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2018 WNBA.com Power Rankings: Week 5

Note: WNBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Tuesday during the season, are the opinion of this writer and do not reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.

There are three streaks that we have to discuss before unveiling this week’s rankings.

Phoenix’s Eight-Game Win Streak

The Mercury are scary good right now. Since Diana Taurasi returned to the Mercury in 2016 following her one-season hiatus, Phoenix has been touted as title contenders at the start of each season. In each of the past two years, the Mercury had up-and-down regular seasons, finished in the bottom half of the playoff picture, only to upend higher seeds in the early playoff rounds before succumbing in the semifinals. But this eight-game run that Phoenix is on right now, this is what was envisioned for this team all along, with Brittney Griner anchoring the inside, Diana Taurasi dominating from the perimeter and DeWanna Bonner back and doing a little bit of everything.

Los Angeles’ Four-Game Win Streak

The Sparks have won four in a row and are 6-1 with Candace Parker in the lineup after she missed the first three games of the season with a back injury. Parker is coming off back-to-back double-doubles: the first a 23-point, 11-assist gem that saw her match her career-best in assists; followed by a 16-point, 11-rebound performance that saw her grab a season-high on the boards. During L.A.’s four-game win streak, Parker is averaging 20.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 blocks with shooting splits of 60.0 FG% / 85.7 3P% / 91.3 FT%. L.A. has won its last four games by an average of 11.5 points per game, as they have held their opponents to a league-low 70.3 points per game on 38.9 FG% during this stretch.

Connecticut’s Three-Game Losing Streak

The Sun fall from atop the power rankings as they have dropped three straight games — a four-point loss at home to Washington after fighting back from a 30-point deficit, followed by double-digit road losses to Seattle and Phoenix. In their loss to the red-hot Mercury, the Sun scored a season-low 72 points as they were without both Alyssa Thomas (shoulder) and Chiney Ogwumike (knee). Part of what makes Connecticut so special is its depth and the variety of weapons that can hurt you night in and night out, so while they should be able to absorb injuries and have other players step up, they need to have their entire pack together to reach their full potential.

1. Los Angeles Sparks (8-2)

OffRtg: 103.1 (5); DefRtg: 97.6 (3); NetRtg: 5.5 (4)
Last Week: 2 (3-0)

The Sparks own the league’s best record and have looked sharp since getting their full allotment of players together. L.A. put on an offensive clinic in their win over Washington on Friday as they shot 63% from the field, 80% from three, 95% from the free throw line and assisted on 29 of their 35 made baskets (83 AST%). The Sparks narrowly edge out the Mercury for the top spot in the power rankings this week by winning their only head-to-head matchup this season (May 27) and L.A.’s opponents having a slightly better win percentage (.500 entering game with L.A.) than the Mercury’s (.444 entering game with Phoenix) during their respective win streaks.

2. Phoenix Mercury (10-3)

OffRtg: 105.2 (3); DefRtg: 99.4 (5); NetRtg: 5.8 (3)
Last Week: 3 (3-0)

While the Sparks have the best winning percentage, the Mercury are the only team in the WNBA to boast double-digit wins this early in the season. As described above, the Mercury have been brilliant during their eight-game win streak. Through 13 games, Diana Taurasi is averaging 20.2 points per game, which is on pace for her highest scoring average since 2013.

3. Seattle Storm (8-3)

OffRtg: 110.8 (1); DefRtg: 100.6 (7); NetRtg: 10.3 (2)
Last Week: 3 (2-0)

The Storm are coming off a win over Connecticut on Friday, when Breanna Stewart and Natasha Howard combined for 48 points on 15-21 shooting from the field, 4-5 from beyond the arc and 14-15 from the free throw line. While we all expected Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd to take another step in their development this season, the addition of Howard has been a substantial boost for the Storm. The fifth-year pro is posting career highs across the board (15.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 58 FG%) and has elevated Seattle’s ceiling for this season.

4. Connecticut Sun (7-4)

OffRtg: 109.5 (2); DefRtg: 98.9 (4); NetRtg: 10.5 (1)
Last Week: 1 (0-3)

As discussed above, the Sun boast one of the deepest and most balanced rosters in the WNBA, with six players averaging at least nine points per game and seven different players leading the team in scoring through their first 11 games after Morgan Tuck scored 20 in her first start of the season on Saturday due to the injuries to Ogwumike and Alyssa Thomas.

  • 5/20 vs LVA: Alex Bentley (18)
  • 5/24 vs LAS: Chiney Ogwumike (18)
  • 5/26 vs IND: Alyssa Thomas (21)
  • 6/1 at CHI: Jonquel Jones/Bentley (20 each)
  • 6/3 at WAS: Jasmine Thomas (25)
  • 6/9 vs MIN: Courtney Williams (22)
  • 6/16 at PHX: Morgan Tuck (20)

 

5. Dallas Wings (5-4)

OffRtg: 100.1 (6); DefRtg: 97.0 (2); NetRtg: 3.1 (5)
Last Week: 5 (1-1)

The Wings have the highest-scoring duo in the WNBA, with Skylar Diggins-Smith and Liz Cambage combining for 42 points per game. Diggins-Smith leads the league at 21.9 per game despite going through a cold streak with her outside shot since the calendar flipped to June. Over the last four games, Diggins-Smith is shooting 1-17 (5.9%) from beyond the arc, but has made up for it by getting to the line and shooting a near-perfect 37-39 (94.9%). Cambage is coming off a 28-point, 18-rebound performance against Las Vegas that saw her match her career-high in points (scoring 20-plus for the fifth time in six games) and setting a new career high on the boards.

