figures leading all teams at the sportsbook.

The next closest odds belong to the Mystics at +1400, followed by the Phoenix Mercury at +2000. It’s actually the Mercury who open the season as BetMGM’s biggest WNBA title liability, having drawn the third-most money at 16.9 percent along with the second most total bets at 19.8 percent.

The second biggest liability is the Connecticut Sun, who open the season at +3500 to win the title after falling to the Aces in four games in last year’s WNBA finals.

The Liberty are the sportsbook’s third biggest liability. New York is an original WNBA franchise, but doesn’t have a title, and last played for one in 2002.

However, after first-round playoff exits each of the last two years, the Liberty made a massive offseason splash.

A two-time WNBA champion and 2018 MVP, Stewart signed with New York after averaging 20.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in six seasons with Seattle. Vandersloot, a four-time All-Star, 2021 champion with Chicago and the league’s all-time leader in assists average (6.6) followed.

New York also traded for Jones, the 2021 MVP who averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds, while twice averaging a double-double, during six seasons with Connecticut.

–Field Level Media

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