Power Rankings: What’s the worst thing to happen to each team in 2019?

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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!

The Rankings

  1. Washington Mystics: 21-8 (4-1 since last power rankings), Previous ranking: 1st
  2. Connecticut Sun: 20-9 (4-2), Previous: 4th
  3. Los Angeles Sparks: 18-10 (3-2), Previous: 3rd
  4. Las Vegas Aces: 19-11 (3-2), Previous: 2nd
  5. Chicago Sky: 18-11 (4-1), Previous: 6th
  6. Minnesota Lynx: 15-15 (3-3), Previous: 7th
  7. Seattle Storm: 15-14 (1-3), Previous: 5th
  8. Phoenix Mercury: 13-15 (1-3), Previous: 8th
  9. Indiana Fever: 10-19 (1-3), Previous: 9th
  10. Dallas Wings: 9-20 (2-3), Previous: 11th
  11. New York Liberty: 9-20 (1-5), Previous: 10th
  12. Atlanta Dream: 7-22 (2-3), Previous: 12th

The WNBA season will wrap up in two weeks. There is still plenty to be settled during the rest of the regular season. Outside of the Atlanta Dream, every team still technically could make the playoffs.

Also, there is a lot of jockeying for playoff seeding left. The top five teams are separated by just 3 games and the next three are also closely bunched together. The WNBA’s wacky playoff format (top 2 teams get a bye to the semis, next two get a bye to the second round, and the first and second rounds are single-elimination) gives these last couple weeks some added significance.

However, we can still take some time now to look back on this season and think about what exactly has happened in 2019. Let’s start off with the bad news. In this power rankings, I’m going to talk about the worst/most disappointing thing (trend, event, development) from 2019 for each team in the league.

Washington Mystics: Kristi Toliver’s injury

The Mystics have been demolishing teams with ease lately. They got a W in 11 of their last 13 games overall. More impressively, DC has won their last four home games by 119 points total and an average of 29.75 points. *Lee Corso voice and pencil point* YO!

However, the one downside is that Kristi Toliver has sat out since August 8th after banging knees with Stephanie Muvunga of the Indiana Fever. The injury did not seem that bad at the time. But it caused a bone bruise that is nagging and hard to treat. Toliver could be out until the playoffs according to some reports.

The Mystics are 5-1 without KT and, honestly, their defense has looked better with Aerial Powers in the starting lineup for Toliver . But obviously, Toliver is crucial to the Mystics and their title hopes. Not having her for the remainder of the season would hurt their rhythm heading into the playoffs. At this point, the most DC can hope for is that she’s 100% before their first playoff game.

Connecticut Sun: Getting blown out by 30+…twice

The Sun are one of the best teams in the league and have been all season. At times, Connecticut has looked like the best team in the league period. At other times, they looked absolutely dreadful.

To be exact, they looked most dreadful during their 43-point loss to the Washington Mystics in June and their 32-point loss to Minnesota earlier this month. I talked about those losses a bit in the last power rankings and they just stick out in my head so much. Championship-caliber teams don’t just lay down in a game like that, plain and simple.

The two losses aren’t the only reason that I’m not super high on the Sun. But they’re emblematic of the issues keeping Connecticut from playoff success. They are well-coached, capable of tremendous play on both ends, and know how to work with one another. They just need to “not let go of the rope” and keep fighting through adversity.

Still, Connecticut clearly works hard and has mental toughness. Their win against Las Vegas last week proves that. Maybe they can get over the hump in the playoffs and make me stop bringing up those terrible losses.

Los Angeles Sparks: Not having a full team

A lot of these worst things are related to injuries. Tis the nature of the 2019 WNBA season. Every team has been affected by injuries in a major way. But the Sparks had an especially bad case of the injury bug this season. Until this week, LA had not played with a full roster of 12 players.

In addition to injuries to Candace Parker and Alana Beard, Riquna Williams got suspended and Maria Vadeeva missed time for Eurobasket. LA has had a fine season all things considered. They are fighting for a top two-seed and have won three straight including winning an intense game against Connecticut. They also haven’t lost at home since June 18th.

But all those injuries leave us with two big questions: How good would they have been at full strength earlier in the year and will they be able to gel before the playoffs? Let’s hope we won’t have to look back on these injuries after LA’s postseason run ends.

Las Vegas Aces: Kelsey Plum’s lack of development

If we did the power rankings votes before the weekend, the Aces would have likely been higher. They won four straight games coming into Friday’s matchup with the Connecticut Sun. Had they won, Las Vegas would have been in prime position to snag a top-two seed.

But Vegas gave up a 15-0 run after leading by 11 in the 3rd quarter.  They ended losing 89-84 and followed that heartbreaker up with a 22-point loss in Minnesota. Not great, but Vegas still has time to bounce back before the playoffs.

From a long-term perspective, Kelsey Plum’s year is their biggest setback in 2019. Last year, she became one of the best snipers in the league. But she has not progressed this season like many thought she would.

