Winsidr Power Rankings: Volume 5

Welcome back to another edition of the Winsidr Power Rankings! Since our last check-in, we’ve hit the All-Star break, which featured a ton of great W memories, none bigger than Sylvia Fowles’ dunk in her final All-Star Game. The league did well to honor both Syl and Sue Bird in their final appearances. The weekend also showcased a touching tribute to illegally detained Brittney Griner—during the game’s second half, each player’s jersey was adorned with Griner’s name and number, her absence palpable around these All-Star festivities. As for the on-court activities, the first five teams are near locks for the playoffs, which leaves three spots for seven teams jockeying for position (though the Indiana Fever are likely too far behind to compete for one of the remaining slots). Just two games separate the sixth place Atlanta Dream (11-14) from the eleventh place Minnesota Lynx (10-17), so this race is as tight as it’s ever been.

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 half in the books and a frantic playoff race underway, let’s make a subjective check-in on where everyone stands. 

 

12. Indiana Fever (5-22, No. T-10 last rankings)

Tristan Tucker, @TristanRTucker: After starting the year on a positive note with playoff aspirations, the Fever have completely gone off the rails, dropping nine games in a row. At the same time, the Fever’s offensive and defensive ratings have fallen off a cliff, per Basketball Reference.

Expecting the Fever to finish anywhere other than bottom two in the league was a tall ask for a team embarking on a complete roster overhaul, but it’s still disappointing to see this competitive and fiery young squad flounder during a losing streak where their average margin of defeat is 15.6 points.

Nonetheless, there are still some individual performances to be excited about, including the general awesomeness of NaLyssa Smith and Kelsey Mitchell. Games like July 13’s near-comeback against the Connecticut Sun and July 15’s squeaker against the Minnesota Lynx were at least fun, and give glimpses of a competitive squad, even if the end result was the same. On top of that, Indiana proved earlier this week that it wasn’t done making shocking changes to its roster when it waived Bria Hartley in favor of snagging former first-round pick Rennia Davis.

Unfortunately for Indiana, the remaining schedule doesn’t provide any sort of light at the end of the tunnel. Just two of the Fever’s last nine contests are against sub-.500 teams—the Atlanta Dream and Los Angeles Sparks. If that wasn’t enough, the Fever have three remaining games against the powerhouse Las Vegas Aces.

 

11. Los Angeles Sparks (10-14, No. T-10 last rankings)

Adam Miller, @ajmil0: In many ways, the month of July has been a good pulse check on where the Sparks stand amongst the league. After winning three straight against teams competing for playoff position, Los Angeles dropped its last three facing the league’s elite. Part of the Sparks’ woes are related to a lack of health, with Nneka Ogwumike, Liz Cambage, and Brittney Sykes all spending time outside the lineup at different points. 

The Sparks continue their homestand against the Indiana Fever and Atlanta Dream this week before hitting the road for five of their next six games. The next few weeks should be relatively favorable to Los Angeles, with the Las Vegas Aces as the only team over .500 on the schedule. However, if they want to make the playoffs, the Sparks must treat these games as must-wins, as there is a small margin for error between the six teams fighting for playoff position. 

 

10. New York Liberty (9-15, No. 7 last rankings)

Myles Ehrlich, @mylesehrlich: The Liberty have scuffled since our last Rankings, and the schedule doesn’t look forgiving going forward. For them to make the playoffs, they’ll need to finish out their last dozen games strong, all against teams either comfortably in or on the fringe of the postseason. Their next four games in particular, against Connecticut, Washington, and a home-and-home with Chicago, will be a gauntlet, of course. Then, New York closes out the season facing Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix—all teams vying for the last three playoff spots—twice apiece.

It’s been a rough stretch for the Liberty lately, losing five of six. Over that stretch, they’ve surrendered 97 points a night. Following their most recent loss to the Aces, in which they faced a 37-13 deficit following the first quarter, Sandy Brondello showed the most frustration she has through her first year as New York’s head coach. “They were hot, even Becky [Hammon] alluded to that, but we had no resistance. We didn’t bring the energy. Defense is hard work. I suppose it got deflating when they just couldn’t miss, but we can’t be this bad at this stage of the year.”

With an unforgiving schedule going forward, the Liberty need to figure it out quickly, or they’ll be lottery bound.

 

9. Minnesota Lynx (10-17, No. 12 last rankings)

Mitchell Hansen, @M_Hansen13: After a shocking start to the year that sent them to the bottom of the standings, the Lynx have been one of the hottest teams in the league as of late, pulling off an impressive turnaround to get right back into the playoff picture.

Since June 21, Minnesota has looked like a completely different team, thanks to dominant performances from Aerial Powers, Sylvia Fowles, and Rachel Banham. The Lynx still have some work to do, especially as they face Connecticut three times and Seattle twice to close the year, but what seemed like a longshot just a month ago has now become reality—Minnesota is back battling for a spot in the playoffs.

 

8. Phoenix Mercury (11-16, No. 9 last rankings)

Kevin Forch, @WHWKevin: This team cannot catch a break. During the Mercury’s win against the Washington Mystics, Diamond DeShields suffered a hip injury that kept her out of Sunday’s 85-75 loss to the Atlanta Dream. The extent of her injury remains unknown and leaves a cloud over an already thin lineup. 

