Welcome back to the latest edition of the Winsidr Power Rankings. Once again, our staff aggregates where we think each team currently stands, and we compare it to how we feel each team 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 rankings, 1-9)
Tristan Tucker, @TristanRTucker: Since winning their first game of the season against the Washington Mystics on May 23, the Fever have been outscored by 126 points in just five games. The play of the team’s best players has also tapered off in that period of time, as Kelsey Mitchell is averaging just 11.2 points on 29.2 percent shooting. Meanwhile, Teaira McCowan is averaging just 10.4 points.
There’s no doubt that injuries and a very compact schedule—Indiana led the league in games played before its recent break—have dealt the Fever a bad hand. However, at some point the team will need to make changes to avoid being in the depths of the standings for much longer. There’s a chance that Indiana returns home with a league-worst 1-10 record after they take on the Chicago Sky, another struggling team aiming to bounce back.
Regardless, expect to see more lineup changes in the coming weeks. Rookies Betti Határ and Kysre Gondrezick have earned more playing time, while Victoria Vivians may have earned herself an expanded role after games like her 17-point outburst against the Las Vegas Aces. Whatever the case, the Fever are likely thankful to have such a long break between games to finally get the rest they desperately need.
Dallas Wings (No. 7 last rankings, 3-5)
Jasmine Harper, @harperxxwrites: The Dallas Wings sit at 3-5 after upsetting the Seattle Storm, 68-67, in their final game of a three-game series. Arike Ogunbowale called game in the final seconds, hitting a big-time three over Jordin Canada. Arike’s hero-ball saved the day after Dallas struggled on both ends for the majority of the game. She scored the team’s final seven points, claiming 24 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) June 7, 2021
While their record doesn’t match their ability, Dallas now has a full roster with Allisha Gray and Satou Sabally back from the 3×3 Olympic qualifiers. To make room for the returning stars, Dana Evans was traded to the Chicago Sky, and Kristine Anigwe was waived, later picked up by the Los Angeles Sparks. Kayla Thornton, Tyasha Harris, and Moriah Jefferson stepped up when their team needed a spark offensively, supporting two of the league’s top scorers—Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey. Although she struggled in their last game against Seattle, Mabrey has been shooting at a high volume—49 percent (21-of-43) from the field and 37 percent (7-of-19) from three in her last three games. With head coach Vickie Johnson trying different lineups and stunning last-play possessions, it won’t be long before the Wings find their starting five and begin snatching close-game wins.
Washington Mystics (No. 9 last rankings, 2-5)
Jon Bird, @jonbird333: This past week the Mystics played just one game—and though it was a 96-93 loss to the Aces, the Mystics walk away with a lot of momentum. In Myisha Hines-Allen’s fourth game of the season, she showed that her excellence in the Wubble wasn’t a fluke, as she tallied 32 points and 13 rebounds. The Hines-Allen and Tina Charles frontcourt presented trouble for A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage, as Charles also turned in a stellar performance with 16 points and nine rebounds.
As the season progresses, and Charles gets more comfortable with the Mystics system, Hines-Allen finds her footing after joining the team late, and EDD eventually returns from injury, the Mystics are poised to be a tough team to beat. Don’t let these early losses fool you—come the backend of the season, the Mystics should have the talent it takes for a playoff push.
Chicago Sky (No. 4 last rankings, 2-7)
James Kay, @James_M_Kay: Chicago has fallen farther than anyone in our power rankings amidst this losing streak. At the time of our last writing, they were 2-1; the Sky have lost six games since, initiating the freefall here. Snakebitten by injuries, untimely overseas commitments, and inconsistency on offense, the Sky find themselves in a tough spot at 2-7. After ranking third in points per possession in the halfcourt in 2020, Chicago is currently last in the league in that category. The returns of Stef Dolson and Allie Quigley will certainly help get the offense humming again, but the margin for error is thin only nine games into the season.
