We’re a few weeks into the WNBA season, and we’ve already got our share of surprises. Last year’s third seed, the Minnesota Lynx, took the longest to notch their first tally in the win column, though they do lead the league in roster transactions. This rookie class is already making itself known, highlighted by top picks Rhyne Howard of the Atlanta Dream and NaLyssa Smith of the Indiana Fever, both of whom have their squads off to better starts than anticipated. Parity reigns! No team made it through five games without either securing a win or taking an L, which has made every game a must-watch.
If this is your first time reading our rankings, welcome; if it’s not, welcome back! As a refresher for how this works—you’re not just reading my takes, but the averages of where the entire Winsidr staff believe the teams shake out. Throughout the season, we will periodically poll our staff to aggregate where we think each team currently stands in comparison to how they’ve performed since our last check-in.
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 the first few weeks in the books, let’s make a subjective check-in on where everyone stands.
12. New York Liberty (1-4, No. 9 last rankings)
Myles Ehrlich, @mylesehrlich: It’s been a nightmare start for the Liberty, who quickly fumbled away any goodwill earned from their opening night upset of the Connecticut Sun by losing all the games in a four-in-seven-day stretch. The WNBA season is a gauntlet, especially with this year’s ultra-compressed calendar, but circumstances made this even tougher on New York. Throughout training camp, they fought absences, illnesses, and injuries that were so bad they couldn’t even field a roster for a preseason tilt against the Washington Mystics.
— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) May 17, 2022
Just nine healthy bodies suited up in seafoam for the Liberty’s latest loss against the fully operational Sun, a number that included a jetlagged Bec Allen. After a terrific start as New York’s primary defensive stopper, Jocelyn Willoughby (torn quad) is set to miss approximately six weeks, and there’s no timetable for the return of DiDi Richards, who made it through just four minutes before reaggravating a hamstring injury. “It’s been difficult with less bodies, having to play so many games,” Sabrina Ionescu said ahead of their latest game, “but I’m excited to see how this team’s gonna continue to rally.” Mercifully, they have a full week without games to shake off the physical and mental fatigue. The hope is that they’ll regroup and revitalize before traveling to Minnesota next Tuesday.
11. Minnesota Lynx (1-4, No. 6 last rankings)
Mitchell Hansen, @M_Hansen13: The Lynx’s interesting start—to say the least—sees them sliding down the Power Rankings. Similar to 2021, they started the season winless through four games, before finally notching their first win on May 17. Minnesota has continued to rework its roster on the fly following an unusual amount of transactions so early in the season.
Even with the slow start to the year, the Lynx have started to figure things out and could be on the cusp of turning this rough start around, with a new-look guard group consisting of Moriah Jefferson and Evina Westbrook now in place. Minnesota also got All-Star Kayla McBride back this week, and she made an immediate impact; in addition, Damiris Dantas (foot) is expected to return to action for the first time this year in a week or two. The Lynx have finally cracked the win column and appear to be figuring things out—they could be a team to watch as the season progresses.
10. Indiana Fever (2-4, No. 12 last rankings)
Tristan Tucker, @TristanRTucker: Compared to a year ago, the vibes with the Indiana Fever are stellar. Indiana is well ahead of the rebuilding learning curve behind rookies NaLyssa Smith, Emily Engstler, Queen Egbo, and Destanni Henderson.
While they still have issues, this squad has plenty of positives, starting with the Fever’s 79.8 points per game (PPG). Kelsey Mitchell leads Indiana in scoring, posting a career year thus far with averages of 19.2 PPG and 4.0 assists per game (APG), while shooting 44.1 percent from three. Though the offense sputtered without Smith in the sixth game of the year—and with Mitchell failing to score in double figures after doing so for 28 consecutive games—the first five games were a great sign.
Head coach Marianne Stanley is also embracing the youth movement thus far, giving Egbo and Henderson five and three starts, respectively. Egbo has been a tremendous force on the glass, hauling in 7.7 rebounds per game (RPG), while Henderson is averaging 7.5 PPG and 3.2 APG.
