WNBA.com Power Rankings: May 15, 2006

More prediction than anything, the first edition of the Power Rankings in 2006 is pure speculation. Treat it as such. That said, there is relevant and pertinent information on which we can base these early thoughts... starting with how last season ended. Sacramento on top, Charlotte on the bottom and Chicago nowhere to be found. Of course, that is not the be-all and end-all (see: New York). We have also taken into account the abundance of offseason moves, returning players, draft picks, injuries, recoveries, babies, coaches and more. So here is our best guess of how the power shakes out early this season.

2006 WNBA.com POWER RANKINGS: Preseason Report
1 25-9You know the deal... on top until someone dethrones the defending champion. It might be the last honor accorded the Monarchs (not to mention the whole ring and banner celebration) before all slates are wiped clean again. With their nucleus back in place, there is no reason to think they can't do it again.
Upcoming: vs. Phoenix, at Chicago
2 26-8Two-time finalists, the Sun had the best record in the regular season last year, but ran out of gas in the Finals. If anything, the Sun improved their depth, losing Brooke Wyckoff but gaining Erin Phillips and Donna Loffhagen. The biggest question will be the health of Lindsay Whalen's ankle. But until they prove us wrong, they're the best in the East.
Upcoming: vs. New York, at Minnesota
3 19-15 The Comets returned to the Western Conference Finals last season and could be back there again. A full season with Dawn Staley, in her farewell tour, plus Swoopes and Thompson on top of their games... then throw in All-Star Michelle Snow, veteran Tamecka Dixon and a deeper squad than last year... sold.
Upcoming: vs. San Antonio, at Seattle
4 20-14A lack of depth last season was the result of many offseason changes after their 2004 title. However, the Storm got stronger in this past offseason, which is welcome news to Bird, Jackson and Lennox. Burse was much improved, Castro Marques is solid and newcomer Wendy Palmer is already paying dividends for this team.
Upcoming: vs. Los Angeles, vs. Houston
5 16-18Despite a sub-.500 record last season, this is still one of the most talented teams in the league, if not the most talented. With five All-Stars in their starting lineup, Nolan, Smith, Cash, Ford and Riley can beat you in a lot of different ways. The return of Kedra Holland-Corn cannot be emphasized enough and Kara Braxton will be even stronger inside this season. Look out for a Finals sleeper...
Upcoming: at Indiana, vs. Minnesota
6 16-18The Washington Mystics were very much in the hunt for a playoff spot until a poor final two weeks in 2005. But additions to the roster make this a more experienced and more-balanced team. But don't be confused... this is Alana Beard's team. She will have more help than ever, though with newcomers Nikki Teasley and Crystal Robinson as well as Chasity Melvin and DeLisha Milton-Jones.
Upcoming: vs. New York, at Charlotte
7 17-17Leslie + Holdsclaw are as good a 1-2 punch as it gets in this league. Injuries to Nikki Teasley and Mwadi Mabika limited the team in 2005, but a healthy Mabika and the addition of last year's best rookie, Temeka Johnson, should be a spark for the... that was too easy. Leslie has been a force in the preseason, but bench scoring could be a chink in this team's armour.
Upcoming: at Seattle, at Charlotte
8 15-11

An Eastern Conference Finalist a season ago, this team looks quite different than it did after walking off the court in Conencticut last September. With all the change, Catchings is still da' woman and Bevilaqua is still is busy bee on both ends, but chemistry in the early going is a big question. Anna DeForge and Charlotte Smith are veterans capable of fitting in and Tamika Whitmore makes the Fever a more credible team inside.
Upcoming: vs. Detroit, at San Antonio

9 16-18Oh, Mercury how you taunt me with your up-tempo ways. Do I think you will score lots of points? Yes. Do I think Cappie Pondexter is a great addition? Sure. Will you miss Maria Stepanova and Penny Taylor (if she doesn't play in 2006)? Yup. Can you get over the playoff hump without an improved frontcourt? Not likely. Is this your year? I'm thinking not. Do I still love Diana Taurasi? Of course. Will she love me after reading this? Gggggggg.
Upcoming: at Sacramento, vs. Seattle
10 14-20The Lynx will be an improved team this season. Plain and simple. They have a talented, young frontcourt and a talented, young backcourt. Are they ready for the postseason? Probably not yet, but they're not far off. It is strange starting a season in Minnesota without Katie Smith, but the new-look Lynx will be entertaining and even competitive. With Shona Thorburn still nursing her ankle, curiosity demands us asking if Suzie McConnell Serio is thinking about starting an all-rookie backcourt this season. I will now get a papercut thumbing through media guides to see the last time that's happened in the WNBA.
Upcoming: vs. Connecticut, at Detroit
11 7-27Another team that I think will be more improved this season, I've gone all the way through this feature and not dropped the "p" word yet. Not bad... but it's unavoidable. There will be a tremendous amount of parity in the WNBA... more so than in the past. The Silver Stars had as good a Draft as anyone and seem to emerging from their cursed recent past. Kendra Wecker is healthy, LaToya Thomas is healthy and a backcourt of Johnson and Johnson just sounds healthy, doesn't it?
Upcoming: at Houston, vs. Indiana
12 18-16Becky Hammon is back! And now for the bad news... The New York Liberty are in the first stages of a rebuilding period that could see the team miss the playoffs for only the second time in ten seasons. Loree Moore's development could push Becky back to the 2 so she can score more. It is also time for Shameka Christon to step up and play a major role. Sherill Baker is an intriguing rookie who could go either way - up or down. But it is in the frontcourt that the Liberty will be most depleted. Wauters, Baranova, Robinson, White and Frett are not back with the team in 2006. I can hear Maddie howling now...
Upcoming: at Connecticut, at Washington
13 6-28The Charlotte Sting had the worst record in the WNBA last season, losing a lot of games for a lot of reasons. Many of those reasons, such as consistency on the bench and player health have been rectified. However, guard scoring has not. I'm not sure a team can win if it does not get consistent scoring from its backcourt. Allison Feaster has recovered from giving birth earlier in the year, but questions remain.
Upcoming: vs. Chicago, vs. Los Angeles
14 NAIt would be wrong to pick a team that has never won a real game or even played a meaningful game to finish over New York and Charlotte, but I nearly did it. The Sky may be an expansion team, but they have a good crop of players capable of keeping their team in games and winning some of them. They have a great attitude and should be an entertaining team to watch in 2006. That said, it will be tough for this team to win more than 12 games. The WNBA is just too good.
Upcoming: at Charlotte, vs. Sacramento