WNBA betting playoff preview: Are the Mystics a worthy long shot?

Are Elena Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics a strong value? Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

The WNBA playoffs are here and our team of experts is here to provide their top betting tips and takeaways.

First, let's take an updated look at the odds as of Tuesday, Aug. 16.

WNBA Championship odds

Las Vegas Aces +165
Chicago Sky +200
Connecticut Sun +430
Seattle Storm +500
Washington Mystics +1200
Dallas Wings +5000
New York Liberty +5000
Phoenix Mercury +7500

First Round odds

Dallas Wings +550
Connecticut Sun -800

New York Liberty +375
Chicago Sky -500

Phoenix Mercury +1200
Las Vegas Aces -2400

Washington Mystics +143
Seattle Storm -170

Here are Eric Moody, Jennifer LaCroix and Doug Kezirian with more on what you should -- and shouldn't -- be betting on during the WNBA playoffs.

The Las Vegas Aces (+165) enter the postseason as the top seed and betting favorite to win their first title. Is your money on the Aces or one of the other top seeds (Sky at +200, Sun at +430, Storm +500)?

LaCroix: I would put my money on the Aces, despite not having much depth, their team is healthy and can run anyone off the court. They will be without Dearica Hamby for most, if not all of the first round, but Kiah Stokes has really stepped up in her place which bodes well for them after the first round when it comes to depth. They have also won the regular season series against every single team in the league except for one (Mystics), so I think in almost any series they will be able to make adjustments to win. Although, the biggest matchup problem the Aces could run into is the Mystics in the Semifinals (Mystics swept them 3-0). Washington plays almost the exact opposite style of basketball compared to the Las Vegas and it paid off for them in the regular season. The Aces play at the fastest pace in the league while the Mystics play at the slowest pace. In their matchups during the regular season, the Mystics slowed the Aces down and held them to fewer than 80 points in two of their three games and under their scoring average in all three games. But even with that being said I think they could still get past the Mystics because it's not easy to sweep a team and then beat them in a playoff series.

Kezirian: If I had to pick one team regardless of the odds, I would pick the Sky. The defending champs have composure and intelligence that are off the charts. Plus, Kahleah Copper and Rebekah Gardner give them elite athleticism on the perimeter to defend the league's best scorers. However, if we are incorporating the odds, I lean to the Storm at +500. They certainly have the toughest first-round series of all the top seeds but I believe they have the firepower to win it all. After all, they do have four No. 1 overall picks. But Gabby Williams is also a force and I think their ceiling is quite high and can get it done.

Moody: After facing the Mercury in the first round, the Aces could potentially play either the Storm or Mystics in the semifinals. Those are difficult teams for Las Vegas to match up with. Bettors should keep an eye on the defending champion Sky (+200), who have a much easier road to the WNBA Finals. That's where I would put my money. The Sky will face a New York Liberty team that finished the season ranked 9th in offensive rating (99.0) and 7th in defensive rating (102.0). Chicago has been one of the top teams in the league with an average of 86.3 points per game (2nd) and 24.3 assists per game (1st). They are well positioned to defeat the Liberty and have advantages over any opponent they may face in the future.

Is there betting value on any of the four-longer shot teams in the field?

LaCroix: I mentioned before that the Mystics could be a team that could upset the Aces on that side of the bracket, and I believe that of any team 5-8 in seeding Washington has the best shot of winning it all. The Mystics odds to win the Championship are +1200 which is pretty long considering they had the same regular season record as the 4-seed Storm (+500) despite being without Elena Delle Donne for 11 games this season. The Mystics did a great job this season load managing Delle Donne so that she would be healthy for the playoffs and most likely be able to play in every game. And in the 11 games she didn't play the rest of the team got great experience, especially rookie center Shakira Austin.

