Welcome to the 25th season of the greatest league on planet Sport. We’re thrilled to have you.
We’re also here to help. Lives get busy when summer graces us with its presence. Tough decisions must be made. Would you rather get some much needed sunlight, escaping the Zoom industrial complex and reconvening with long-lost pals on a secluded patio that sells $17 margaritas, or spend a night becoming one with your couch while devouring riveting hoops?
That’s where we come in. Priorities must be established. Some players, teams, and matchups fall into the “can’t miss” bin. If Arike Ogunbowale has the rock in her hands down two with five seconds to play, you must be watching. If Chennedy Carter snatches someone’s soul from their body with a mean crossover, you better be near a TV. If the Sparks revolt against Derek Fisher after he draws up a questionable after-timeout play, you’re going to regret not staying in.
What follows is a ranking of the most watchable, most intriguing, most entertaining ball clubs in the WNBA. On a random summer evening, what team is likely to draw you away from a social gathering and into a staring match with your screen?
This isn’t a list of the best teams in the league, but rather the teams that will latch onto your attention meter and refuse to relinquish their grip. We’re taking everything into account. Slick new jerseys? Extra points. Comedic potential, intentional or otherwise? Extra points. Boring style of play? Booooooo. Automatic point deduction.
Two brief notes before we get into it:
- This list is entirely subjective. There’s no formula behind the curtain, no actual point system. In school, I nearly failed math and science classes on multiple occasions. If you disagree with the order I came up with…good! That means I wasn’t cloned. Phew.
- This is the deepest league in professional sports. I feel like I mention that every time I write at this point. All 12 teams will be compelling in their own way. There’s a reason we’re all calling for expansion.
This is an excuse to celebrate what makes each WNBA team unique. There’s joy to be found on every roster. Let’s get into it.
Here are Winsidr’s 2021 WNBA League Pass Rankings!!!
12. Indiana Fever
This is brutal. The Fever catch more social media heat than any other team in the league (sorry, Dallas), yet can’t even climb out of the cellar in a setting that awards chaos and artistic creativity.
First, the good—Indiana has electricity coursing through its roster.
Kelsey Mitchell is a dynamic combo guard who will pull up in transition and nail a deep triple in your beleaguered face. She figures to form a fascinating pairing with rookie Kysre Gondrezick, a West Virginia alumnus with handles for days and the shot to match. Lauren Cox feels good and has been working tirelessly on her three-pointer. Head coach Marianne Stanley loves the form Victoria Vivians has displayed in training camp following two seasons lost to injury. Tiffany Mitchell is one of the league leaders in making defenders look foolish. Teaira McCowan is incredibly captivating when she’s on, able to take over on both ends. She remains the best player on Indiana’s roster.
Reports from practice indicate Indiana’s silliness levels sit at an all-time high. Who doesn’t love watching a team that gets along and has fun on and off the court? Additionally, you’ll want to tune in simply for the starting lineup reveals. If you claim to know what Indiana’s rotations will look like, either your name is Marianne or you’re lying.
So why is Indiana the caboose on the League Pass Express? Firstly, the Fever will be bad. Potentially “first overall pick” bad. Secondly, as much as I’m curious to see how Stanley’s lineups shake out, I have a hunch the veterans will play more than I’d like. Too much Danielle Robinson, Lindsay Allen, and Jessica Breland will have you reaching for the remote.
11. Washington Mystics
Had Alysha Clark not gotten injured, the Mystics would be higher. I feel icky ranking the 2019 champions—one of the best teams this league has ever seen—so low. Why did I think this would be a breezy, low-stress exercise? It’s like ranking ice cream flavors or family members.
Observing Elena Delle Donne’s effectiveness in her first season since winning a second MVP award is the main draw, hands down. Delle Donne isn’t the type of superstar who wows fans with lightning quick moves or flashy maneuvers—far from a bad trait in the aggregate but not what we’re looking for here.
