Will it be the No. 1 Washington Mystics in their second-straight WNBA Finals appearance bringing the 2019 championship trophy to D.C.? Or will the No. 2 Connecticut Sun, in their first Finals appearance since 2005, pull off a monumental upset and bring the hardware to Uncasville?
When the Mystics and Sun tip off on Sunday in the best-of-five Finals series, both will be seeking a first-ever title for their franchise. The Mystics made it to the championship round in 2018 but were swept by the Seattle Storm, with their struggles due in large part to Elena Delle Donne’s knee injury. Healthy in 2019, Delle Donne bounced back with a 50-40-90 season — enough to earn her the league MVP award just two votes shy of unanimous.
Not only did Delle Donne bounce back this year, but her whole team did. The Mystics have been clicking on all cylinders, like a well-oiled machine, since late in the regular season. They dropped just one game to the Las Vegas Aces in the semifinals, with their composure and consistency overriding the Aces’ storylines and bluster. With every player able to create shots for others and bank them for themselves, their confidence is well-earned. Plus, Emma Meesseman is nothing short of deadly from the three-point line.
The Sun may not feature the MVP as their star, but All-Stars Alyssa Thomas (defensive powerhouse, eagle-eyed playmaker) and Jonquel Jones (veritable beast on the boards), All-Star Three-Point Contest winner Shekinna Stricklen and charismatic sharpshooter Courtney Williams also are functioning as a well-oiled unit. They outshined the Los Angeles Sparks in the semifinals to the tune of a 3-0 sweep because each player knows her role and performs it well, with each role decorated in versatility. Sure, the Sun are the underdogs, but it seems they thrive from carrying a chip on their shoulders and should be considered a threat to the Mystics’ fairy tale season.
Connecticut coach Curt Miller was reared under Mike Thibault during Thibault’s head-coaching tenure in Uncasville. Both teams are deep with talent, but have very different styles of play. Each is hungry to win its first-ever WNBA championship. Who wins, and why?
Swish Appeal contributors offer our 2019 Finals predictions, and the results are not unanimous! We also weigh in on potential winners of the Finals MVP award.
The 2019 WNBA Finals winner will be ...
Prediction: No “disrespeCT” here. After both teams hold home court through the first four games, the Sun will steal Game 5 in D.C., taking the title 3-2.
No. 1 reason for the win: Much of Elena Delle Donne’s brilliance derives from her ability to be a dominant offensive force without dominating the ball. Yet, winning a title may well require EDD to dominate the ball, and operate outside of the offense when Connecticut causes disruptions. Will EDD abandon her purist basketball principles when the conditions demand it? I’m skeptical. As such, Connecticut will earn its first WNBA championship due to relentless, dynamic defense.
Finals MVP: Alyssa Thomas. “The Engine” will drive the Sun to the title. Not only will she almost always be on the court, she will be everywhere on the court.
Christine M. Hopkins
Prediction: Mystics in five.
No. 1 reason for the win: Home-court advantage — sort of. The Sun aren’t great on the road, haven’t had a true postseason road game (that semis Game 3 in Long Beach was, well ... in Long Beach) and the Mystics are excellent both at home and on the road. I wanted to say Mystics in four, but contrary to my previous sentence, I wouldn’t put it past the Sun to steal an early game in Washington, and for the Mystics to return the favor in Uncasville.
Finals MVP: Elena Delle Donne, because simply continuing to be herself should get the job done. That is, unless someone like Emma Meesseman has a really good Game 5 after putting in a productive first four games.
Prediction: The Washington Mystics will win the Finals in five games. They may have lost the regular-season series to the Sun, but the Mystics also haven’t played at full strength with Delle Donne and Meesseman playing together as a unit.
No. 1 reason for the win: The Mystics play a style of positionless basketball where nearly everyone can make long-range shots and timely passes. While Connecticut relied heavily on its same starting lineup throughout the regular season and playoffs, Washington’s capable reserves saw significant playing time, alleviating the pressure and minutes on the starters, even compensating for any disadvantages the starting lineup may have.
Finals MVP: Emma Meesseman. While Delle Donne is Washington’s franchise player, Meesseman has taken her overall game up a couple notches in the semifinals as a scorer and passer. Opponents find it very difficult to figure her out over a five-game series because of her off-ball movement. I see her becoming the first international Finals MVP since Lauren Jackson, who won it in 2010 with the Storm.
Prediction: Home-court advantage will be huge in this series, and it could come down to whoever can steal a game on the road. I think it will go the full five games with the Mystics prevailing.
No. 1 reason for the win: A big part of what makes Washington such a dangerous team is its depth. Players like Emma Meesseman, Aerial Powers and Tianna Hawkins can be subbed into the lineup without the Mystics losing too much of their potent offense. The Sun don’t have such a luxury. If Jonquel Jones and/or Alyssa Thomas get into foul trouble early, Washington will be at a huge advantage, and I’m not sure this is avoidable for five straight games.
Finals MVP: While I could see a player like Meesseman playing an X-factor role, awards like these usually go to a team’s best player. I see Elena Delle Donne taking home series MVP honors along with her first WNBA championship.
Prediction: The Mystics have this one in four games.
No. 1 reason for the win: The Mystics are simply a better and a more complete team. They do everything well and have the go-to scorer they need in Elena Delle Donne when things break down.
Finals MVP: Elena Delle Donne has the Finals MVP all but locked up. As mentioned by others, Meesseman could sneak in and make a case for the award because her ascendance in these playoffs has made a real difference for the Mystics.
Prediction: The Sun will make it an electrifying five-game shootout, but the Mystics should get the 3-2 victory.
No. 1 reason for the win: The Mystics have been several notches above the rest of the league all season. Their depth, shooting efficiency, home-court advantage, recent Finals experience and semifinals momentum give them the advantage. Plus, with Delle Donne willing MVP, a Mystics’ win would complete the team’s fairy tale storyline.
Finals MVP: Emma Meesseman may hail from the land of Smurfs but her three-point shooting is anything but small and cute. It’s a death knell to opponents’ defensive efforts and, well, to teams’ spirits. If she shoots the Mystics into large leads and they get the title, the award will be hers. How smurfy!