Winsidr Power Rankings: Volume 5

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. Though the top three teams have separated themselves from the pack, just 2.5 games separate spots four through 11. 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. Better yet, follow us all! With just a week to go before the month-long Olympic break, teams are jockeying for position. Let’s see where they all stand at this point in the race.

 

  1. Indiana Fever (No. 12 last rankings, 2-16)

Tristan Tucker, @TristanRTucker: Despite an inspiring win over the Connecticut Sun, the Indiana Fever still find themselves at the bottom of these rankings. The Fever are a whopping 4.5 games back of the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Dream, though the win over the Sun inched Indy closer to avoiding the depressing title of “worst team of all time.”

There have definitely been some bright spots—Teaira McCowan’s recent play off the bench, Kelsey Mitchell’s usual bucket-getting ability, and Jessica Breland’s impact on the team. However, with every step forward, the Fever take two steps back, as seen when they inexplicably waived second-year forward Lauren Cox—the former third overall pick—just 25 games into her Fever career.

With half a season to go, the Fever need to learn from their mistakes with Cox and do a better job of prioritizing young development, and players like Kysre Gondrezick, Chelsey Perry, and Aaliyah Wilson need to be afforded more opportunities. With a pair of difficult but winnable games against the Dream and the New York Liberty before the break, it’s now or never for the Fever.

 

  1. Los Angeles Sparks (No. 11 last rankings, 6-11)

John W. Davis, @johnwdavis: The Los Angeles Sparks are in the midst of the toughest stretch of the season, going 1-4 since our last power rankings. The last three of those losses have come to the Aces twice and the Storm, who are undoubtedly the best two teams in the league. Players are encouraged and still playing hard, particularly on defense, but offensive execution is a struggle; ultimately, fatigue is a real factor with nine active players and an eight-player rotation recently. When Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver, and Maria Vadeeva join the active roster, there will still be time to make a playoff push, but the margin for error will be slim to none. Even with the Sparks’ 6-11 record, Erica Wheeler, Brittney Sykes, Nia Coffey, Amanda Zahui B, and Te’a Cooper have all shown bright spots, cementing their spot for key rotational minutes when the Sparks are at full strength after the Olympic break. There is still time to turn this season around—like both the Sky and Lynx have done—but the Sparks will need a 2016-MVP-like performance from Nneka in the second half of the 2021 season. 

 

  1. Atlanta Dream (No. 10 last rankings, 6-11)

Tristan Tucker (filling in for B. Terrell): After starting the season with a very encouraging 4-2 record, the Dream have dropped nine of their last 11 games and fallen into the danger zone at the midway point of the season. Another reason for major concern is the fact that the Dream are now without two of their top three scorers. Tiffany Hayes, averaging a team-high 17.6 points per game (PPG), went down with an injury and is expected to miss two to four weeks. Hayes is also averaging 3.3 assists (ASG) and 1.5 steals per game (SPG), among the Dream’s leaders, and is shooting a whopping 44.9 percent from distance on over four attempts per game.

Without Hayes, the Dream are 1-5 on the season. Atlanta was able to throw Chennedy Carter into the starting lineup and she delivered, averaging 14.2 PPG and 3.3 ASG, which both rank third on the team. However, Carter was suspended indefinitely by Atlanta for “conduct detrimental to the team.” It’s unclear when the 2020 fourth overall pick will be cleared to return, but the Dream still have two games to go until the break.

Next up, the Dream will take on a Connecticut Sun team looking to rebound from a hard loss to the Indiana Fever, and then the Fever themselves. Splitting those games would be acceptable, though winning both would be ideal. If Atlanta wants to save its season, it’ll need to finish the first half of the season on a high note, and players like Courtney Williams, Cheyenne Parker, and Odyssey Sims will need to step up even more than they have been, especially if they want to avoid blowouts like the one suffered to the Las Vegas Aces.

 

  1. Washington Mystics (No. 7 last rankings, 7-10)

Jon Bird, @jonbird333: Down EDD, Myisha Hines-Allen, Erica McCall, and Natasha Cloud to injury, the Mystics practically have more talent on their injured list than some teams have on their active roster. After a three-game losing streak this week, the Mystics arguably need the Olympic break more than any other team. Still down several key players due to injury, it is clear that this small rostered Mystics team cannot hold their own over the long term. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough’s return to the Mystics is promising, but the team needs input from more than just Tina Charles and Ariel Atkins if they hope to keep their postseason dreams afloat. The Mystics are off until July 10, and hopefully this extended rest will be enough to hopefully bring another player back from injury.

 

  1. Phoenix Mercury (No. 8 last rankings, 7-9)

Adam Miller, @ajmil0: The Mercury got Diana Taurasi back from injury but have struggled with her in the lineup the past three games. After a 25-point performance on June 27 in Phoenix’s win against the Sparks, Taurasi is still looking to find her rhythm with 10- and 11-point games against the Lynx.

