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SECAUCUS, N.J., May 13, 2008 —
Like every Tuesday during the season, it's time for the latest edition of the
WNBA.com Power Rankings. And given that the regular season hasn't started yet,
speculation reigns supreme in this week's list. Of course, team outlooks have
been affected by offseason moves (Seattle), nagging injuries (Indiana) and the
return of a legend/the No. 1 pick in the draft (Los Angeles). It's still early,
but this is the way we'll tip off the season.
Take a look at our full list below, then let
us know what you think in our Fan Voice. Post your own Power Rankings and
discuss them with your fellow fans.
Lisa Leslie comes back from
a year off to have a baby. The Sparks win the lottery -- literally -- and
select do-everything superstar F/C/G Candace Parker with the top pick in
the draft. Yes, the Sparks tied for the worst record in the league last
year, but if only one of these had taken place, Coach Michael Cooper's bunch
would still have shot up in the rankings. But they get both the WNBA's all-time
greatest center and the player many think may eventually supplant her as
the best ever? Not to mention DeLisha Milton-Jones, a seemingly healthy
Temeka Johnson and another year under the belt for Sidney Spencer? On paper, that
sounds like the No. 1 team in anyone's book.
It might seem harsh to put the
defending champions third, especially with Diana Taurasi
and Cappie Pondexter both coming off huge winters overseas, but the loss
of Penny Taylor until after the Olympics is a big one. Sure, free agent
signings Le'Coe Willingham and Barbara Farris to go along with Tangela Smith
will help fill the void in the post, but they simply don't seem to fit as
well with the Merc's run-and-gun style of play. Look for Dee and CP to be
even more involved on the offensive side of things, but defense is still
huge in the WNBA. They'll have to hold down the fort until Penny shows up.
Many were surprised when Dan Hughes' squad of
puzzle pieces from random teams came together so quickly in 2007, but the
fact that the Silver Stars reached the Western Conference Finals says two
significant things about this team. (1) Dan Hughes is a good coach. (2) This
is a team full of good players. And nothing has changed about that fact
heading into 2008. Becky Hammon returns to lead the way, while former teammate
in New York, Ann Wauters, returns from overseas to join the squad. With
a healthy Erin Buescher, this is a team designed to go deep into the playoffs.
No other team made as many big-time
moves this offseason as Seattle, as Sheryl Swoopes, Swin Cash and Yolanda Griffith were all added to a mix that already included stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. But several questions remain: (1) How will
new coach Brian Agler mesh the multitude of stars at his disposal? Not all
of them can score 20 points a night. (2) How much time will Jackson
miss to train with her native Australia for this summer's Olympics? She
shouldn't miss that much, but it could make the difference between making
the playoffs and not. (3) Can the veteran-laden Storm stay healthy for the
whole season? The recent injuries to Swoopes, Cash and Griffith suggest
that this could be an issue. Still, if they stay healthy, this is a team
to be reckoned with in the West.
The health of all-everything forward Tamika Catchings
is still very much in question looking ahead to the start of the season,
but if Catch is deemed healthy, the Fever will be among the East's elite
teams. The addition of Katie Douglas is huge to Indiana on both the offensive
and defensive ends. In fact, with Tully Bevilaqua joining Douglas on the perimeter, Indiana may have the league's toughest defense.
But with Catchings iffy, Tammy Sutton-Brown and youngsters Tan White and
Alison Bales will have to take on bigger roles.
The addition of No. 2 overall pick Sylvia Fowles
immediately makes the Sky an improved team from 2007. And given that they
finished just two games out of the playoffs, the postseason is definitely
within range for new coach/GM Steven Key. Especially with another year under
the collective belts of Candice Dupree and 2007 Rookie of the Year Armintie Price, the Sky will be a team that surprises some people in 2008.
The loss of legendary center
Yolanda Griffith and young forward DeMya Walker loom rather large in Sacramento this season, though the
Monarchs will still be in the playoff mix. Rebekkah Brunson has the skills
to be a bona fide star and Nicole Powell returns to help her out on the
wing. Kara Lawson may have to step up her game, whether she joins the starting
lineup or remains the first player off the bench. And it remains to be seen
whether first-round pick Laura Harper will immediately be thrown into the
fire as a starting post player at this level. Whether or not she succeeds
this season could have a significant impact on whether or not the 2005 champs
return to the postseason.
These aren't your parents' Sun! In fact, coach
Mike Thibault's crew will look vastly different than they did even last
season. Gone are perennial All-Stars Katie Douglas (traded to Indiana),
Nykesha Sales (injured) and Margo Dydek (just had a baby) and in their places
are names like Tamika Whitmore, Amber Holt and Ketia Swanier. With terrific
holdovers like Asjha Jones and Lindsay Whalen, Connecticut will be in the
playoff chase, but a lot will depend on how quickly rookies Holt and Swanier
are able to contribute.
The Mystics will be in the running,
once again, for a playoff berth in the East, but they simply didn't make
the moves that their Eastern rivals did this offseason. Getting Taj McWilliams-Franklin
for Milton-Jones during training camp adds some rebounding and defense to
the less-than-powerful front line, but scoring could remain an issue in
Washington. Alana Beard is an All-Star and will likely be headed to Beijing
to join the Olympic Team if she remains healthy, but there are questions
at the point with Nikki Teasley having left the team. Nakia Sanford must
continue to develop at the five for Tree Rollins to reach the postseason
for the first time.
Candice Wiggins will add some much-needed scoring
punch to the Lynx and will complement All-Star Seimone Augustus nicely at
the off guard position. But the loss of point guard Lindsey Harding hurts
this young squad and once again forces Noelle Quinn into the role of floor
leader. Quinn was up to the task last season, but there are still growing
pains to be felt. Nicole Ohlde will likely be more productive at power forward,
but she needs to do more scoring and boardwork for Minnesota to compete
with the rest of the very tough Western Conference.
Tina Thompson is still among
the league's superstars, but she needs some help. Michelle Snow is still
looking for a breakout campaign at the professional level and Sancho Lyttle
continues to develop. In the backcourt, Tamecka Dixon remains a solid scorer,
but her best days are behind her. The same can be said for Shannon Johnson,
whom the Comets snagged off the free agent wire this winter, but both Dixon
and Pee Wee should help in the development of rookie guard Matee Ajavon,
who has impressed during the preseason, and last year's first-round pick
Congratulations, Atlanta! You have your WNBA
team! But sorry, they're going to struggle. Betty Lennox and Ivory Latta
are capable scorers, but they take (and miss) a lot of shots. Katie Feenstra
is a solid post player, and youngsters Camille Little and rookie Tamera Young should
be very solid players in this league, but this team simply doesn't have
the talent level yet needed to compete for a playoff spot.
Last week, Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joseph University courageously took the floor for her first college game, refusing to let an inoperable brain tumor keep her from achieving her dream – and WNBA stars Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings were on hand to lend their support.