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.
Following the All-Star break, let’s take a snapshot of the league at the midway point as games resume on Tuesday. Michelle Smith broke things down on a team-by-team basis and handed out midseason grades for all 12 squads. Here we will look at things on a league-wide level and examine how things stand as the race to the postseason really heats up.
At the break, Connecticut and Las Vegas sit atop the standings at 13-6, with Washington just a half game back at 12-6. They are followed by four teams separated by just a half game (L.A., Chicago, Seattle and Phoenix) and all still within 2.5 games of the leaders. That’s seven teams separated by 2.5 games and we can stretch it to eight separated by 3.5 games, if we add Minnesota.
This is the fourth year of the WNBA’s playoff format that eliminated East vs. West and took the top eight teams regardless of conference, rewarding the top four teams with playoff byes (first round for seeds 3 and 4 and first and second round for the top two seeds). How important are those top two seeds? In the first three years of the format, the WNBA Finals have been 1 vs. 2, 1 vs. 2 and 1 vs. 3.
What makes this year different is that at this point in the season, there are more teams in contention for those top two spots than ever before. There have been 116 games played so far in the 2019 season, so I went back to the past three seasons and compared the standings at similar points in the schedule (116 games played in 2016 and 2017 and 115 games played in 2018).
In 2016 and 2017, the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx separated themselves from the field early and put a stranglehold on those top two seeds. They earned the double byes to the semifinals and advanced to the Finals both times to set up a pair of epic championship series.
In 2018, more parity emerged as the Sparks and Lynx fell back into the pack. The top three teams were separated by two losses and the top eight teams were separated by just four losses. Last year also gave us a prime example of how things can change in the second half of the season. While Seattle sat at No. 1 on July 10 (15-5, .750) and finished the season at No. 1 (26-8, .765), look at the climb that Atlanta made. On July 8, the Dream were No. 8 in the standings (9-9, .500) and went 14-2 to close the season at No. 2 (23-11, .676).
Will we be in store for another run like that in 2019? With only two losses separating No. 1 from No. 7, anything can happen, which should make the next six weeks incredibly exciting.
This Week’s Rankings … And A Question For Each Team
1. Las Vegas Aces (13-6)
- Previous Rank: 1
- Last Week: (1-0) W vs. SEA 79-62
- This Week: Tue. 7/30 vs. DAL; Thur. 8/1 at LAS; Sat. 8/3 at DAL; Mon. 8/5 vs. WAS*
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 97.2 (6); DefRtg: 90.0 (1); NetRtg: 7.2 (2); eFG%: 47.2 (4); Pace: 99.86 (1)
How will the Aces hold up with A’ja Wilson sidelined for the next week or two? The Aces won their final two games before the break without Wilson, but have a busy week ahead with three games and the final half of the earthquake suspended game against Washington.
2. Washington Mystics (12-6)
- Previous Rank: 2
- Last Week: (1-0) W at MIN 79-71
- This Week: Tue. 7/30 vs. PHX; Fri. 8/2 at SEA; Sun. 8/4 at PHX; Mon. 8/5 at LVA*
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 107.8 (1); DefRtg: 96.7 (7); NetRtg: 11.2 (1); eFG%: 51.1 (1); Pace: 94.34 (7)
Can Elena Delle Donne stay healthy? The Mystics are 11-2 when she plays and 0-4 when she doesn’t. Masked Delle Donne has averaged 22.3 points on 51.1% shooting from the field and 63.6% from beyond the arc in three games since returning from a broken nose.
3. Connecticut Sun (13-6)
- Previous Rank: 3
- Last Week: (1-0) W vs. NYL 70-63
- This Week: Tue. 7/30 vs. CHI; Thur.8/1 vs. PHX; Sun. 8/4 at NYL
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 98.9 (2); DefRtg: 93.8 (3); NetRtg: 5.1 (3); eFG%: 46.3 (7); Pace: 94.99 (6)
Have the Sun righted the ship, having won their final four games before the break following a five-game losing streak?
4. Chicago Sky (11-8)
- Previous Rank: 5
- Last Week: No Games
- This Week: Tue. 7/30 at CON; Sat. 8/3 at ATL
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 98.0 (4); DefRtg: 97.5 (8); NetRtg: 0.5 (7); eFG%: 49.6 (2); Pace: 97.61 (3)
Is the Chicago team we’ve seen during their four-game win streak to close the first half the same squad we’ll get the rest of the way?
