We’re back with the first regular season edition of the Winsidr Power Rankings! A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the preseason training rosters and set initial expectations. While some teams have not quite clicked yet, others have already made us look bad with their stellar play. (Betting against James Wade is like going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line; even if they don’t end up being this good, it’s a terrifying match up.)
If this is your first time reading our rankings, welcome; if it’s not, welcome back! As a refresher for how this works, we do this somewhat differently from other sites. While the words are mine, the rankings themselves are aggregated by our entire staff. 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 compare each team’s standing with how they’ve performed since our most recent check-in.
We don’t need much more preamble. Let’s get to it.
12. Minnesota Lynx (0-4, No. 9 last rankings)
Unfortunately for Lynx fans, this is the continuation of an unsettling trend: it’s the third consecutive season the team has started off by losing its first four games.
What helped them turn things around these past two years? In 2021, Minnesota brought in Layshia Clarendon, who immediately became a steady piece of the rotation (before supplanting Crystal Dangerfield as lead point guard). After letting Clarendon walk the following camp, the Lynx made an early-season trade with Dallas for Moriah Jefferson. While they lost a tight game to the defending champs in Jefferson’s debut, they notched their first win in the following contest, with her 20/7/6 performance a large reason why.
This time around, they’re looking to fill not just the point guard role (again), but center as well, and replacing Sylvia Fowles is an impossible task. In the early going, Jessica Shepard has been trying to fill both roles, admirably leading the team in both rebounds and assists. Napheesa Collier is back to full strength and already looking like the All-W two-way player we know she is, but this is a roster with holes still to fill. As we’ve seen in recent seasons, it’s never too early to make a move.
11. Seattle Storm (0-2, No. 12 last rankings)
Seattle started the season behind the eight ball. Like Minnesota, they too had a Hall of Famer retire in Sue Bird, and they too are still searching for an answer at that position. Through their first two games (small sample, but *gestures wildly at the entire article ten days in*), the Storm rank dead last in assists with just 13.0 per contest.
They’re also, of course, trying to overcome the loss of Breanna Stewart. Jewell Loyd has been taking on a larger role, as expected, but it’ll take some time to jell. Her efficiency is sure to climb, as she remains one of the WNBA’s premier guard talents.
10. Indiana Fever (1-2, No. 11 last rankings)
The streak is, mercifully, over! With Sunday’s win over the Dream, the Fever avoided their 21st consecutive loss, which would have put them in sole possession of the longest WNBA losing streak ever. Instead, they share that dubious record with the 2011 Tulsa Shock.
Early on, the frontcourt has been solid. Aliyah Boston is acclimating well to the pros, though she’s still seeing her share of double and triple teams in the post. NaLyssa Smith’s 23-point, 13-rebound performance put them over the top in yesterday’s contest. With that no longer hanging over them, they head to Uncasville to face the Sun tomorrow.
9. Phoenix Mercury (1-2, No. 5 last rankings)
Brittney Griner is back, and she looks fantastic. There’s no overstating how remarkable that is, and in some ways, this season’s win/loss performance is a footnote to that storyline, much like last year.
With that being said, this team’s depth will determine how far they can go. Sophie Cunningham stepped up for them last year, but is working through a minor knee injury. Skylar Diggins-Smith remains out on maternity leave, and she’s currently got no anticipated return date. BG and Brianna Turner are accounting for 17.3 rebounds per game, which is among the best for any frontcourt duo… but the rest of the team is snagging just 14.7 boards a night. That 32.0 mark is second worst in the W. Once roles start to settle, hopefully that will start to climb and the Mercury will rise.
8. Atlanta Dream (1-2, No. 6 last rankings)
It’s been three straight tight contests to start for Dream: a seven-point loss to the Wings, a six-point win over the Lynx, a three-point defeat to the Fever. As a team, they’re still finding their identity, which isn’t too surprising with Allisha Gray’s addition to the lineup. Gray’s usage rate in these early games has climbed from 17.2 in 2022 to 22.7 this season, which would be a career-high mark for her. She’s absolutely an All-Star level talent in this league, so I think it’s just a matter of building chemistry alongside Rhyne Howard, whose 35.2 percent shooting is sure to improve once these two get used to each other’s spots.
7. Los Angeles Sparks (1-2, No. 7 last rankings)
Here’s an instance where I was overruled a bit by the whole Winsidr team voting, because I have been incredibly encouraged by the Sparks’ early results. The offense, under Curt Miller, looks great. They averaged over 89 points in their first two games before having nearly half their roster out against Vegas for the defending champs’ home opener, so I’m taking last night’s 65-point output with a huge grain of salt. Los Angeles took it to Phoenix on opening night, and they were up double-digits on the Aces in the second half of game two before the powerhouse imposed its will, and that game was without Nneka Ogwumike.
Lexie Brown continues to be a revelation and I’m incredibly intrigued by the lineups Miller has rolled out to start. And we’ve yet to see Azurá Stevens debut in the purple and gold. Things are absolutely looking up for the Sparks, though my questions about wing depth still stand for the long term prospects, following the season-long losses of Katie Lou Samuelson and Stephanie Talbot.
