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.
We have officially passes the halfway point of the 2016 season with 103 of the season’s 204 games in the books. Each team, with the exception of the Seattle Storm, has already played at least 17 games, so we have a solid sample size to evaluate each team’s performance to this point.
So, what have we learned about each team as the season shifts to the second half?
1. Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 1
OffRtg: 108.2 (1); DefRtg: 91.7 (1); NetRtg: 16.5 (1)
What we’ve learned: That Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker and the rest of the Sparks are on a mission to bring a WNBA title back to Los Angeles for the first time in 14 years. They may not have a player wearing the red, white and blue next month, but they have two of the top four in the latest Race to the MVP as the Sparks have the best record through 17 games (16-1) in WNBA history.
2. Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 2
OffRtg: 105.5 (3); DefRtg: 94.7 (2); NetRtg: 10.8 (2)
What we’ve learned: That the champs aren’t invincible. The Lynx got off to a record-breaking start to their title defense, winning their first 13 games, including a showdown of undefeated teams with the Sparks. However, after that historic win, the Lynx suffered their first three-game losing streak since August of 2014. But we also learned that the defending champs can bounce back as they did with a resounding 91-68 win over San Antonio on Saturday.
3. New York Liberty
Last Week: 3
OffRtg: 100.7 (8); DefRtg: 97.5 (3); NetRtg: 3.1 (3)
What we’ve learned: That Tina Charles is a beast and still getting better. The 2012 MVP is a leading candidate for the award again this year as she is putting together the best season of her career – she’s averaging career-highs in both points (22.8) and assists (4.3) and is shooting her highest percentages since that MVP season back in Connecticut. She is one of only two players (Candace Parker being the other) to rank in the top 10 in scoring (1st), rebounding (1st) and assists (9th).
4. Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 6
OffRtg: 107.6 (2); DefRtg: 108.4 (12); NetRtg: -0.8 (6)
What we’ve learned: That it may have taken longer than expected, but the Mercury are among the top teams in the league. The preseason title favorites got off to a slow start, but have won four of their last five games as they continue to climb the standings. Their latest win on Sunday night featured just the sixth triple-double in league history as Brittney Griner had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double with blocks since Lisa Leslie back in 2004.
5. Washington Mystics
Last Week: 4
OffRtg: 102.1 (7); DefRtg: 102.9 (6); NetRtg: -0.8 (5)
What we’ve learned: That there’s a reason Mike Thibault has the most wins by a coach in WNBA history – the man knows how to mold a team and utilize and elevate the talents of his players. The Mystics are a young squad – with only two players have more than three years experience – but rank second in the Eastern Conference at 9-9 thanks in large part to the play of leading scorers Tayler Hill (15.7 ppg) and Emma Meesseman (14.9 ppg). We’ve also learned that the best day to play the Mystics is on Friday as they have lost all four of their games (and one preseason game) that have been played on Friday this season, including an overtime loss to Chicago on Friday, July 1.
6. Dallas Wings
Last Week: 5
OffRtg: 105.3 (4); DefRtg: 106.9 (11); NetRtg: -1.6 (7)
What we’ve learned: That this team can compete with anybody with its full squad on the floor together. Between Skylar Diggins’ recovery from ACL surgery to Glory Johnson’s suspension, the Wings had to wait to see what this team was fully capable of once everyone was together and healthy. We got our first glimpse of that potential with a four-game winning streak in mid-June, but since then the Wings have lost three of their last four games. However, it should be noted that those three losses came by a combined 13 points, which shows the Wings had their chances in each game.
7. Chicago Sky
Last Week: 8
OffRtg: 104.8 (5); DefRtg: 104.7 (8); NetRtg: 0.1 (4)
What we’ve learned: That the Sky still have some work to do in order to get back to the 21-13 squad from last season that finished second in the East and gave the Sky their first WNBA MVP. Since a four-game winning streak to close May and open June, the Sky lost five of their next six games and tumble down the standings. The good news is that the Sky got a much-needed win over the Mystics on Friday and if the season ended today they would make the cut for a playoff berth, albeit the lowest seed in the field.
8. Indiana Fever
Last Week: 10
OffRtg: 98.8 (9); DefRtg: 102.6 (5); NetRtg: -3.8 (9)
What we’ve learned: That this is not the way Tamika Catchings wanted to go out. The Fever made it to the 2015 WNBA Finanls, but have struggled mightily in the the first half of 2016 with a 7-10 record at the midway point that would find them outside the playoff field if the season ended today. Luckily, for Catchings and the Fever, the is still plenty of season left to turn things around and go on another unexpected playoff run. As of now there are 17 games left in Catchings’ WNBA career; what she and her teammates do with those games could lead to more come September and possibly October.
9. Atlanta Dream
Last Week: 7
OffRtg: 98.8 (10); DefRtg: 103.0 (7); NetRtg: -4.1 (10)
What we’ve learned: That predicting what will happen with the Dream is an exercise in futility. When they opened the season with an 8-3 record, the Dream looked poised to challenge the top teams in the league for one of the coveted top two playoff seeds. Since then, they have lost six straight games to fall to the middle of the pack in the standings. The Dream were in a great position to snap their streak at five as they held a seven-point fourth-quarter lead against Phoenix before allowing the Mercury to outscore them 23-6 in the final seven minutes of the game to take their sixth straight loss.
10. Seattle Storm
Last Week: 9
OffRtg: 103.3 (6); DefRtg: 106.3 (10); NetRtg: -3.0 (8)
What we’ve learned: That the Storm have a promising future ahead of them. If the playoffs started today, the Storm would find themselves back in the draft lottery for the third straight year, but there is still time for the 6-10 squad to try to scratch their way into the postseason. The Storm’s last two trips to the lottery have been fruitful as they earn the top pick in the last two drafts and have the cornerstones of their team for years to come in Jewell Loyd and Rookie of the Year favorite Breanna Stewart, who made her Race to the MVP debut last week.
11. San Antonio Stars
Last Week: 11
OffRtg: 94.2 (12); DefRtg: 102.5 (4); NetRtg: -8.3 (12)
What we’ve learned: That Breanna Stewart isn’t the only rookie from UConn making some noise in the WNBA this season. Moriah Jefferson ranks third among rookies in scoring (10.1 ppg) and leads all first-year players in assists (4.1 is tied for 10th in the league), steals (1.5 is 8th in the league) and 3-point percentage (44.8% is 5th in the league). She’s also among the league leaders in buzzer-beaters as she had two in the same game against Indiana last week, including a tip-in that was just off her hands before the buzzer sounded for the game-winner over the Fever.
12. Connecticut Sun
Last Week: 12
OffRtg: 97.4 (11); DefRtg: 105.3 (9); NetRtg: -7.9 (11)
What we’ve learned: That the Sun, like the Stars in the West, will most likely end up playing the spoiler role down the stretch of the season. At 4-13 and without a win against an Eastern Conference opponent, the odds are long for the Sun to climb back into the playoff picture. The Sun picked up their first win over a playoff-caliber opponent on Saturday with an 86-83 win over Dallas. Their other three wins this season have come against San Antonio (twice) and Seattle, who like the Sun, would be in the lottery if the season ended today.
ASSOCIATED PRESS POWER POLL
1. Los Angeles (13)
3. New York
12. San Antonio