Week 15 Power Rankings: Defending Champs Back On Top

Minnesota’s run at the top of this season’s WNBA.com Power Rankings began in Week 3 back on May 30. They were a perfect 6-0 in May, 6-1 in June and 7-1 in July. They got off to the best start in franchise history and were within striking distance of the single-greatest seasons in WNBA history.

Then the calendar flipped to August. In the first game of the month, Lindsay Whalen broke her left hand and has been out ever since. Minnesota is just 2-4 without their starting point guard in the lineup and the Lynx have lost three of their last four games.

While they remain atop the WNBA standings, their lead over Los Angeles for the best record in the league has dwindled to 1.5 games. Last year’s finalists have split their first two matchups of the season and meet for a third and final time in the regular season on Sunday. That game could have home-court implications should these two teams meet in a Finals rematch.

As the Lynx have taken a step back, the defending champion Sparks have gone 7-2 since the All-Star break, including a win over the Lynx 11 days ago. While they still have work to do to overtake Minnesota for the No. 1 overall seed, the Sparks do overtake the Lynx in this week’s Power Rankings.

1. Los Angeles Sparks

Last Week’s Ranking: 2
2017 Record: 21-8; This Week: 2-0
OffRtg: 107.3 (2); DefRtg: 98.5 (2); NetRtg: 8.8 (2); TS%: 56.5 (2)

Los Angeles is coming off a double-overtime thriller over Chicago that saw four Sparks record double-doubles. They play four of their final five games at home, beginning Tuesday against San Antonio (10:30 ET, NBA TV).

2. Minnesota Lynx

Last Week’s Ranking: 1
2017 Record: 22-6; This Week: 1-2
OffRtg: 107.1 (3); DefRtg: 94.1 (1); NetRtg: 13.0 (1); TS%: 55.3 (3)

Outside of a 111-point explosion over a struggling Fever squad, the Lynx offense has stumbled over the past two weeks. In three of their last four games, the Lynx have been held to 64 points or fewer and scored a season-low 61 points twice. Their first chance to get on track comes Tuesday at home against Phoenix (8 ET, NBA TV) before the team embarks on a three-game road trip.

3. Connecticut Sun

Last Week’s Ranking: 3
2017 Record: 19-10; This Week: 2-1
OffRtg: 107.5 (1); DefRtg: 100.0 (4); NetRtg: 7.5 (3); TS%: 53.9 (5)

Connecticut has been the hottest team in the WNBA since the All-Star break, winning seven of their eight games and outscoring teams by 14.1 points per 100 possessions – nearly three points better than the Sparks or Lynx. This week the Sun have their final two home games of the regular season before closing things out with a three-game road trip.

4. New York Liberty

Last Week’s Ranking: 5
2017 Record: 17-12; This Week: 2-0
OffRtg: 101.0 (8); DefRtg: 99.7 (3); NetRtg: 1.3 (5); TS%: 51.4 (10)

New York has won five straight games – the longest active streak in the league – and enters this week coming off consecutive wins over the top three teams in the league (Los Angeles, Connecticut and Minnesota). The Liberty will look for their sixth win in a row on Wednesday in Indiana (7 ET, League Pass).

5. Washington Mystics

Last Week’s Ranking: 4
2017 Record: 17-12; This Week: 1-2
OffRtg: 104.8 (4); DefRtg: 102.5 (7); NetRtg: 2.3 (4); TS%: 52.7 (7)

At 17-12, the Mystics and Liberty are currently tied for the fourth-best record in the league and have split the first two games of their season series. That makes Friday’s meeting in New York crucial for the Mystics as they look to secure a top-four seed and the first round bye that comes with it.

6. Phoenix Mercury

Last Week’s Ranking: 6
2017 Record: 15-14; This Week: 1-1
OffRtg: 102.8 (7); DefRtg: 102.4 (6); NetRtg: 0.4 (6); TS%: 54.5 (4)

The Mercury can clinch a playoff berth with a win over Minnesota on Tuesday (8 ET, NBA TV). While they have an outside shot of climbing into the top four and getting a first round bye, but they will most likely have to face two single-elimination games like they did last year.

7. Seattle Storm

Last Week’s Ranking: 9
2017 Record: 14-16; This Week: 3-0
OffRtg: 104.5 (5); DefRtg: 104.3 (9); NetRtg: 0.2 (7); TS%: 57.6 (1)

Since making the coaching change, the Seattle Storm have won four straight games to climb to the the No. 7 spot in the playoff picture by virtue of owning the tiebreaker against Dallas. Both teams have a 2.5 game cushion over Chicago, so barring a collapse, the Storm should return to the postseason. Seattle has four games remaining in the regular season, giving Sue Bird four shots to get the 12 assists she needs to become the all-time leader in the category.

8. Dallas Wings

Last Week’s Ranking: 8
2017 Record: 14-16; This Week: 1-2
OffRtg: 103.6 (6); DefRtg: 107.5 (11); NetRtg: -4.0 (9); TS%: 52.1 (8)

The Wings had three players record double-doubles in a win over Atlanta on Saturday to snap a two-game skid. Dallas opens a three-game road trip Wednesday in Connecticut (7 ET, Twitter) before closing the season at home against New York. The Wings hold a 2.5 game advantage over Chicago for the eighth and final playoff spot with one game left between the teams (Aug. 30) that will determine the winner of the season series should a tiebreaker be necessary to determine who is in and who is out.

9. Chicago Sky

Last Week’s Ranking: 7
2017 Record: 11-18; This Week: 0-2
OffRtg: 99.2 (9); DefRtg: 104.4 (10); NetRtg: -5.2 (10); TS%: 53.5 (6)

After winning three straight to grab the No. 8 seed, the Sky have lost two straight and now find themselves on the outside looking in for the postseason. The Sky have five games remaining and will have to go nearly perfect if they hope to secure a playoff berth. They have matchups at home against Dallas (Aug. 30) and Seattle (Sept. 3) that are must wins as they would provide tiebreakers over the two teams that lie ahead of them in the standings.

10. San Antonio Stars

Last Week’s Ranking: 10
2017 Record: 7-23; This Week: 0-1
OffRtg: 96.1 (12); DefRtg: 104.0 (8); NetRtg: -7.9 (11); TS%: 51.1 (11)

While they have been eliminated from the playoffs, the Stars face three playoff-bound teams in their final four games, beginning Tuesday against Los Angeles (10:30 ET, NBA TV), so they will have an impact on the playoff picture.

11. Atlanta Dream

Last Week’s Ranking: 11
2017 Record: 10-20; This Week: 0-2
OffRtg: 97.4 (11); DefRtg: 101.3 (5); NetRtg: -3.9 (8); TS%: 49.0 (12)

Atlanta’s losing streak has reach nine games as the team is just 1-9 since the All-Star break and are on the verge of playoff elimination. Similar to the Stars, they face three playoff-bound teams in their final four games, beginning with the suddenly-hot Storm on Wednesday (10 ET, League Pass).

12. Indiana Fever

Last Week’s Ranking: 12
2017 Record: 9-21; This Week: 0-2
OffRtg: 97.9 (10); DefRtg: 108.8 (12); NetRtg: -10.9 (12); TS%: 52.0 (9)

Indiana’s record playoff streak is officially over as the Fever were mathematically eliminated from the postseason last week. To make matters worse, Briann January (torn meniscus in right knee) became the team’s third guard to suffer a season-ending injury, joining Tiffany Mitchell and Shenise Johnson.