Myisha Hines-Allen remains one of the league’s biggest x-factors. Will she back up her breakout 2020? Will she be traded as the days on her contract wane? Hines-Allen could alter the landscape of the league in 2021. She is also late to report to camp due to overseas commitments.
Sturdy and smart point guard play is always appealing. We didn’t get to watch Natasha Cloud in the bubble. We should rejoice in watching her this season. Hopefully Stella Johnson can carve out a consistent role in her second professional season.
Ultimately, nothing about the 2021 Mystics blows me away. Am I just another hater sleeping on the Tina Charles revenge tour? Perhaps. Personally, I’d rather see head coach Mike Thibault go small with Cloud, Ariel Atkins, Delle Donne, Hines-Allen, and either Leilani Mitchell or Kiara Leslie rounding out the five. But that’s a pipe dream.
10. Los Angeles Sparks
In the interest of keeping things moving, I’m going to resist roasting Derek Fisher. Let’s just say the potential for jokes in the City of Angels is astronomical. Also, the new jerseys are fresh.
As far as the on-court product is concerned, it all hinges on whether or not you’re lulled to sleep by stifling defense. I love a defensive juggernaut. Others would rather watch paint dry. As Brittney Sykes recently teased, the 2021 Sparks have the potential to be scary defensively. If L.A. punches above its weight class, it will be on the shoulders of an impressive turnover differential.
Erica Wheeler is one of the most likable, rootable players in the W. She never made it to the bubble. Watching her develop chemistry with Nneka Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver, and others will be a blast. Jasmine Walker is a deep sleeper Rookie of the Year candidate.
Might we be lucky enough to get a domestic Gabby Williams sighting in 2021? One can dream.
9. Phoenix Mercury
Mercury fans may call for my resignation after this one, and I get it. There are a limited number of chances to catch Diana Taurasi playing professional ball. We must cherish every remaining minute of her legendary career.
Yet no team exploits a larger gap between casual public perception and reality than the Mercury. Remember when folks deemed Phoenix’s “Big Three” a title favorite last offseason? Remember seeing Taurasi and Sue Bird engage in “GOATchat” for the 13,459th time? Folks will always talk about a Taurasi-powered engine, and for good reason. I just don’t see this team as a legitimate title contender, and their high-voltage backcourt isn’t enough to vault them into the top eight.
Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith are about as good as it gets when it comes to captivating new viewers. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to mesh with star center, Brittney Griner. The Mercury took off in 2020 when Griner exited the bubble. Playing small with defensive extraordinaire Brianna Turner manning the paint is this team’s calling, but Griner is too talented to dismiss.
Though Phoenix’s chemistry issues will be fun to monitor, I can’t justify a higher ranking simply because Taurasi scorches hotter than the sun, tempting as it is.
8. Connecticut Sun
Ugh. We were so close to seeing Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner, and Jasmine Thomas share the court. Then Alyssa Thomas tore her Achilles tendon. Now I’m sad just typing this paragraph.
Deep breaths. Happy thoughts. Curt Miller – in addition to being one of the best coaches in basketball – is one of the best dressed coaches in basketball! Miller’s shirts are worth a slot or two in the rankings alone. There wasn’t much fanfare surrounding Connecticut’s jersey reveal, but the Sun now boast some of the simpler, sharper kits in the W.
Jones is an MVP candidate. Has everyone forgotten how tremendous she was in the 2019 WNBA Finals? I get lightheaded trying to envision Jones and Bonner side-by-side on either end. With Jones returning the floor will be roomier, a massive boon for Bonner who excels when slipping through crevices in the defense. Speaking of defense, good luck trying to navigate the length of these two Hall-of-Fame-level talents.
Connecticut’s roster is so top-heavy, it’s easy to gloss over the supporting cast. Last year that was a forgivable mistake. This year, not so much. DiJonai Carrington may be the second-round pick that has league executives tossing and turning at night. Kamiah Smalls was my favorite under-the-radar addition this offseason. Kaila Charles is full of potential and has already earned Miller’s trust.
The Sun: steady as ever, flying under the radar, and a true nightmare to face.