There’s some room for optimism in Chicago. Candace Parker could return as early as June 9, and the team is quietly tied for first in defensive rating (93.1). If the offense returns to its 2019 and 2020 forms, this team has the talent to turn things around. But it needs to start winning now if it has any hope for vying for a championship this year.
Los Angeles Sparks (No. 10 last rankings, 4-3)
John W. Davis, @johnwdavis: The LA Sparks are 4-1 with Amanda Zahui B. back in the lineup, her presence and leadership on and off the court undeniable. With Nneka Ogwumike out 4-6 weeks while she recovers from a knee injury, LA is in dire need of intangibles. The dynamic duo of Zahui B. and Nia Coffey has been a revelation for the Sparks. They are amongst league leaders in blocks. However, most importantly, the Sparks lead the WNBA in opponent turnover percentage. Teams are turning it over 25.9 percent of possessions against the Sparks’ top-rated defense. If the Sparks want to keep winning, they will have to maintain their defense-first mindset led by Coffey, Zahui B., and Brittney Sykes.
Minnesota Lynx (No. 8 last rankings, 3-4)
Dani Bar-Lavi, @dblfluidity: After a disappointing 0-4 start to the season, the Minnesota Lynx finally have found their flow. Following a week off and another hard loss to Seattle, the Lynx were able to rally around defending their home court, going undefeated against the Sun and Dream (twice) during a three-game homestand and improving to 3-4 on the season. On both ends of the floor, Minnesota has looked a lot more like themselves, and more like a team. On defense over the last three games, the Lynx have rounded into form considerably—getting stops and deflections and taking advantage of turnovers to create offense on the other end in transition. Offensively, the team is moving the ball better, leaving behind inefficient individual attacks in order to find good shots within the Lynx’s system.
The signing of veteran playmaker Layshia Clarendon, who joined the team on a hardship contract following Aerial Powers’ injury, has been a big part of the team’s push to share the ball more. “[Layshia] really gets us into what we want to get to,” said Napheesa Collier. “She’s definitely our floor general.” Collier herself has also provided a big lift for the Lynx, averaging 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, a steal, and a block since returning from the French playoffs. Add in Sylvia Fowles keeping up her post dominance, Kayla McBride’s hot shooting, and Crystal Dangerfield continuing to take over fourth quarters, and Minnesota is looking a lot more like the contenders we thought they could be heading into this season.
Atlanta Dream (No. 11 last rankings, 4-4)
B. Terrell, @itsBTerrell: After winning four in a row, the Dream dropped two straight to the Minnesota Lynx. Cheyenne Parker has returned to the lineup after medical protocols, but the Dream have been without Chennedy Carter after suffering an injury against the Liberty. With the absence of Carter, Aari McDonald has been able to capitalize on her minutes and is averaging 15 points and 2.5 assists in the two games without her backcourt mate. Things won’t get any easier for the Dream as they face the Storm (twice) and the Mystics. Hopefully, they’ll get the friendly bounce from the rims at the Gateway Center Arena back home in Atlanta this week.
New York Liberty (No. 5 last rankings, 5-4)
Geoff Magliocchetti, @GeoffJMags: Reality has caught up to a New York squad that has dropped three consecutive contests amidst Sabrina Ionescu’s struggles and Betnijah Laney’s severed 20-points-per-game streak.
An eight-day pause should help the tired Liberty (only Connecticut and Indiana have played more games) regroup before they embark on a lengthy western swing. More importantly, a consequence-free week for Natasha Howard to heal lies in that stretch. The Liberty’s interior game has faltered in her absence, allowing consecutive 30-point showings from A’ja Wilson and Jonquel Jones. Saturday’s performance in Uncasville’s paint was particularly troubling, as the Liberty lost the offensive glass battle by a 14-3 margin in a 21-point loss.
Not all is lost for the Liberty, however, as the team recently welcomed back sophomore Leaonna “Neah” Odom from injury. Odom was perhaps Bradenton’s best-kept secret weapon, as the second-round pick built a sterling defensive reputation. Elsewhere on the bench, Bec Allen is inching her way onto the Sixth Woman of the Year shortlist through fearless defensive efforts and consecutive double-figure scoring showings. Her 8.4 points per game (PPG) are good for a current career-best and fourth amongst reserves who have appeared in at least six games this season.
