WNBA

WNBA Power Rankings Week 3: Connecticut Sun Still Shining

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The WNBA heads into the third week of the season and all of a sudden plenty of things are changing. In this week alone, a respected veteran found a new team, a coach retired, and there was even a dunk. Let’s get started.

  1. Indiana Fever (1-7)

Previous ranking: 11

Last Week: Lost to Washington Mystics 85-69, Lost to Las Vegas Aces 113-77, Lost to Las Vegas Aces 101-78

Next Week: 6/1 at Seattle Storm, 6/3 at Los Angeles Sparks

The Fever remain a fun team but it seems they won’t be winning many games this season. Dropping three contests this week by a combined 75 points is just an indication of the types of outcomes the Fever may expect for the rest of the year.

Over the last week, 10 different Fever players played double-digit minutes but only three of them are over 26 years of age. The Fever are giving youth a chance and building a foundation for a potential future. Victoria Vivians (12.7), Tiffany Mitchell (12.0), Teaira McCowan (11.3) and Kelsey Mitchell (10.7) were the top four scorers on the team this week- production which could continue for much of the season.

  1. Dallas Wings (1-4)

Previous ranking: 7

Last Week: Lost to Atlanta Dream 101-95, Lost to Phoenix Mercury 89-85

Next Week: 6/1 vs. Los Angeles Sparks, 6/4 at Seattle Storm, 6/6 at Seattle Storm

After a big win to start the season, the Wings have dropped four games in a row. They are struggling in ways many young teams do; they lack a true defensive anchor and too many offensive players look for their own shot above all else. With Satou Sabally still overseas in Olympic qualifiers, the Wings are still far from whole.

However, there are some positives. Marina Mabrey is an the early frontrunner for Most Improved Player and has been a walking bucket. On the season she has averaged 21.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game on shooting splits of .528/.514/.917, marking a major leap for a third-year player who is finally taking advantage of her opportunity.

  1. Washington Mystics (2-4)

Previous ranking: 8

Last Week: Beat Indiana Fever 85-69, Lost to Connecticut Sun 86-81

Next Week: 6/5 vs. Las Vegas Aces

The Mystics are still eagerly awaiting the return of Elena Delle Donne and will likely continue struggling against the top teams in the league until she returns to the court. On paper they have the kind of roster championship contenders dream of, but watching Delle Donne and Alysha Clark on the sidelines in street clothes is doing no one any good.

For her part, Tina Charles is playing like an MVP. Over two games this week she posted a line of 29.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. There’s just not enough support around her at the moment to consistently lead to winning basketball. Myisha Hines-Allen also averaged a double-double this week (13.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game) but is not the force that she was a season ago.

  1. Minnesota Lynx (1-4)

Previous ranking: 10

Last Week: Lost to Seattle Storm 90-78, Lost to Seattle Storm 82-72, Beat/OT Connecticut Sun 79-74

Next Week: 6/4 vs. Atlanta Dream, 6/6 vs. Atlanta Dream

Finally, the Lynx found their way into the win column. What should have been a game-winner from the newly signed Layshia Clarendon was waved off, but the Lynx were still able to knock off the Sun in an overtime win. Clarendon’s impact was immediate in their first game with the team, but they were not the only addition who changed the outlook for the Lynx this week.

Napheesa Collier also returned, and as the most important player on the roster gets acclimated with her teammates, the Lynx are only likely to get better. Collier brings a level of dominance to the court that makes those around her better. Between her presence and how good Sylvia Fowles has already been this season (19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game this week), the rest of the league should be on notice.

  1. Chicago Sky (2-4)

Previous ranking: 5

Last Week: Lost to Atlanta Dream 90-83, Lost to Los Angeles Sparks 76-61, Lost/OT to Los Angeles Spark 82-79

Next Week:  6/1 vs. Phoenix Mercury, 6/3 at Phoenix Mercury, 6/5 at Los Angeles Sparks

Coming into the season with plenty of hype, the Sky are off to a bit of a rocky start. Limiting Candace Parker’s time on the court due to an ankle injury has been mostly cautionary to date, but the results have lagged on the court as the roster has been less than full.

Parker is not the only one missing time as of late. Allie Quigley has played just one game so far, taking two quality playmakers off the court for a team working to make plenty of talent fit together. This has led to three rookies (Shyla Heal, Stephanie Watts and Natasha Mack) all getting minutes on a team expecting to contend for a championship – not exactly an ideal situation for Chicago.

  1. Los Angeles Sparks (2-2)

Previous ranking: 12

Last Week: Beat Chicago Sky 76-61, Beat/OT Chicago Sky 82-79

Next Week: 6/1 at Dallas Wings, 6/3 vs. Indiana Fever, 6/5 vs. Chicago Sky

With back-to-back wins against the Sky, the Sparks suddenly feel like a team on the upswing. It helps that Amanda Zahui B. returned to the court to end the week. She immediately makes an impact as one of the best bigs on the team. Though ultimately, the story of the Sparks season begins and ends with Nneka Ogwumike.