In the Mercury’s two games against Minnesota, they struggled to match their opponents’ length on the glass and lost the rebounding battle in both matchups, 80-48, and they scrambled to get much going offensively. Outside of Brittney Griner, Phoenix is struggling to hit open shots, evidenced by the combined 32.8 percent shooting from the field in its 99-68 loss to the Lynx. 

Coach Sandy Brondello has tried mixing and matching lineups, inserting Sophie Cunningham into the starting lineup and adding Alana Smith to the rotation, but it has yet to result in the type of scoring Brondello would like to see from her team. 

The Mercury close out the first half of the season against the Aces and Storm, both of whom should challenge Phoenix’s bigs on the glass in a similar manner to the Lynx. If Phoenix is going to have much success against either team, it will need more help from its role players and will need to control the glass.

 

  1. New York Liberty (No. 5 last rankings, 10-9)

Geoff Magliocchetti, @GeoffJMags: As the Liberty continue to bide their time until Natasha Howard and Bec Allen heal (not to mention work through the uncertainty now surrounding DiDi Richards), their interior endeavors just enjoyed a boost with the full-time return of Reshanda Gray. Inked to a deal for the rest of the season, Gray not only brings the paint physicality necessary to strengthen a postseason push, but her cutting abilities are a perfect fit for Walt Hopkins’ athletic, speedy systems. Those talents were on full display during the Liberty’s early Independence Day weekend fireworks against the Mystics’ red, white, and blue on Saturday afternoon. Gray got herself open under the board to put in the go-ahead layups off feeds from Sabrina Ionescu (6-of-7 from the field in a 15-point showing), completing New York’s 20-point comeback victory, the first such turnaround in a WNBA game since 2019. 

Just a little more than halfway through their first full-time Brooklyn season, the Liberty sit in an intriguing spot. Asking them to leap into the 2021 WNBA penthouse still seems like a tall task, but the stage is more than set for New York to reinsert themselves back into postseason relevancy, especially if/when they get back at full strength.

 

  1. Dallas Wings (No. 6 last rankings, 9-10)

Jasmine Harper, @harperxxwrites: The Dallas Wings have their eye on the prize—the .500 mark for a postseason berth. Going 3-3 since our last power rankings, the Wings are still trying to find their stride but use each game as a chance to improve. In lieu of their inconsistency, two players were named to the 2021 WNBA All-Star team: Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally. 

Dallas has had a few players log big numbers lately, such as rookie Charli Collier, who claimed a career-high 12 points against the Indiana Fever. Likewise, Ogunbowale dropped a season-high 30 points against the Washington Mystics. In back-to-back matchups with the Chicago Sky, Isabelle Harrison tied her career high with 23 points in game one, followed by Marina Mabrey matching her career high with 28 points in game two. 

We know Dallas’ roster runs deep. With players like Sabally, Kayla Thornton, Allisha Gray, and a strong bench, the Wings are not short on talent but still lack in producing solid wins. Dallas ranks second in rebounds (37.2), second in perimeter shots (36.4), and third in scoring (85.2 PPG). As head coach Vickie Johnson continues to switch her starting five, the Wings versatility improves, as well as their dedication as a team. Where one player lacks, another picks up without hesitation. Going forward, keep one eye open for the Wings, as their strength lies in their unpredictability. 

 

  1. Minnesota Lynx (No. 9 last rankings, 9-7)

Dani Bar-Lavi, @dblfluidity: In our last power rankings, I talked about how the Lynx had been struggling a bit for consistency, at the time having had trouble stringing together consecutive wins. But in the two weeks since we last checked in with them, the Minnesota Lynx have not lost a single game, winning four in a row against the Atlanta Dream, the standings-topping Las Vegas Aces, and rounding out the streak with two wins against the Phoenix Mercury. 

One major aspect of this inflection point in the Lynx’s season has been getting their turnover problem under control, which I wrote at length about last week. Over their last three games, the Lynx have fallen well below the ~20 turnovers per game mark that has plagued them all season; in fact, they turned the ball over only 10 times in their latest game against the Mercury. I asked coach Cheryl Reeve about the team’s success taking care of the ball after that win: “We’re a good offensive team overall,” she told me. “Since May 30th, our offensive rating is top three, we do a lot of things well. The one drag has been the turnovers, and we’ve talked about it. We talked about the kind of turnovers we can control…We’ve just been playing with a lot more discretion.”

Another factor in the Lynx’s success has been the excellent play of Kayla McBride over the last few games. After struggling to establish consistency in her shot for a lot of the year thus far, K-Mac has been on a heater. She scored north of 20 points in both of Minnesota’s matches against the Mercury, and went exactly 9-13 from the floor (69 percent) in both games. How’s that for consistency? 

“It obviously means a lot…Seeing the ball go in the hole feels great, obviously,” coach Reeve said of McBride’s last two games. Reeve highlighted how McBride’s offensive success helps space the floor for her teammates, especially stars Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier. “When she gets the perimeter game going, it’s easier for the whole team. It’s easier for Syl, it’s easier for Phee.”

