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.
This is the third consecutive season that I have written WNBA.com’s weekly power rankings. And for the first time in that two-and-a-half season run, neither the Los Angeles Sparks nor Minnesota Lynx occupy at least one of the top two spots of the rankings.
Beginning in Week 2 of the 2016 season all the way through Week 1 of the 2018 season, the Sparks and Lynx (in some order) occupied the top two spots in the rankings. That is 32 consecutive weeks (including preseason rankings, 30 without). There were just eight weeks where both teams were not top two, but one still remained in the top two spots.
That streak ends this week — Week 8 of the 2018 season — as the Seattle Storm take over the top spot in the rankings, followed by the Phoenix Mercury, who held the top spot a week ago. After two years of dominance by the Sparks and Lynx — they posted a combined 107-29 (.787) record in 2016 and 2017 — the league has seen more parity this season.
The dominant regular seasons by the Lynx and Sparks the past two years resulted in a pair of epic WNBA Finals matchups between the two powerhouses. So while the regular season didn’t have much drama at the top of the standings, the end result was a fantastic rivalry and some of the best basketball the league had ever seen.
The parity that we are seeing this season brings a lot more intrigue to the second half of the season, with the top five teams separated by just 3.5 games and precious playoff byes on the line for the top four finishers. Buckle up for what should be a thrilling ride over the final six weeks of the season.
1. Seattle Storm (15-5)
Last Week: 3 (3-0)
OffRtg: 108.9 (1); DefRtg: 99.4 (5); NetRtg: 9.5 (1)
The Storm are the hottest team in the league at the moment — winning five straight games to improve to a league-best 15-5. Six of those 15 wins have come on the road as the Storm have already topped last year’s win total (five) away from KeyArena. While Breanna Stewart leads the WNBA in scoring (22.4 points per game), Sue Bird became the Storm’s all-time leading scorer on Sunday, passing the legendary Lauren Jackson.
2. Phoenix Mercury (14-6)
Last Week: 1 (1-1)
OffRtg: 104.0 (5); DefRtg: 98.9 (4); NetRtg: 5.1 (3)
The Mercury have the top scoring duo in the league with Diana Taurasi (20.3) and Brittney Griner (20.0) combining for 40.3 points per game. Add in DeWanna Bonner’s 15.2 points per game and the Mercury are one of just two teams (along with L.A.) to have three of the top 20 scorers in the WNBA. Phoenix had its four-game win streak snapped on Sunday in Atlanta as the Mercury began a four-game road trip with stops in Dallas, Connecticut and Indiana to close out the week.
3. Washington Mystics (12-7)
Last Week: 5 (2-1)
OffRtg: 106.2 (3); DefRtg: 101.9 (8); NetRtg: 4.2 (5)
Elena Delle Donne was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the third time in a four-week span on Monday. Delle Donne leads all Eastern Conference players in scoring (20.5), and has scored at least 20 points in six of her last seven games, with Washington going 5-2 in that stretch. With Friday’s win over Los Angeles, head coach Mike Thibault became the first WNBA coach to reach 300 wins. He’ll try for win No. 301 on Wednesday morning when the Mystics host the Dream.
4. Minnesota Lynx (11-8)
Last Week: 2 (1-2)
OffRtg: 99.3 (8); DefRtg: 97.0 (2); NetRtg: 2.3 (6)
After winning seven straight games to vault up the standings and the power rankings, the Lynx had a puzzling loss to the Fever, who entered the matchup with just one win on the season (1-16). The Lynx bounced back with a win over their rivals from Los Angeles – a game that saw Rebekkah Brunson become the WNBA’s all-time leading rebounder — before stumbling again against the Sky in Chicago. Minnesota gets a chance to avenge their loss to the Fever with a Wednesday matinee in Indianapolis before facing the Aces and Sun to close out the week.
5. Los Angeles Sparks (12-8)
Last Week: 4 (0-3)
OffRtg: 100.3 (6); DefRtg: 98.3 (3); NetRtg: 2.0 (7)
The Sparks have lost three straight games and five of their last six to reach eight losses on the season — that matches their season total in each of the last two seasons (L.A. finished 26-8 in 2016 and 2017). Things don’t get any easier for the Sparks as they face the two teams with the longest active win streaks in the league this week — Seattle (Tuesday, 3 ET, Twitter) at five games and Dallas (Thursday, 3:30 ET, League Pass) at three straight wins.
6. Dallas Wings (10-8)
Last Week: 7 (3-0)
OffRtg: 104.8 (4); DefRtg: 99.5 (6); NetRtg: 5.3 (2)
The Wings are coming off a strong week that saw them go 3-0 against a trio of Eastern Conference opponents, winning those games by a combined 60 points. In Sunday’s win over New York – the closest of the three games – Skylar Diggins-Smith was incredible as she finished with 32 points on just 13 shots (9-13 FG, 3-5 3P, 11-14 FT) while adding seven boards, five dimes and no turnovers. Liz Cambage added 19 points and 12 boards for her eighth double-double of the year. The Wings will look to keep the wins coming against a daunting schedule this week – vs. Phoenix on Tuesday, at L.A. on Thursday and at Seattle on Saturday (all games on League Pass).
