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Week 1 Power Rankings: First Impressions

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.

With the launch of advanced stats on WNBA.com, the weekly Power Rankings will now include each team’s offensive rating, defensive rating and net rating to offer some statistical context to the rankings.

As a refresher, the offensive and defensive ratings look at how many points a team scores and allows per 100 possessions. By placing all teams on the same level in terms of possessions, we can better compare them to one another. The team’s net rating is the difference between the offensive and defensive marks. Essentially, it is their point differential per 100 possessions. If the team is outscoring its competition, the number will be positive, and if they are being outscored, the number will be negative.

These stats will be far more telling as the season gets further along and we have a larger sample size to evaluate. Right now most teams have played only one game this season, with Dallas and New York as the only two teams with two games in the books since the season opened on Saturday. Once teams have played between five and 10 games, we’ll really be able to see a clearer picture – both statistically and with the eye test.

Of course, that doesn’t mean first impressions aren’t important, so here are the updated rankings after the season’s opening weekend, where we pose the question: What have we learned so far?

1. Minnesota Lynx
Preseason Ranking: 1
2016 Record: 1-0
OffRtg: 110.5 (3); DefRtg: 87.4 (5); NetRtg: 23.1 (3)

Maya Moore is still awesome at basketball – dropping 27 points and a career-high 10 dimes in Minnesota’s season-opening win over the Phoenix Mercury, the team picked by the league’s general managers as the title favorites this season.

2. Phoenix Mercury
Preseason Ranking: 2
2016 Record: 0-1
OffRtg: 87.4 (8); DefRtg: 110.5 (9); NetRtg: -23.1 (10)

The Mercury are going to be great this season – they simply have too much talent not to be. But with Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor back in the starting lineup after missing all of last season, and little time to work together as a complete unit during training camp, it may take them a while to put everything together. They showed flashes of how good they could be early in the first quarter, but were unable to sustain it against the defending champs.

3. Chicago Sky
Preseason Ranking: 3
2016 Record: 1-0
OffRtg: 110.7 (2); DefRtg: 83.3 (3); NetRtg: 27.4 (2)

The Sky can put up points even with the reigning scoring champ and MVP Elena Delle Donne sidelined. EDD missed the Sky’s season opener due to illness, but Courtney Vandersloot, Cappie Pondexter and the rest of the squad still put up 93 points against the Sun in a wire-to-wire win.

4. New York Liberty
Preseason Ranking: 5
2016 Record: 2-0
OffRtg: 104.4 (4); DefRtg: 92.5 (6); NetRtg: 11.9 (4)

After setting a franchise record with 23 wins a year ago, the Liberty are off to another great start, picking up back-to-back wins over the Mystics and Wings, respectively. As expected, Tina Charles was dominant on the block, notching a double-double in both games. A welcome surprise was the play of Sugar Rodgers in filling the void left by the injured Epiphanny Prince. Though two games, Rodgers is sixth in the league in scoring at 21.5 ppg.

5. Los Angeles Sparks
Preseason Ranking: 7
2016 Record: 1-0
OffRtg: 117.1 (1); DefRtg: 80.5 (2); NetRtg: 36.6 (1)

Candace Parker is picking up where she left off last season – by posting incredible numbers. In L.A.’s season opener, Parker had 34 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and three 3-pointers to lift the Sparks to a 30-point win.

6. Indiana Fever
Preseason Ranking: 4
2016 Record: 0-1
OffRtg: 96.3 (7); DefRtg: 109.8 (8); NetRtg: -13.4 (8)

Tiffany Mitchell is ready to make an immediate impact in Indiana. The Fever’s first round pick had an impressive WNBA debut, scoring a game-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, although it did come in a 90–79 loss to Dallas. In the history of the Fever franchise, only one player has scored more in her debut game – the legendary Tamika Catchings, who just opened her final season.

7. Dallas Wings
Preseason Ranking: 6
2016 Record: 1-1
OffRtg: 98.8 (5); DefRtg: 96.9 (7); NetRtg: 1.8 (6)

Skylar Diggins has missed the Wings’ first two games as she continues to recover from last season’s torn ACL. The team is 1-1 without her and has had a nice balance to their offense, with five players averaging at least 11 points per game. Diggins remains day-to-day as the Wings are not going to rush her back until she is fully ready to go, which is the smart play here.

8. Seattle Storm
Preseason Ranking: 8
2016 Record: 0-1
OffRtg: 80.5 (11); DefRtg: 117.1 (12); NetRtg: -36.6 (12)

Yes, the Storm lost their season-opener by 30 points. But if you saw people in Seattle smiling after the game, it may have been due to the impressive debut performance of top overall draft pick Breanna Stewart, who had 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting against the Sparks. While the game’s end result was nothing to be happy about, the promise of Stewart along with Jewell Loyd (20 points, five assists) is something to build upon.

9. Atlanta Dream
Preseason Ranking: 10
2016 Record: 1-0
OffRtg: 85.9 (9); DefRtg: 75.9 (1); NetRtg: 10.0 (5)

The Dream needed overtime to knock off the Stars in Saturday’s season opener, with Angel McCoughtry scoring four of her team-high 15 points in the extra session. Tiffany Hayes had an efficient opener, scoring 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

10. Washington Mystics
Preseason Ranking: 9
2016 Record: 0-1
OffRtg: 97.4 (6); DefRtg: 111.5 (11); NetRtg: -14.1 (9)

After getting off to a strong start – 28 points in the first quarter of their season opener against New York – the Mystics went cold. They scored just 30 points over the next two quarters combined, as the Liberty picked up the 87-76 win. Guards Tayler Hill (20) and Bria Hartley (17) combined for 37 points, but shot a combined 12-of-29 from the field. However, they did combine to shoot 8-of-14 from 3-point range.

11. Connecticut Sun
Preseason Ranking: 11
2016 Record: 0-1
OffRtg: 83.3 (10); DefRtg: 110.7 (10); NetRtg: -27.4 (11)

While it was great to see Chiney Ogwumike back on the court, she played only 16 minutes in her return to action after last year’s knee surgery. It’s going to take some time for Ogwumike to get back to being the player that won Rookie of the Year in 2014 after averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds. It will also take time for the team’s trio of first round draft picks – Morgan Tuck (5 pts, 1-6 FG), Jonquel Jones (5 pts, 1-4 FG) and Rachel Banham (who had the most promising debut with 13 points on 5-11 FG, 3-9 3P) to establish themselves in the WNBA.

12. San Antonio Stars
Preseason Ranking: 12
2016 Record: 0-1
OffRtg: 75.9 (12); DefRtg: 85.9 (4); NetRtg: -10.0 (7)

Did you see that pass from Moriah Jefferson to Jayne Appel-Marinelli for the game-tying layup that sent the Stars’ season opener to overtime? While Jefferson had an off shooting night in her WNBA debut (2-10 from the field), she did finish with six assists and zero turnovers in 34 minutes. Jefferson’s backcourt mate Kayla McBride had a nice season-opener with 24 points on 10-17 shooting.