Her counting stats (ie—points per game) were sure to decrease as she got the ball less, but her shooting percentages have also dipped. She currently has a career-worst three-point shooting percentage (34.9%) and true shooting percentage (41.6%). In the two losses I mentioned, Plum went 3-11 from the field and 1-5 from deep for 7 total points.

Plum is still young, talented and just getting used to a new set of circumstances. She will be fine and probably will be great going forward. However, her lack of growth puts a little damper on this great season. Hopefully she can take that step forward in the playoffs.

Chicago Sky: Jantel Lavender’s injury

2019 is a banner year for the Chicago Sky. The franchise has largely been in disarray since Elena Delle Donne left to DC before the 2017 season. They missed the playoffs each of the last two years and looked awful defensively. Enter James Wade this year and Chicago is back in the postseason. Lately, the Sky have won 3 straight and 8 of their 10 games in August. They beat Washington, Los Angeles, and Phoenix in this power rankings period.

However, Jantel Lavender’s season-ending injury is a huge bummer. Lavender was having a great season and really made the Sky’s starting lineup work well together. She also is the player on the roster with the most playoff experience from her time in LA.

Losing Lavender means the Sky have to integrate a new starter right before the playoffs and they lose the only player with championship ring on the team. It’s a big hurdle to Chicago’s playoff success.

Minnesota Lynx: Not having a full Seimone Augustus

Again, I’m sorry about the injury focus but they suck. Much like a high-school student with chill parents, the Lynx seemed to be headed toward a gap year in 2019. No Maya Moore, No Rebekkah Brunson, No Lindsey Whalen. But NO said Cheryl Reeve and her team. They have played rugged, smart, and tenacious basketball all year. The Lynx just got possibly their best win of the season over the Las Vegas Aces last Saturday.

However, Seimone Augustus just hasn’t been herself since returning to the court three weeks ago. She is averaging just 3.9 points per game (BY FAR the worst of her career) with similar usage in her limited minutes. Her play so far leaves us wondering when Augustus will be the player we have seen for almost a decade.

Hopefully she can get back to a semblance of Money Mone before the playoffs. If she can, Minnesota might make it far in the playoffs.

Seattle Storm: Offense not showing up at times

HA HA! A non-injury related worst thing for the one team that you thought would get them. We’ve talked enough about Seattle’s injuries and they have moved on from them. However, it is hard to mention the Storm’s often non-existent offense without acknowledging that Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird would fix many of their issues.

Still, the Storm’s offense seems to have two modes: great and not in the building. For example, they put up 82 points on Minnesota’s great defense but sputtered to just 54 points against a pedestrian Indiana defense. And that’s just the last two games. The lack of offensive consistency has been frustrating, especially considering their defensive effort.

Phoenix Mercury: Lack of depth

The Mercury remain an enigma with two weeks left in the year. They have two of the best players in the league in Dewanna Bonner and Brittney Griner. Leilani Mitchell has emerged as one of the league’s most explosive scorers. But they are just barely hanging on to the eight seed and have lost five of their last seven games.

To me, the biggest hurdle for Phoenix has been their bench. They just have not produced enough to keep the team afloat when the starters take a break. Yvonne Turner, Briann January, and Essence Carson should all be able to put points on the board. The defense should play decently without the starters. But it just hasn’t worked. With all those capable players and the GOAT Diana Taurasi returning from injury, the Mercury could still figure it out.

Indiana Fever: Kelsey Mitchell’s Sophomore Slump-ish

Calling Kelsey Mitchell’s season a slump is an overstatement. But she has not taken that extra step forward to push Indiana into the playoffs. Erica Wheeler’s improvement and Teaira McCowan’s presence made the Fever competitive this year after finishing last in 2018.

But Mitchell needed to continue the trajectory from her rookie year for Indiana to make the playoffs and she didn’t. Her stats are largely the same and she struggles to make an impact at times. She is one of the building blocks of this franchise, so they needed a huge season from her. They got a normal one. I have a sense that it will be different for Mitchell next season.

Dallas Wings: No Skylar Diggins-Smith

Before we get to the worst thing, let’s celebrate the fact that the Wings are no longer in 11th place in the power rankings. They have been in that spot pretty much all year. But they have finally climb up after beating the Sparks and Liberty in this power rankings period. Congrats Dallas, you’re in the league’s top 10.

This worst thing is pretty simple: the team’s only star missed the entire season. That stinks and stopped the Wings’ season before it really started. At least, Skylar wasn’t injured and should be ready to go next season. Dallas could very well make the playoffs by adding her to their exciting, young core.

New York Liberty: Eurobasket

This is a super weird thing that would only happen in the WNBA. The Liberty played a month of the season without three important players because of the Eurobasket tournament. Bria Hartley, Marine Johannes, and Amanda Zahui B all left and it took the wind out of the Liberty’s sails.

Zahui B’s departure was the worst to me. She had just put up 37 points in an electrifying performance and then departed from the team. It ruined the flow of the team and the trajectory of their season. Next season, the team will have the whole year to gel together…until the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Atlanta Dream: Everything

Let’s just give the Dream a break and move on to the next power rankings. We’ve pointed out enough bad things about their season. No need to pile on.

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