Welcome back to the latest edition of the Winsidr Power Rankings! Here, we once again poll our staff to aggregate where we think each team currently stands, and we compare it to how we feel they’ve performed since our last check-in two weeks ago. This season, we have beat writers repping the W’s dozen franchises, and each of those reporters have given their brief updates on their respective squads below. Make sure you’re following the writer that covers your beat, or better yet, all of us! Okay, that’s enough of the pleasantries, let’s get messy.
Indiana Fever (No. 12 last week, 1-4)
Tristan Tucker, @TristanRTucker: There have been several expected bumps in the road for the team our panel placed 12th in the season-opening rankings, but the Indiana Fever are better than their record shows. Despite mediocre rankings in each statistical category, the team has held it together against some tough competition.
The Fever lost by just a combined 11 points in their opening two-game series against the New York Liberty (now 4-1), despite getting outshot 22-6 from deep. Save for the game against the Sun, the Fever have looked far more controlled and engaged on both sides of the floor, which finally came to fruition in their win against the Washington Mystics.
There’s a lot of room to grow, and plenty of growing pains to come, but the game against Washington, a game that saw five Fever players finish in double-figure scoring, showed what this team can be when it clicks.
Atlanta Dream (No. 11 last week, 1-2)
B. Terrell, @itsBTerrell: The Dream are currently 1-2 after picking up their first win of the season against the Indiana Fever. They now begin a tough three-game stretch against the Chicago Sky, Dallas Wings, and a hot-start New York Liberty squad. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Sky, the Dream lead the league in steals and are second in blocks. However, when it comes to points, rebounding, and field goal percentage, they’re in the bottom three. The Dream are still expected to be without the services of Cheyenne Parker due to health protocols. Chennedy Carter and Courtney Williams are both tied for 13th in the league’s scoring at 18 points per game (PPG) and are the Dream’s only double-digit scorers. Tiffany Hayes recently joined the team after arriving from international play and hasn’t quite found her shot in her two games to start the season. As the team looks to find its groove, the Dream have shown that they aren’t afraid to fight. To me, it won’t be a surprise if they go 2-1 on this week’s slate.
Los Angeles Sparks (No. 8 last week, 0-2)
John W. Davis, @johnwdavis: The Los Angeles Sparks have work to do. That was the consensus after the Sparks lost their season opener to the Dallas Wings by 23 points. That’s the same sentiment after the Sparks lost their second game of the season to the Las Vegas Aces by 28 points. The Sparks are awaiting the return of 6’5” Amanda Zahui B. But what they need even more than Zahui’s inside presence is more time on the court as a unit. Notably, Nneka Ogwumike is the only current Sparks player who played during the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons in Los Angeles for third-year head coach Derek Fisher—this is a new crew, and it’s going to take more than two games for the Sparks to find their footing as a team.
Washington Mystics (No. 5 last week, 1-3)
Jon Bird, @jonbird333: After picking up their first win of the season, the Mystics are starting to show their true potential. Tina Charles has proved that, after a year away from the WNBA, she is still an elite talent, putting up a 34-point performance in the Mystics’ victory against her former team (the Liberty) and a 31-point performance against the Fever. And though the 1-3 Mystics dropped their most recent game against the Fever, the return of Wubble standout Myisha Hines-Allen is promising for a talented team trying to find its new identity. Post player Erica McCall has also shown flashes of greatness, tallying 22 boards over the past two games as a starter. Once Elena Delle Donne comes into the fold, the Mystics could become a true contender. Until then, the question still remains how will this Mystics team cope without EDD in the lineup.
Minnesota Lynx (No. 4 last week, 0-3)
Dani Bar-Lavi, @dblfluidity: After making a big splash in free agency—acquiring Natalie Achonwa, Aerial Powers, and Kayla McBride—the last thing the Minnesota Lynx expected was to start 0-3, their worst opening record in over a decade. The problem, per Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve, is a lack of identity: “We’re still trying to figure out who we are,” Reeve said after the Lynx’s loss to the New York Liberty. “Identity wise, we’re trying to figure things out.” Watching the Lynx throughout their opening week confirms Reeve’s diagnosis: On both sides of the ball, the team lacks a unified, consistent system and identity, contributing to uncharacteristically poor shot creation (47.9 percent TS%, 8th in the league), offensive production (90.5 oRTG, 11th), and defense (100.8 dRTG, 8th).