The former MVP is off to another strong start. Over the two wins this week she averaged 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds. She has seemingly missed the memo that this might not be a contending season for the Sparks, and it looks like she’s going to drag the team to as many wins as she can muster.

  1. Phoenix Mercury (3-3)

Previous ranking: 6

Last Week: Lost to Las Vegas Aces 85-79, Beat Dallas Wings 89-85

Next Week: 6/1 at Chicago Sky, 6/3 vs. Chicago Sky

Plenty has been made about Brittney Griner‘s latest dunk, but the win this week to stay afloat was even more important. Weathering the storm while Diana Taurasi is out of the lineup is essential for the Mercury to make another push for the playoffs.

Griner was a monster this week, averaging 27.0 points 13.5 rebounds 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. When she is locked in, Griner is the type of two-way force that can take over any game. She showed this week just how impossible that can be for teams to handle. If Griner can provide more of these performances, the Mercury may be on to something.

  1. Atlanta Dream (4-2)

Previous ranking: 9

Last Week: Beat Chicago Sky 90-83, Beat Dallas Wings 101-95, Beat/OT New York Liberty 90-87

Next Week: 6/4 at Minnesota Lynx, 6/6 at Minnesota Lynx

Winners of three in a row, the Atlanta Dream finally seem to be figuring things out under interim coach Mike Petersen. Unfortunately, Chennedy Carter will be out of the lineup for a while due to a hyperextended elbow. In the meantime, Courtney Williams will just have to remain the assassin that she has been of late.

Williams exploded against the Liberty, dropping 31 points on them en route to an overtime victory. She even put the exclamation point on the performance with the dagger – a go-ahead three-ball with under two seconds remaining. With Williams’ strong play, plus the scoring prowess of Tiffany Hayes (21.3 points per game this week), the Dream are turning into an offensive force before our eyes.

  1. New York Liberty (5-2)

Previous ranking: 4

Last Week: Lost/OT to Atlanta Dream 90-87

Next Week: 6/3 vs. Las Vegas Aces, 6/5 at Connecticut Sun

The Liberty lost the only game they played in this week, but that came in one of the best matchups we are likely to see this season. Rookie Michaela Onyenwere was phenomenal, dropping 29 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal on the Dream. As the current leader for Rookie of the Year, every time she steps on the court she makes things look even easier than the game before.

The Liberty find themselves in a tough spot. Onyenwere, Sami Whitcomb and Betnijah Laney have revolutionized what the team can be. Defenses are already throwing everything they can at Sabrina Ionsecu, forcing the rest of the roster to beat them. However, losing Natasha Howard for an extended period of time is likely to make that a complicated task.

  1. Las Vegas Aces (5-2)

Previous ranking: 2

Last Week: Beat Phoenix Mercury 85-79, Beat Indiana Fever 113-77, Beat Indiana Fever 101-78

Next Week: 6/1 at Connecticut Sun, 6/3 at New York Liberty, 6/5 at Washington Mystics

The Aces are quietly continuing to take care of business, winning three games in a row and reasserting themselves as one of the best teams in the league. With reserve guard Kelsey Plum overseas helping the United States lock down an Olympic berth, the rest of the Aces squad looked mostly dominant.

Liz Cambage was a destructive force down low this week, averaging 9.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks over three games. The progress of working out the fit between her and A’ja Wilson is still taking time, but both have been individually impressive thus far. The Aces are a juggernaut and it is only a matter of time until they are back on top.

  1. Seattle Storm (5-1)

Previous ranking: 3

Last Week: Beat/OT Connecticut Sun 90-87, Beat Minnesota Lynx 82-72

Next Week: 6/1 vs. Indiana Fever, 6/4 vs. Dallas Wings, 6/6 vs. Dallas Wings

Seattle impressively handed the Connecticut Sun their first loss of the season and yet, that is far from the biggest story surrounding the defending champions this week. Head coach Dan Hughes retired in the middle of the week and passed the reigns to the former player and assistant coach Noelle Quinn.

Hughes has been in the league for the better part of two decades, including stops with the Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers, San Antonio Stars and finally the Storm. He is a two-time Coach of the Year and led the team to the top in 2018. He missed last season in the bubble due to health and safety concerns, and now he walks away. It was quite a career for Hughes, but thankfully the Storm remain in great hands.

  1. Connecticut Sun (6-2)

Previous ranking: 1

Last Week: Lost/OT to Seattle Storm 90-87, Beat Washington Mystics 86-81, Lost/OT to Minnesota Lynx 79-74

Next Week: 6/1 vs. Las Vegas Aces, 6/5 vs. New York Liberty

Even with two losses this week, the Connecticut Sun remain atop the power rankings for the second consecutive week. Dropping two overtime games was not enough to knock them off their perch atop the league just yet. Jonquel Jones is still in the midst of the MVP conversation, averaging 23.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game.

The duo of DeWanna Bonner and Jones has meshed perfectly. As the season goes along they are only likely to get better, and any team with two All-Stars should be taken seriously as a contender. If there is ever any doubt, the Sun will change the pace of the game and remind fans exactly what they are capable of.

About Corey Rausch

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