The Seattle Storm will have to defend their 2018 championship without the services of their best player and league MVP, Breanna Stewart. The 24-year-old suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon on Sunday and has been ruled out for the entire 2019 season, which begins next month. Stewart was competing in the EuroLeague championship for Dynamo Kursk of Russia when she landed awkwardly on Brittany Griner’s foot.
breanna stewart landed on brittney griners foot during the euroleague title game and looked in serious pain— dynamo kursk fan account (@WEREONLIVE) April 14, 2019
not clear if it was ankle or knee but she was helped off the floor and put no weight on it pic.twitter.com/AO8ecTLtgJ
It’s an obvious blow to the Storm, who went 26-8 in the regular season and swept the Washington Mystics in the WNBA Finals. Stewart was also named the Finals MVP after averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in the three-game sweep. She’s the face of the league and her injury will also be a devastating loss for the WNBA.
But it also may create more parity in the league. The Storm are currently +185 to win the WNBA title in 2019, though that number will certainly change in the wake of Stewart’s injury.
Then again, Seattle still has 38-year-old Sue Bird, who put together a magnificent postseason. They also have last year’s breakout star in Jewell Lloyd and Natasha Howard, who should help fill the void on the interior in Stewart’s absence. They also added free agent Shaveonte Zellous last week. This is still a talented group on paper even without the league MVP.
Door Opens For Mystics
Even if they remain the favorites, their quest for a repeat won’t be easy. Stewart’s injury could open the door for Elena Delle Donne to finally win a ring. The 2015 league MVP and five-time All-Star lost to the Storm in last year’s Finals but should now be the favorites.
The Mystics re-signed forward LaToya Sanders re-signed forward LaToya Sanders in February after she put together a career year with 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. Washington has gone from 13 to 18 to 22 wins and gone from no postseason to a semifinals berth to a Finals berth. Maybe this is the year they make the jump to a title, which would be their first in franchise history.
Will the Sun Grow Up?
Only one team posted a more efficient offense last season than the Seattle Storm. And yet, the young Connecticut Sun couldn’t get past the Phoenix Mercury in the second round a year ago.
Perhaps now is their time. They’re a solid team across the board and continue to improve; they’ve won 21 games in consecutive seasons after going four seasons without a winning record. Curt Miller has this up-and-coming group headed in the right direction. Perhaps another leap is in store. They’ve currently got +700 odds to win the 2019 Finals, third-best behind Seattle and Washington.
Aces Could Hit the Jackpot
If you’re looking for a dark-horse pick, Las Vegas could be it. What better city than to bet a longshot? They’ve currently got +800 odds to win the WNBA Finals – before being adjusted for post-Stewart injury news – and could surprise.
They missed out on the postseason by a game last season but should be in line for a playoff berth this upcoming season. For starters, they added the No. 1 overall pick in Notre Dame point guard Jackie Young last week. She averaged 14.5 points and 3.7 assists per game last season for the Irish and will join two former No. 1 overall picks, A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum, in Vegas. They’re putting something together in Sin City.