As mentioned, Indiana still has some issues. Veterans Danielle Robinson and Tiffany Mitchell don’t quite fit with this team. Further, the Fever are having a hard time carving out minutes for 2022 sixth overall pick, Lexie Hull.
However, for a club that didn’t win its first game last season until May 23—and didn’t win its second until July 3—the Fever have come a long way in just one season. With other teams unexpectedly struggling, this could be the Fever’s year to shock everyone and ride its youth to a potential playoff berth.
9. Los Angeles Sparks (2-3, No. 8 last rankings)
Adam Miller, @ajmil0: This offseason, Sparks GM and head coach Derek Fisher wanted to get more scoring from the guard position, and early results show that has been successful. Jordin Canada looks like a breakout star, averaging 14.0 PPG and 4.8 APG while running the offense in Kristi Toliver’s absence. Fisher will have an interesting challenge on his hands when Toliver returns, with Canada and Brittney Sykes both making a strong case for being in the starting lineup.
Meanwhile, Liz Cambage looks to be as good as advertised, averaging 14.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG. She not only gives LA an inside scoring threat, but provides solid rim protection with her ability to block and alter shots. After a loss against the Minnesota Lynx on May 17, the Sparks face another road stretch, with four of their next five games away from Crypto.com Arena. Los Angeles will look to continue building continuity in its lineup, with Katie Lou Samuelson and Olivia Nelson-Ododa back in the fold.
8. Dallas Wings (2-2, No. 10 last rankings)
Jasmine Harper, @harperxxwrites: The Wings sit at .500 (2-2) after a sound start to the season and a slight shuffling of the roster. They decided to move on from Moriah Jefferson, who is now with the Lynx, leaving room on the roster for rookie Jasmine Dickey. Also, Satou Sabally has finally returned from playing overseas, where she claimed a championship and MVP title. The Wings could use an X-factor like Sabally as its offensive identity is still under construction, and the third-quarter slumps from last season have returned. After securing a supermax deal this offseason, Arike Ogunbowale is off to a tough start through her first few games. Dallas needs her to play as the high-scoring centerpiece she is and lead this team every game. And while Ogunbowale can’t do it all alone, the vets have been anchors for the Wings, flourishing as many have hoped they would. With the first stretch of games complete, the Wings’ schedule is about to pick up pace. Defense is the team’s foundation first and foremost, but they have to find a way to sustain scoring across their versatile arsenal of players. Otherwise, they could see themselves in the same position as last year, steadily shifting pieces but unable to put it all together.
7. Seattle Storm (2-3, No. 3 last rankings)
Hunter Hames, @hunter9h: The Storm are a good example of a team whose record doesn’t match up with what you see on paper, and for good reason. Breanna Stewart and Epiphanny Prince missed two games while in league health and safety protocols. Add to that the absence of Mercedes Russell, and you get a picture as to why they’ve started 2-3. Using 2021 averages, those three players bring a combined 33.4 PPG, but also provide length and rebounding the Storm desperately need. Seattle currently ranks eighth in RPG (32.4) and seventh in defensive rating (98.3). If Coach Quinn isn’t hitting the panic button yet, neither am I!
When looking at the upside, Quinn mentioned her excitement for the minutes and opportunities Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot have seen. The good news for the Storm? Their next seven games are at home; Seattle does not hit the road again until June 10. Can an extended homestand help this team right the ship? I have high hopes for the Storm when healthy, but three losses in five games is enough to warrant this week’s ranking.