Back above .500, the Lynx will look to extend their winning streak heading into the Olympic break with match-ups against the Dallas Wings, Las Vegas Aces, and sparks. Both the Lynx and Aces should come into that match-up with a little bit of extra intensity, their last game a grueling overtime affair that was decided by a single point. 

 

  1. Chicago Sky (No. 4 last rankings, 10-9)

James Kay, @James_M_Kay: After going on a seven-game win streak, the Sky had an up and down 2-2 stretch over the past two weeks. They put up 90 or more points in three of their last four contests but had an off-night versus the Sun, scoring 58 points, and giving up 100 points in a loss to the hot Dallas Wings. 

Despite that off-game versus Connecticut, the Sky’s breadth of offensive weapons is going to be a problem for opponents night to night. Chicago has had five or more players score in double-digits in five out of the last six games, while shooting 46.9 percent from the field in that same stretch (which ranks second in the league). 

Defense has been the team’s calling card so far in 2021, and with the offensive finding its footing, the Sky will go into the Olympic break having established themselves as a top-four team in the league. 

 

  1. Connecticut Sun (No. 3 last rankings, 12-6)

Myles Ehrlich, @mylesehrlich: The Connecticut Sun are 4-1 since our last power rankings and currently sit two games back of Seattle and Vegas. The four-game win streak—two without Jonquel Jones, two with!—included a victory over the shorthanded Washington Mystics in which the Sun won the rebounding battle by an incredible 52-13 margin. According to Across the Timeline, that 39-rebound advantage was the largest in league history, and just the second time a single player (Jonquel Jones, 16 boards) has outrebounded an entire team.

This stretch also, however, saw the Sun fall to the Indiana Fever, who picked up their second win of the 2021 campaign. In the game, JJ shot just five-of-17, and that 29.4 percent shooting marked the worst by far this season, and only the third time in 13 games the potential MVP has made fewer than half her shots. Indiana also managed to win the rebound battle, which, as I wrote about a few days ago, is a rare thing for Connecticut opponents this season.

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All things considered, a positive couple of weeks for the Connecticut Sun, who saw JJ, DeWanna Bonner, and Bri Jones all named to the All-Star team. With just two games to go before the Olympic breakCommissioner’s Cup contests against the Dream and Liberty—the Sun are looking to finish the first half strong and stay healthy going into the season’s back-nine.

 

  1. Seattle Storm (No. 1 last rankings, 14-4)

 Katie Babino, @katiebabs23: After losing to the Washington Mystics, Seattle dropped one of the most exciting games of the season against the Las Vegas Aces in overtime. This was the first time the Storm had lost back to back games this year, but don’t fret Storm fans. Seattle pulled off a win in their next matchup, another down-to-the-wire standoff against the Atlanta Dream. Seattle’s supporting cast has really stepped up, even after veteran Candice Dupree and the Storm parted ways this past week. 

Seattle has an interesting slate of games coming up, including a rematch against the Los Angeles Sparks and a double header against the Phoenix Mercury before the All-Star Game and Olympic break. The Storm look to carry their momentum through these next three games and into their first matchup in August, where they’ll take on the rising Chicago Sky. 

 

  1. Las Vegas Aces (No. 2 last rankings, 14-4)

 Owen Pence, @OwenPence: Over halfway through the regular season, the Aces have established themselves as title favorites. Las Vegas leads the WNBA in Net Rating, nearly five points per 100 possessions clear of second-place Seattle. Last Sunday, the Aces loudly announced their lofty intentions, narrowly beating the Storm in a thrilling overtime battle. The win—fueled by Chelsea Gray’s crunch time heroics—earned Bill Laimbeer and Co. the tiebreaker over Seattle. Now Las Vegas controls its own destiny, hoping to claim the top overall playoff seed for the second straight season. 

Las Vegas is overwhelming opponents with depth. The team set a franchise record Sunday evening by pouring in 118 points against Atlanta. Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson, Dearica Hamby, Liz Cambage, and Jackie Young each exceeded 16 points in the contest. Riquna Williams added 13 points, and Chelsea Gray fell just short of double digits with nine. This is how many of Las Vegas’s wins look. The team is playing stout defense, sharing the ball, and obliterating teams on the defensive glass.  

Wilson remains firmly in the MVP conversation. Young remains firmly in the Most Improved Player conversation. Williams and Gray continue to get more comfortable in the Aces system, a terrifying reality for the other 11 teams. 

Las Vegas hosts Phoenix on Wednesday and Minnesota on Friday before traveling to Dallas on Sunday for its final game before the Olympic break. 

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Largest Climb: Minnesota Lynx: +4 spots

Largest Fall: New York Liberty, Washington Mystics: -2 spots

Hyped about where your team ranked? Disagree with the sum of our opinions? Sound off on Twitter and let us know! 

 

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