- The Washington Times
Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Elena Delle Donne could be the star du jour of this coming WNBA season.

The Washington Mystics forward is the favorite to win the league MVP award, according to both the Vegas oddsmakers and a WNBA.com poll of the league’s general managers.

Delle Donne earned 42% of the vote (five out of 12 GMs), coming in ahead of the likes of Brittney Griner, A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage as the MVP favorite. She was also made the 7-1 favorite to win MVP by the online sportsbook MyTopSportsbooks.com.

With Delle Donne anchoring the show in her third year in town, the Mystics head into their new season Saturday as a team with high hopes — and the talent to back it up.

“We know what this team’s about,” Delle Donne said at the Mystics’ media day this month. “We know the excellence we try to strive for every day. I need to continue to be a leader and a voice for this team, along with Kristi (Toliver) and Tash (Cloud). We’ve got a great core that can bring this bunch along.”

Delle Donne, the 2015 league MVP with the Chicago Sky, was the league’s fifth-leading scorer a year ago. Reigning MVP Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Sonics cannot repeat for the award, as an Achilles injury she suffered overseas will sideline her for the full WNBA season.

After the Mystics went 1-1 in their two preseason games, the regular season gets underway Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when they visit the Connecticut Sun. One week later, the Mystics play their first game at the new Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast Washington, hosting the Atlanta Dream on June 1.

A season after being swept in their first WNBA Finals appearance in franchise history, will the Mystics get over the hump? Opinions are mixed. The Associated Press preseason power rankings, released Wednesday, ranked them atop the league for the first time. But in the WNBA.com poll, only two GMs picked the Mystics to win the championship. The Las Vegas Aces earned 33% of the votes and the Phoenix Mercury were second with 25%.

MyTopSportsbooks.com installed Washington as 4-1 favorites to win the title, but other books have now moved the Aces ahead of the Mystics after they acquired star center Cambage last week.

For another poll question, “Which international player is most likely to have a breakout season?,” Washington’s Emma Meesseman led with 33% of the vote. After taking a year off to train with the Belgian national team for last year’s FIBA Women’s World Cup, Meesseman has returned to the Mystics and figures to play a key role.

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