WNBA

WNBA Power Rankings Week 4: No Stopping the Scorching Sun

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Four weeks down, the season is progressing. Bad sponsorship ideas aside, the league is taking form and making sense. With players back from Olympic trials, rosters are finally close to what they would be at full strength. Now let’s get started.

  1. Indiana Fever (1-9)

Last Week: Lost to Seattle Storm 88-73, Lost to Los Angeles Sparks 93-63

Next Week: 6/9 at Chicago Sky, 6/12 vs. Chicago Sky

Another week, another couple Fever losses by double-digits. With only one win on the season, the Fever do not seem to have much going for them. Kelsey Mitchell led all scorers for the week, averaging just 12.0 points per game. There is no floor spacing to be found, with the only volume shooters hitting 28.6 percent from deep at best.

The lone highlight remains Teaira McCowan, how averaged 9.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game. She is putting in work in limited time, something none of her teammates are able to say of late. Better luck next week.

  1. Washington Mystics (2-4)

Last Week: Lost to Las Vegas Aces 96-93

Next Week: 6/8 vs. Minnesota Lynx, 6/10 vs. Los Angeles Sparks, 6/13 at Atlanta Dream

The Mystics cannot seem to get out of their own way. They finally got close to coming out on top, losing by just three to the Aces but were not able to get the job done. Myisha Hines-Allen and Ariel Atkins did everything they could. The rest of the team just was not good enough.

Hines-Allen went off for 32 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Atkins added in 29 points. Only four other members of the Mystics scored and only Tina Charles (16) made more than three field goals. While getting close to knocking off the best regular-season team from a season ago is a step in the right direction, there is still plenty to be done in the nation’s capital.

  1. Chicago Sky (2-7)

Last Week: Lost to Phoenix Mercury 84-83, Lost/OT to Phoenix Mercury 77-74, Lost to Los Angeles Sparks 68-63

Next Week:  6/9 vs. Indiana Fever, 6/12 at Indiana Fever

So far, the most disappointing team in the league is the Chicago Sky. Candace Parker not being in the lineup has hurt things, but so has general inconsistencies with the rest of the team. Dropping three games this past week is the most recent downer for the team.

Allie Quigley just came back, getting Chicago closer to full strength but the wins have yet to return. Diamond DeShields led all scorers with 13.3 points per game this week, showing just how dire the offensive output is right now. Combined with the odd dumping of Shyla Heal, it has been a weird stretch for the Sky.

  1. Los Angeles Sparks (4-3)

Last Week: Lost to Dallas Wings 79-69, Beat Indiana Fever 98-63, Beat Chicago Sky 68-63

Next Week: 6/10 at Washington Mystics, 6/12 at Minnesota Lynx

Slowly but surely, the Sparks are starting to look like a cohesive team. Even with Nneka Ogwumike out of the lineup, they are starting to figure out the influx of new talent and picking up wins over the other bottom teams in the standings to climb back into playoff contention.

Five Sparks who played every game this week averaged double-digits in scoring, led by Erica Wheeler and Kristi Tolliver at 13.7 points per game. Amanda Zhaui B. averaged 10.0 points per game and added 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. When Ogwumike is able to get back into the lineup the Sparks should be more ready to help her win.

  1. Dallas Wings (3-5)

Last Week: Beat Los Angeles Sparks 79-69, Lost/OT to Seattle Storm 105-102, Beat Seattle Storm 68-67

Next Week: 6/8 at Phoenix Mercury, 6/11 at Phoenix Mercury, 6/13 at Las Vegas Aces

The revenge of Arike Ogunbowale at the buzzer against the defending champions will be the story for Wings to end the week, but overall they look better now that they have most of their team back. Satou Sabally and Allisha Gray are back from overseas and suddenly Dallas looks whole.

Unfortunately, the Wings are caught up in off-court drama again, which has taken the focus off their win. The announcement on Monday that the team had paired up with the Arlington Police Foundation was met with much outrage. This is coming on the heels of a Rebel Edition jersey that had to be pulled after the organization missed the connections to racial insensitivity. The players for the Wings are making progress every day and deserve an organization that does the same.

  1. Atlanta Dream (4-4)

Last Week: Lost to Minnesota Lynx 86-84, Lost to Minnesota Lynx 100-80

Next Week: 6/9 vs. Seattle Storm, 6/11 vs. Seattle Storm, 6/13 vs. Washington Mystics

A week ago, the Dream looked like a team on the come up, winning three in a row and taking advantage of elite guard play to push toward the future. The guard play was still impressive this week but facing a suddenly improved Lynx squad turned the win streak on its head.

