Power Rankings: Goals for each team as the season winds down

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Every two weeks, our staff ranks each of the 12 teams and I talk about the results here. The rankings are the staff’s, the words are mine, but the fun is ours! Here’s the last power rankings if you need to catch up!

Editor’s Note: This article was written before Tuesday night’s game. Both of the higher-ranked teams (Aces and Lynx) beat the lower ranked teams (Liberty and Dream).

The Rankings

  1. Washington Mystics: 17-7 (5-1 since last power rankings), Previous ranking: 2nd
  2. Las Vegas Aces: 16-9 (3-3), Previous: 1st
  3. Los Angeles Sparks: 15-8 (4-0), Previous: 5th
  4. Connecticut Sun: 16-8 (3-2), Previous: 3rd
  5. Seattle Storm: 14-11 (2-2), Previous: 4th
  6. Chicago Sky: 14-10 (3-2), Previous: 6th
  7. Minnesota Lynx: 12-12 (2-2), Previous: 8th
  8. Phoenix Mercury: 12-12 (2-4), Previous: 7th
  9. Indiana Fever: 9-16 (3-1), Previous: 10th
  10. New York Liberty: 8-15 (0-4), Previous: 9th
  11. Dallas Wings: 7-17 (2-3), Previous: 11th
  12. Atlanta Dream: 5-19 (0-4), Previous: 12th

THERE’S LESS THAN A MONTH LEFT IN THE REGULAR SEASON. It’s a bittersweet time for fans of the W. We are excited about the playoffs, but it means less basketball. With the year winding down, the totality of each team’s season comes into view. Some teams are looking at competing for a title, others are just looking at the end. In this week’s power rankings, let’s talk about each team’s goals going forward.

Washington Mystics: Encase the entire team in bubble wrap

The Mystics are the best team in the league. They have been for most of the year and will remain so until further notice. When DC plays to their potential offensively, they’re pretty much unstoppable. On Sunday, they showed what they could do by putting up 111 points against Minnesota and their stout defense.

But the Mystics tend to get hurt at random and inopportune times. That simply cannot happen this year. Right now, Tianna Hawkins, Kristi Toliver, and Ariel Atkins are questionable with Atkins seemingly having the most serious issue after getting wiped out by a Sylvia Fowles screen. EDD looks the Terminator with a mask on and a big knee brace. The Mystics have lost just one game all year at full strength. Keep this group healthy is their goal one because the only thing that can stop them is injuries.

Las Vegas Aces: Wait for Wilson

Honestly, there’s not much we don’t know about the Aces at this point. Before the All-Star break, Vegas ripped off a 9-2 stretch where they wrecked teams both offensively and defensively. While DC has a great flowing team offense, Vegas’s offense is more brutish and runs through their star bigs. Then, A’ja Wilson hurt her ankle on July 19th and has not played since. The Aces have stayed afloat going 4-3 with Dearica Hamby filling in for Wilson. While we do all love the Boot Baddie, the Aces need Wilson to reach their full potential and compete for a title. So, Vegas (and the rest of us) will just need to wait for her to get back.

Los Angeles Sparks: Stay the course

All year, we heard the same thing about the Sparks: “Wait until they are healthy.” The wait is over. And wow, it was worth it. They have ripped off five straight wins, including four since the All-Star break. The formula for LA winning has not really changed with the full squad. They just keep it close then let THE BEST CLUTCH PLAYER IN BASKETBALL Chelsea Gray snatch souls. However, the job has gotten a lot easier with Candace Parker in the lineup and doing her thing. LA is still missing Riquna Williams and may not get Alana Beard back at this point. But this is pretty much full strength and it is scary. The Sparks just need to keep jelling and hit their stride as the playoffs start.

Connecticut Sun: Don’t get blown out again

The Sun have played very well at times this season. Just last power rankings, they looked like the world beaters we thought they could be. They went on a seven-game win streak as Jonquel Jones got back to her MVP-form from the start of the season. In that stretch, the Sun tallied some nice wins over playoff-bound teams like Phoenix and Chicago.

All those good vibes came to a screeching halt with an 89-57 (57!!) loss to Minnesota. They looked listless and quit on the game late. The 32-point loss is somehow not their worst performance in 2019. The Sun got beat down by 43 by the Mystics in DC in the midst of a six-game losing streak in June. Hopefully, they don’t go on another losing streak now. More importantly for their mentality, I hope don’t get blown out like that again.

Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx: Keep building the culture

These two franchises represent the top of the WNBA over the past few years (along with LA). They are in weird spots this year, though. Seattle is missing its two biggest stars to injury and Minnesota lacks three of its dynasty-building legends. However, both franchises are showing that they aren’t just one group of players or one coach or one run. They are dynasties who are here for the long haul. They’ve built cultures based on defense, tenacity, and getting the job done.

While there is a case for either team to make a deep playoff run, I see this year as a time to build their brands going forward. Give the youngins (Naphessa Collier and Jordin Canada) a taste of the bright lights, keep up the defensive intensity, and build for next year when both teams could get back to the Finals at full strength assuming that Maya Moore comes back and Sue Bird is still Sue Bird. Any playoff success is just gravy at this point.

Chicago Sky: Get Creative

News broke this week that Jantel Lavender would miss a long period of time with a fracture in her foot. She may be out for the rest of the year. Considering the fantastic season she has had, this is a major major blow to the Sky going forward. But all hope is not lost! The Sky luckily have a bunch of options to fill in for Lavender. Astou Ndour, the international star who joined the team later in the year, started at power forward against the Sparks last time out. Ndour is the most obvious pick to fill in for Lavender, but the Sky need to get creative to push themselves to the next level. They should try starting Katie Lou Samuelson to try to make it rain fire on teams or even starting Gabby Williams to just run them out of the building. We all wish Lavender was on the court and hope she can get back for the playoffs, but the injury provides an opportunity to think outside the box. The goal for the Sky is get creative and just maybe take a leap forward.

Phoenix Mercury: Stop making bad headlines

Ugh: the prevailing feeling around the Mercury in 2019. They started off the season with much fanfare as we all predicted whether Brittney Griner or Dewanna Bonner would win MVP. Well, they came out flat. But still, we all anxiously awaited the return of Diana Taurasi. Surely, the GOAT could push the Mercury back to title contention. Well, she played in just one game for 16 minutes before going back to the bench to heal her back. This week, Brittney Griner went all hibernating Sandy on Kristine Anigwe after the latter slapped BG in the face. I’m not saying Griner was wrong for going after Anigwe with the fury of a thousand suns because most of us would do the same exact thing. However, it’s a bad look for her, the team, and the league. She also might get suspended which could sink their playoff chances. Phoenix just needs to get through the rest of year without any more bad press and get into the playoffs.

Indiana Fever and New York Liberty: Take the next step

These two teams are so close to major step for their franchises: Making the playoffs. Last season, the Liberty missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014. But they did so in galling fashion with a 7-27 record. Indiana somehow fared worse at 6-28. The Fever bottomed out after a fantastic 9-year run with Tamika Catchings leading the franchise to the 2012 championship. Both these teams have a chance to erase the pain of last year and build for the future. They are just three games back each of Phoenix and, as I mentioned, the Mercury’s best player could get suspended.

At the moment, the Fever look like the most likely to make the jump. Erica Wheeler has stepped up into superstardom by winning the All-Star MVP. Her good energy has seemingly infected the rest of the team. They have won three of their last four games in crisp fashion. However, they have seven of their last nine games against teams ranked higher than them in these power rankings. Don’t count out either of these teams just yet. One of them could take the next step to becoming a future contender.

Dallas Wings and Atlanta Dream: Flesh out the future

2019 was a season to forget for the Wings and Dream. Both teams are missing their biggest stars: Skylar Diggins-Smith for Dallas and Angel McCoughtry for Atlanta. As each team made the playoffs last year, finishing in the bottom two is a massive disappointment and failure. However, every failure brings a chance to reassess and grow for the next success. Dallas found a future star in Arike Ogunbowale; Kayla Thornton has developed into a defensive boss; and they have a solid group of role players led by Kaela Davis. The Wings definitely found their silver linings this season and looked competent at times.

The Dream, losers of nine straight, really haven’t. They picked up Alaina Coates on a flyer and Brittney Sykes improved. But Atlanta didn’t learn anything knew this season. This team still goes where Angel and Tiffany Hayes take them. Maybe it all pays off with the opportunity to select college supernova Sabrina Ionescu from Oregon first overall.

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  1. Pingback: Power Rankings: What's the worst thing to happen to each team in 2019? » W-Insidr

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