6. Phoenix Mercury (2-2, No. 5 last rankings)
Kevin Forch, @kevinforch: Two wins against the Stewie-less Seattle Storm bookended a pair of losses to the Las Vegas Aces and helped remove the sour taste of an opening night blowout loss. Vanessa Nygaard’s squad have started to find themselves on the offensive end of the court, currently fourth in the league in field goal percentage (45.7 percent), fourth in three-point percentage (37.3 percent), and fourth in PPG (82.0). The defense is another story, with the Mercury giving up 104.7 points per 100 possessions, good for tenth in the league, and are surrendering the most threes per game (both according to BasketballReference.com).
The good news for Phoenix is that the team is nearly at full health. Diamond DeShields and Brianna Turner joined the roster last week and added some much-needed depth to a squad whose oldest players (Diana Taurasi and Tina Charles) are both averaging over 30 minutes per game so far.
5. Atlanta Dream (4-1, No. 11 last rankings)
Jon Bird, @jonbird333: The Dream are on a roll! After finishing the 2021 season 8-24, Atlanta starts the 2022 season with a league best 4-1 record. Led by 2022 top overall pick Rhyne Howard, the Dream’s offensive and defensive production have looked impressive early on. An early Rookie of the Year frontrunner, Howard was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week in just her first week in the league, averaging 20.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 2.3 APG during that stretch. With her 45.9 percent shooting from outside the arc through five games, Howard is showing early on that her game is pro-ready with potential to grow. In addition to Howard, the Dream have seen valuable contributions from point guards Erica Wheeler (9.6 PPG, 3.4 APG) and Aari McDonald (9.6 PPG, 2.2 APG), with McDonald exploding for a career high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting (5-of-7 from three) in the Dream’s loss to the Aces on May 13. In the post, Cheyenne Parker has been a solid contributor, scoring in double digits in all but one of the Dream’s first five games. While Atlanta’s 4-1 start is impressive and signals hope to the Dream faithful that the team’s rebuild is working, we must also consider the small sample size and the Dream’s strength of schedule. To date, they have only beaten Indiana, LA, and Dallas (without Teaira McCowan), three teams that struggled in the 2022 season and don’t currently have winning records. It will be interesting to see if Atlanta can keep this streak going when they face teams considered playoffs locks, and if Howard’s historic start will continue.
4. Chicago Sky (2-2, No. 1 last rankings)
Dani Bar-Lavi, @dblfluidity: The defending champs opened the season with a disappointing loss in their home opener to the visiting Sparks, but they have recovered well in their two games since—wins against the Liberty (an 83-50 blowout) and the Lynx. The Sky have looked great on both ends of the floor in the early going, ranking fourth in offensive rating (105.0) and third in defensive rating (96.3), per Basketball Reference.
The Sky’s frontcourt trio of Azurá Stevens, Candace Parker, and Emma Meesseman (dubbed the ‘ACE Lineup’ by The Next’s James Kay) have been a huge part of Chicago’s success—no other team in the league is rolling out three bigs in their starting lineup with this unique combination of size (Parker and Meesseman are 6’4”, Stevens is 6’6”) and “guard” skills. All three of them can, to varying extents, handle the ball, shoot the three, and make plays for themselves and their teammates, all while being tall enough to play center in the WNBA. The Sky are able to have the size advantage in most frontcourt matchups while playing a modern, cohesive ‘positionless’ style of basketball with multiple points of attack where the ball moves until it finds the right shot. I also have to give a shout out to Rebekah Gardner, the Sky’s 31-year-old rookie who’s coming off back-to-back double digit scoring outings, having joined the team after a successful season in Spain for Spar Girona.
The Sky have looked excellent thus far, and this isn’t even their final form—Chicago’s still awaiting the arrival of 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, who will give them yet another dynamic scoring threat to integrate into their already rolling offense. Wednesday night’s tight loss on the road in Seattle showed that they can still hang around, even when not playing their best basketball.
3. Connecticut Sun (2-1, No. 2 last rankings)
Colleen Couture, @Colleen18292381: Connecticut’s most recent win against the New York Liberty was just their third game of the season. With the return of both Courtney Williams and DeWanna Bonner, the Sun looked like a different team. Bonner is happy to be back. “[I] feel at home,” she said after the game in Brooklyn, her first game back. “Like a family….feels like home and everybody’s back and trying to build something here.”
