One month into the season, the middle of the WNBA pack is (still) verty tight. Two games separate fourth place and a single-round bye in the playoffs from 11th place and missing the cut. Nearly every team (sorry, Indiana Fever) has to feel like it’s in range to make a deep run into October.
There’s good reason, too. Most franchises in this range have been playing without a significant contributor who’s due back. The Mystics are awaiting Elena Delle Donne’s return, the Liberty are nearing Natasha Howard’s clearance to play, Diana Taurasi could be back as soon as this weekend for the Mercury, and Nneka Ogwumike is in line to play before the Olympic break for the Sparks.
So with all that in consideration, let’s talk about all 12 teams ranked by their performance now, and what they could be when they’re at full strength.
1. Seattle Storm (12-3)
Despite the loss to the extremely short-handed Mystics, I’m not ready to bump Seattle down yet. Jewell Loyd is playing on another level this season averaging a career-high 19.1 points on 46.4 percent shooting from the field and 39.3 percent shooting from 3-point range. Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird have looked sharp, too. Two of the team’s three losses have come by a combined five points, and the third blowout loss to the Aces came one game after blowing Las Vegas out first. Their Sunday afternoon rematch in Vegas could move the needle.
2. Las Vegas Aces (10-3)
The Aces are on a five-game win-streak, and three have come by double-digits. The Aces are rolling now with A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young, Dearica Hamby, and Kelsey Plum all playing well together. They could claim the top spot with a win over Seattle this weekend.
3. Connecticut Sun (9-5)
It’s hard to read too much into Connecticut’s last four games (1-3) because Jonquel Jones didn’t play in any of them. She’s still dominating competition at EuroBasket for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hopefully, she returns soon, though. The Chicago Sky are creeping up.
4. Chicago Sky (8-7)
We didn’t need any more evidence that Candace Parker is one of the best ever, but the Sky’s sudden six-game win-streak since her return from a sprained ankle tells the story itself. Chicago missed her presence as a versatile defender, quick decision-maker, and relentless scorer when called upon. The panic for the Sky is over. They’re undefeated this season so long as the two-time MVP plays.
5. Washington Mystics (7-6)
It’s hard not to be excited about the Mystics’ win over the Storm on Tuesday. They were without the injured Natasha Cloud and Myisha Hines-Allen, while Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman remained sidelined as well. Yet it didn’t matter. Tina Charles was unbelievable in her second consecutive 30+ points, 15+ rebounds game, and newly-named Olympian Ariel Atkins co-starred with 10 points and six assists. Washington is a solid team now, and can be an even bigger threat when its roster gets healthy.
6. Phoenix Mercury (6-7)
They’re just 4-5 since Taurasi’s injury, but with the league’s all-time leading scorer likely to return on Sunday, things could turn around quickly for Phoenix. It’s worth noting that four of those five losses were by two possessions or less. Skylar Diggins-Smith (19.2 points and 5.5 assists per game) and Brittney Griner (19.6 points and 10.1 rebounds) are having tremendous seasons, and the floor could open up even more for them with Taurasi back out there.
7. Dallas Wings (6-8)
There are nights when the Wings look like the WNBA’s next big thing, and others where their inexperience shows. That’s to be expected with a roster of young 20-somethings. Still, Dallas’s plethora of scoring weapons should scare the rest of the league. They have a pair of wins over the Mercury and another over the Storm, and I wouldn’t want to see them in a single-elimination game.
8. Minnesota Lynx (6-7)
The Lynx have left a lot to desire still, but injuries and late arrivals haven’t helped. Aerial Powers (thumb) and Natalie Achonwa (knee) are still sidelined indefinitely. A comeback win against the Dream was needed on Wednesday, and Sylvia Fowles’ dominant 26-point, 19-rebound showing is reason enough to buy into Minnesota’s potential.
9. New York Liberty (7-7)
With Sabrina Ionescu slumping as she returns from her ankle injury, and Howard still days from returning from her knee sprain, the Liberty aren’t in the place they once were. Their 5-1 start always felt a bit fluky, but it’s still tough to judge where exactly New York falls into the playoff race. Remember, this was a 2-20 team last season, and should have growing pains. We’ll see if they can fight through them.
10. Atlanta Dream (5-8)
It’s a shame we’ve hardly seen Chennedy Carter and Tiffany Hayes on the floor together. Health has also played a part in Atlanta’s so-so start to the year. Carter is only just returning from an elbow injury. If Atlanta is able to stay in the playoff mix, Courtney Williams is likely the main reason why. She is probably weeks away from her first All-Star game.
11. Los Angeles Sparks (5-7)
With Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike sidelined and Jasmine Walker out for the year, it’s been a tough start to the season for L.A. The bright side of the injury situation is that others have had to step up, and Erica Wheeler has been tremendous. In her last three games, she’s scored 55 points on 22-of-46 shooting with 22 assists and just eight turnovers. When the Ogwumike sisters return, maybe the Sparks have a run in them.
12. Indiana Fever (1-14)
Yeah. There’s a lot of work to be done here. Please, Indy, start playing your first- and second-year players more.
By: Matt Ellentuck
Title: WNBA Power Rankings: Watch Out For The Mystics
Sourced From: feedproxy.google.com/~r/uproxx/withleather/~3/g76vmDhjDks/
Published Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2021 13:45:41 PDT
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