Storm vs. Sky Odds
|Moneyline||+135 / -155|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
With the NFL and NBA in the quietest parts of their offseason, and MLB at its All-Star break, the WNBA will finally get some of the shine that its diehards know it always deserves.
The league packed a punch on Wednesday too, offering one of the best matchups in one of the best environments possible.
The 17-8 Seattle Storm will be traveling to Chicago to take on the 19-6 Sky, in one of the league’s beloved (or not so beloved if your ears are sensitive to the glorious shrieks of thousands of summer camp kids) afternoon camp-day games.
The Sky have the best record in the league, with the Storm just a hair behind in third. These are also, easily, the two hottest teams in the league, with the two sporting a combined 24-5 record over the past month and a half.
The Sky haven’t lost at home since the end of May, but they’ll be without a key cog on both offense and defense on Wednesday, as veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot has already been ruled out with a concussion.
As we’ll lay out below, this absence — when combined with the early start — has me going with a Seattle Storm road cover, as well as an under.
Let’s dig into why.
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Storm Frontcourt to Lead Them to Victory?
As mentioned above, the Storm come into this game looking as strong as they have all season. They’ve won their last four, and it looks as though Tina Charles has already settled into her role off the bench, averaging 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game during that stretch.
However, it’s the rest of the Storm frontcourt that’s going to draw my attention in this matchup.
Mercedes Russell has been a long-term absence for the team (she’s the only name for Seattle on the injury report today), but the trio of Breanna Stewart, Ezi Magbegor and Gabby Williams have coalesced into easily the best defensive frontcourt in the league — if not the best frontcourt, in general — in the W.
The Storm trio all rank in the top eight in the league in defensive win shares (stats not including Tuesday’s games), with Stewart and Magbegor ranking 1-2 in the entire league this season on that end.
Now, that’s just one stat, but if you go by any defensive metric out there, both the Storm and their frontcourt trio, in particular, rank among the absolute best in the league.
Stewart, in particular, is putting together a potential MVP campaign, stacking a league-leading 21.0 points per game on top of that league-leading defense.
It’s probably a fair time to remind folks that Stewart basically doesn’t do anything but win when she’s healthy. If you’re unfamiliar with her bona fides, just go look at the Career Highlights and Awards section of her Wikipedia page. It makes me audibly gasp every time I see it.
At this point in their careers, she’s also far better suited to shut down Candace Parker without needing help than the other way around. And with Vandersloot out for Chicago, that Stewart-Parker matchup is going to be an essential pivot point of today’s game.
How Do Sky Match Up Without Sloot?
The reason that matchup is going to be so key is that outside of “Sloot,” most of the Sky’s creation on offense comes from their frontcourt.
Parker is second on the team in assists this season, while Emma Meesseman ranks third in total assists and fourth in assists per game.
When Vandersloot is there and the pairing of Parker and Meesseman is clicking, it’s nearly impossible to stop the Chicago offense. However, Vandersloot is the engine that drives that action, and we just laid out what an all-time defensive frontcourt the Parker-Meesseman duo will be up against.
In the first matchup between these two teams this season, Parker and Meesseman each totaled lower than their season averages in both points and assists, and both were negatives in terms of plus-minus for the day.
In terms of Sloot being out, the Sky do have a solid backup in the form of Julie Allemand, who they brought in for games just like this (as well as to stabilize the second unit come postseason when they’re hopefully healthy).
The second-year guard plays at a much more mature level than most sophomore players, thanks to a long and successful career in Europe before making the move to the W in 2020.
She’s not nearly the scoring threat that Vandersloot provides, but as a key cog in a ball movement-heavy offense from the Sky, she should be able to fill in admirably.
To wit: Vandersloot missed the Sky’s last game; Allemand’s line filling in for her: eight assists, zero turnovers and tied for a team-high +24.
So, why am I leaning to the Storm?
This opening line of Chicago -3 implies that these two teams are basically even on a neutral court. And I would agree — if Vandersloot were there.
The Storm, in their current iteration, are basically dead-even with the Sky in my projections, especially when accounting for how well they match up in the frontcourt, and their ability to limit that big-to-big-to-cutter action that Chicago runs so well.
And while Allemand was able to fill in well for Vandersloot against the Dallas, no offense to the Wings but the Storm present a whole different level of challenge.
That being said, I think this is going to be an incredibly close game, so the main play is sticking to the spread.
I’m going to sprinkle on the Storm moneyline because with Vandersloot out, and a fully functional Seattle Storm unit that is playing as well as any in the league, I think there’s a bit of value there, as well. However, I see this coming down to the wire in a super fun matinee matchup.
As for the under, if you’ve been reading my articles this year, you know I like to play the afternoon unders.
We had another one to hit on Tuesday (which I stupidly talked myself out of), leaving the under in afternoon games now 17-13-1 on the year. This is an over 5.0% ROI this year, with the trend holding over the past decade at nearly 9.0% ROI since 2013.
Pick: Seattle +3 (play to +1.5)
Pick: Under 161.5 (play to 158.5)
Lean: Seattle Moneyline (+135)