NEW YORK, August 27, 2008 — As we get set to restart the WNBA regular season on Thursday after the monthlong Olympic break, it's time for the latest edition of the WNBA.com Power Rankings. After several weeks without WNBA action, not much has changed. But while trades and signings should help teams like Connecticut, Detroit and L.A., injuries to key players make the immediate future very unclear for Seattle and Sacramento.
As always, there are plenty of close calls this week,
but that's the beauty of these rankings: there's always room for discussion.
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.
|2008 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: August 27|
TEAM (last week's ranking)
Silver Stars have the best mark in the league and had only one player overseas
in Beijing. Becky Hammon played well for Russia in earning a bronze medal,
but she didn't play so many minutes that she'll be negatively affected come
playoff time. Look for a rested Sophia Young to be firing on all cylinders
heading into the postseason.
Looking ahead: 8/28 @ PHO, 8/30 @ LA
|16-10||Mike Thibault recently
returned to his squad in Connecticut with a new lesson learned from his
time with the USA Olympic squad: "The players bought into some roles
that weren't their normal roles," he said in a teleconference Monday.
If he's able to instill that approach in his first-place Sun, there's good
reason to think they'll be the favorites in the Eastern Conference. The
return of Aussie Olympian Erin Phillips adds depth to their backcourt.
Looking ahead: 8/28 @ IND, 8/29 @ ATL, 8/31 vs. SEA
made the deal of the Olympic break, getting veteran post Taj McWilliams-Franklin
from Washington for talented youngsters Tasha Humphrey and Shay Murphy.
But with the move, it's clear that coach/GM Bill Laimbeer is aiming to win
now. Taj should adequately replace -- and could surpass -- the output of
injured forward Cheryl Ford and brings presence and leadership to a roster
already chock full of both. With a month of rest for Deanna Nolan and the
new face in the frontcourt, the road to the WNBA Finals could well lead
through the Palace of Auburn Hills again this season.
Looking ahead: 8/29 vs. NY, 8/31 @ CHI
|15-12||The Sparks' entire frontcourt
of Lisa Leslie, DeLisha Milton-Jones and Candace Parker spent most of the
month of August in Beijing. Though jet lag may play a minor part early,
coach Michael Cooper is more concerned about the strain on Parker. "In
the last two years, she has played a lot of basketball," he said Tuesday.
But an imminent signing will bolster L.A.'s frontcourt even more and a month
of practicing together should only help Cooper's backcourt. It should help
that five of the Sparks' final seven games are at home.
Looking ahead: 8/28 vs. SAC, 8/30 vs. SAN, 9/1 vs. MIN
One of the league's hotter teams heading into the
Olympic hiatus, winning six of seven games, the Liberty crept into second
place in the East by percentage points. And while they seem to have a
relatively mild schedule over their final eight games, it will take solid
play from Shemka Christon and Janel McCarville to earn home-court advantage,
even for the first round of the playoffs. Last season's experience in
the postseason should also help veteran guards Loree Moore and Erin Thorn
as well as newly healthy Jessica Davenport.
|17-9||The loss of reigning
MVP Lauren Jackson (for 4-6 weeks as she undergoes ankle surgery tomorrow)
hurts. A lot. There has also been speculation about Swin Cash going under
the knife as well to help fix nagging issues with her back. Whether that
happens or not, the Storm have a tough row to hoe without their superstar.
Sue Bird, fresh off a gold medal with the U.S. in Beijing, will be under
a good deal of pressure to lead this squad and to contribute more scoring
than normal. Second-year forward Camille Little, too, will continue to play
a vital role in LJ's absence.
Looking ahead: 8/28 vs. HOU, 8/31 @ CON, 9/2 @ ATL
of five straight heading into the break, the Olympics clearly came at the
wrong time for the Comets. And while Tina Thompson was one of the U.S. team's
stalwarts in Beijing, Hamchetou Maiga-Ba injured her ankle while playing
for her home country of Mali and her immediate status remains unknown. The
good news, however, is that the Comets have shown amazing resilience all
season long. And with youngsters like Sancho Lyttle and Matee Ajavon in
the mix, they'll be a team to watch the rest of the way.