6. Washington Mystics (6-5)

OffRtg: 104.3 (4); DefRtg: 105.3 (11); NetRtg: -1.0 (6)
Last Week: 7 (1-1)

The Mystics have taken a few roller coaster rides over the past week. On Wednesday, Washington built a 30-point lead on Connecticut, only to let the Sun come all the way back and take the lead before the Mystics rallied in the closing minutes to secure the victory. Two days later, it was Washington’s turn to dig out of a huge hole as they trailed by 20 to the Sparks before rallying to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter. However, the Sparks answered with a run of their own to prevent the comeback win for Washington.

7. Minnesota Lynx (4-6)

OffRtg: 98.0 (8); DefRtg: 99.5 (6); NetRtg: -1.5 (7)
Last Week: 8 (1-0)

The Lynx had the benefit of a full week between games, as they followed their 89-75 road loss to Connecticut on June 9 with an 85-71 home win over New York on June 16 behind a dominant performance from reigning MVP Sylvia Fowles (25 points, 9 rebounds, 10-13 FG). The Lynx got that win without Seimone Augustus (hamstring), who is a game-time decision for Tuesday’s matchup with Dallas. This will be their second meeting with the Wings as Fowles posted a 23-point, 20-rebound game in her first matchup with Liz Cambage this season to lead Minnesota to a win during the opening week of the season.

8. Atlanta Dream (6-5)

OffRtg: 89.9 (12); DefRtg: 94.8 (1); NetRtg: -4.9 (9)
Last Week: 6 (1-2)

The Dream are coming off a surprising 96-64 loss to the Fever on Saturday. Not only was it Indiana’s first win of the season, it was just the third time all season that Atlanta has allowed more than 80 points to their opponent. Of Atlanta’s six wins, only one has come by double digits (an 18-point win over Chicago on May 23 for their first win of the season). The last five victories have all been decided by five points or less with an average margin of victory of 3.8 points. The Dream average four fewer points than any other team (73.8), despite playing at the fourth-fastest pace (82.0). Having two of their top five scorers — Tiffany Hayes and Brittney Sykes — in walking boots isn’t going to help the scoring or the pace.

9. New York Liberty (3-6)

OffRtg: 98.9 (7); DefRtg: 103.1 (10); NetRtg: -4.2 (8)
Last Week: 9 (0-2)

The Liberty have lost two straight and four of their last five dating back to June 5. As expected, Tina Charles is leading the Liberty in scoring and rebounding, but her rebounding numbers are not up to her usual standard thus far. Since entering the WNBA in 2010, Tina Charles has led the league in rebounding four times, finished as the runner-up three times and has never finished outside of the top four. Through nine games this season, Charles ranks 12th in the league in rebounding with a career-low 6.9 per game as the Liberty are in the bottom third of the league in rebounds per game (31.8) and rebound percentage (48.3%).

10. Las Vegas Aces (3-9)

OffRtg: 94.7 (11); DefRtg: 102.5 (8); NetRtg: -7.8 (11)
Last Week: 11 (2-2)

The Aces earned their first two road wins of the season last week by defeating Indiana and New York on a back-to-back. While they closed the week with losses to Dallas and Phoenix, both games were competitive against teams in top half of the league. A’ja Wilson has not only established herself as the top rookie in this year’s class (becoming the second first-year player to post a 35-10 game), she’s ranked among the best in the league in multiple categories: points (20.5 PPG, 4th), rebounds (7.6 RPG, 10th) and blocks (1.5 BPG, 7th). The Aces visit the Storm on Tuesday (10 ET, Twitter), where they allowed a WNBA-record 17 3-pointers in their last meeting (May 31).

11. Chicago Sky (3-7)

OffRtg: 96.8 (9); DefRtg: 107.4 (12); NetRtg: -10.7 (12)
Last Week: 10 (0-2)

The Sky own the league’s longest losing streak as they have dropped four in a row and seven of their last eight games after opening the season 2-0. The root of Chicago’s struggles have been on the defensive end, where they have the league’s lowest defensive rating (107.4 points allowed per 100 possessions). They allow the second-highest field goal percentage to their opponents (46.4%) on the most field goal attempts (71.4 per game).

12. Indiana Fever (1-10)

OffRtg: 96.5 (10); DefRtg: 102.6 (9); NetRtg: -6.0 (10)
Last Week: 12 (1-2)

The Fever picked up their first win of the season in impressive fashion on Saturday with a 32-point win over Atlanta. Indiana got a combined 40 points from rookies Kelsey Mitchell (19) and Victoria Vivians (season-high 21). While Mitchell has scored consistently early in her WNBA career, Vivians is just starting to emerge following a slow start. After averaging 5.2 points in 17.4 minutes and shooting 32.7 FG% and 28.6 3P% through her first nine games. Vivians is averaging 17 points in 31 minutes on 57.1 FG% and 61.5 3P% in her last two games.