5. Seattle Storm (12-9)
- Previous Rank: 4
- Last Week: (0-1) L at LVA 79-62
- This Week: Fri. 8/2 vs. WAS; Sun. 8/4 at LAS
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 95.6 (9); DefRtg: 93.6 (2); NetRtg: 2.0 (4); eFG%: 46.8 (5); Pace: 94.03 (8)
Can the Storm keep winning without Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart and continue to prove Rudy Tomjanovich’s words: ‘don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion’?
6. Los Angeles Sparks (11-8)
- Previous Rank: 6
- Last Week: (1-0) W at ATL 78-66
- This Week: Thur. 8/1 vs. LVA; Sun 8/4 vs. SEA
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 96.6 (7); DefRtg: 96.5 (6); NetRtg: 0.1 (8); eFG%: 46.3 (9); Pace: 96.35 (4)
When will the Sparks get their full squad (particularly two-time MVP Candace Parker and two-time DPOY Alana Beard) healthy? The Sparks have stayed in the mix while playing shorthanded. Can the return of those vets provide the boost needed to make a move in the standings?
7. Phoenix Mercury (10-8)
- Previous Rank: 8
- Last Week: (1-0) W vs. IND 95-77
- This Week: Tue. 7/30 at WAS; Thur. 8/1 at CON; Sun. 8/4 vs. WAS
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 97.6 (5); DefRtg: 96.4 (5); NetRtg: 1.2 (6); eFG%: 46.7 (6); Pace: 91.30 (12)
The Mercury have won eight of their last 11 games and are still not fully healthy. Will Diana Taurasi and Sancho Lyttle return to the lineup during the stretch run?
8. Minnesota Lynx (10-10)
- Previous Rank: 7
- Last Week: (0-1) L vs. WAS 79-71
- This Week: Sat. 8/3 at IND
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 95.7 (8); DefRtg: 94.4 (4); NetRtg: 1.3 (5); eFG%: 47.7 (3); Pace: 95.04 (5)
Can the Lynx get back on track after losing four of their last five games heading into the All-Star break? The Lynx and Wings are tied for the longest All-Star break, with 10 days separating their last game before and first game back from All-Star. This gives coach Cheryl Reeve added time to prepare the team for the final stretch.
9. New York Liberty (8-11)
- Previous Rank: 9
- Last Week: (0-1) L at CON 70-63
- This Week: Thur. 8/1 at DAL; Sun. 8/4 vs. CON
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 95.0 (10); DefRtg: 100.8 (11); NetRtg: -5.8 (10); eFG%: 45.3 (10); Pace: 97.99 (2)
Can the Liberty find some consistency, or will their season continue to be a roller coaster?
10. Indiana Fever (6-15)
- Previous Rank: 10
- Last Week: (0-1) L at PHX 95-77
- This Week: Wed. 7/31 vs. ATL; Sat. 8/3 vs. MIN
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 98.8 (3); DefRtg: 102.6 (12); NetRtg: -3.8 (9); eFG%: 46.3 (8); Pace: 92.75 (10)
Can Erica Wheeler bring her All-Star MVP magic from Las Vegas back to Indianapolis and help the Fever right the ship after dropping six straight heading into the break?
11. Dallas Wings (5-14)
- Previous Rank: 11
- Last Week: No Games
- This Week: Tue. 7/30 at LVA; Thur. 8/1 vs. NYL; Sat. 8/3 vs. LVA
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 91.7 (11); DefRtg: 98.4 (9); NetRtg: -6.7 (11); eFG%: 42.5 (11); Pace: 91.36 (11)
When will the Wings win a road game? They have gone 5-5 in Dallas but are 0-9 on the road this season. It has been over a year since the team last won on the road (July 12, 2018 at Los Angeles).
12. Atlanta Dream (5-15)
- Previous Rank: 12
- Last Week: (0-1) L vs. LAS 78-66
- This Week: Wed. 7/31 at IND; Sat. 8/3 vs. CHI
- Team Stats: OffRtg: 89.1 (12); DefRtg: 100.6 (10); NetRtg: -11.4 (12); eFG%: 41.1 (12); Pace: 93.20 (9)
Can the Dream find their offense? They rank last in the WNBA in scoring (69.7 points per game) and offensive rating (89.1). The last team to finish with an offensive rating below 90 was the San Antonio Stars back in 2015 (89.0).