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.
From opening night on Friday in Phoenix to #WNBAAllDay on Sunday, the 2018 WNBA season got off to a strong start.
But from a critical standpoint, what have we really learned through the first eight games of a 204-game season? Can we draw any real conclusions about players or teams this early into the season?
The Week 1 power rankings are always a challenge because in most cases (8 of 12 to be exact) teams have only played one game. Only four teams played two games in the first weekend of the season, with the Mercury and Sky sitting atop the standings each at 2-0.
Hey, we’re on pace to go 34-0 this season!
Of course, that’s almost certainly not going to happen for the Mercury, Sky or any of the three teams sitting at 1-0 – Connecticut, Washington and Los Angeles – entering Tuesday’s games.
While it will take a few weeks to really get an idea of how these teams stack up against one another – especially since many are still shorthanded due to players that are fulfilling overseas commitments or nursing injuries – there were some players and teams that made strong first impressions. They are highlighted in the moves below.
1. Los Angeles Sparks (1-0)
Preseason Ranking: 2
OffRtg: 92.8 (9); DefRtg: 91.6 (3); NetRtg: 1.2 (6)
With Candace Parker out with a back injury (said to be minor), the Sparks went into Minnesota, sat through the ring presentation, then went out and beat their rival thanks to another buzzer-beater finish. Chelsea Gray drove the lane and put up the running layup amid four Lynx defenders that fell through the net as time expired to give the Sparks a 77-76 win. These two teams entered the season in a virtual lock for the top spot, with Minnesota given the edge as the defending champs. But L.A.’s shorthanded win – their two backup centers were also out – gives the Sparks the top spot this week.
2. Minnesota Lynx (0-1)
Preseason Ranking: 1
OffRtg: 91.6 (10); DefRtg: 92.8 (4); NetRtg: -1.2 (7)
Maybe it was a letdown after the championship rings/banner celebration. Maybe it was the uncharacteristic 24 turnovers (Minnesota averaged 14.1 a year ago and had a season-high 22 vs. Connecticut on May 23, 2017). Maybe it was just an off shooting night for Maya Moore (4-14 FG, 0-3 3P) or not enough touches for reigning MVP Sylvia Fowles (6-10 FG). Whatever it was, the Lynx did not execute to the level that we are accustomed to seeing from the four-time champs. That being said, they were up one in the closing seconds before Gray’s game-winner.
3. Connecticut Sun (1-0)
Preseason Ranking: 3
OffRtg: 116.1 (1); DefRtg: 73.9 (1); NetRtg: 42.2 (1)
The Sun opened the season by absolutely crushing the Las Vegas Aces in their debut game. The 36-point margin of victory was the largest for any season opener in WNBA history. The Sun did it with a balanced attack that saw four players score in double figures and six score at least eight points, led by Alex Bentley’s 18 off the bench. Chiney Ogwumike had nine points and four rebounds in just over 17 minutes in her first WNBA game since 2016. Next up for Ogwumike and the Sun is a matchup with Chiney’s sister Nneka and the Sparks (Thursday, 7 PM ET, ESPN2).
4. Phoenix Mercury (2-0)
Preseason Ranking: 4
OffRtg: 107.5 (3); DefRtg: 98.8 (6); NetRtg: 8.7 (5)
The Mercury are one of four teams to have two games in the season’s opening three days and one of two to make it out unscathed. Phoenix opened the WNBA season with an 86-78 win over Dallas as Diana Taurasi scored 26 points and became the first WNBA player to eclipse 1,000 3-pointers made as she splashed five in eight tries against the Wings. Two nights later, it was Brittney Griner’s turn to dominate as she recorded her 28th career double-double with 29 points and 10 rebounds to go with 4 assists and 3 blocks in the Mercury’s 87-82 win over the Storm in Seattle. This was the fifth time in franchise history that the Mercury opened the season 2-0; the last two times they did it (2009 and 2014) they went on to win the WNBA title.
5. Dallas Wings (1-1)
Preseason Ranking: 5
OffRtg: 108.5 (2); DefRtg: 99.4 (7); NetRtg: 9.1 (4)
The Wings split their two games to open the 2018 WNBA season. In the season opener against Phoenix, the Wings not only lost the game (86-78), but lost forward Glory Johnson for four weeks with a hamstring injury. However, two days later the Wings took care of business in their home opener in Dallas with a 101-78 win over Atlanta as Skylar Diggins-Smith (25) and Liz Cambage (21) combined for 46 points as two of Dallas’ five players in double-figures. In her first two games as a Dallas Wing, Cambage has averaged 19.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks while shooting 60% from the field. Next up is a tough test against Minnesota (Wednesday, 8 PM ET, League Pass).
