WNBA odds: Caitlin Clark leading ROY race, Angel Reese gaining

Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese currently lead the list of betting favorites for WNBA Rookie of the Year as the season quickly approaches the All-Star game at the end of the month. Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

For the past year and a half, one of the most intriguing rivalries in sports has been between Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese. While the two don’t play the same position and rarely defend each other, the intense attention around them as the superstars of their respective teams has followed them from the college game into the WNBA.

Now, the pair are competing for one of the league’s most prestigious awards: Rookie of the Year. The mercurial betting lines surrounding the honor tell a story about how fans, media and oddsmakers view the ever-tightening race between Clark and Reese.

“It’s more of an art than a science,” Caesars pro basketball lead David Lieberman told ESPN. “You might have an idea of who’s going to win and who’s the front runner and stuff like that, but it can change on a dime throughout the course of the season just based on various factors, hype and narratives.”

The biggest difference between awards futures and other markets is that the results of award races are decided by a media vote rather than results on the court, which are easier to quantify and then translate into betting odds.

While Clark was always going to be the favorite to win Rookie of the Year after entering the league as college basketball’s all-time leading scorer and the first overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, her opening odds of -500 already made her a near-prohibitive favorite; by opening night, her odds had shortened to -750, an implied probability of 88.24%. The next-shortest odds belonged to No. 2 pick Cameron Brink (10-1), who is now out of the running after suffering a torn ACL in June.

“Clark’s unmatched popularity, performance analysis, the attention she got during a successful college hoops season and experience playing on a big stage are what make her so unique and a big favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award,” ESPN BET head of sportsbook Patrick Jay told ESPN via email. In other words, it wasn’t just her basketball stats that made her the overwhelming favorite from the get-go.

Then there was Reese who, despite impressive performances in college, carried doubts from speculators that her game could translate to the next level. She opened at 33-1 to win Rookie of the Year but moved to 25-1 by opening night, tying her with Rickea Jackson for fourth behind Clark, Brink and her Chicago Sky teammate Kamilla Cardoso (20-1).

The betting public recognized the potential and value on Reese at the long odds and she became the most-bet player by tickets and handle at multiple sportsbooks including BetMGM (46.7% tickets/53.3% handle) and DraftKings (40%/55%).

On June 4, the 22-year-old recorded the second double-double of her career and her second game in a row with double-digit rebounds. That was the beginning of what would become a streak of 10 consecutive games with double-doubles — a WNBA record — and 11 straight games with double-digit rebounds, one game shy of the WNBA record.

Both records are held by Candace Parker, the only player in WNBA history to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. And even her 2008 rookie season didn’t match up to the one Reese is having right now from a rebounding perspective. Reese has averaged a league-leading 11.4 rebounds per game — ahead of MVP frontrunner A’ja Wilson (11.1 RPG).

As a result, Reese’s odds have gotten shorter and shorter to win Rookie of the Year. At ESPN BET, her price dropped down to 14-1, then to 10-1, with DraftKings reporting her odds at +900 on June 13. Then, following Chicago’s 88-87 win over Clark’s Indiana Fever on June 23, which saw Reese drop a career high 25 points, the former LSU standout reached +700 on ESPN BET. As of July 2, she is +400 to take home the honor.

“We’ve had to make adjustments on her based on, not only her performance, but the money that has come in so far,” DraftKings director of sportsbooks operations Johnny Avello told ESPN. “We’ve got a significant [potential] loss on Angel Reese.”

However, despite Reese’s impressive accomplishments early in the season and significant liability on her, the sportsbooks don’t seem to be sweating it too much. That’s because they believe, like many in and around the WNBA world, that Clark is still going to come out on top.

Even with Reese gaining on her, Clark’s advantage hasn’t really deteriorated: The Iowa native is currently has -600 odds to win Rookie of the Year at ESPN BET and, at one point, was showing -3000, an incredible 96.77% implied probability. Those odds-on prices haven’t encouraged much public betting, but she still has 28% of the bets at DraftKings and 10.2% of the bets at BetMGM.

Is Caitlin Clark playing better than Angel Reese?

Angel Reese has averaged a league-leading 11.4 rebounds per game ahead of MVP frontrunner A’ja Wilson. Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
While it’s hard to quantify exactly what “better” means in the context of awards, there are certainly a few factors giving Clark the edge over Reese.

The No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft has won Rookie of the Year 14 out of 26 times, including the past two years (Atlanta Dream’s Rhyne Howard and Clark’s teammate Aliyah Boston). From 2008 through 2016, the No. 1 pick won the award eight out of nine times, with Elena Delle Donne being the only exception in 2013. By contrast, the No. 7 pick in the draft, where Reese was selected, has won ROY exactly once — when Tracy Reid claimed the inaugural award in 1998.

But more importantly, Clark has been a better contributor on offense than Reese — and that ultimately makes a bigger difference to most oddsmakers and awards voters.

“Caitlin Clark is just simply the better player with better numbers and more fanfare,” BetMGM’s trading team told ESPN in a statement, “It would most likely take an injury for her not to win the award at this point.” One awards voter told ESPN that points are “probably the single biggest statistic in basketball” and that it’s the biggest factor in voting for all awards besides Defensive Player of the Year.

Despite a sometimes-steep learning curve for rookies, Clark has come out firing in that regard, leading all rookies with 16.2 PPG to Reese’s 13.3. Parker averaged 18.5 PPG in here 2008 ROY and MVP campaign.

But points aren’t all Clark brings to the table: The 22-year-old has also averaged 6.9 APG, first among rookies and third among all players in the WNBA. She has already broken the Fever’s single-season rookie assists record in just 20 games and is on pace to be just the fourth player in WNBA history, and first rookie, to average 15 points, five rebounds and five assists, joining Parker, Alyssa Thomas and Sabrina Ionescu.

Ultimately, according to a WNBA awards voter, the race could be very tight until the end and many voters may be split, giving Clark and Reese ticket holders a good sweat come October.

It may ultimately come down to which team has performed best throughout the season, potentially giving the winner an edge by a hair: If the season ended today, the Fever would sneak into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, while the Sky would just miss out with the league’s ninth-best record.