In the meantime, the Mercury will continue to rely heavily on the offensive output of Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Both are averaging 23 points per game (PPG) since the All-Star break, with Skylar contributing 7.6 assists per game (APG). 

Diamond’s injury should also allow Sophie Cunningham to continue to flourish in Vanessa Nygaard’s small-ball lineup. Since Tina Charles left the team on June 25, Sophie has scored in double figures in each game and recorded at least one steal in all but the most recent game against Atlanta. 

Phoenix doesn’t play again until Friday, so there’s the possibility that Diamond will return before then. Otherwise, it will be on Nygaard to continue to stretch the limits of this roster in hopes of keeping them in playoff contention.

 

7. Atlanta Dream (11-14, No. 8 last rankings)

Jon Bird, @jonbird333: The return of veteran shooting guard Tiffany Hayes has reinvigorated the Atlanta Dream offense. After falling to the Liberty (89-77 on June 24), Sun (72-61 on June 26), and Mystics (94-74 on June 28), Hayes’ return on June 30 signaled a two-game run where the Dream defeated the Liberty in overtime 92-81 and convincingly took down Seattle 90-76. Hayes’ return—specifically her 14.5 PPG, 2.3 APG, and 4.4 rebounds per game (RPG)—has helped the 11-14 Dream go 3-3 with Hayes on the floor (previously 8-11 without). Currently plagued with injuries (Rhyne Howard [right shoulder], Nia Coffey [right knee], Monique Billings [right ankle]), Hayes’ return has given the Dream the veteran boost they need to get through a tough stretch. Even without leading scorer Howard, the veteran group of Hayes (16 points, seven rebounds, six assists), Cheyenne Parker (21 points, 12 rebounds), Erica Wheeler (14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists), and Kia Vaughn (five points, nine rebounds) stepped up big time during the Dream’s 85-75 victory over the Mercury on July 17. The Dream take the floor next against the Las Vegas Aces.

 

6. Dallas Wings (11-14, No. 6 last rankings)

Jasmine Harper, @harperxxwrites: In the final stretch to clinch a playoff spot, the Dallas Wings postseason chances are growing slimmer with each loss. Still struggling with continuity and exercising the discipline necessary to be a true contender, Dallas is one of the handful of teams filled with quality players but unable to translate that potential to the court. 

Satou Sabally continues to deal with injuries, causing the Wings to lose one of their main assets on the floor. Arike Ogunbowale, Allisha Gray, and Marina Mabrey are the team’s top scorers but have moments where even they are not enough to pull off close-win games. In spite of that, Teaira McCowan has clearly found her rhythm and is delivering nightly for her team, logging four double-doubles thus far and averaging a team-high 59.6 percent from the field. 

Dallas suffered a three-game losing streak just before the All-Star break but claimed a big win against the Connecticut Sun (July 5), which gave them a little optimism for the second half of the season. The Wings are 1-1 since the break, ranked seventh,  and are in a tight race with teams ranked 6-9 who are separated by less than two games. They have 11 games remaining and only have room to lose four of them to be at the .500 mark. If the Wings can get over whatever hurdles are holding them back from performing together at their best, then their postseason chances are still alive. However, changes have to be made quickly and methodically to keep them in the hunt.

 

5. Washington Mystics 16-11, (No. 4 last rankings)

Matt Cohen, @mccohen5: This team might be one of the more frustrating teams in the league. Some of their losses can be chalked up to not having Elena Delle Donne, as you could forgive even this veteran-laden team for looking a bit out of sorts without their best player. As the Mystics won four of five games entering the All-Star break, they looked poised to finally make a run towards the upper echelon of teams and truly compete for a championship. With Delle Donne expected to play 80 percent or more of upcoming games, things truly looked in place for that run to occur. 

The Mystics started with a strong team-win in Los Angeles, but as has been their MO, they followed that up with a clunker against Phoenix. They shot less than 37 percent in that one, committing 19 turnovers. Both of those games were with Delle Donne, so perhaps this team may not be finding its way out of the woods just yet.

The Mystics are almost a lock to be a playoff team, but can they compete with the Aces and Sky come playoff time? Right now, they look at least a tier below and are running out of time to see if they can reach that level. With the timing of games more spread out in the next few weeks (only five games through July, four of them at home), and Delle Donne likely back at least for four of those, we’ll find out exactly what this team can be by the end of the month.

 

4. Connecticut Sun (16-9, No. 2 last rankings)

Owen Pence, @OwenPence: The Sun have gone 6-6 over their last 12, a rather troubling stretch for a team with hopes of winning the title. Sure, there are reasons for their inconsistent play. Point guard Jasmine Thomas is out for the season, and 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones missed the team’s most recent game—a home loss to Las Vegas. Still, the issues run deeper. 

Connecticut is 1-2 against the Aces and 0-2 against Chicago. The Sky knocked the Sun out of last year’s playoffs, and will once again stand in the way of Connecticut’s championship aspirations. The Sun still lead the league in Net Rating—a positive sign—but their lead has shrunk, with Chicago and Las Vegas close behind. 