Despite winning two of their first three, the Sun are averaging only 43.4 percent from the field, far below their average last season. Although their field goal percentage is fifth in the league, a lot of that is due to the Sun’s ability to capitalize off turnovers. On Tuesday, they forced the Liberty to cough it up 32 times—the best mark in Connecticut’s franchise history—to the tune of 44 points. Coach Curt Miller credits the team’s ability to stay aggressive and be disruptive. Though the Sun have a returning roster of six All-Stars, Miller says “nothing is permanent” regarding the starting lineup. The league’s reigning Most Improved Player Brionna Jones did not start in the most recent game against the Liberty, but she played the most minutes on the team and was a defensive menace in the paint. This much is clear: once the Sun is set on fire, there is very little opponents can do to keep from getting burned.
2. Washington Mystics 4-1, (No. 7 last rankings)
Matt Cohen, @mccohen5: The Mystics have started out strongly at 4-1, with a win against the upstart Fever, the down-on-their-luck Lynx, and a signature dub against the title-contending Aces. After a tough loss to the Wings, the Mystics followed up by beating the Wings on their own floor with a 20-point, eight-rebound night from rookie Shakira Austin. However you look at it, it’s been a strong start to the year for the Washington Mystics.
Led by a veteran core of Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, Ariel Atkins, and a returning Alysha Clark—not to mention vital bench vets Tianna Hawkins and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough—this team was poised to start off right, so long as Delle Donne proved healthy. This has been the case, and their offense, at times, has looked nearly as potent as they did when they won the championship in 2019. They are getting contributions from different places on different nights, and this has been crucial given the different absences at any given time. This speaks beautifully to the team’s depth, something it prioritized to start the season. Together, they have really good ball movement and rhythm, leading to 84.2 PPG, good for second in the league.
What’s been especially impressive is their defense. They’ve only had defensive stalwart Clark for 41 minutes this season, but the rest of the crew has picked up the slack. The team is giving up a mere 74.8 PPG, second in the league. They are second in the league in opponent field goal percentage (41.3 percent), and have limited their turnovers (13.4 per game, first in the league). All of this helps explain the Mystics’ early success, just as they’re nearing a full squad, with Cloud back from COVID-19 protocols, and Elizabeth Williams returning from overseas play. Coach Thibault talked about the issue of “finding minutes for everyone,” but right now, that’s a good problem to have.
1. Las Vegas Aces (4-1, No. 4 last rankings)
Amaka Thistle, @amakaothistle: The Las Vegas Aces are scary good. They’re second in the overall standings, but they really should be first—they blew a 15-point lead against the Washington Mystics (4-1) to avoid a perfect start.
They lead the league in PPG (89.8), field goal percentage (47.7 percent), and three-point field goal percentage (43.0 percent), and are second in total three-pointers made (49). They’re scoring at a historic rate—obvious small sample size—and are doing so in a modern, exciting way. Coach Becky Hammon has gotten the players to buy into their new system, and they’re executing it at a high level, highlighted by a franchise record 16 three-pointers against the Atlanta Dream on May 13.
A’ja Wilson is playing like the best player in the league on offense and defense; Kelsey Plum has the green light from three (51.5 percent on 6.6[!] attempts); and Jackie Young is playing like she belongs on the Aces long-term core. Their chemistry is undeniable, their efficiency is unbelievable, and their personality is absolutely lovable. There is no doubt that the Las Vegas Aces are the league’s best team right now.
Largest Climb: Atlanta Dream (+6 spots)
Largest Fall: Minnesota Lynx (-5 spots)
Hyped about where your team ranked? Disagree with the sum of our opinions? Sound off on Twitter, and let us know!
Unless otherwise noted, stats appear courtesy of WNBA Stats.