7. Seattle Storm
Is it blasphemous that I’m more excited to watch the 2021 Storm than the 2020 Storm?
The 2020 Storm played a brand of basketball that was irresistible. I’m just a fan of suspense. Watching Seattle glide to the title was impressive beyond belief, but it felt telegraphed. Of course Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, Alysha Clark, Breanna Stewart, and Natasha Howard were going to win it all. The sun will rise tomorrow. I will eat too many chocolate chip cookies before bed.
Don’t get it twisted: the 2021 Storm are still contenders, they just have way more obstacles to maneuver.
It’s a travesty Loyd isn’t a household name. Segments of sports media deserve a share of the blame. There are few, if any, players I enjoy watching more on a night-to-night basis than Loyd.
If Ezi Magbegor makes a jump in year two, watch out. A Stewart/Magbegor/Mikiah Herbert Harrigan backcourt could be one of the feistiest in the league, a mass of swiping, prodding extendo-arms capable of locking down a variety of opponents.
Then there’s the rotational intrigue. Can Kennedy Burke establish herself as essential? Will Katie Lou Samuelson finally break through? How many more buckets does Candice Dupree have left? \
6. New York Liberty
Bright lights. The big city. New jerseys that melt your eyeballs into a puddle of permanent bliss.
Stop burying the lede, fool. New York cracks the top half of Winsidr’s League Pass rankings, jumping ahead of superior teams like Connecticut and Seattle, due to its newly formed “Big Three.” Sabrina Ionescu, Betnijah Laney, and Natasha Howard have the chance to captivate a city that adores good basketball. They play a style fit for League Pass perusing—threes, threes, and more threes.
Will New York actually be good? Threes don’t translate to watchable hoops if last year’s Liberty are any indication. New York took more triples than anyone else and hit them at a remarkably low clip. Ionescu will change that.
Brand me a nerd and I’ll happily agree, but I’m excited to see how much New York can improve defensively. Are Laney and Howard enough to propel New York toward fielding a league average defense? The Liberty finished ninth in Defensive Rating last season. If they can jump three or four spots while knocking down triples at a somewhat consistent rate, this is a playoff team.
Regardless, it will be hard to peel your eyes off the New York Hybrid Rebuilders.
5. Minnesota Lynx
Buckle up. We’re entering elite League Pass territory, teams that will ruin your social life with their enthralling play.
Napheesa Collier and Kayla McBride are late arrivals due to overseas commitments, but once they’re home, Minnesota will tick all the watchability boxes. It starts with coaching. Well-coached squads are easy on the eyes. The Lynx lead the pack in that regard. Tune in for Minnesota basketball and you’ll be treated to a cohesive, coherent system that just works.
Collier is approaching MVP levels of superstardom after just two WNBA seasons. Now she has a supporting case worthy of her blinding greatness. Don’t be surprised if McBride steps on the gas this season, searing anyone in sight. She is way better than the player we saw in 2020. Aerial Powers is my favorite addition. Not only does her game match seamlessly with Minnesota’s needs, but her personality provides the team with a spark it was lacking.
The Lynx have some of the coolest bigs in the league. Where’s GOATchat with Sylvia Fowles? Fowles’ production level was astonishing before getting injured last season. Luckily for Minnesota, Damiris Dantas filled the void left by Fowles better than anyone could’ve imagined.
If the Lynx stay healthy, they’re one of the very few teams that can oscillate between small-ball and going big with no discernable drop off in either direction.
I think the Lynx will participate in the 2021 WNBA Finals …
4. Las Vegas Aces
… and I think they’ll face the Aces. You better believe I will speak a WNBATea Finals into existence.
I feel like I don’t even need to sell this one. If you aren’t eager to watch the Aces, try another sport. I hear squash is accepting new fans. Basketball isn’t for you.
Angel McCoughtry’s injury is a major bummer. That dims the sparkle of the 2021 Aces a tad. It also makes the title race even more wide open, and it was wide open to begin with.