Phoenix Mercury (No. 6 last rankings, 5-3)
Adam Miller, @ajmil0: In the last two weeks, the Mercury have shown a knack for attracting drama. Fortunately for them, it has resulted in a three-game winning streak with tight wins over the Wings and Sky. The most notable win of the past week was on June 1, when Kia Nurse hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to clinch an 84-83 victory. Just two days later, the Mercury pulled off a 10-2 run in overtime to win 77-74.
Despite losing Taurasi to injury, Phoenix hasn’t lost a beat. Brittney Griner is proving to be one of the league’s most dominant centers, while Nurse has stepped up as a third scoring option. The Mercury will face a true litmus test with a two-game stretch against the Wings, who just upset the Storm with a roster at full-strength.
Las Vegas Aces (No. 3 last rankings, 7-3)
Owen Pence, @OwenPence: The Aces are rolling, but there’s one issue: they’re just 1-3 against Connecticut and Seattle. The stifling Sun defense held Las Vegas to 65 and 67 points in a pair of Aces losses. For whatever reason, Bill Laimbeer’s bunch hasn’t been able to peak facing the best of the W.
Las Vegas has fared well against the remaining nine squads. The Aces are tied with Connecticut atop the Net Rating leaderboard, outscoring opponents by 11.5 points per 100 possessions. That’s an elite number. They lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio and true shooting percentage. Per Basketball Reference, A’ja Wilson is second in the WNBA in win shares. Liz Cambage is fifth. Meanwhile, Jackie Young is a serious contender for the Most Improved Player award.
Las Vegas is in the midst of an eight-day break before facing Dallas on Sunday. The Aces will then embark on a tough week of hoops, playing two with New York before traveling to Minnesota and returning home for a tussle with Seattle. That stretch should reveal a lot about whether Las Vegas is among the league’s elite, or rather a very solid team with limitations against top competition.
Seattle Storm (No. 2 last rankings, 7-2)
Katie Babino, @katiebabs23: The Storm have continued their win streak since our last Power Rankings column, only dropping one close game to the Dallas Wings. Seattle has shown their character throughout the past two weeks, picking up blowout wins as well as narrow victories. Jewell Loyd has been powering the Storm through these matchups, including hitting the extraordinary buzzer beater for the OT win against the Dallas Wings. She’s been averaging 20.1 PPG, while Breanna Stewart chips in her 23.3 PPG. The Storm now head out on a long road trip to take on the Atlanta Dream, Connecticut Sun, and Indiana Fever in the coming weeks. The rematch against the Connecticut Sun should be an interesting watch, especially as their star Jonquel Jones leaves for Eurobasket. Look for the Storm to continue their dominance under new head coach Noelle Quinn.
Connecticut Sun (No. 1 last rankings, 8-2)
Myles Ehrlich, @mylesehrlich: At the time of our last rankings, the Sun were the lone undefeated team in the W. While that’s not the case anymore, their losses should carry some context. Both defeats went to extra time, and the Sun fell to a couple of the hottest teams in the league: the Storm and the Lynx. Despite those Ls, they’re still 3-2 over the past two weeks, beating the Aces, the Liberty, and the Mystics. Over that span, they’ve leaned heavily on their top-tier defense, their league-best rebounding, and the chemistry and buy-in from their ten-player roster.
However, adversity awaits. The Sun now face their largest test all season, as Jonquel Jones leaves for the Eurobasket tournament; she’ll likely miss the majority of June. Jones is fresh off a career-high 31 points and in the midst of an MVP-caliber season that she’s attributed to her improved mental toughness, so she’ll be irreplaceable. Still, there’s no team in the WNBA that more encapsulates the “next player up” mentality better than the Connecticut Sun, who are all too familiar with adversity these past few seasons.
This time around, the Atlanta Dream made the largest climb (+5), while the Chicago Sky (-5) fell the furthest. 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!