2018 Power Rankings: Week 7

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.

The Minnesota Lynx have played in three straight WNBA Finals and six of the past seven dating back to 2011. While the destination has been the same (with the exception of 2014 when they were knocked out in the Conference Finals by Phoenix — our new No. 1 in the Power Rankings), the journey to the championship series is always different.

When speaking with Lynx players at the Finals over the past few years, they all reiterated how difficult it is to get to the Finals, let alone win the championship, which they have done four times during this incredible run. Of all the roads they have traveled during the regular season over the past seven seasons, none has looked quite like the current journey that they are on.

From 2011 to 2017, the Lynx spent a total of two days with a record under .500; they lost their season opener in 2011 before winning their next game and were never below .500 for the next seven years. Their longest losing streak during those seasons was three games, which happened six times in seven years.

In the first half of the 2018 season, they spent 27 days under .500 and have suffered a four-game losing streak — their longest drought since the 2010 season. After falling to 3-6 in Connecticut on June 9 (their fifth loss in six games), the Lynx have won seven straight games to climb back into the top five in the standings and back near the top of this week’s Power Rankings.

1. Phoenix Mercury (13-5)

Last Week: 3 (3-0)
OffRtg: 105.2 (4); DefRtg: 99.6 (5); NetRtg: 5.6 (3)

The Mercury take over the top spot in the Power Rankings behind their league-best 13-5 record, with nine of those 13 wins coming on the road. No team has played more road games than Phoenix’s 11, which means no team will spend more time at home in the second half of the season than the Mercury. In Saturday’s win in Washington, the Mercury got big games from Brittney Griner (24 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks) and DeWanna Bonner (23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists), while Diana Taurasi had a rare off shooting night (7 points on 2-13 FG), but still contributed 9 assists. However, they did lose starting forward Sancho Lyttle for the season with a torn ACL.

2. Minnesota Lynx (10-6)

Last Week: 4 (3-0)
OffRtg: 100.9 (7); DefRtg: 97.0 (2); NetRtg: 3.9 (5)

How good have the Lynx been during their seven-game winning streak? They have outscored their opponents by a total of 75 points during that span for an average margin of victory of nearly 11 points per game. Minnesota has scored the third most points (599) and allowed the fewest (524) during their streak. Maya Moore has won back-to-back West Player of the Week honors as she has been on a tear during this win streak. She has scored at least 20 points in each game and has averaged 24.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.4 3-pointers while shooting 47.1% from the field and 40.5% from beyond the arc since June 16. And don’t forget about Sylvia Fowles, who has averaged 18.6 points while leading all players in rebounds (12.4) and steals (2.3) over the past seven games.

3. Seattle Storm (12-5)

Last Week: 2 (2-1)
OffRtg: 108.2 (1); DefRtg: 99.3 (4); NetRtg: 8.9 (1)

The Storm have won four of their last five games with their only loss coming at the hands of the red-hot Lynx. Seattle got an important W over Los Angeles on Thursday to win the season series against the Sparks by going up 2-0 with only one game to play between the powerhouses. With the standings so tight and playoff byes on the line, holding tiebreakers becomes very important as the Storm look to advance past the first round for the first time under the new playoff format. I could write more about the Storm, or I can just show Sue Bird’s amazing assist from Sunday night instead.

4. Los Angeles Sparks (12-5)

Last Week: 1 (2-2)
OffRtg: 101.7 (5); DefRtg: 97.5 (3); NetRtg: 4.1 (4)

The Sparks went just 1-2 while Nneka Ogwumike was sidelined for much of last week. Ogwumike returned on Sunday as the Sparks defeated the Aces at home to even their record at 2-2 on the week. The Sparks are 9-2 this season when both Candace Parker and Ogwumike play and are 3-3 when one of them has been out of the lineup (2-1 without Parker to open the season, 1-2 without Ogwumike last week). L.A. owns the best home record in the league (8-1), but are just 4-4 outside of Staples Center. Over the next seven days the Sparks have tough tests at home (vs. Connecticut and Washington) and on the road (at Minnesota and Seattle).

5. Washington Mystics (10-6)

Last Week: 5 (2-1)
OffRtg: 105.6 (3); DefRtg: 102.3 (8); NetRtg: 3.2 (6)

Elena Delle Donne picked up her second Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor of the season (14th of her career) on Monday after leading the Mystics to a 2-1 week. Not only did she lead the East in scoring (24.7 ppg), tie for the lead in blocks (1.67 bpg) and finish second in rebounding (7.3 rpg), but she also sunk the Liberty with this buzzer-beating 3-pointer:

6. Connecticut Sun (9-7)

Last Week: 6 (1-2)
OffRtg: 107.7 (2); DefRtg: 101.1 (7); NetRtg: 6.5 (2)

After opening the season 7-1, the Sun have gone 2-6 to fall to sixth place in the league standings and this week’s Power Rankings. During this eight-game stretch, the Sun have allowed an average of 88.1 points per game (2nd highest mark in the league), while allowing opponents to shoot 46.5% from the field (3rd highest) and 39.0% from beyond the arc (2nd highest). Connecticut continues to be without Alyssa Thomas (shoulder), who last played on June 13 (when the Sun were 7-2) and were without Courtney Williams (personal reasons) during Sunday’s loss to Seattle.

