2018 WNBA award predictions: Maya Moore for MVP; Lynx, Sparks primed for Finals rematch

The 2018 WNBA season is nearly upon us, with opening night now just days away. The Dallas Wings and Phoenix Mercury will meet at 10 p.m. ET on Friday night to tip-off the 22nd season in WNBA history. That will be followed by a Chicago Sky-Indiana Fever matchup on Saturday afternoon, and then all 12 teams will be in action on Sunday to round out opening weekend.

MVP: Maya Moore, Lynx

The Lynx star "struggled" last season, averaging 17.3 points, five rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Statistically, it was her worst season since 2012, yet she was still named to the All-WNBA First Team and led the Lynx to their fourth title. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which Moore's statistics don't vastly improve, especially considering the Lynx will need to rely on her more than ever with an almost entirely brand new supporting cast. Plus, it's never a bad idea to go with the best women's basketball player on the planet.

Rookie of the Year: A'ja Wilson, Aces

There was never a doubt that Wilson was going to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, and there should be little doubt that she will be the Rookie of the Year. The 6-5 Wilson is one of the best frontcourt prospects to enter the league in years, and has both the size and skills to be a contributor right away. And with a young team around her, Wilson should get plenty of opportunities to accumulate the stats that are usually necessary to take home this award.

Defensive Player of the Year: Brittney Griner, Mercury

Griner is probably the most dominant interior defender the league has ever seen. Her four blocks per game in 2015 are a WNBA record, and so too are the 3.3 blocks she averages for her career. And at 6-9, she influences far more shots than that. Coming off another strong season overseas, where she won the EuroLeague title with UMMC Ekaterinburg, and with the Mercury potentially re-entering the WNBA title conversation, this could be the year Griner regains the DPOY trophy, which she hasn't lifted since 2015.

Most Improved Player: Kelsey Plum, Aces

Three of the past four Most Improved Player Award winners have been second-year players, and Plum is in perfect position to make it four out of five. The No. 1 pick in 2017, Plum had a mighty disappointing rookie season, as she dealt with injuries and inconsistent playing time. But when she did get on the court, she made an impact, with the Stars (now Aces) going 6-3 when she played 30 or more minutes. (They won eight games all season.) Given a more consistent role and playing time, Plum should bounce back with a much stronger second season, and if she does so while helping the Aces improve in their first season in Las Vegas, it's pretty much the perfect storyline for her to win MIP.

Sixth Woman of the Year: Cappie Pondexter

Pondexter is clearly past her prime, but this feels like the perfect situation for her to take home her first ever Sixth Woman of the Year Award. After three seasons in Chicago, she signed in Los Angeles this offseason, and figures to be their first guard off the bench. All the Sparks will need from her is to run the second unit and get buckets, which she's had no problem doing her entire career. Even if she improves only slightly on her inefficient shooting numbers from last season, she should have no problem putting up the stats usually needed to take home 6WOY.

Coach of the Year: Brian Agler, Sparks

Brian Agler has led the Los Angeles Sparks to the past two WNBA Finals, finishing second in the standings each time. This time around, his squad should have what it takes to overtake the Lynx for the No. 1 record in the league. If Agler is able to guide his team to the league's best record, completing a terrific three-season run, this could be the year he's finally rewarded for the coaching clinic he's put on the past few years.

Final standings

  1. Los Angeles Sparks
  2. Minnesota Lynx
  3. Phoenix Mercury
  4. Connecticut Sun
  5. Atlanta Dream
  6. New York Liberty
  7. Washington Mystics
  8. Dallas Wings
  9. Seattle Storm
  10. Chicago Sky
  11. Las Vegas Aces
  12. Indiana Fever

Finals prediction: Sparks over Lynx in 4

For the third straight season, the Sparks and Lynx appear to pretty clearly be the two best teams. And with the league's wise decision to eliminate conferences for playoff seeding still in play, we should see them meet in the Finals for a rubber match. Like they did in 2016, the Sparks -- bolstered by their superior depth -- will take down the Lynx, preventing Maya Moore and Co. from gaining a WNBA-record fifth title. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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