WINSIDR POWER RANKINGS: VOLUME 4

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. With just 1.5 games separating teams four through 11, this is our toughest test yet! 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, let’s get into it.

    

  1. Indiana Fever (No. 12 last rankings, 1-14)

Tristan Tucker, @TristanRTucker: The Indiana Fever have lost 10 games in a row, keeping them at the bottom of this ranking for the fourth time in as many weeks. The team’s miserable .067 win percentage would be good (or bad) for the worst clip in franchise history, with the second-worst season coming from 2018’s 6-28 campaign. That win percentage would also be the worst in WNBA history.

There have been, however, some bright spots and games that are far closer than they appear on the box score. In the team’s most recent loss to the Washington Mystics, the Fever kept the game close and were able to rebound well and figure out their free-throw woes. They even held the Mystics to 37 percent from the field and 20.5 percent from deep. In their recent series against the Chicago Sky, the team’s starters arguably outplayed Chicago’s, only for the bench to crumble. 

However, effort isn’t the issue. Kelsey Mitchell is balling, coming off a recent six of 10 showing from three. Jessica Breland has given the team some great energy on all spots of the floor, while Tiffany Mitchell has continued to be consistent. Meanwhile, Teaira McCowan is giving the team some great minutes off the bench in her new role. The Fever are also getting healthy, recently getting rookies Aaliyah Wilson and Bernadett Határ back to strength.

Regardless, it isn’t enough. Some major changes must be made if the Fever hope to escape the bottom of the league and avoid making the wrong kind of history.

 

  1. Los Angeles Sparks (No. 8 last rankings, 5-7)

John W. Davis, @johnwdavis: The Los Angeles Sparks have lost four of their last five games. At 5-7 on the season, they are at a crossroads. On one hand, they have been competitive in most games without 2016 WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike. On the other hand, Nneka is still weeks away from returning to the team that desperately needs her efficiency. There’s no lack of heart on this team—they force turnovers in bunches—but depth and fatigue have been an issue. Head Coach Derek Fisher told Winsidr there are “a lot of lineups being considered by the coaching staff at the moment.” However, Brittney Sykes’ defense has been a constant, and her offensive output is emerging. It could be time to insert Sykes back into the starting lineup, and let her guard the opponent’s best perimeter player for 30 minutes a night. Ultimately, that could be a change that leads to wins for the Sparks.

 

  1. Atlanta Dream (No. 6 last rankings, 5-7)

B. Terrell, @itsBTerrell: The Dream thwarted the Mystics in their first game last week only to lose to them by three in the next.  The Dream are top five in points per game (PPG) and lead the league in steals. Tiffany Hayes and Courtney Williams are leading the team in scoring at 17.6 and 16.9 PPG respectively. Tianna Hawkins has averaged 13.5 PPG in the past two games, providing additional offense for a new team still looking to gel. The Dream are yet to have their full roster compete together, but that could change soon with the return of Chennedy Carter. This week, they head home to face the Lynx and Liberty.

 

  1. Minnesota Lynx (No. 7 last rankings, 5-7)

 Dani Bar-Lavi, @dblfluidity: This week, it’s a little bit harder to run a clean narrative thread through the Minnesota Lynx’s most recent stretch of games. Having had a bit of a renaissance spurred by the arrivals of Napheesa Collier and Layshia Clarendon earlier this month, the Lynx have receded to the norm a bit, going exactly .500 (3-3) over their last six games. What’s more, the Lynx literally alternated between wins and losses throughout that stretch, following each win with a loss. Minnesota’s biggest issue over these games, as it has been all season, was turning the ball over and allowing points in transition. “Every night we’re giving up a [negative]differential in the turnover department,” head coach Cheryl Reeve said after the Lynx’s most recent loss to the Dallas Wings. 

The problem seems to rest in Minnesota’s transition defense. For example, in that game against the Wings, the Lynx only turned the ball over 14 times, which is relatively low for them. However, they allowed 23 points off of turnovers, meaning the Wings were able to convert on 11 of those 14. On the season, Minnesota leads the league in opponent points off turnovers, allowing a whopping 20.3 PPG off an average of 16 turnovers per game. This turnover problem has been a two-pronged spear for the Lynx, hurting them both on defense, as we’ve just covered, and on offense, where turnovers have disrupted their rhythm and proved an obstacle for them playing as a team. 