Aari McDonald entered her name comfortably into the Rookie of the Year conversation, averaging 15.0 points per game on shooting splits of .409/.385/1.00. Without Chennedy Carter in the lineup, she needed to step up and she was up to the task. McDonald was second on the team in scoring this week, and if that can keep up she will be in the running for the award for the rest of the season.

  1. Phoenix Mercury (5-3)

Last Week: Beat Chicago Sky 84-83, Beat/OT Chicago Sky 77-74

Next Week: 6/8 vs. Dallas Wings, 6/11 vs. Dallas Wings, 6/13 vs. New York Liberty

Phoenix benefitted greatly from facing off against the reeling Sky and was able to eke out two wins to push back above .500. Skylar Diggins-Smith has looked like an MVP, carrying the team while Diana Taurasi is out with an injury.

Over two games this week, Diggins-Smith posted a line of 26.0 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. The next highest scorer (Kia Nurse) is a full 10 points less per game. Both games against the Sky came down to last-minute weirdness and a big-time shot by Nurse to win the first one. With a pair of meetings against the Wings this week, perhaps they can handle things in a more common fashion.

  1. New York Liberty (5-4)

Last Week: Lost to Las Vegas Aces 94-82, Lost to Connecticut Sun 85-64

Next Week: 6/13 at Phoenix Mercury

This week, the Liberty fell back to earth. After building their resume early on with games against mostly non-playoff teams, the Liberty faced off against the top two teams in the league and lost by 12 and 21 points respectively.

The narrative of the week for New York was the relative struggles of sophomore phenom Sabrina Ionescu. After a hot start to the year, she averaged just 5.0 points, 7.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 21.1 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from distance. It is important that she continues to plays make while struggling. Noticing that defenses are starting to crack down on her and adjusting is the next obstacle for her to overcome.

  1. Minnesota Lynx (3-4)

Last Week: Beat Atlanta Dream 86-84, Beat Atlanta Dream 100-80

Next Week: 6/8 at Washington Mystics, 6/12 vs. Los Angeles Sparks

The Lynx welcomed back Napheesa Collier and now they are starting to look like the team they expected to be coming into the season. Layshia Clarendon has been everything the team hoped for when they signed them as a free agent. However, the most important pillar of success remains Sylvia Fowles.

Fowles is steady, averaging a solid 12.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.0 assists per game this week. She does not have to be flashy to be effective, feasting on the boards and keeping plays alive for her teammates. The influx of talent has allowed her to be an ancillary scoring option, which shows just how dangerous the Lynx are.

  1. Seattle Storm (7-2)

Last Week: Beat Indiana Fever 88-73, Beat Dallas Wings 105-102 (OT), Lost to Dallas Wings 68-67

Next Week: 6/9 at Atlanta Dream, 6/11 at Atlanta Dream, 6/13 at Connecticut Sun

A slight dip with two close games against the Wings has shown some rare vulnerability from the defending champions. The defense of the Wings caused them fits in the second game and a heartbreaking shot from Arike Ogunbowale sealed the deal.

Despite the loss, no one outshined Jewell Loyd over the past week. The veteran guard has been on a tear, averaging 22.7 points, 4.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game on shooting splits of .476/.526/.900. The Storm are not slipping by much, but the top two teams have set themselves apart.

  1. Las Vegas Aces (7-3)

Last Week: Lost to Connecticut Sun 74-67, Beat New York Liberty 94-82, Beat Washington Mystics 96-93

Next Week: 6/13 vs. Dallas Wings

The Aces are coming into a week where they are mostly off, not playing again until Sunday. Liz Cambage and A’ja Wilson are developing a dominant frontcourt pairing that fans had hoped would work out this well. However, that is not the biggest development of the short season.

Jackie Young has taken a major leap this season and is finally living up to the billing of a former number one overall pick. She is posting career highs in points per game (14.7), steals per game (1.5) and 3-point percentage (33.3 percent). If this is sustainable, it gives the Aces the sort of scoring punch they seemed to be missing following the injury to Angel McCoughtry in the preseason.

  1. Connecticut Sun (8-2)

Last Week: Beat Las Vegas Aces 74-67, Beat New York Liberty 85-64

Next Week: 6/13 vs. Seattle Storm

So far there has been nothing to knock the Sun off the top spot. This week they defeated the Aces and comfortably handled the Liberty. Jonquel Jones is the MVP frontrunner, averaging 27.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game over the last week. There is nothing not to love about the way the Sun are playing basketball.

Fascinating enough, DeWanna Bonner took a slight step back this week and deferred to her teammates in an attempt at making everyone better. She still hit timely shots, specifically in the clutch against the Aces, but her passing and rebounding were where she shined. Brionna Jones added 14.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. For now, there is no stopping the Sun.

About Corey Rausch

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