Basketball: Caitlin Clark ‘shoulders massive expectations’ pre-WNBA debut

Buckle up, WNBA faithful. The breathlessly awaited arrival of Caitlin Clark is imminent, with the Indiana Fever set to clash with the Connecticut Sun in the May 14 opener at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The hype surrounding the former Iowa wunderkind and No. 1 overall pick has reached dizzying heights. She sits as a towering -700 favorite to seize WNBA Rookie of the Year honors this season, while also clocking in at +1200 for the MVP award. Those are the fourth-shortest odds, trailing only A’ja Wilson (+180), reigning winner Breanna Stewart (+400), and Alyssa Thomas (+1000).

But will Clark live up to the thunderous hype? To better gauge her potential impact, let’s dive into Caitlin Clark’s 2024 odds.

Caitlin Clark WNBA ROY Odds

Yes: -700

Unsurprisingly, Caitlin Clark’s odds solidify her as the overwhelming favorite to capture WNBA Rookie of the Year at -700. Those odds have skyrocketed from -400 since the draft.

Clark is fresh off a historic season at Iowa where she averaged 31.6 points en route to claiming her third NCAA scoring title in four years. She also stuffed the stat sheet with 9.0 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game while powering the Hawkeyes to back-to-back national championship game appearances.

With that stellar resume, Clark cemented herself as the undisputed No. 1 pick last April. The dead-eye shooting guard will instantly become a focal point of Indiana’s offensive attack alongside reigning Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston. Clark made an encouraging debut in Friday’s preseason opener versus Dallas, pouring in a team-high 21 points on 6-of-15 shooting, including a 5-of-13 effort from deep.

While Clark may face some hurdles adjusting to the pro ranks, she exists in a separate stratosphere in terms of expectations. If she even comes close to meeting them, voters will be hard-pressed to favor anyone else for Rookie of the Year.

Former Stanford star Cameron Brink, drafted No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Sparks, owns the second-shortest ROY odds at +1200. Third overall pick Kamilla Cardoso of the Chicago Sky (via South Carolina) is third on the odds board at +1600. All other candidates are longshots at 30/1 or higher.

Other longshot ROY contenders: Rickea Jackson (+3000), Aaliyah Edwards (+3500), Angel Reese (+3500), Jacy Sheldon (+6000), and Alissa Pili (+6000).

Average PPG in 2024

Over 21.9: -120

Under 21.9: +100

No WNBA player has ever averaged 30 points in a season — Diana Taurasi holds the single-season scoring record at 25.5 points per game in 2006 — so replicating her Iowa heroics would be an arduous task for Clark.

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Projections have her averaging 21.9 points — a slight dip from 21.5 in March — and even that lofty mark seems optimistic. Even Taurasi, the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, mustered just 17 points per game as a rookie in 2004 before finally cracking 20 PPG three seasons later, per WNBA stats.

That said, Clark is a singular talent. Her ability to score from virtually anywhere on the floor is unparalleled. Clark drained 5.2 three-pointers per game as an Iowa senior while shooting 37.8% from deep, nearly mirroring her career average. Most impressively, she showcased unlimited range in shattering the NCAA’s all-time scoring record.

Learning curve be damned, Clark possesses the skill set to make an instant impact. Without an ounce of hesitation, she could rapidly accumulate points. Having bruising post presences like Boston and NaLyssa Smith to divert defenses will undoubtedly aid her cause.

Indiana Fever To Make Playoffs

Yes: -250

No: +200

Could the tide finally be turning for Indiana? Oddsmakers certainly seem to think so.

The Fever haven’t tasted the playoffs since 2016 — a lifetime ago when Tamika Catchings was still their leading scorer. They finished 17-17 that campaign and haven’t reached .500 or better since.

Adding an instantaneous contributor like Clark dramatically bolsters their outlook. The Fever now boast the elite shooter and scorer they previously lacked to complement dominant interior forces like Boston and Smith.

While the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty should maintain their standing as the WNBA’s clear-cut elite, with the Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm comprising the next rung, everything after that remains convoluted. Indicative of their potential, Indiana holds the fifth-shortest WNBA Finals odds at +2500 behind that glamorous quartet.

Anything short of a postseason berth would be an abject disappointment for Indiana. A top-8 finish seems an attainable baseline barring injuries.

Indiana Fever Regular Season Wins

Over 21.5: +100

Under 21.5: -120

Indiana hasn’t eclipsed this win total since their lone championship season in 2012. Though it appears a lofty marker, underestimating Clark’s seismic impact would be foolish. She is a once-in-a-generation prospect with the talent to transform a franchise overnight.

Putting things in perspective, the Fever are one of just six WNBA teams projected to exceed 20 wins.

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