There have been bright spots, of course. Sylvia Fowles has sustained her momentum from the beginning of the season and is beginning to look like a Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner, leading the league in steals (2.3 per game) and ranking in the top ten in blocks (1.3 per game). Napheesa Collier has had a string of breakout performances, including a career-high-matching 27-point outing in a loss against the Chicago Sky. 

 

  1. Phoenix Mercury (No. 4 last rankings, 6-7)

 Adam Miller, @ajmil0: Diana Taurasi teased the crowd in Los Angeles when she moved smoothly through warm-ups, but without her the last two weeks have been rocky. The Mercury are 1-4 in their latest stretch with losses to the Wings, Mercury, and Sparks. Despite the team’s struggles, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith are doing everything they can to will their team to victory. In Phoenix’s last two games, coach Sandy Brondello inserted Sophie Cunningham into the lineup. In those two games, Cunningham averaged 10.5 PPG while providing three-point shooting that the Mercury have missed. Phoenix has a week off before the rubber match of their series against the Sparks on June 27, followed by a two-game series with the Minnesota Lynx. Taurasi is scheduled to return to action in time for the Mercury’s home stretch. However, her official status has yet to be determined.

 

  1. Washington Mystics (No. 10 last rankings, 6-6)

Jon Bird, @jonbird333: Coming off of an impressive 2-0 week, the shorthanded Mystics have shown that even with dwindling numbers they can overcome diversity. After losing to the Dream 101-78 on June 13, the two teams faced again on the 17th, but this time without Mystics players Tina Charles, Erica McCall, Kiara Leslie, and, for most of the game, Myisha Hines-Allen. But the shorthanded Mystics rose to the challenge behind big performances by Natasha Cloud (10 points, nine rebounds, 11 assists), Ariel Atkins (32 points), and Theresa Plaisance (25 points, six rebounds, three assists), eventually pulling out the 96-93 win. A shorthanded Mystics team was successful again, taking down the Indiana Fever 82-77 on June 20. These two big wins with a shortened bench seem to highlight the Mystic’s drive—no matter how many players are left, they will be full of hustle and heart. With so many injuries, expect to see the Mystics bring in a hardship player; once injuries heal, however, expect the Mystics to continue to challenge some of the top teams in the league. 

 

  1. Dallas Wings (No. 11 last rankings, 6-7)

Jasmine Harper, @harperxxwrites: The Dallas Wings are 3-2 in their last games and rank seventh overall in the tight standings. Players like Arike Ogunbowale, Marina Mabrey and Satou Sabally recorded peak performances over the last two weeks, pushing their team to a 6-7 record after starting the season 1-4.

In their five-game road trip, where they faced the Seattle Storm, Phoenix Mercury, and Las Vegas Aces, Dallas got their groove back. They went on a three-game win streak, beating Seattle once and Phoenix twice, before falling to Las Vegas in their final game. Phoenix and Las Vegas were the perfect welcoming committee for rookie Charli Collier, who faced bigs Brittney Griner, Liz Cambage, and A’ja Wilson. Although they ultimately fell short against the Aces, Sabally hit a season-high 24 points and eight rebounds.  

Dallas is slowly but surely working their way into a playoff spot. Nearing the halfway mark of the season, the Wings are forming a rhythm and producing on the floor. Mabrey hit a career-high 28 points on Saturday, shooting 5-of-8 from three. Ogunbowale matched her best friend’s energy with 16 points and was 4-of-5 from three. She is currently shooting at a career-high 37.8 percent behind the arc. Ogunbowale hit her 50th double-digit scoring game in their last win against Minnesota, but says the milestone is not enough. 

“That’s definitely a big accomplishment, you know. There’s been so many great players in the WNBA but also haven’t won anything, team hasn’t won anything, so that’s all I’m focused on. Making the playoffs and trying to go far.”

 

  1. New York Liberty (No. 5 last rankings, 7-6)

Geoff Magliocchetti, @GeoffJMags: With Sabrina Ionescu working on injury issues and Betnijah Laney’s numbers slowly coming back down to earth, the Liberty still managed to enjoy a lucrative four-game road trip out west. If it was a category on Sunday’s statsheet, Bec Allen probably did it. In serendipitous bookending, Allen defensive stops secured narrow victories in Phoenix and Los Angeles on final possessions. Confirmed to be representing Australia this August in Tokyo, Allen has reached double-figures in scoring in four of her last seven contests. Elsewhere, Kylee Shook has also stepped up, reaching double figures in three of her last four. The Liberty miss Natasha Howard in the paint but impressively outscored the Sparks 19-0 in second chance points on Sunday, allowing them to somehow escape from LA with a win despite turning the ball over 29 times.

