It is hard to believe, but the 32-game regular-season schedule is nearing a close. The WNBA regular season will conclude on Sept. 19, and the top eight teams will then advance to the playoffs, which begin on Sept. 23 with the single-elimination first round.
Although there are just a handful of games left to play over the next couple of weeks, there is still plenty to be determined in regards to the playoff field. Six of the eight playoff berths have been claimed going into this week, but the seventh and eighth spots remain up for grabs as four teams try to clinch a spot in the postseason.
Entering a new week in the #WNBA, the playoff picture:
1. CON (21-6, -GB)*
2. LV (20-8, 1.5GB)*
3. MN (18-9, 3GB)*
4. SEA (19-10, 3GB)*
5. PHX (17-10, 4GB)*
6. CHI (15-14, 7GB)*
7. DAL (12-16, 9.5GB)
8. NY (11-18, 11GB)
9. WAS (10-17, 11GB)
10. LA (10-18, 11.5GB)
— Mitchell Hansen (@M_Hansen13) September 6, 2021
As the end of the WNBA regular season inches closer and the always-entertaining playoffs approach, let’s take a look back at the regular season and pick out just a few takeaways from the summer.
Standings Shook Out as Predicted … Kind Of
When it comes to the current state of the standings and how things have shaken out throughout the regular season, the layout of teams, for the most part, has shaped up how many expected.
If you look at the standings with a little under two weeks left in the year, the teams in the top half of the standings include the Connecticut Sun, Las Vegas Aces, Seattle Storm, Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky.
With the exception of the Sun, those teams are the ones we thought might be atop the standings by the end of the year. Connecticut’s dominance has been somewhat surprising. While many thought Connecticut would make the playoffs, few fans would have guessed that the Sun would rise to be the top team in the league at the end of the regular season.
To round out the standings, the Dallas Wings, New York Liberty, Washington Mystics, Los Angeles Sparks, Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever are the teams who comprise the bottom half of the WNBA ranks. Teams still vying for a spot in the playoffs include Dallas, New York, Washington and Los Angeles, while Atlanta and Indiana are likely to claim the bottom two spots in the standings.
For the most part, the league standings shook out as predicted, with a few surprise teams finishing the season higher than initially anticipated.
Olympic Break May Have Impacted Second Half of Regular Season
One of the intriguing hurdles that took place during the course of the 2021 regular season was the month-long Olympic break that spanned from mid-July to mid-August. During that span, some teams had players rostered on the 12-player U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team or the four-player U.S. Olympic 3×3 Women’s Basketball Team, both of which claimed gold medals in Tokyo. The rest of the WNBA saw that period as a time where players could rest up and either recover from injuries or gear up for the homestretch of the season.
Now nearing the end of the second half of the year, it turns out that the Olympic break may have impacted some teams as they finish out the regular season. While the Olympic break helped some teams, other squads have seen more negative impacts of that Olympic period.
Chicago is one team that seems to have benefited from the month-long break in WNBA action. Chicago has been able to put together a strong second-half showing to try and improve its seed positioning in the playoffs as nearly the entire Sky roster did not take part in the Olympics.
For teams that perhaps saw negative effects, Seattle comes to mind, which has struggled in the second half and, as a result, has dropped as low as the third and fourth spots in the standings. Seattle, which had a handful of players play in the Olympics, might be seeing the impacts of those players not having the rest time that others in the league experienced.
As the second half of the year winds down, it has been interesting to see how the Olympic break has impacted various teams in the WNBA, and it will continue to be interesting to see if those effects carry into the postseason.
Playoffs Could Be As Entertaining As Ever
With the conclusion of the regular season approaching, it is officially time to look at the playoffs and which eight teams will comprise the postseason field to try and claim a WNBA championship in 2021.
It is becoming more and more apparent that the playoffs could be about as evenly spread and, therefore, entertaining as ever this year. In past seasons, there have been a few teams atop the WNBA standings who many viewed as clear favorites to not only reach the WNBA Finals but to also win the title by the end of the season. This year, however, it looks like at least the teams in the top half of the standings are fairly even in terms of talent, and that parity could put the title more up for grabs this year compared to others.
There still are some teams viewed as favorites, notably the Sun and Aces, who should put themselves in good positions to at least reach the WNBA Finals. But the Sun, Aces, Lynx, Storm, Mercury and Sky have all shown flashes of dominance at various points in the regular season.
The postseason always seems to be entertaining regardless of how the talent is spread out throughout the field, but you get the feeling that the even spread of talent this season could make the playoffs even more fun to watch as teams battle to take home the WNBA championship.
As Interest in the WNBA Continues To Grow, It Is Time for the WNBA To Grow Itself
Year after year, the WNBA has continued to see an increase in viewership and interest, and that has been the case once again this year. Whether it be the viewership numbers for nationally televised games, people simply talking about the WNBA, or the amount of talent spread throughout the 12 teams, the league continues to grow in groundbreaking ways.
As that interest continues to increase, it is becoming more apparent that it is finally time for the WNBA to expand in some form. Fans and others who follow the league have been clamoring for expansion in the WNBA for years now, and it might be time for the league to officially do so within the next year or two.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has talked about the topic of expansion a bit more this year than in other years, even saying during the regular season that it continues to be a priority for the league. Whether it is just two teams or more, it appears as though the WNBA is legitimately looking into the possibility of expansion more than it ever has before.
There are plenty of candidates that could make for solid options for WNBA franchises, and the interest in the league is there to go along with the excessive amount of talent in the WNBA. Regardless of where the potential expansion locations are, it is time for the league to expand to whatever extent possible, and that has become even more apparent this season.
The 2021 campaign has been entertaining to follow throughout the summer, and there are plenty of positive takeaways from a season which saw teams return to home markets following the Wubble season in Florida. Now it is time for some postseason basketball to see who will come out on top as champions in October.
Share Your Takeaways From the WNBA Season
What are some of your biggest takeaways from the 2021 WNBA season? Let me know on Twitter by tweeting me @M_Hansen13 or by responding to the tweet below.
With just a few weeks remaining in the #WNBA regular season, which concludes on Sept. 19 before the playoffs begin on Sept. 23, I'm curious what some of your takeaways are from the season so far.
Let me know below! ⤵️
— Mitchell Hansen (@M_Hansen13) September 7, 2021