WNBA

WNBA Power Rankings: Post-Olympic Push

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After a long Olympic break, the WNBA is back in action. The inaugural Commissioner’s Cup game served as an unofficial return to play. As play kicks off, there are sure to be some changes in the Power Rankings.

Let’s get started.

12. Atlanta Dream (6-14)

Last Week: Lost to Phoenix Mercury 92-81

This Week: 8/17 at Los Angeles Sparks, 8/19 at Los Angeles Sparks, 8/21 vs. Phoenix Mercury

After a month off, nothing has been resolved for the Dream. They have a new coach in Darius Taylor, but the results remain the same. There is no update on the standing of Chennedy Carter returning to the team, which basically says all you need to know. Combine this with the general lack of depth down low for the team and nothing is going right for the Dream to end the season. Ideally, a trade will be coming before this week’s deadline to adjust the roster to fit what is going on here. Until then, there is not going to be any improvement with regards to the on-court product.

11. Indiana Fever (4-17)

Last Week: Lost to Los Angeles Sparks 75-70

This Week: 8/17 at Phoenix Mercury, 8/20 at Dallas Wings

The winning streak is officially over for the Fever but there is still plenty to be pleased about, at least relatively. There is still little to no organizational direction, and they have the worst record in the league. But Danielle Robinson and Kelsey Mitchell are fun to watch on the path to the best chances at the top pick in the draft next year. Whether or not they end up with the worst record in the league is largely dependent on how many more coaches the Dream have during the rest of the season. The Fever could choose to put Teaira McCowan in a position to succeed more often, but that may be too much to ask for the coaching staff in place.

10 Los Angeles Sparks (7-13)

Last Week: Beat Indiana Fever 75-70

This Week: 8/17 vs. Atlanta Dream, 8/19 vs. Atlanta Dream, 8/22 at New York Liberty

https://twitter.com/LASparks/status/1427082944984731652

After being one of the most noticeable off-the-court stories, Nneka Ogwumike is back on the court and the Sparks have a spark of life for the first time this season. Amanda Zahui B.was a menace in the first game back from the break. Erica Wheeler has shown that she is more than capable of contributing to winning basketball. Unfortunately, the rest of the team is not ready to do the same. Derek Fisher clearly made an adjustment during the break that immediately made an impact on the floor. If Ogwumike remains healthy the rest of the season, with a week like the one they face this week, the Sparks could quickly find themselves back in the playoff picture.

9. Dallas Wings (9-13)

Last Week: Lost to Connecticut Sun 80-59

This Week: 8/17 at Chicago Sky, 8/20 vs. Indiana Fever

One of the unending trends of the season is the Wings changing their starting lineup. Their first game back from the break resulted in their ninth starting lineup of the season. Some of this was connected to Satou Sabally being ruled out with Achilles’ soreness. The rest can be traced to the consistent inconsistency that is the Vickie Johnson experience. She mentioned before the game that rookie Awak Kuier was in line for more time on the court. Kuier proceeded to log two minutes. Marina Mabrey, despite being one of the highlights of the season, still cannot find her way back into the starting lineup. At least Arike Ogunbowale showed out in the All-Star Game, winning the MVP.

8. Washington Mystics (8-11)

Last Week: Lost to Las Vegas Aces 84-83

This Week: 8/17 vs. Washington Mystics, 8/19 at Phoenix Mercury. 8/22 vs. Seattle Storm

Sunday’s game against the Aces showcased how impressive the Mystics can be on any given evening. They were one Chelsea Gray late-game shot away from knocking off one of the best teams in the league. Tina Charles is an MVP candidate in no small part because she is having arguably the best statistical season of her career. Perhaps the best news yet, Elena Delle Donne has resumed five-on-five activities. For Washington, simply getting into the postseason opens a world of possibilities. If they were able to enter that setting closer to fully healthy, they would be a threat to make some noise. Della Donne, Myisha Hines-Allen, Ariel Atkins and Charles present an immense challenge for any team.

7. New York Liberty (10-12)

Last Week: Lost to Minnesota Lynx 88-78

This Week: 8/18 vs. Seattle Storm, 8/20 vs. Seattle Storm, 8/22 vs. Los Angeles Sparks

The loss on Sunday was less than ideal, but the final score is not indicative of what the Liberty are currently bringing to the table. The return of Natasha Howard to the lineup is not something that could go unnoticed in that game and will transform the team going forward. Against the Lynx, Howard exploded for 30 points and four rebounds. It is going to take time for the roster to get used to playing together, as noted by Betnijah Laney’s 6-15 performance. If the Liberty can weather the storm in the winning column while they figure out their fit on the floor, they will be a dangerous team the rest of the way.