Looking ahead: 8/28 @ SEA, 8/30 @ SAC, 9/2 vs. NY
|15-12||Like Seattle, Sacramento
has been heavily bitten by the injury bug. Rebekkah Brunson had arthroscopic
surgery three weeks ago and could be ready to begin practicing next week.
DeMya Walker, who surprised many by re-signing with the Monarchs on July
21, is cleared to practice and could be suiting up for live action shortly.
Also, according to the Sacramento
Bee, point guard Ticha Penicheiro has been sporting a shoulder brace
after an elbow from Nicole Powell popped her clavicle out of place. Chelsea
Newton and Kim Smith are also working through sprained ankles. Despite the
injuries, Sacramento will be tough down the stretch, especially given the
success of Kara Lawson in Beijing.
Looking ahead: 8/28 @ LA, 8/30 vs. HOU
Augustus is returning. Candice Wiggins has been tearing it up. Fellow rookies
Nicky Anosike and Charde Houston have had a month to rest after coming straight
to the WNBA following their senior seasons in college. Lindsey Harding is
seemingly healthy. Could Minnesota be on the verge of its first playoff
appearance since 2004? The next eight games, five of which are away from
home, will tell the tale.
Looking ahead: 8/30 vs. WAS, 9/1 @ LA, 9/3 @ PHO
|12-14||A seemingly healthy Tamika
Catchings returns to the Fever, as does Aussie point guard Tully Bevilaqua.
Both played well in Beijing, though both should be rested enough to come
in and play big minutes as Indiana pushes for a playoff spot in the East.
Those two, combined with a rested Katie Douglas, Tammy Sutton-Brown and
Ebony Hoffman, makes up arguably the league's toughest defensive starting
five. And we all know that defense wins championships...
Looking ahead: 8/28 vs. CON, 8/30 vs. ATL, 9/2 @ WAS
champs struggled, losing three of four heading into the Olympic break. They
stand, shockingly, in last place in the West, but are just three games back
of the Monarchs for the fourth and final playoff spot. USA stars Diana Taurasi
and Cappie Pondexter have returned to the States and will no doubt be looking
to build off of their gold-medal performances in Beijing, but this is a
different group of teammates. The loss of center Tangela Smith until the
middle of September hurts mightily and will likely force rookie LaToya Pringle
into a more prevalent role at both ends of the court.
Looking ahead: 8/28 vs. SAN, 9/3 vs. MIN
and Managing Partner Sheila Johnson said during the break that "The
Mystics have been operating for too long without a long-term plan. In the
three years that I have been (here), our thinking has been far too shortsighted
and our player-personnel decisions are far too needs-based. That all ends
today." The trade of McWilliams-Franklin to Detroit doesn't appear
to help the Mystics immediately, but the addition of Humphrey and Murphy
should pay dividends for years to come. And there's no guarantee the playoffs
are out of reach this season, as Washington sits just two games out of the
fourth spot in the East.
Looking ahead: 8/29 vs. CHI, 8/30 @ MIN, 9/2 vs. IND
center Sylvia Fowles was in many people's estimations the most dominant
women's player in Beijing. For any team. She led the gold-medal-winning
USA in scoring and rebounding per game... and she's just 22. It may take
a game or two to get back up to speed with her Sky teammates, but now that
Fowles is back to 100 percent physically, the trio of Candice Dupree, Jia
Perkins and Big Syl should make this team a contender for years to come.
Looking ahead: 8/28 @ NY, 8/29 @ WAS, 8/31 vs. DET
|3-24||The only team officially
eliminated from the playoffs, the Dream's motivation the rest of the way
will be different from that of other teams around the league. They're looking
to next year and beyond, but that doesn't mean they can't play spoiler to
those teams with postseason hopes. Second-year guard Ivory Latta continues
to improve with every minute on the court as does rookie Tamera Young. Brazilian
center Erika Desouza should also be back and healthy, which will provide
a boost to Atlanta's already huge frontcourt.
Looking ahead: 8/29 vs. CON, 8/30 @ IND, 9/2 vs. SEA