WNBA.com Power Rankings: June 10, 2009

Considering that only four days of play have been completed in the 2009 season, it may be a little early to unveil our first edition of the WNBA.com Power Rankings. But we figured it is never too early to start the debate as to who is the best team in the league.

Opening weekend gave us our first glimpse at some revamped and improved teams in the league as well as the perennial powerhouses that always live above the fold on this list. The result was a bit surprising, but thoroughly entertaining, and I’m sure it will make these rankings highly debatable.

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.

2009 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: June 10

TEAM (last ranking*) W / L NOTES
1
Minnesota (11)
2-0 The Lynx made the most impressive statement of opening weekend, averaging 99 points in blowout wins over the Sky and Fever on back-to-back nights. What made Minnesota’s performance even more impressive is that they did it with a head coach that had been on the job for just three days when the season opened. The numbers the Lynx have put up as a team and as individuals have been off the charts – Seimone Augustus (.625 FG%, 21.0 ppg), Charde Houston (.667 FG%, 19.0 ppg), Candice Wiggins (.500 FG%, 15.0 ppg) and Nicky Anosike (.714 FG%, 14.0 ppg). The question now is can the Lynx keep this up? The scoring and shooting percentages are bound to cool off a little bit, but can they continue to pick up W’s when that happens? They were unable to do so a year ago when they opened the season 5-0, but finished with a 16-18 mark and out of the playoffs.
Looking ahead: June 10 vs. Los Angeles, June 12 vs. Seattle
2
Seattle (3)
2-1 After opening the season with a pair of wins over the Monarchs in a home-and-home set, the Storm was unable to make it 3-0 last night in Indianapolis as they were tripped up by the Fever. Even with that loss, the Storm has looked like one of the best teams early on with Lauren Jackson back and in MVP form (23.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, .605 FG%), Sue Bird running the show effectively (10.7 ppg, 7.0 apg) and Swin Cash looking more comfortable every game as she works her way back from offseason back surgery. Her strong performance against the Fever – 14 points on five-of-seven shooting, four rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes off the bench – could have head coach Brian Agler tempted to insert her into the starting lineup soon.
Looking ahead: June 12 @ Minnesota, June 14 @ Chicago
3
Washington (13)
2-0 The Mystics are right up there with Minnesota in terms of “wow” factor after opening weekend. Washington, which won just 10 games a year ago, has come out of the gate with wins over Connecticut on the road and Atlanta at home in a weekend back-to-back. In Connecticut, the Mystics were sparked by Marissa Coleman, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, who hit all four of her 3-point attempts on her way to 16 points in her WNBA debut. In the home opener it was the familiar face of Alana Beard that wowed the crowd with a 27-point, five-rebound, five-steal performance as the Mystics rebounded from a slow start to claim the win. Whether the Mystics can keep this pace up remains to be seen, but they'll have a good test tonight when they face the defending champion Shock in Detroit.
Looking ahead: June 10 @ Detroit, June 19 @ Atlanta
4
Los Angeles (5)
1-1 The Sparks – the preseason pick to win the WNBA title by the league’s GMs – looked great and awful in the span of three days as they blew out the defending champion Shock on opening day at the Staples Center, but were demolished by 29 points just two days later at the hands of the same Shock team. Tina Thompson – who currently leads the team in both scoring (16.0 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg) – has filled in brilliantly for the recovering Candace Parker. No surprise there. What is surprising early on is the struggles of Lisa Leslie, who is averaging just 7.0 points on .318 percent shooting, which head coach Michael Cooper attributes to a sprained thumb injury from training camp. Leslie and the Sparks should rebound from Monday’s embarrassing loss and find their stride as the season progresses. With a number of new faces and the eventual return of Parker, the Sparks will need some time before we see just how good they can be.
Looking ahead: June 10 @ Minnesota, June 12 @ Indiana
5
Detroit (2)
1-1 The Shock are in the same boat as the Sparks in terms of early performance (they played each other, so each had a blowout win and blowout loss) and expectations. The Shock are the pick to represent the East in the WNBA Finals for the fourth straight year, but in order to get there they will need to find health and consistency. The Shock are missing three of their top frontline players at the moment – Cheryl Ford (knee), Plenette Pierson (shoulder) and Kara Braxton (suspension) – which puts even more pressure on Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan to carry the load. Nolan took the lead on Monday with a 27-point performance against the Sparks. Until some of their post players return, Smith and Nolan will likely have to put up similar performances each night in order for the Shock to win games. Fortunately for Detroit, they have nine days off after tonight’s game against Washington, which gives them time to practice and get recently acquired Barbara Farris and rookie Shavonte Zellous more comfortable.
Looking ahead: June 10 vs. Washington, June 19 vs. Indiana
6
Phoenix (9)
1-0 It’s hard to judge the Mercury because we’ve only seen them play one game. However, in that one game they took down the defending Western Conference champs – San Antonio – and had their offense clicking early in the season. Led as always by the duo of Diana Taurasi (25 pts) and Cappie Pondexter (23 pts), the Mercury also received a strong performance from rookie DeWanna Bonner (16 pts, 11 reb) in her WNBA debut. New point guard Temeka Johnson looked good as well with nine assists and just two turnovers in her first game with Phoenix. The Mercury play three games in the next four days, which should give us a better look at where this team is at the moment.
Looking ahead: June 10 vs. New York, June 12 @ Sacramento
7
Connecticut (4)
