The Minnesota Lynx are back on top this week after a massive shakeup of the ranking board. The Los Angeles Sparks and San Antonio Silver Stars have stumbled as of late making the race for playoff seeding an all-out fight to the finish.
But all the movement comes secondary to how superb the Minnesota Lynx are playing as the rankings board is becoming an even better predictor -- based on body of work -- of which teams will face off in the WNBA Finals this year. Time to rank 'em!
|2012 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: 9/5|
|TEAM (last week)||W / L||NOTES|
It's hard to argue right now that the Minnesota Lynx aren't the best team in the league and never was that more evident than in their win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday. Seimone Augustus sunk a career-high six 3-pointers in the game and in doing so she surpassed Katie Smith as Minnesota's all-time leading scorer with 3,620 career points. The Sparks have been dominant this year scoring points in transition, but Maya Moore helped shut them down on defense by picking up a career high of seven steals in the game. The Lynx are on a nine-game winning streak now and if the Sparks can't shut them down, it will be hard to find anyone else that can. The Connecticut Sun, San Antonio Silver Stars and the Los Angeles Sparks have all been playing solid basketball this season, but nobody has been playing as consistent, not to mention as tenacious, as the Lynx.
Upcoming Games: 9/7 vs. Atlanta, 9/9 @San Antonio
The Connecticut Sun are not only the top team in the Eastern Conference, they have the best road record in the league as the only team to have double digit wins in that category. The team won all but one game in their four-game road stretch they wrapped up on Tuesday which ended with a win against the Washington Mystics. Tina Charles put up a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds, complemented by Kara Lawson's 16 points and Mistie Mims' 15. But as impressive as those numbers are, the Mystics almost won the game with the outcome being decided in the final minute of the game. The Sun's record clearly illustrates they have the strength to close games with wins but their big weakness is being unable to dominate their opponents. And considering how stacked many teams in the league are this year, being dominant is a prerequisite to win a title.
Upcoming Games: 9/7 vs. Phoenix, 9/9 vs. Chicago
The Indiana Fever are on a five-game winning streak that helped them clinch the second playoff spot in the Eastern Conference over the weekend. Reigning MVP Tamika Catchings has been indispensable for the Fever putting up at least 17 points, five rebounds and two steals during the team's last three games. The big disclaimer, though, for the Fever's winning steak is they've been winning against lower ranked teams in the league. So, while the Fever have clinched the playoff spot they rightfully deserve, how they will fare against more formidable opponents down the stretch remains to be seen.
Upcoming Games: 9/5 @Atlanta, 9/7 @San Antonio
Los Angeles (1)
The Los Angeles Sparks have taken a tumbling on the rankings board in the midst of their three-game losing streak, which includes one to the Tulsa Shock - a team with only six wins. It's hard to believe the Sparks are the same team that was on a nine-game winning streak at the time of last week's Power Rankings. But make no mistake about it, it's hard to find a team as stacked as the Sparks' lineup with players like Candace Parker, Kristi Toliver, Nneka Ogwumike and Alana Beard. Each of them are scoring monsters in their own right and they all put up numbers last week to prove that. But its turnovers, specifically ones in transition, that the team seems to be struggling with. The Minnesota Lynx figured that out Tuesday and exploited it with Maya Moore's seven steals. If the Sparks can hone in on not giving up the ball so easily in transition, they will get back to being a force to be reckoned with in the league.
Upcoming Games: 9/7 @ Washington, 9/9 @ New York
San Antonio (3)
The San Antonio Silver Stars have followed up on their head-turning 12-game winning streak by losing four out of the last five games. Offensively the team is playing beautifully. In the past three games, Sophia Young has averaged 23.6 points and eight rebounds for the Silver Stars (It's worth noting she reached a career high of 32 points during the team's last loss to the Mercury). But shutting down their opponents on the defensive front is what the team needs to be focusing on. Coach Dan Hughes has been praised for instilling some of the best teamwork the league has seen this season and the Silver Stars can regain their underdog status if they hone in on defensive mistakes.
Upcoming Games: 9/7 vs. Indiana, 9/9 vs. Minnesota
The Atlanta Dream picked up an impressive win against the Connecticut Sun over the weekend - a badly needed one considering all the drama going on with the team right now. Angel McCoughtry returned from her suspension and came off the bench racking up 24 points - all but two of them in the second half. McCoughtry is the team's most crucial piece and without her the Dream will be hard pressed to go to a third-straight WNBA Finals. With a new coach and all sorts of rumblings about team morale being low these days, the Dream need to come together as soon as possible or they will be trampled on by their opponents. They are the defending Eastern Conference champions and need to get back to that mindset if they plan on getting anywhere in the next few weeks.