7. Dallas Wings (7-8)

Last Week: 8 (1-2)
OffRtg: 101.4 (6); DefRtg: 99.8 (6); NetRtg: 1.5 (7)

The Wings have lost three of their last four games to fall below .500 for the season. Their last two losses came against the last two WNBA champions (the Sparks and Lynx) by four points apiece. The Wings will look to get back on track with home games against Chicago and Indiana, before facing the Liberty in New York on Sunday to close out the week. Liz Cambage (19.7 ppg) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (19.1 ppg) continue to pace the Wings. The duo ranks eighth and ninth in the league in scoring, second and third in free throw attempts, with Cambage ranked second in rebounding (9.9 rpg) and Diggins-Smith third in assists (6.5 apg).

8. Atlanta Dream (8-8)

Last Week: 7 (1-2)
OffRtg: 90.7 (12); DefRtg: 96.0 (1); NetRtg: -5.3 (9)

Everyone has heard the cliche of defense wins championships, but is defense enough to carry a team to the playoffs? The last time a team made the WNBA playoffs with the league’s worst offensive rating was back in 2009 when the Mystics earned the final seed in the East despite their league-low 94.5 offensive rating. Can the Dream do it nine years later? Atlanta’s 90.7 offensive rating is nearly five full points lower than the 11th-ranked Fever, but the Dream counter their lack of scoring with the league’s stingiest defense (96.0 DefRtg). The end result is a team being outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions, but still managing a .500 record.

9. Chicago Sky (6-10)

Last Week: 11 (2-1)
OffRtg: 99.8 (8); DefRtg: 108.0 (12); NetRtg: -8.2 (11)

Chicago’s three-game winning streak was snapped with an overtime loss to New York on Sunday. At 6-10, the Sky find themselves 1.5 games back of eighth place in the league standings as their season hits the midway point Tuesday against Dallas. Chicago has gone 3-2 since Stefanie Dolson returned to the lineup, after going 1-6 while she was sidelined with a strained hamstring. Tuesday’s matchup with Dallas is the first of three meetings this month with the Wings. The Sky follow that up with a road game in Vegas, before returning home to host the defending champs on Saturday.

10. Las Vegas Aces (6-12)

Last Week: 9 (1-2)
OffRtg: 97.2 (10); DefRtg: 102.3 (9); NetRtg: -5.1 (8)

While Sunday’s game in Los Angeles didn’t go in their favor, it marked the first time the full young core of the Aces was healthy and available in the same game as Moriah Jefferson made her season debut. Rookie of the Month A’ja Wilson continues to impress on a nightly basis, Kayla McBride had a career-high 38 points last week against Dallas, Kelsey Plum has at least 12 points and five assists in three of her last four games and now Jefferson is back on the court as well.

11. New York Liberty (5-11)

Last Week: 10 (1-3)
OffRtg: 97.8 (9); DefRtg: 103.8 (10); NetRtg: -6.0 (10)

The Liberty earned a 97-94 overtime win over Chicago on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak after tough losses to Washington (Delle Donne’s buzzer-beater) and Chicago (falling by four despite scoring a season-best 103 points). The Liberty now have 11 losses so far this season, which is just one shy of their total from all of last season. Over the past three years the Liberty have not lost more than 13 games in a season — 23-11 in 2015, 21-13 in 2016 and 22-12 in 2017 — and they would need to go 15-3 to keep their streak of 20-win seasons alive. Things don’t get any easier this week as they face the Storm (12-5) and the Mystics (10-6).

12. Indiana Fever (1-16)

Last Week: 12 (0-3)
OffRtg: 95.6 (11); DefRtg: 104.5 (11); NetRtg: -8.9 (12)

Indiana is coming off an 0-3 week as their losing streak extended to six games. While wins have been tough to come by for the Fever this season, they do have a pair of promising rookies that are earning valuable experience and could help the team turn around their fortunes down the line. Kelsey Mitchell ranks second among rookies in scoring (15.2 ppg) and Victoria Vivians has climbed to sixth (9.8 ppg) thanks to some strong play in recent weeks. Vivians is coming off a career-high 27 points against Atlanta on Sunday and has averaged 19.0 points per game in her last four games.