Perhaps most concerningly, Connecticut has now slid to fourth in the standings. This is significant because there has been a clear top-five in this year’s WNBA. Finishing one-through-three guarantees a matchup with a weaker team in the first round of the playoffs, whereas the clash between fourth and fifth seeds figures to be intense and difficult. 

 

See Also

3. Seattle Storm (17-8, No. 5 last rankings)

Hunter Hames, @hunter9h: After struggling out of the gate to a 5-5 record, the Storm have rattled off 12 wins in 15 games to cement themselves as title contenders. Let’s start with one obvious reason the Storm have moved so quickly up the rankings: Breanna Stewart is leading this team and playing at an MVP caliber. With averages of 21 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 2.9 APG, Stewart might not only find herself in MVP talk but Defensive Player of the Year as well, second in the league in steals at 1.8 per game, while adding 1.0 blocks per game (BPG). 

The Storm, sporting the best defensive rating in the league, have been stellar all season, anchored by Stewart, the always dangerous Gabby Williams, and Ezi Magbegor, who leads the league with 2.4 BPG. That I’ve mentioned three key players before getting to All-Stars Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird speaks to the depth and talent of Seattle’s squad. And, while Tina Charles hasn’t put up the same numbers we saw from her in Phoenix, the overall production from the Storm bench has helped this team climb from the tail end of the standings to firmly in the chase for the top seed. 

The Storm will have plenty of chances down the stretch to conquer the teams who are near or ahead of them in the standings, with two games versus Chicago, Las Vegas, and Washington still remaining. Seattle, who leads the league in attendance at 9,807 fans per game (courtesy of Across the Timeline), would love to be atop the standings come playoff time and send legends Bird and Briann January off to retirement in style. 

 

2. Las Vegas Aces (18-7, No. 1 last rankings)

Amaka Thistle, @amakaothistle: Since being 13-2 on June 19, the Las Vegas Aces have looked surprisingly fallible, suffering losses to a bevy of tough opponents—Chicago, Washington, Seattle, and a couple of upstarts in New York and Minnesota. Of course, their scorching hot start was bound to cool off at some point, but it’s coming at a time when rivals Chicago (9-1 in their last 10) and Seattle (7-3 in their last 10), who were picked to finish ahead, are starting to peak.

The Aces managed to earn a convincing win against a Connecticut team without MVP Jonquel Jones in their last game, but that’s where the compliments stop. Their defense has regressed since its fearsome start. In the first 15 games, they held opponents to 97.5 points per 100 possessions, turning them over 13.8 times and allowing only 31.5 points in the paint. In the last 10 games, they’ve allowed a ghastly 108.8 points per 100 possessions, including 33.2 points in the paint, and only turning over their opponents 11.8 times. There’s also the running question of whether their lack of depth will be a fatal flaw—only eight played on Sunday, and their starters accounted for 85.7 percent of their 91 points. It’s clear the Aces have a couple of things to fix, and they need to fix them fast.

There are only 12 games left until the postseason, including a fierce Commissioner’s Cup title game on July 26 against the Chicago Sky, which should be a good barometer for how well they stack up against the league’s elite when the stakes are high.There are no overreactions here, though. This team is still 18-7, with the second-best record in the league and arguably the best offensive trio, plus Chelsea Gray (21 points, nine assists, and three steals on Sunday). Will it be enough to finally win them the pot when the chips are all in? We’ll have to wait and see.

 

1. Chicago Sky (19-6, No. 3 last rankings)

Dani Bar-Lavi, @dblfluidity: The Sky are undefeated (3-0) since hosting the All Star Game in Chicago last week, felling the Dream, Sparks, and Wings in order to maintain their position atop the standings, one game ahead of the Aces, the current title co-favorites. Candace Parker kicked off the second half of the season on a dynamic note, leading the Sky to victory against Atlanta at home with a 31 point double-double, becoming the oldest player in WNBA history to have 30+ points and 10+ rebounds in a game. The very next game, however, Parker’s teammates proved they don’t need that kind of supersonic performance from their ace to win games decisively, as she went scoreless for the first time in her career in a blow out against the Sparks. Despite 0-11 shooting from Parker, the Sky won 80-68.

As has been the case all season, as well as last postseason, the key to Chicago’s success has been how well they know each other, with multiple elite playmakers on the roster adept at moving the ball to find cutters to the basket or forcing the defense to collapse off the drive to create looks on the perimeter for three. The Sky have had at least 22 team assists in each game since returning from the break. This includes their most recent game against Dallas, which saw Julie Allemand start in place of star point guard Courtney Vandersloot (out in concussion protocols). Allemand recorded eight assists, and the team had a whopping 25 that night.

The most important thing the Sky have proven about themselves in this small three-game sample is the quality of their depth. To continue to steamroll teams while missing their starting point guard, or games where their superstar goes without a single field goal—that shows championship-quality depth.

 

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Largest Climb: Minnesota Lynx (+3 spots)

Largest Fall: New York Liberty (-3 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.

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