Moody: You should not overlook the Mystics as a betting value right now. They are an experienced team that won a championship in 2019. When Delle Donne is active, the team is formidable, and after her workload has been managed, she will be fully unleashed in the playoffs. With Delle Donne in the lineup, the Mystics are 18-7 averaging 81.0 points per game, while when she isn't, they are 4-7 averaging 78.5 points per game. It is important not to underestimate the Mystics, an experienced team that won a championship just a few years ago.

Kezirian: Truthfully, I have been a Liberty stan all season so I am biased. However, I concede they are too inconsistent to win multiple series but their best is just as good as any other team's best. Plus, they lead the league in 3-point attempts so that variance could enable the upset. However, they commit too many turnovers and opponents have figured out how to limit Sabrina Ionescu's impact. That's done by pressing her full court with an athletic defender. If Sandy Brondello ever decides to play Ionescu off the ball to begin the possession, then that might relieve some struggles. Either way, this 50/1 longshot only has a chance if they bomb threes but I would not play it at this number.

The league went back to the standard 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, etc. format, getting rid of the byes. The better seed will host the first two games of the best-of-3 first-round series. Are you a fan of the current format or did you like the old one?

LaCroix: I like the new format and I think most people will like this format. The old format felt like the NCAA Tournament with the single elimination games and it only rewarded the top two teams who automatically made the semifinal, but the 3 and 4 seed were still forced to play single elimination. And while that can be fun, it's not a true evaluation of who are the best teams. I also think no byes will help teams keep the momentum they have going into the playoffs instead of forcing them to wait for a week to play. Also this new best-of-3 series format in the first round will allow teams that may have an "off" night to still make up for it and win the series.

Kezirian: I applaud the WNBA's desire to place an importance on the regular season. The old playoff format, along with the Commissioner's Cup, did just that. I am okay with this format because it still rewards the higher seeds with home-court advantage but the single-elimination element did add unmatched excitement and pressure.

The Storm are -170 to win their first round series vs the Mystics (+143 in the 4/5matchup). Odds-wise, this is the closest series price. Do you see an upset here or in any of the other three series?

Kezirian: I like the Storm but I feel the price is right. As for the other three series, I do think Dallas (+520) has a legitimate shot. The Wings are a much more well-rounded team now with the recent emergence of 6-foot-7 Teaira McCowan. Even the injury to leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale makes them more difficult to guard because now you do not know who can beat you. The obvious answer is Marina Mabrey but it's still a guess. In a short series, I think Dallas can knock off the Sun. Connecticut finds ways to botch games and does not shoot the three-pointer well enough.

LaCroix: I could definitely see an upset here, these two teams finished with the same record and the Mystics played 11 of their games without Delle Donne (4-7 without EDD; 18-7 with EDD). Seattle won the regular season series 2-1, but the last two games these two played against each other were decided by five or fewer points so this will definitely be a competitive matchup.

Moody: Even without Ogunbowale, Dallas' leading scorer at 19.7 PPG, the Wings still have a chance to upset the Sun. In the regular season, the Wings won two of three games against the Sun as underdogs. In two of the three games, the two teams averaged 160.7 points per game. If you're considering betting the total, this is something else to think about.

Anything else jump out to you from a betting lens as we tip-off the playoffs?

LaCroix: I would say the Liberty are a team that could be dangerous and possibly win a game or at least cover in their games against the Sky. They are one of the hottest teams going into the playoffs, going 6-2 over their last eight games, which is the best record in the league since July 31. Their defense during this span has been turned up a notch, ranking 1st in opponent PPG, opponent FG% and opponent 3FG%. Also the last three games between these two teams were decided by eight or fewer points so I expect this to be a close series. And the Liberty have Betnijah Laney back in the lineup (played in last five games) which is just another offensive weapon for Ionescu to facilitate to.

Kezirian: You're never going to get rich laying -600 but technically there is value at that price on a Las Vegas sweep in the first round. Give the Mercury all the credit in the world for making the playoffs, despite losing all their star power. But I just do not see how they can win a game without Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi. For perspective, the Aces are 15-point favorites in the opener. This is a complete mismatch, and the Aces are hungry after not even reaching the Finals last year.