6. Chicago Sky (2-0)
Preseason Ranking: 10
OffRtg: 105.2 (4); DefRtg: 91.5 (2); NetRtg: 13.7 (2)
The Sky opened the season with a back-to-back and came out with a 2-0 record to start the season for the first time since 2014. Chicago opened the season on the road with an 82-64 win over Indiana behind strong performances by veteran Allie Quigley (19 points, 5 assists, 8-12 FG) and rookie Diamond DeShields (18 points, 8 rebounds, 7-11 FG). The next night, the Sky opened their new home (Wintrust Arena) with an 80-76 win over New York with Quigley once again leading the way (22 points), Jamierra Faulkner adding 14-5-5 off the bench and another rookie stepping into the spotlight as Gabby Williams had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and three steals. Chicago did all of this without All-Star guard Courtney Vandersloot, who just finished competing in the Turkish League Final.
7. Washington Mystics (1-0)
Preseason Ranking: 8
OffRtg: 105.1 (5); DefRtg: 94.9 (5); NetRtg: 10.2 (3)
The Mystics opened the season with an 82-75 win over Indiana that both coach Mike Thibault and star forward Elena Delle Donne described as an ugly win. While the Mystics were not as sharp as they would have liked to open the season, they still got the W behind 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc from Kristi Toliver; she led four Mystics in double figures. Delle Donne finished with 13 points and seven assists despite shooting just 5-of-18 from the field. The Mystics are back in action against the Aces on Tuesday (7 PM ET, League Pass).
8. New York Liberty (0-1)
Preseason Ranking: 6
OffRtg: 98.7 (7); DefRtg: 102.6 (8); NetRtg: -3.9 (8)
The Liberty lost their season opener to the Sky as Chicago opened its new downtown home. The Liberty will do the same on Friday when the host the defending champion Lynx at the Westchester Country Center in White Plains as new head coach Katie Smith looks for her first win. In their loss to the Sky, the Liberty got 19 points from Tina Charles but just four rebounds as Chicago outrebounded New York, 43-30, in the game. In her WNBA debut, rookie Kia Nurse had 17 points, three assists and two steals in nearly 29 minutes off the bench as the Liberty were shorthanded without Brittany Boyd, Epiphanny Prince or Kiah Stokes available.
9. Seattle Storm (0-1)
Preseason Ranking: 7
OffRtg: 102.5 (6); DefRtg: 108.8 (10); NetRtg: -6.3 (9)
In their first game under new coach Dan Hughes, the Storm started a bit slow (trailed 26-17 after first quarter) and could not complete the comeback (Seattle won the second half, 46-41) against Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury. Despite the loss, there were some bright spots for the Storm to take away: Breanna Stewart was outstanding with 22 points, 15 boards, three blocks, two assists and two steals; rookie Jordin Canada had nine points and four steals in 20 minutes off the Storm bench; and Natasha Howard had 14 points, four rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes of the bench in her Storm debut.
10. Atlanta Dream (0-1)
Preseason Ranking: 9
OffRtg: 92.9 (8); DefRtg: 121.7 (12); NetRtg: -28.8 (11)
The new-look Dream opened their season with a 101-78 loss in Dallas in Nicki Collen’s debut as a WNBA head coach. Not only does Atlanta have a new coach in Collen, but three new starters in the returning Angel McCoughtry and offseason additions Jessica Breland and Renee Montgomery, so it will take some time for the new pieces to fit together. On a positive note, the Dream did have 18 assists on their 26 made baskets and McCoughtry became the 18th player in WNBA history (7th active player) to eclipse 5,000 career points. Atlanta is back in action on Wednesday for a matinee in Chicago (12 PM ET, League Pass) as the Dream look for their first win of the year.
11. Las Vegas Aces (0-1)
Preseason Ranking: 11
OffRtg: 73.9 (12); DefRtg: 116.1 (11); NetRtg: -42.2 (12)
The Las Vegas Aces opened their season with a 101-65 loss to the Connecticut Sun, putting the Aces on the wrong side of history in the most lopsided season opener ever. However, the Aces were without three of their top players with Kayla McBride and Kelsey Plum fulfilling overseas commitments and Moriah Jefferson nursing a knee injury, so don’t put too much into the opening game. No. 1 overall pick A’ja Wilson posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in her WNBA debut, while the Aces’ veteran forward Tamera Young led all scorers with 23 points.
12. Indiana Fever (0-2)
Preseason Ranking: 12
OffRtg: 89.7 (11); DefRtg: 106.5 (9); NetRtg: -16.8 (10)
The Fever are the lone 0-2 team in the WNBA as they dropped both games of their Saturday-Sunday back-to-back. After dropping the home opener by 18 points to Chicago, the Fever had a better showing against Washington on Sunday but still fell 82-75. Natalie Achonwa (game highs of 21 points, 12 rebounds) and Candice Dupree (13 points, 10 rebounds) both posted double-doubles, while rookie Kelsey Mitchell (the No. 2 pick in the draft) had 16 points off the Fever bench in the loss. Indiana faces a tough schedule to open the season with their next six games all against playoff teams from last season, beginning with the Sparks on Tuesday night (7 PM ET, Twitter).