Upcoming Games: 9/5 vs. Indiana, 9/7 @Minnesota
The Seattle Storm's roster is finally full strength with the return of Lauren Jackson from the Olympics and Ann Wauters and Tina Thompson returning from injuries. At 11-14, the team has several games left in the season to turn their record around and get above .500, and clinching the final playoff spot in the Western Conference should come with ease. But how they will compete come playoff time, considering how dominant the Minnesota Lynx, Los Angeles Sparks and San Antonio Silver Stars have been this season, is the big question.
Upcoming Games: 9/6 vs. Tulsa, 9/8 @Tulsa
A healthy Epiphanny Prince is exactly what the Chicago Sky have needed the past couple of weeks as the team beat the Los Angeles Sparks, 85-74, over the weekend. Prince put up 17 points and nine assists that game helping the Sky return to the dominating brand of basketball they started off the season with before Prince was sidelined with a foot injury. The Sky are dead even with the New York Liberty and it's likely the final playoff spot in the East will be between the two. Interestingly enough, the two teams face off with each other on Friday. But if you compare the Liberty's heavy reliance on Cappie Pondexter to the Sky's triple threat of Epiphany Prince, Sylvia Fowles and Swin Cash, Chicago appears to have the advantage for who will take that playoff spot. But hey, its the WNBA, and this season proved more than ever that just about anything can happen.
Upcoming Games: 9/7 @ New York, 9/9 @Connecticut
New York (9)
The New York Liberty are slowly gaining momentum after a sluggish performance for most of the season. The team's biggest problem is relying too much on their leading scorer, Cappie Pondexter. As phenomenal of a player she is, she cannot be the sole savior of the team. The Liberty might be 10-16, but most of their wins this season have been over the likes of the league's lower ranked teams (Case in point, the Liberty beat the Washington Mystics over the weekend after losing three games in a row to the likes of the Los Angeles Sparks, Seattle Storm and Indiana Fever). The team is tied with the Chicago Sky for the fourth playoff spot in the East thus making their hopes to make the playoffs a more than just a pipe dream, but the Liberty has their work cut out for them if they want to get anywhere in the post season.
Upcoming Games: 9/5 vs. Phoenix, 9/7 vs.Chicago
It's very easy to beat up on the Shock with their 6-20 record. But you could say that the Tulsa Shock have the most growth potential of any team in the league right now and they proved just that with a win against the Los Angeles Sparks this past week. Ivory Latta put up a double double with 21 points and 14 assists that game and she had plenty of help from Glory Johnson's 16 points and six rebounds. And, this is all without their monster center Liz Cambage - imagine if she had hopped on a plane and came back to this help this team. Clearly this season may not be the one for the Tulsa Shock to move anywhere in the single digits on the rankings board, but don't write this team off in the years to come. The biggest promise they have is youth. The oldest player on the team is only 29 years old (Temeka Johnson). Give rookies Glory Johnson and Riquna Williams some time to grow and bring back Cambage into the mix, and the Tulsa Shock could very much be a playoff contender in due time.
Upcoming Games: 8/28 vs. Indiana, 8/19 @ Minnesota
The Phoenix Mercury beat the San Antonio Silver Stars over the weekend in a badly needed win for the team. Diana Taurasi was back to her explosive ways putting up 25 points for the Mercury, but the spotlight at the moment is heavily on DeWanna Bonner. She's been the team's breakout star this season in Taurasi's absence and was rightfully named the league's Player of the Week. In the Silver Stars game, Bonner scored 22 points and racked up nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Injuries may have severely handicapped the Mercury from winning a championship this year, but the roster for winning one is still there. It's almost scary to think about how explosive the team will be on offense with a lineup next season that includes Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, DeWanna Bonner, and Samantha Prahalis.
Upcoming Games: 9/5 vs. New York, 9/7 @Connecticut
The Washington Mystics have struggled all season to develop a winning chemistry and their current six-game losing streak is evident of that. They made a bold move of gutting their roster in the offseason and it goes without saying that the move hasn't paid off yet. Crystal Langhorne cannot be the only person putting up explosive numbers for the team (and she definitely has been, she had 23 points and nine rebounds in the team's last loss to the Connecticut Sun) if they want to move anywhere on the rankings board. In fairness, many of the games the Mystics lost have been close, including the last one against the East-leading Sun that was determined in essentially the final minute of the game. But still, a loss is a loss. The rest of the Mystics roster needs to step it up to complement Langhorne if the team wants to be a worthy competitor in the league.
Upcoming Games: 9/7 vs. Los Angeles, 9/9 @ Atlanta