A’ja Wilson—the reigning MVP—should be the face of the league. Liz Cambage is pure entertainment and libel to drop 40 any given night. Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young catch a lot of flack for being top overall draft picks who aren’t stars, but both will perform vital tasks for this Las Vegas bunch. Dearica Hamby is an All-WNBA level talent with the cutest kid in the league.
Did she eat the cupcake ? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/zcJwKVArWV
— Dearica Marie Hamby (@dearicamarie) April 7, 2021
I don’t even feel like talking hoops after that. Cutaways to Amaya alone are worth entry into the top four.
3. Dallas Wings
We start with Arike Ogunbowale, because the best isolation scorer in the WNBA is must-watch TV. Who doesn’t like buzzer beaters, and who is more likely to hit one than Ogunbowale? She carries this team to the bronze medal in the League Pass Olympics.
She’s also not alone. Depending on how the roster shakes out, Dallas will carry four rookies. I’ve never watched Awak Kuier play a full game front-to-back and I’m giddy for that to change. Kuier is one of the future faces of the league. Stuff like that matters when deciding who to watch on a random Tuesday night. Charli Collier was the top overall pick. Chelsea Dungee is a bucket and a half. Dana Evans may obliterate everyone in her path after falling to the second round on draft night.
Then there are the sophomores. No one is more deserving of an uptick in playing time than Tyasha Harris. Satou Sabally can do it all, but will she get lost in the fray with so many young players attempting to define a role? Will Bella Alarie be passed over in favor of Dallas’s bright new rookies?
No situation in the WNBA has a higher ceiling/lower floor combo than the Wings. That makes for some captivating viewing.
2. Chicago Sky
It’s hard not to put Chicago in the top spot. The league must be downright thrilled Candace Parker chose to return to her hometown. Already one of the most compelling teams in the league, Chicago now has one of the greatest basketball players ever leading the charge.
The Sky play an extremely digestible and viewer-friendly brand of hoops. They love to run. Everyone shoots. Point guard Courtney Vandersloot runs the show to perfection. Head coach James Wade draws up the best plays in the league.
I’m especially intrigued to see Diamond DeShields and Kahleah Copper work together at (knock on wood) the peak of their powers this season. Copper broke out in 2020 with DeShields hampered by injuries. Together they could overwhelm opposing defenses. There are simply too many players to guard on the roster.
Parker’s passing could win Chicago the title. Has the W ever seen a better guard/big passing combination than Vandersloot and CP3? Sprinkle in Allie Quigley, a knockdown shooter, elite slashers DeShields and Copper, and two stretch bigs in Azurá Stevens and Stefanie Dolson, and you have a recipe for thrilling offense.
The team should be better defensively, too. Can Stevens make the All-Star leap I’m expecting her to make? Can Stevens and Parker lift Chicago’s interior defense to the upper echelon of the league?
So many questions. The only thing not up for debate is how enjoyable it’ll be to watch the Sky in 2021.
1. Atlanta Dream
Chennedy Carter. Courtney Williams. Cheyenne Parker. The return of Tiffany Hayes. The debut of Aari McDonald. Immaculate energy coming soon to an arena (or screen) near you.
Everything about the Dream is trending upwards. Out is the vile, hateful Kelly Loeffler, replaced by an ownership group featuring the iconic Renee Montgomery. The Dream broadcast crew is stacked and composed entirely of Black women for the first time ever. Atlanta just added La’Keshia Frett and Daynia La-Force to its assistant coaching staff. Upgrades are being made in every department of the organization.
Oh, did I mention that Atlanta’s head coach quit a few days into training camp? Yep, Nicki Collen really deserted the Dream for Baylor University, waiting until practices had commenced before informing folks of her plans. Now Atlanta has Coach Windmill at the helm, practitioner of oddly captivating team huddles. This saga feels fictional. This team needs to ink a deal with Netflix.
Really, though, all I need are Carter and McDonald to justify this ranking. Number one. Case closed. See you Friday. Goodbye.