WNBA

Power Rankings: Pre-Playoff Positions

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It all comes down to this. One final week of games to decide the playoff standings. Let’s get started.

12. Atlanta Dream (7-22)

Last Week: Lost to Phoenix Mercury 76-75, Lost to Washington Mystics 82-74

This Week: 9/14 vs. Indiana Fever, 9/16 vs. Los Angeles Sparks, 9/19 at Connecticut Sun

It is all over but the final three games. The Dream are a game ahead of the Fever for the worst record in the league and play them this week. It could easily come down to the final day of the season to determine whether or not the Dream end up being the worst team overall. With Chennedy Carter unlikely to return in the final three games, there is not much to look forward to. On a positive note, at least they finally hired a lead executive. This offseason needs to be the team continuing to build a structure around their young team.

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11. Indiana Fever (6-23)

Last Week: Lost to Minnesota Lynx 89-72, Lost to Minnesota Lynx 90-80

This Week: 9/14 at Atlanta Dream, 9/17 vs. Minnesota Lynx, 9/19 at Chicago Sky

For a team that is losing so many games, the Fever certainly continue to fight until the end of the season. Kelsey Mitchell, Tiffany Mitchell and Tierra McCowan each averaged double-digit scoring over the last week. McCowan added in 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. With little left to play for other than pride, the Fever play hard every night. Like the Dream, this offseason is about picking a direction moving forward. The front office has been much maligned for a lack of path forward. For them to ever get back to their winning ways of yesteryear, that must change.

10. New York Liberty (11-19)

Last Week: Lost to Dallas Wings 77-76

Next Week: 9/15 at Connecticut Sun, 9/17 vs. Washington Mystics

For the Liberty, fans will likely look back poorly on this season. They will remember the strong start to the season and wonder who they ended up on the outside of the postseason looking in. This is where they will end up unless they win out and get a little luck. However, the Liberty clearly took strides this season and were sidetracked by long-term injuries to Sami Whitcomb and Natasha Howard. Betnijah Laney became an All-Star. Sabrina Ionescu continued to improve in her first full season on the court. Despite the tail off at the end of the standings, this season was a success.

9. Los Angeles Sparks (11-19)

Last Week: Lost to Connecticut Sun 75-57, Beat Seattle Storm 81-53

This Week: 9/16 at Atlanta Dream, 9/19 at Dallas Wings

Of the two teams currently sitting on the outside of the playoff standings, the Sparks seem to pose the greatest threat to the Mystics. They have two games remaining and are a game behind. With must-win opportunities against the Dream and the Wings, the Sparks are lucky enough to face down fellow sub-.500 teams in their quest. However, even if that does not come to pass, the Sparks ended their home slate on the highest of notes. They welcomed the defending champion Storm to Staples Center and proceeded to bludgeon them by 28 points, including a highlight Sue Bird would love to forget.

8. Washington Mystics (12-18)

Last Week: Lost to Seattle Storm 105-71, Beat Atlanta Dream 82-74, Beat Chicago Sky 79-71

Next Week: 9/17 at New York Liberty, 9/19 vs. Minnesota Lynx

Still not quite healthy, the Mystics continue to battle their way to the postseason, holding an outside shot at climbing up to the seventh seed. Against the Sky this week, who were still attempting to improve their own seed, health was not enough to hold them back. Washington was without Elena Delle Donne, Myisha Hines-Allen and Ariel Atkins. Even still they would not be denied, powered forward by 31 points, 10 rebounds and five assists from Tina Charles. If any of the missing players are able to return for the single-elimination portion of the postseason, the Mystics are a threat to knock off anyone they would face.

7. Dallas Wings (13-18)

Last Week: Lost to Connecticut Sun 83-56, Beat New York Liberty 77-76, Lost to Las Vegas 85-75

Next Week: 9/19 vs. Los Angeles Sparks

Positive: the Wings are making their first postseason appearance since the departure of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Liz Cambage. Arike Ogunbowale will get a chance to perform on the big stage, something she excelled at during her collegiate career. Negative: the Wings remain inconsistent at best. The perfect example came in the second half of the game against the Aces. The Wings led by nine at the half before Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey shot 6-22 in the second half. Dallas can win a postseason game and shocking the world. It is also easy to imagine their best players shooting them out of a game in earnest.