7. Connecticut Sun (10-9)
Last Week: 6 (1-2)
OffRtg: 106.3 (2); DefRtg: 101.6 (7); NetRtg: 4.7 (4)
Connecticut enters the week having lost two straight and three of its last four games to fall to seventh in the league standings. On Monday, they pulled off a trade with Atlanta to acquire 2017 All-Star guard Layshia Clarendon for Alex Bentley. The Sun open the week with a pair of home games (vs New York on Wednesday and vs. Phoenix on Friday). Connecticut has lost just one game at home this season, but have played the fewest home games of any team in the league (5-1) compared to the most road games (5-8). With the remaining schedule heavy on home games, the Sun will look to get back on track and move back up the standings.
8. Atlanta Dream (9-9)
Last Week: 8 (1-1)
OffRtg: 91.2 (12); DefRtg: 96.2 (1); NetRtg: -4.9 (9)
In Sunday’s win over Phoenix, the Dream held the Mercury to a season-low 70 points as Atlanta’s top-rated defense helped them secure their ninth win of the season. It has been a common theme for the Dream this season as they continue to struggle on offense but stay competitive based on their defense — Atlanta allows a league-low 96.2 points per 100 possessions and holds its opponents to the second-lowest true shooting percentage (51.1%). That defense will be put to the test again this week as the Dream have a pair of meetings with the Mystics, who enter the week with the league’s third-rated offense (106.2 OffRtg) and true shooting percentage (55.9%).
9. Las Vegas Aces (8-12)
Last Week: 10 (2-0)
OffRtg: 98.1 (9); DefRtg: 102.3 (9); NetRtg: -4.1 (8)
It took just 20 games in their first season in Las Vegas for the Aces to match the win total (8-12) from the team’s final season in San Antonio (8-26). In fact, this team has not won more than eight games since the 2014 season (16-18) as the then-San Antonio Stars went 8-26 in 2015, 7-27 in 2016 and 8-26 in 2017. But none of those teams had A’ja Wilson, who just won her first Western Conference Player of the Week honor after leading Aces to a 2-0 week. Kayla McBride was another strong Player of the Week candidate after back-to-back games with at least 27 points. After scoring 20 in just one of her first eight games of the season, McBride had hit at least 20 in six of her last 10 games. After opening the season 1-7, the Aces have gone 7-5 in their last 12 games and currently sit just two games out of the playoff picture.
10. Chicago Sky (7-12)
Last Week: 9 (1-2)
OffRtg: 99.8 (7); DefRtg: 107.3 (12); NetRtg: -7.5 (10)
After dropping their first three games of July to New York, Chicago and Dallas, the Sky got in the win column with a 77-63 home win over Minnesota on Saturday behind a balanced attack (eight players scored at least six points, none scored more than 15) and hot shooting from beyond the arc (9-17). Can a win over the defending champs be the turning point to help the Sky get back on a winning track and back into the playoff picture? This week’s slate of games against Las Vegas (Tuesday), Washington (Friday) and New York (Sunday) will help provide that answer.
11. New York Liberty (5-14)
Last Week: 11 (0-3)
OffRtg: 97.2 (10); DefRtg: 105.1 (11); NetRtg: -7.9 (11)
The Liberty enter the week having lost three straight and eight of their last nine games as their run of three consecutive years atop the Eastern Conference and playoff appearances is in danger of coming to an end. If the Liberty are to rally, they must find a consistent scorer alongside Tina Charles every night. New York is the only team that does not have at least two players averaging double figures scoring this season. While Charles ranks sixth in the WNBA at 20.1 points per game, the Liberty do not have another player in the top 40 with Epiphanny Prince (8.8), Kia Nurse (8.6) and Bria Hartley (8.3) as the next three Liberty scorers.
12. Indiana Fever (2-17)
Last Week: 12 (1-1)
OffRtg: 94.6 (11); DefRtg: 103.6 (10); NetRtg: -9.0 (12)
After knocking off the defending champs for their second win of the season on Tuesday, the Fever followed that with a tough loss to Dallas that saw the Fever match their second-lowest scoring game of the season (63 points). Indiana is the only team in the league without a top 20 ranked scorer as rookie Kelsey Mitchell leads the team at 14.4 points per game (22nd in WNBA, second among rookies). The Fever open play this week with the two teams that they knocked off this season – Minnesota (Wednesday, 12 ET, League Pass) and Atlanta (Friday, 7 ET, League Pass).