But New York’s most valuable asset over the past two weeks may well have been Reshanda Gray, the WNBA’s flesh-and-blood case for league expansion, be it through cities or roster spots. Gray, in the midst of her fourth New York term (and second this season), has added an undeniable intensity to the interior game, one that has allowed the Liberty to tread water while Howard heals. The future is uncertain with Kiah Stokes returning early from Turkish duties, but Gray has proven her WNBA mettle and deserves a shot to latch onto a full-season deal, be it in Brooklyn or elsewhere. 

 

  1. Chicago Sky (No. 9 last rankings, 7-7)

 

James Kay, @James_M_Kay: The Sky look like a different team now that Candace Parker has returned to the lineup. 

After starting off 2-7, Chicago is riding a five-game winning streak and holds a 6-0 record when Parker suits up. The offense has found its groove, sporting the best offensive rating in the league over the Sky’s last five games, while ranking second in true shooting percentage in that span.

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However, Parker’s return isn’t the only reason the Sky have turned their season around. Allie Quigley has rejuvenated James Wade’s second unit and is shooting 53.2/57.1/93.8 percent during the Sky’s winning streak. Quigley’s early campaign for Sixth Woman of the Year, along with Parker’s return, has propelled Chicago back up to the five seed. 

The Sky have put their rough start behind them and have a chance at prying the fourth seed from the Liberty when they face each other twice this week. 

 

  1. Connecticut Sun (No. 1 last rankings, 8-5)

Myles Ehrlich, @mylesehrlich: The Sun have faltered since our last rankings, and this was to be expected in the absence of Jonquel Jones. Still, it hasn’t been pretty: a blowout loss to the Seattle Storm and back-to-back tight defeats against the surging Chicago Sky. The team is also operating without head coach Curt Miller, who is tending to a family matter away from the team. While assistant coach Brandi Poole has covered admirably, she’s had some poor luck this season when trying to fill the… Hawaiian shirts of Coach Miller. So far, Poole has four of the team’s five losses on her ledger, while Miller has gone 8-1. 

The silver lining to JJ’s time away is that it’s just that: time away. There’s not an injury that she’ll need to build up and recover from. She’ll slot right back in as soon as Eurobasket ends (or even earlier if the Bosnian National Team falters). Jones stated that her goal was to return for the game on June 29 at the latest, meaning she’d miss just two more contests (6/22 vs. the Wings and 6/27 vs. the Sky [again]).

 

  1. Las Vegas Aces (e.g., No. 3 last rankings, 10-3)

Owen Pence, @OwenPence: The Aces have found their groove. Winners of five straight, Las Vegas leads the league in Net Rating, ranking first in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The team is simply too deep for opponents to handle. Six Aces boast double figure scoring averages, led by A’ja Wilson’s 18.5 PPG. A seventh—Riquna Williams—sits at 9.5 PPG. If someone goes cold, another member of the team is there to pick up the slack. 

Las Vegas has been especially lethal in transition. No team has played at a faster pace this season, per WNBA.com. Jackie Young’s development has been essential in this regard. So too has the acquisition of Chelsea Gray, who is averaging a career high 6.4 assists per game. Both players are strong defenders who enjoy getting out and running in open space. Though the Aces remain at the bottom of the league in three-pointers attempted, they are making up ground and then some with dominant play in the paint. 

The Aces will be tested later this week as they travel to Minnesota on Friday before returning home Sunday for a bout with the defending champion Seattle Storm. 

 

  1. Seattle Storm (No. 2 last rankings, 12-2)

Katie Babino, @katiebabs23: The Storm asserted their dominance in the league since our last power ranking, picking up five straight wins on the road against the Atlanta Dream, Connecticut Sun, and Indiana Fever. Each of the wins had their pros and cons, but Seattle can thank their defensive improvements and supporting cast outside of the Big Three (Jewell Loyd, Sue Bird, and Breanna Stewart, of course) for their hot streak. If the Storm can keep living up to their potential like they did on this road trip, they will be hard to knock out of the top spot in the league. The Storm take on the Washington Mystics before heading to Las Vegas for an enticing matchup against the red-hot Las Vegas Aces. 

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Largest Climb: Chicago Sky and Dallas Wings (+5)

Largest Fall: Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury (-4)

Hyped about where your team ranked? Disagree with the sum of our opinions? Sound off on Twitter and let us know! Also, be sure to vote for your picks for the WNBA All-Star team every day!

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