1-1 After opening the season with a home loss to the Mystics, the Sun made the road trip to New York City, where they defeated the Liberty, 66-57. Lindsay Whalen and Asjha Jones have led the way early, as expected, but they will need help if the Sun is to stay in contention in the Eastern Conference. Connecticut lost forward Amber Holt to a broken hand in the preseason and has gotten little out of rookie Chante Black in her first two games as a pro – 0.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.0 bpg – and although she is in the starting lineup, she is receiving just over 13 minutes per game. The eventual return of Holt and the arrival of Sandrine Gruda from France after this month's FIBA EuroBasket championships will definitely help.
Looking ahead: June 14 vs. Atlanta, June 16 @ Chicago
8
Atlanta (14)
1-1 The Dream looked like they were on their way to a 2-0 start to the season after leading by as many as 14 points in the first quarter of Sunday’s game in Washington. Atlanta gave up the lead as quickly as they built it and the Mystics seized control of the game to prevent the Dream from an unbeaten start. Despite Sunday’s loss, Atlanta fans have reason to smile. Remember that the Dream lost 17 games before recording their first win in franchise history last year. In their sophomore year, Atlanta treated the home fans to a double-overtime win over Indiana on opening night behind strong performances from Chamique Holdsclaw (23 pts), Erika DeSouza (16 pts, 17 reb) and rookie Angel McCoughtry (15 pts). It’s going to take some time for this revamped roster to come together and hit their stride, but the talent is there to make a giant leap from last season’s four-win total.
Looking ahead: June 12 @ Chicago, June 14 @ Connecticut
9
San Antonio (1)
0-1 With only one game to judge them by and only one game in the next nine days, the Silver Stars enter the 2009 power rankings in the lower half of the list, but will likely make a leap once we see more of them near the end of the month. The defending West champs return much of their lineup from a year ago with one big omission as Belgian center Ann Wauters will not join the team until midway through the season. That leaves Ruth Riley and Katie Mattera to try to fill the void until Wauters returns. In their season opener against Phoenix, the Silver Stars received the usual outstanding performances from Sophia Young (25 pts, 10 reb) and Becky Hammon (20 pts, 8 ast) but were unable to slow down the Mercury as they gave up 90 points in the loss.
Looking ahead: June 13 vs. New York, June 19 @ New York
10
Indiana (8)
1-2 The Fever were in danger of bringing up the rear of this rankings list until last night’s gutsy win over the Storm at home. The win came at a high cost though as veteran center Yolanda Griffith went down with an Achilles’ tendon tear that has ended her season. Also hurt in the game, but able to return albeit with a swollen eye, was Katie Douglas, who scored a team-high 20 points in the win. The Fever dropped their first two games – a double-overtime loss to the Dream on opening day and a 22-point loss in their home opener – so getting in the W column last night was crucial. Indiana has a tough stretch coming up with games against the Sparks and Shock, and will need to produce more wins like last night in order to avoid falling into too deep a hole early in the season.
Looking ahead: June 12 vs. Los Angeles, June 19 @ Detroit
11
New York (6)
0-1 The Liberty opened the 2009 season with a home loss to Connecticut on Sunday and never looked in sync during the game. Loree Moore is currently coming off of the bench while she is recovering from a hamstring injury, which vaulted Leilani Mitchell into the starting lineup. Mitchell’s 55-footer to close the first half was a high point for the home crowd, while watching forward Shameka Christon lying on the floor with an ankle injury brought a hush to the Garden. Christon was able to shoot her free throws before leaving the game for good; she is listed as day to day. Along with injury concerns, the Liberty also have to shore up the boards, as they were outrebounded by the Sun, 47-33 in the loss. The Liberty are back on the floor tonight in Phoenix, followed by a visit to San Antonio, which will give us a better look at how good this New York squad is and whether we need to move them up.
Looking ahead: June 10 @ Phoenix, June 13 @ San Antonio
12
Chicago (12)
0-1 The Sky actually held an 11-point lead in the first quarter of their opening-day game against the Lynx before Minnesota caught fire and scorched the Sky for 102 points. Considering the Sky defense is anchored by All-Defensive Second Team selection Sylvia Fowles, giving up 102 points should be an aberration for coach Steven Key’s club. The Sky played well enough on offense – scoring 85 points, shooting .500 percent from the field and .571 percent from long range – but could not stop Seimone Augustus (23 pts.) or Candice Wiggins (20pts.), which could be a bad sign for Chicago’s perimeter defense. The Sky has three games in the next week, which will give them an opportunity to put this game behind them and improve their standing in the rankings.
Looking ahead: June 12 vs. Atlanta, June 14 vs. Seattle
13
Sacramento (7)
0-2 The Monarchs followed up an 0-2 preseason with an 0-2 opening to the regular season with losses to the Storm in a home-and-home set on opening weekend. The Monarchs face a similar situation this weekend in back-to-back games with the Mercury, another Western Conference foe that looked good in their season opener. The first game against the Storm – which was played in Sacramento – was tightly contested from start to finish with neither team leading by more than 10 points. The second game of the set was played in Seattle and the Storm came out hot and put the Monarchs in a hole they could not climb out of. It was the type of game the Monarchs struggle with since they do not have an explosive offense to rally them out of large deficits. Sacramento will once again have to beat teams with defense and timely scoring, which they have done successfully for years.
Looking ahead: June 12 vs. Phoenix, June 13 @ Phoenix

* last ranking refers to final regular season WNBA.com Power Rankings from 2008.

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