Aces three-peat? WNBA BPI tabs Las Vegas as early favorite

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A historic draft class. The dominance of a back-to-back champion. The return of a former MVP and a perennial All-Star.

And a level of play that only continues to grow and sharpen.

Yes, this WNBA season is special.

There is much to look forward to when the WNBA’s 27th season tips May 14. Rookies such as Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese have already drawn huge audiences on social media.

The Las Vegas Aces, led by WNBA Finals MVP A’ja Wilson, last season became the first team in over 20 years to repeat and now attempt to become just the second franchise to win three consecutive titles. Which teams will try and close the gap and challenge them this season, and how will Las Vegas adjust to the retirement of Candace Parker?

In Atlanta, former MVP Tina Charles is set to make her debut after sitting out last season. And Skylar Diggins-Smith is also back, now with the Seattle Storm.

How will it all shape up? We can help with that.

As the game continues to evolve, so does the way we evaluate and analyze the sport. Want to get an idea of how individual teams will perform this season, particularly with all the new talent and relocation of veteran stars to new locations?

Developed by ESPN Analytics, the WNBA Basketball Power Index (BPI) is a method to quantify a team’s potential based upon several factors, particularly the historical and projected contributions of the players that comprise a team. BPI is part of a family of WNBA Metrics available for this season that also includes projected win-loss record, probability for each team of reaching the playoffs, the projected likelihood for each team to advance through the postseason (for example, WNBA semifinals, WNBA Finals or champion), and both Matchup Quality and Game Predictions for every individual game this season.

Each of these metrics will iterate and update as the season progresses and new information becomes available. Injuries, trades and team performance once the games begin will be used as feedback. BPI is reported as a total value, can be broken down to offensive BPI (OBPI) and defensive BPI (DBPI), and once the season begins we will also report how much each BPI score has changed over the most recent two weeks, both by rank and by score value.

The projections will change and grow as the season progresses and we learn more about each team. But the BPI helps give us a look at how we might expect this season to play out. Here are some of the most notable takeaways from preseason BPI data.

The Aces are even money to three-peat this season, according to ESPN BET. And that might be good value based on the BPI projections. Before any games have been played, BPI gives the Aces a 58% chance to win the title. They project as the best offense and the best defense in the league and are given at least a 65% chance to win 39 of their 40 games.

The one exception? Aces at Liberty on Sept. 8.

All 11 of the top games in Matchup Quality involve New York. These are the top five:

Seattle is expected to bounce back in a major way. Adding superstars Diggins-Smitha and Nneka Ogwumike to the roster, the Storm are projected to turnaround. According to BPI, the Storm have the best chance to make the playoffs this season (86%) among teams that missed the 2023 postseason.

Indiana has the second-best odds.

Indiana should be much improved — on one end. The Fever have had back-to-back No. 1 draft picks as well as the No. 2 overall pick in 2022, loading up with Clark, Aliyah Boston and NaLyssa Smith. BPI projects Indiana to have the fourth-ranked offense but the worst-ranked defense in the 12-team league.

Defense is often an area in which rookies and young players tend to struggle, and it is perhaps the biggest question as Clark transitions to the pro level. In her preseason debut Friday, she had some difficulty being run off screens in the second half.

The Fever also have a monster schedule to start the season. BPI gives them just a 1% chance to start the season 5-0, in a stretch that includes home-and-away games against both the Liberty and the Sun as well as a road game with the Storm.

How good will the Mercury be? Public perception seems optimistic for the Mercury, who were also No. 6 in ESPN’s preseason WNBA Power Rankings.

But BPI is lower on Phoenix. While the Mercury added some notable players this offseason, uncertainty is one of the metrics BPI utilizes in its projections. Nine of the players on the current Mercury roster didn’t play in the league in 2023, and that uncertainty shows up in a lower BPI score.

There’s good and not-so-good news for the Chicago Sky. They have the best chance to get a lottery pick in 2025 (63%). But the Dallas Wings own the rights to swap picks with Chicago in 2025.

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