WNBA.com Power Rankings: 2005 Preseason Edition

And we're baaaaaaaack! Shake out the cobwebs, blow off the dust and get ready to roll... Welcome to the first installment of the 2005 version of America's favorite Power Rankings... the WNBA.com Power Rankings. Every week throughout the season, we will shake down each team and see where they fall. Since teams have yet to play a meaningful game yet, it is nearly impossible to deliver an authentic report. However, we need to get rid of the rust, break a little bit of a sweat and get back into game shape ourselves, so just consider the first edition an exhibition. Scores won't officially count until next week.

2005 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: Preseason
TEAM
2004 REC.
NOTES
1 20-14The champions until someone dethrones them, the Storm hold the honorary top spot in the first Power Rankings of 2005. Whether they can hold onto the No. 1 ranking will depend on the health of Lauren Jackson, the 2003 MVP, who had offseason surgery on her ankle. Fellow starters Sue Bird and Betty Lennox return as well, but this will be a very different team after the losses of Kamila Vodichkova, Sheri Sam and Tully Bevilaqua to free agency.
Upcoming: vs Los Angeles, vs Houston
2 25-9The Sparks finished the 2005 regular season atop the Power Rankings thanks to racking up more wins than anyone else. Center Lisa Leslie was chosen MVP once again and the Sparks were the favorite to win it all. But a lack of depth led to a first round playoff loss against Sacramento. The addition of Chamique Holdsclaw makes this team a legitimate threat once again and could put them atop the Rankings in the not-too-distant future. But like last season, when they got off to a mediocre start, the Sparks hit the road early.
Upcoming: at Seattle, at Minnesota
3 18-16If Nykeha Sales' shot went down a the end of Game 2 of the 2004 WNBA Finals, life would be very different right now. Well at least for Connecticut and Seattle players and fans. But it was not to be. Instead, the Sun were forced to settle for second best. Bringing in center Margo Dydek to join an already-loaded cast of characters makes Connecticut a favorite to repeat as Eastern Conference champions. They will play the Shock in the season-opener and be tested early, but look for the Sun to be shining all summer long.
Upcoming: at Detroit, at Washington
4 17-17They won it all in 2003 only to finish with a .500 record a season later. Think the Detroit Shock are happy? Wrong. In fact, they are extra hungry to get back to the top. Swin Cash missed the end of the season with a knee injury and rehabbed all winter long, but will miss at least the first three games of the season. Nolan and Powell played together in Poland while Ford and Riley stayed home to play in a U.S. winter league. The talent is back, and so, it seems, is the motivation.
Upcoming: vs Connecticut, vs San Antonio
5 17-17This young team is a year older and a went out and filled in the last piece to their missing puzzle. Guard Diana Taurasi lived up to the hype (and more) as a rookie, and she is ready to deliver on the championship she promised the city of Phoenix. Also back are sweet-shooting Anna DeForge and Penny Taylor. In addition to not being able to close out games in 2004, the biggest rap against the Mercury was their hole in the middle. Signing free agent center Kamila Vodichkova and drafting athletic rookie Sandora Irvin should go a long way to plugging that leak.
Upcoming: vs Sacramento, at Indiana
6 18-16When Katie Smith is healthy and this team is firing on all cylinders, as they were during the middle of last season, the Lynx are a very tough team. They have size in the middle with Ohlde, Williams and Hayden, three-point shooters in Abrosimova and the aforementioned Smith, as well as a great coach. When Smith went out of the lineup, Minnesota hobbled into the playoffs and were bounced early. Australian point guard Kristi Harrower returns to the team and will start, but another bright spot for the Lynx is their depth. Minnesota could easily go 10-deep in their rotation.
Upcoming: at Houston, vs Los Angeles
7 16-18Had the Sting taken care of business in the last week of the season, they would have made the playoffs and never gotten the first pick out of the Draft. However, they probably also would not have been the busiest team in the offseason. But they were. Chemistry will be the big question for the Sting, who add a lot of new faces to the team: Tangela Smith, Janel McCarville, Sheri Sam and Helen Darling should make Charlotte stronger, though concerns still exist about the perimeter game. Will Kelly Mazzante and Jia Perkins make more of an impact in Year Two?
Upcoming: vs. Washington, at Indiana
8 18-16Always solid, never flashy, the New York Liberty went to the Eastern Conference Finals one season after failing to make the playoffs. Why? Becky Hammon was back and produced, Vickie Johnson and Crystal Robinson keep getting it done and Elena Baranova is dangerous inside and outside. This season, Ann Wauters is healthy and will bolster one of the league's worst rebounding teams, but while other teams got stronger in the East, the Liberty relied only on the Draft to improve their roster.
Upcoming: vs Detroit, vs Indiana
9 18-16Thanks to the inside presence of Yolanda Griffith and the Monarchs, they were finally able to overcome the Sparks in the playoffs last season and go back to the Western Conference Finals. However, they were never able to find consistent scoring from the perimeter. Enter Nicole Powell and two Chinese National Team shooters and the youth movement is underway. Kara Lawson is finally starting and will be another heady decision-maker on the court alongside Ticha Penicheiro. An early road trip will test their new chemistry and test just what they're made of.
Upcoming: at Phoenix, at San Antonio
10 17-17Lose your best player and become a better team and make the playoffs. It defies logic, but that's what happened in Washington last season. The team's leading scorer and rebounder, Chamique Holdsclaw, left the lineup and the team rallied to the postseason. This season, they traded Holdsclaw for DeLisha Milton-Jones, but lose the savvy leadership of Stacey Dales-Schuman. Alana Beard and Chasity Melvin must play like they did in September for this team to have a chance in '05.
Upcoming: at Charlotte, vs Connecticut
11 15-19(Scratching our heads...) Totally unsure where to put the Fever until we see them on the floor for at least a month, we reserve the right to change our Rankings. Luckily, we'll do this on a weekly basis. The Fever have a shot at being a very good team. Tamika Catchings is virtually super-human as far as her ability to carry a team goes, but the whole "she needs help" routine is getting tired. So the Fever got her scoring help in the way of rookie Tan White. But is she enough? Kelly Miller was co-Most Improved Player last year and needs to continue improving and becoming a more consistent shooter.
Upcoming: vs. Charlotte, vs Phoenix
12 13-21 With Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson on a team, we learned that anything is possible. The two accounted for nearly 239.7% of the team's scoring last season. Okay, so that's an exaggeration, but that's what it felt like. Add in the fact that both missed games and you realize why they struggled. The Comets welcome back Janeth Arcain, who will help in that department, but Thompson missing time with her pregnancy and the lack of reliable point guard leave too many questions unanswered at the beginning of the season. That said, you should still watch every game this season and wait for Michelle Snow to dunk in a game. It's going to happen.
Upcoming: at San Antonio, vs Minnesota
13 9-21Along with the Comets, this team put the "lone" in Lone Star State in 2004 as the two teams combined to win only 21 games. But the re-building process in under way. Marie Ferdinand is healthy and is a star in the league and rookie Kendra Wecker should have an opportunity to play in new coach Dan Hughes system. Shannon Johnson is dependable at the point but won't be a primary scorer. In the tough Western Conference, the Silver Stars just aren't ready to contend yet, but the talent is beginning to take shape and the team will be exciting to watch.
Upcoming: vs Houston, at Detroit



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