Luckily for the Lynx, the team is in the midst of a week-long layoff between its previous game (against the Seattle Storm) and its next match-up (against the Seattle Storm), giving the team ample time to practice, learn how to play together, and develop that team identity they’ve been missing so badly. It also won’t hurt to get back Napheesa Collier, perhaps their best player, who returned from France last week and has joined the team in practice. Her presence in the front court, joining Sylvia Fowles, should prove an immense help on both ends of the floor.
Dallas Wings (No. 10 last week, 1-1)
Jasmine Harper, @harperxxwrites: Early returns have the Dallas Wings at 1-1, after blowing out Los Angeles before losing a heartbreaker to Seattle. Vickie Johnson’s fast-paced offense has shown immediate dividends, leading the league in scoring (95.5 PPG) and fast break points (16.0 per game). The Wings have clipped themselves, however, turning the ball over an unsustainable 44 times total in their two games, a mark that’s dead last in the W.
They’re making do with a jumbled roster. Satou Sabally and Awak Kuier (the number two picks from the last couple of drafts) have both been overseas to this point. Additionally, after putting up 23 points and nine rebounds in the opener, Allisha Gray left to represent the United States in the 3×3 tournament. For consistency, the team has had the Arike Ogunbowale/Marina Mabrey backcourt, who have terrific chemistry dating back to their days at Notre Dame. The pair was lethal in transition and played off each other’s energy to keep the momentum up in their most recent game, and will need to keep the pressure on until the frontcourt returns to full strength.
Phoenix Mercury (No. 6 last week, 2-2)
Adam Miller, @ajmil0: The Mercury have struggled to put together a cohesive offense in their first six games, averaging just 78.3 PPG, putting them exactly in the middle of the league. While Phoenix dealt with a difficult schedule to start the season, the offensive fireworks expected from the Big Three—Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, and Skylar Diggins-Smith—has yet to come to fruition on a consistent basis.
With the exception of its 91-70 win over the Mystics on May 18, Phoenix is consistently scoring less than 80 PPG. If the Mercury are going to make a run, they need to get more consistent production from Griner, and the supporting cast will need to help take some of the pressure off Diggins-Smith and Taurasi.
The next two weeks feature games against the Sky, Wings, and Aces. Much will ride on the health of Chicago forward Candace Parker. If Parker makes it back for the series against the Mercury, the next few weeks get significantly more difficult for Phoenix. Parker’s health aside, the Wings and Aces are both off to hot starts this season and will be difficult for the Mercury to overcome.
New York Liberty (No. 9 last week, 4-1)
Geoff Magliocchetti, @GeoffJMags: Even with Tina Charles exacting revenge in the nation’s capital, it’s hard to argue with how well the Liberty’s opening stretch has gone. Friday’s visit to Washington (a 101-72 shellacking all too reminiscent of the bubble endeavor) was concerning, but a 3-1 mark sans Natasha Howard and Leaonna Odom (surpassing their win total from last season) isn’t anything to cast aside. Sabrina Ionescu hasn’t lost a step, but the biggest spark behind the New York fire has been Betnijah Laney, who has reached 20 points in each of her first five metropolitan contests. It’ll be interesting to see how the Liberty deal with a tough blow from the league, forcing them to play three games (in three cities) in four days thanks to the Brooklyn Nets’ playoff ledger. The ensuing four days off after Monday’s rescheduled contest against Minnesota should do a team that’s still processing the sudden waiving of veteran Layshia Clarendon some good, especially for some key reserves working off international rust (Rebecca Allen/Kiah Stokes).