6. Chicago Sky (15-15)

Last Week: Lost to Washington Mystics 79-71

This Week: 9/17 vs. Las Vegas Aces, 9/19 vs. Indiana Fever

Locked in as the sixth seed entering the playoffs, the Sky have nothing to play for this week. The loss to the Mystics confirmed they would not be able to move any higher but with one home game locked up, it may be time for some rest for the Sky. With Candace Parker on the court this season, the Sky are 14-7 compared to 1-8 without her. Having the squad healthy for a matchup with the (most likely) Mystics or Wings could make all the difference. Anything less than getting to the semi-finals will be a missed opportunity for the Sky.

5. Seattle Storm (20-11)

Last Week: Beat Washington Mystics 105-71, Lost to Los Angeles Sparks 81-53

This Week: 9/17 vs. Phoenix Mercury

It may feel hyperbolic to say that the Storm are no longer contending for a title this season, but they are simply not the team fans watched bring home the Commissioner’s Cup at midseason. Breanna Stewart will miss the rest of the regular season and her status for the postseason is uncertain. Too much has been made of Sue Bird falling against the Sparks, but she is being forced into a bigger role that is tenable at this point in her career. Jewel Loyd is the only go-to scoring threat currently available to the team and they face the Mercury this week with the winner getting a first-round bye in the postseason. In all likelihood, the Storm will have to battle through a pair of single-elimination games to start their title defense.

4. Phoenix Mercury (19-11)

Last Week: Beat Atlanta Dream 76-75, Lost to Connecticut Sun 76-67

This Week: 9/17 at Seattle Storm, 9/19 vs. Las Vegas Aces

The Mercury get the chance to control their own destiny in their matchup with the Storm this week. If they are able to get by the spiraling Storm, the Mercury will have a bye in the first round of the postseason. If things progress in expected fashion the two teams may face off again in the Mercury’s first game, potentially giving Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi a chance to face off in a single-elimination setting. The Mercury are the hottest team in the league outside of the rolling Sun, setting them up to make a trip to the semi-finals. This week will solidify that position.

3. Minnesota Lynx (20-10)

Last Week: Lost to Las Vegas Aces 102-82, Beat Indiana Pacers 89-72, Beat Indiana Fever 90-80

This Week: 9/17 at Indiana Fever, 9/19 at Washington Mystics

While the Lynx still have an outside shot at earning the much-desired double-bye in the postseason, the third seed feels like the most likely outcome. For the Lynx to move up, they would have to win their remaining games and the Aces would have to lose both. Also, to move down, the Lynx would have to drop both games. If they are able to take care of business against the lowest-seeded remaining postseason team, they will get a chance in a series against the Aces.

2. Las Vegas Aces (22-8)

Last Week: Beat Minnesota Lynx 102-81, Beat Dallas Wings 85-75

Next Week: 9/17 at Chicago Sky, 9/19 at Phoenix Mercury

Technically, the Aces are still playing to lock themselves into the double-bye. They cannot fall any lower than three but also cannot move into the top seed. For them to drop down a spot, they would have to lose both of their games and the Lynx would have to pick up two wins. The Aces prove time and again just how resilient they are and remain the favorite among many to win it all. They can beat you so many ways, such as the 30-piece Kelsey Plum dropped on the Wings this week. A’ja Wilson may not be the MVP favorite that she was a season ago, but this season her squad has an even better chance to win in the end.

1. Connecticut Sun (24-6)

Last Week: Beat Dallas Wings 83-56, Beat Los Angeles Sparks 75-57, Beat Phoenix Mercury 76-67

This Week: 9/15 vs. New York Liberty, 9/19 vs. Atlanta Dream

For the first week all season, the Sun have nothing to play for. The Sun have won 12 games in a row and boast the best defensive rating in the league. They also have the third-best offensive rating and the favorites for the Most Improved Player (Brionna Jones) and Most Valuable Player (Jonquel Jones). Based solely on the never-ending dominance the team has exhibited this season, expect the Sun to roll through the final two games of their season on the way to their third straight appearance in the Semifinals. While Vegas remains the betting favorite, the Sun are doing everything in their power to show they should be the ones people put their money on.

About Corey Rausch

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