6. Chicago Sky (11-10)

Last Week: Beat/OT Seattle Storm 87-85

This Week: 8/17 vs. Dallas Wings, 8/21 vs. Minnesota Lynx

Sure, the Sky were able to knock off the Storm in a thrilling game post-Olympic break to get back above .500. This should be cause for celebration on a normal day. However, when considering this was a game against a Storm team missing both Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, the win gets slightly less impressive. Furthermore, the only impact player that headed overseas for the Olympics was Stefanie Dolson, who looked good in the first game back. For years the Sky have left fans wanting more. No matter where you stood on the ceiling of this team, Sunday’s game certainly strengthened your convictions regarding their level of contending.

5. Phoenix Mercury (10-10)

Last Week: Beat Atlanta Dream 92-81

This Week: 8/17 vs. Indiana Fever, 8/19 vs. Washington Mystics, 8/21 at Atlanta Dream

The Mercury feel like a sleeping giant, waiting for the backend of the schedule to get easier so that they can overwhelm weaker opponents. Diana Taurasi is back on the court and is still one of the most clutch performers in the league. Britney Griner showed again in the Olympics that she is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world. Feasting on the bottom on the standings will help build quite the resume for the Mercury by the end of the year. Many have already tried to shovel dirt on the career of Taurasi but it is just as easy to imagine a deep playoff run with the three Olympians who call the Valley home.

4. Minnesota Lynx (13-7)

Last Week: Beat New York Liberty 88-78

This Week: 8/17 at Connecticut Sun, 8/19 at Connecticut Sun, 8/21 at Chicago Sky

Remaining the hottest team in the league, the Lynx are winners of eight games in a row. It is nearly impossible to imagine that this is the same team that started the season 0-4. They are comfortably on track to lock down a top-four seed. Sylvia Fowles is the odds-on favorite to bring home the Defensive Player of the Year award. She is also averaging her highest scoring average (16.2 points per game) in three seasons. Natalie Achonwa is back on the court and finally the roster is starting to come together. They are loaded for a run at a championship this season.

3. Connecticut Sun (15-6)

Last Week: Lost to Seattle Storm 79-57, Beat Dallas Wings 80-59

This Week: 8/17 vs. Minnesota Lynx, 8/19 vs. Minnesota Lynx

Luckily for the Sun, the Commissioner’s Cup counts in a strange statistical category that has no bearing on the regular season. The fact that they laid an egg does not move them down in the standings and (at least theoretically) should not be considered in Jonquel Jones’ MVP case. The Sun bounced back against the Wings, blowing them off the floor in Dallas. Jones also turned things around, putting up 19 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal. She showed out in the All-Star Game and the 3-point contest. Forget the less than impressive outing against the Storm. The Sun remain just as real a contender as they were before that game.

2. Las Vegas Aces (16-6)

Last Week: Beat Washington Mystics 84-83

Next Week: 8/17 vs. Washington Mystics

Pessimists will look at the game against the Mystics on Sunday and claim they struggled in their first game back. Believers will credit the Aces for battling back with a roster loaded with players who got very little break during the Olympics. They will also laud the clutch shooting of Chelsea Gray and another MVP outing by A’ja Wilson. Nothing about what the Aces do in the regular season matters in the long run. This roster is primed and ready to bring home a championship, cementing Wilson as the best player in the world, following up on her first gold medal.

1. Seattle Storm (16-6)

Last Week: Beat Connecticut Sun 79-57, Lost/OT to Chicago Sky 87-85

This Week: 8/18 at New York Liberty, 8/20 at New York Liberty, 8/22 at Washington Mystics

In the end, it only makes sense that the Storm brought home the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup. Breanna Stewart has become the best collector of titles this side of Kenny Omega. In the last year, she has won the WNBA title and Finals MVP, EuroLeague Championship and Final Four MVP, Russian Premier League Championship, Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year and now Commissioner’s Cup title and MVP. Increasing the serendipity, Sue Bird built her historic resume by scoring the first points in Commissioner Cup history. Then in the first game back in the regular season, Jewell Loyd popped off against a fully loaded Sky team for 26 points. Week in, week out, the Storm remain the best team in the league.

About Corey Rausch

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