6. Dallas Wings (2-1, No. 8 last rankings)
There have been promising returns at the beginning of Latricia Trammell’s tenure in Dallas. After a lineup overhaul that saw three starters leave in the offseason, nobody would have begrudged the Wings a slow start. Instead, she’s cobbled together a couple of wins and a tight loss to the Sky. Natasha Howard’s athleticism on defense is a welcome addition, as is Crystal Dangerfield’s efficiency, and Arike Ogunbowale’s already putting together a highlight reel with slick isolation buckets.
The best thing to see, however, is a healthy Satou Sabally. She’s always had an incredibly high ceiling, but usage and poor injury luck have been stifling early in her career. Sabally’s 22.0 points per game are currently fifth in the W, but it’s her efficiency that has been most impressive, with her current 51.2 percent far above her career mark of 40.4 percent. If Sabally can sustain that efficiency (which Dallas definitely needs while Ogunbowale and Howard aren’t hitting above 40 percent), Dallas could compete against nearly anyone.
5. Chicago Sky (3-1, No. 10 last rankings)
The Sky let it be known that they weren’t here for the preseason disrespect, and their play on the court has backed that up. “I’m definitely the type of person to hang it up so you see it every day,” Kahleah Copper said in a Chicago Tribune article. “I’m not the type of person that needs to relight the fire because the fire’s always lit. That’s just something that ignites me. It’s good for me. I like it.” After an offseason that saw them lose 80 percent of their starting lineup, the steep fall made sense on paper, but it’s hard to argue with this team on the court.
There’s a lot to be said about bringing in veterans, but one of the most fun storylines to follow so far has been Courtney Williams’ adaptations on offense. More tests are coming, especially with a shortage in frontcourt depth while Izzy Harrison remains out, but I’m all here for the Sky making us look bad.
4. Washington Mystics (2-2, No. 3 last rankings)
An up-and-down first couple of weeks dropped the Mystics a spot here. They opened the season with a convincing opening night win over the new-look Liberty, but sandwiched a tight win over the Sky with back-to-back losses to the Sun. Early in the season, there’s a lot of transitive property business going on: Sun beat the Mystics twice, Liberty beat the Sun, which cancels out their loss to the Mystics, yadda yadda.
Consistency from deep is a concern for this team, long term. The Sun exposed some of those weaknesses in the back-to-back wins, bringing extra help to Elena Delle Donne and Shakira Austin and trusting that the ‘Stics would not make them pay. Something to keep an eye on, for sure. And you can’t take your eyes off the aforementioned Austin either, who continues to excel, and will take lots of pressure off EDD as the season progresses.
3. Connecticut Sun (3-1, No. 4 last rankings)
Sure, the Sky have a case to be most annoyed with preseason discourtesy, but so do the Sun (insert the required #disrespeCT reference here). Some betting sites had their team win totals projected at just 20.5 this season, and it seems like Connecticut is determined to blow past that number as soon as possible. For the first half of Saturday’s contest against the Liberty, it seemed they might climb as high as second in these rankings, but New York took the game over and regained its spot.
I was on record as loving the offseason retooling for Connecticut. They looked to address their scoring, wing defense, and guard depth in bringing in Tiffany Hayes, Bec Allen, and Ty Harris. I’ve got some reservations about the rotation decisions Stephanie White has chosen to this point, but there’s no arguing the results.
2. New York Liberty (2-1, No. 2 last rankings)
Yes, the early-season highlight for the Liberty is Stewie’s 45-point game (which I wrote about here, too!), but that win over Connecticut is a big-time confidence builder for a veteran squad still building rapport. Time and again, the vets have preached patience, but it’s really good to notch a victory against one of the league’s top teams, knowing that it would be a question of when until they checked that box.
We finally glimpsed the depth on this team, which helped New York to overcome its early deficit this past weekend. “The great thing about playing with this team is that we have so many great players and great offensive playmakers,” Kayla Thornton told me after the win over Connecticut. “Any given night, they’re going to be concentrating on them. So a lot of back cuts and a lot of other things are gonna be open.”
Jonquel Jones still doesn’t quite look like herself, but she’s spaced the floor well in the early going and is always going to be a strong paint deterrent. With her former team out of the way, the Liberty head to Seattle and Chicago this week, so that Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot can get their reunions checked off the calendar as well.
1. Las Vegas Aces (4-0, No. 1 last rankings)
I’ll be brief here (sorry it took so long). The Aces remain the team to beat, and they’re off to an absolutely blistering start. Their dominance has set records, in fact.
The @LVAces 1st 4 games in 2023:
The combined 99-point margin over 4 games is a new all-time record to start a WNBA season (previous was +91 by CON in 2018).
— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) May 29, 2023
Jackie Young’s continued ascendance has been a joy to witness, as she put the team on her back for a career-high 30 points in the only game they’ve been tested so far this season (that comeback win over the Sparks). Perhaps we’ll start to see her added to some more graphics in the coming months!
Largest Climb: Chicago Sky (+5 spots)
Largest Fall: Phoenix Mercury (-4 spots)
Do you like where your team fell, or do you contest our evaluations? Let us know on Twitter, and let’s keep these conversations going throughout the season!