WNBA season preview 2024: Yahoo Sports predictions

The WNBA’s 28th season tips off Tuesday with an abundance of enticing matchups on the schedule.

No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark, arguably the biggest name in basketball, will make her professional debut when the Indiana Fever open on the road against the oft-disrespected Connecticut Sun (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). WNBA all-time leading scorer Diana Taurasi begins her 20th season with the Phoenix Mercury, watching the Las Vegas Aces raise a second championship banner (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

[Caitlin Clark's WNBA debut: How to watch the Indiana Fever vs. Connecticut Sun season opener]

New York, trying to bounce back from its crushing Game 4 defeat to the Aces, starts the season against new-look Washington (7 p.m. ET, WNBA League Pass). And Seattle opens its own superteam era at home against the Minnesota Lynx (10 p.m. ET, League Pass), the league’s dynasty of the 2010s.

Ahead of opening night, Yahoo Sports makes its picks for the top awards, playoff seeding and champion.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports Illustration)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports Illustration)

Negley: A'ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Wilson mentioned her fourth-place MVP vote again during a preseason Zoom call with reporters. That fueled her through a career-best playoff performance (23.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 1.4 spg, 2.3 bpg) and she wore the MVP votes total on her second championship parade T-shirt. The Aces collectively run best on negative outside noise — perceived or real — and Wilson appears hungry for the trophy after losing it last year. It should be a great battle between Wilson, Breanna Stewart and possibly Alyssa Thomas again.

Laase: A'ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
It’s hard to believe Wilson didn’t collect her third MVP trophy last season after putting up career numbers and leading the Aces to their second WNBA Championship. Her stats should be similar this season, and the Aces are the favorites to win a third title in a row. If that happens, it will be because of Wilson leading the charge on offense and defense, and voters should take note.

Negley: Caitlin Clark, Indiana Fever
Clark is a generational talent whose game is already translating well to the WNBA. More importantly, she’s stepping into a fantastic situation. Indiana began its rebuild a few years ago and has the foundation already set under second-year head coach Christie Sides. I expect Clark to rank top five in assists as the Fever settle in around her.

Laase: Caitlin Clark, Indiana Fever
I can see Rickea Jackson or Angel Reese making a run for the Rookie of the Year award, but Caitlin Clark is in the perfect position to win it. All eyes will be on the Fever, a team that should make a significant jump this season, and Clark will play an important role in that rise. Aliyah Boston won last year, and I expect her new Fever teammate to do the same this season.

Negley: Christie Sides, Indiana Fever
This only has a little to do with Clark. Indiana flirted with a playoff spot last year in Sides’ first season and played close contests against Las Vegas and New York. It’s hard to emphasize how important those minor improvements are to a franchise accustomed to struggling. Clark immediately improves the team, but it takes a good coach to put it all together and keep it going.

Laase: Noelle Quinn, Seattle Storm
The Storm went to work this offseason, picking up Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nneka Ogwumike. They join Jewell Loyd to make up a powerful Big Three that should help the Storm to a playoff run. Quinn's squad has the personnel and potential to go from 11-29 last season to a playoff team. If she can get this team to jell, while developing players like Jordan Horston, Ezi Magbegor and Nika Muhl, I like her chances to win Coach of the Year.

Negley: Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
Thomas is one of the league’s toughest defenders who can guard every position and often does. (Ahem, she faces off against the ROY favorite to start the season on Tuesday.) The 11-year veteran stepped up last year, averaging career highs in most categories, including steals (1.8, ranking fourth). Having center Brionna Jones back from an Achilles injury that kept her out last season will help the Sun improve on both sides of the ball, and Connecticut was already the league’s best defense last year.

Laase: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Part of the reason Wilson is my prediction for MVP is because of her defensive prowess. She’s equally important on both sides of the ball, which is why she’s my pick for DPOY as well.

Negley: Kayla Thornton, New York Liberty
It’s not always clear during preseason what a team’s standard starting five will look like, and this honor could easily go to Alysha Clark again. That would make six Aces players winning it in a seven-year stretch. Thornton was in line a few times in Dallas for the Sixth Player award and will be a key contributor off the bench for the Liberty again this year. She’s one of their best defenders, averaging the second-most steals per 40 minutes on the roster.

Laase: Rebecca Allen, Phoenix Mercury
Over the last three seasons, Allen has been both a starter and a bench player for the New York Liberty and the Connecticut Sun. She started the most games of her career last season for the Sun (27) and provided a lift as a 3-point shooter and defender, using her length to get off contested shots on offense and to alter them on defense. Now with the Mercury, Allen will likely come off the bench behind Sophie Cunningham, but her skill and experience will remain the same, allowing her to thrive.

Negley: Karlie Samuelson, Washington Mystics
Overseas success can be a good predictor of WNBA improvement, and Samuelson is coming off a EuroCup Finals MVP playing with the London Lions. It’s the veteran guard’s first season on a guaranteed contract and I see her taking off in a starting role, even though the Mystics aren’t expected to make much noise. She is one of the game’s best 3-point shooters (42.6%) and should improve on the 7.7 ppg, 3 rpg and 2 apg of her breakout season with Los Angeles.

Laase: Dana Evans, Chicago Sky
Evans has seen her minutes increase every year she’s been in the league. She played 21.5 off the bench for the Sky last season, but Chicago coach Teresa Weatherspoon has made it clear that Evans will be her team’s starting point guard. In her first season as a starter, Evans should improve upon her 9 points and 3 assists per game, putting her in position to win the award.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports Illustration)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports Illustration)

Negley: The battle for the No. 1 seed came down to the final weeks last year, and I see that happening again. The Aces have to play Phoenix and Seattle more than New York will, which puts the Liberty in the No. 1 spot. A full training camp and second year together to build chemistry helps New York’s case.

I’m high on Indiana’s offense with Clark at the helm and her pick-and-roll game with Boston. If NaLyssa Smith weren’t out for a few games with a stress fracture in her foot, Indiana would have been a playoff team last year. So jumping a few spots doesn’t seem that drastic. Seattle and Phoenix bulking up their rosters with All-Stars puts them each over Dallas, a top-four team in 2023 that will have to go without injured forward Satou Sabally for most of the season.

Laase: The Aces are my favorite for the No. 1 seed and the WNBA title until someone else proves otherwise. With the way Las Vegas has dominated over the last two seasons, I can’t with good conscience put any team over them at this point. After that, I like the Storm to make a big jump and can’t wait to see the Notre Dame guard duo of Loyd and Diggins-Smith playing alongside Ogwumike.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports Illustration)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports Illustration)

Negley: Las Vegas over New York
At this point, I’m not betting against two-time champions who return their entire core for a fourth season together. And if the Aces do win the No. 1 seed, it’s tough for anyone to come in and steal a game at Michelob Ultra Arena. In that scenario, by the time the Aces leave home they’re already up 2-0 and one win from a historic three-peat.

After the Aces, the Liberty are the most talented team, but I’m still waiting to see some chemistry develop. I also have my eye on the Sun, who continue to contend but can’t make the next step, and the Dream, who are looking to make a jump from middle-of-the-pack, to the top of the league.

Laase: Las Vegas over Seattle
The Storm lost Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart after the 2022 season, leaving Loyd as the building block for the future. She had an impressive individual season (24.7 ppg.), but the Storm needed more offensive weapons. They got them with Diggins-Smith and Ogwumike, and the Seattle role players are talented enough to back up this trio all the way to a Finals appearance. Still, there’s no stopping Wilson and the Aces guards. So as much fun as it will be to watch the Storm this season, it’s Vegas’ title to lose, and I don’t seen that happening.