Chicago Sky (No. 2 last week, 2-1)
James Kay, @James_M_Kay: Since the first day of training camp, the Sky’s head coach and general manager, James Wade, has preached peaking later on in the season. That philosophy has been evident as Chicago carefully managed its veterans’ minutes during its 2-1 start.
After almost blowing an 18-point halftime lead to the Atlanta Dream and falling to the New York Liberty on May 23, there’s no reason for Skytown to panic. This team will eventually unleash Candace Parker, Allie Quigley, and Azurá Stevens without any restrictions. Diamond DeShields looked closer to her 2019 self versus the Liberty than she did in her first two games. Kahleah Copper is playing all-star caliber basketball, while Courtney Vandersloot continues to do things only she can do.
Today: 14 PTS / 15 AST / 5 REB
— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) May 23, 2021
If the Sky lose another game where they force over 20 turnovers and give up 14 three-pointers (as they did against the Liberty) later on in the season, then there would be reason to question their status as a true contender. But we are at the three-game mark. Chicago hasn’t played its best basketball yet and is still waiting for all of its personnel to be on the court at the same time.
Las Vegas Aces (No. 1 last week, 2-2)
Owen Pence, @OwenPence: The Aces didn’t come out of the gate scorching hot, and already their depth is being tested. Las Vegas split a pair of games in Seattle, trounced the discombobulated Sparks, then lost a defensive battle to Connecticut at home. There’s no reason to panic, given the toughness of their early-season schedule, but there is slight cause for concern. Las Vegas held the top spot in Winsidr’s preseason power rankings. It shouldn’t matter who the Aces play, and yet the team still has a bunch to figure out.
With Angel McCoughtry injured and Kelsey Plum off participating in 3×3 activities, Las Vegas’ bench is razor thin. Ji-Su Park and rookie Destiny Slocum are currently the seventh and eighth players in the rotation. The Aces have virtually no depth on the wings. This is something to monitor over the next month until Plum returns.
Per WNBA.com, the Aces rank eighth in rebounding percentage. Naturally, the sample size is miniscule, but this is a worrisome early-season trend for a team that likes playing big. The Aces will have a chance to improve upon that number this week with a game in Phoenix and then two at home versus the lowly Fever.
Seattle Storm (No. 3 last week, 3-1)
Katie Babino, @katiebabs23: The Storm have narrowly escaped the last few games with some wins, but it isn’t all sunshines and rainbows for the defending champs. Interior defense has been an issue for the Storm, especially in their loss to the Las Vegas Aces and their comeback against the Minnesota Lynx, where Sylvia Fowles dominated. The Storm will look to veteran Mercedes Russell to shore up the defensive effort in the post. The Storm offense is picking back up, with guards Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada putting up great numbers over the last two games. Seattle hopes to carry their momentum through their matchup against the 5-0 Connecticut Sun this Tuesday and a rematch against the Lynx on Friday.
Connecticut Sun (No. 7 last week, 5-0)
Myles Ehrlich, @mylesehrlich: Look at this climb! Finally, some respeCT coming from the Winsidr staff! Record-wise, nobody can do better than the Connecticut Sun. At 5-0, the Sun are the only undefeated team in the WNBA, despite intermittently working back in key pieces, like Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas, with limited practice time. They’ve made their largest impact on the glass, pulling in the second-most rebounds (41.2 per game) while also holding teams to the fewest (26.8 per game). In two outings this season, the Jonquel and Brionna Jones frontcourt held the Brittney Griner/Brianna Turner duo to just 12 and 10 rebounds, while securing 22 and 18 themselves. In the young season, Natisha Hiedeman has twice set career-highs in scoring, first 17 then 19 points. They’ve got a tight margin for error, as they’re playing with just nine players at the moment, but this team has been up to the challenge. “I think that’s what makes us pretty special,” DeWanna Bonner told Winsidr after their latest win over the Mercury. “It’s not just about our offense—once we get our defense going, we’re a really hard team to beat. We work really hard on defense, and we hold ourselves accountable.”
Hyped about where your team ranked? Disagree with the sum of our opinions? Sound off on Twitter and let us know—and then carry that energy straight into the 2021 WNBA season!