It’s an unfortunate truth that injuries are bound to happen at some point of the season. But this past week was especially tough. Brittney Griner out for a month with knee and ankle injuries. Tayler Hill out for the season with an ACL tear. Elena Delle Donne out with an ankle injury that will likely force her to miss her third All-Star Game. Shenise Johnson out for the season with an ACL tear.
How will the Mercury fare without Griner? They lost their first game without her (Diana Taurasi was also out for that one) and will play at least eight more games without the WNBA’s leader in scoring and blocks. Only two games separate fourth-ranked Phoenix from the dreaded ninth spot in the standings as teams look to lock in playoff berths in the season’s second half. How about the Mystics without Hill for the rest of the year and Delle Donne for the foreseeable future?
Luckily, the All-Star break will give players and teams a few days off before the sprint to the postseason begins. The leaders of that race remain last year’s finalists – Minnesota and Los Angeles – with the rest of the league trying to keep pace.
1. Minnesota Lynx
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
2017 Record: 15-2; This Week: 2-0
OffRtg: 109.3 (1); DefRtg: 96.4 (1); NetRtg: 12.9 (1); TS%: 56.3% (3)
At 15-2, the Lynx are off to their best start in franchise history, which is impressive considering the run of excellence they have produced over the past seven years. They became just the sixth team in WNBA history to win 15 games with two losses or fewer. They will be well represented at All-Star with Sylvia Fowles and Maya Moore in the starting lineup for the West, Maya Moore in the 3-point contest and a chance for more players to join them with Tuesday’s announcement of the reserves.
2. Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week’s Ranking: 2
2017 Record: 14-5; This Week: 2-0
OffRtg: 108.4 (2); DefRtg: 100.3 (4); NetRtg: 8.1 (2); TS%: 57.6% (2)
The Sparks bounced back from a pair of losses last week with home wins over Connecticut and Indiana. The Sparks host the Sky on Thursday before heading into the All-Star break. Candace Parker is already booked for Seattle as a Western Conference starter, but its pretty much a guarantee that she won’t be traveling alone. There’s a certain reigning MVP, who is averaging 21.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and shooting 62.9 percent in five games in July that has a pretty good shot at one of those reserve spots.
3. Connecticut Sun
Last Week’s Ranking: 3
2017 Record: 12-8; This Week: 2-1
OffRtg: 107.9 (3); DefRtg: 101.8 (7); NetRtg: 6.0 (3); TS%: 54.1% (5)
Not only will Jasmine Thomas make her All-Star debut – alongside teammate and fellow East starter Jonquel Jones – this weekend, but she was just announced as one of the five participants in the 3-point contest. The sharpshooter ranks third in the WNBA in 3-point percentage at 45.8 percent, which is the top mark among all Eastern Conference players. Prior to heading to Seattle, Thomas and the Sun will face the Liberty in New York on Wednesday.
4. Phoenix Mercury
Last Week’s Ranking: 4
2017 Record: 11-8; This Week: 1-2
OffRtg: 102.9 (7); DefRtg: 100.7 (5); NetRtg: 2.3 (5); TS%: 54.5% (4)
With Brittney Griner (injured) and Diana Taurasi (rest) out, the Mercury surrendered an 18-0 third quarter run and eventually fell to Minnesota by 15 points on Sunday. While there is never a good time to deal with an injury, the Mercury’s upcoming schedule is favorable over the next few weeks. Phoenix will not face a team over .500 until they meet the Sun in Connecticut on Aug. 4. Until then, they have four games against teams with a combined 24-53 (.312) record.
5. Washington Mystics
Last Week’s Ranking: 5
2017 Record: 11-9; This Week: 1-1
OffRtg: 104.2 (5); DefRtg: 100.8 (6); NetRtg: 3.3 (4); TS%: 52.7% (6)
In their first game without their two leading scorers – Elena Delle Donne (18.7 ppg) and Tayler Hill (13.3 ppg) – the Mystics put up just 55 points in a 30-point loss to New York. While Hill is lost for the year, the timetable for Delle Donne’s return is still unknown. Hopefully the All-Star break gives her enough time to recover and rejoin her squad when the games resume next Tuesday with the Mystics facing the 2-18 Stars in San Antonio.
6. Dallas Wings
Last Week’s Ranking: 9
2017 Record: 10-11; This Week: 1-1
OffRtg: 104.0 (6); DefRtg: 106.7 (11); NetRtg: -2.7 (9); TS%: 52.3% (7)
In the early front-runner for game of the year, Skylar Diggins-Smith nailed a 3-pointer to force double-overtime and propel the Wings to a 112-106 win to snap a quick two-game losing streak. For Diggins-Smith, it was her only three-pointer in five attempts as she finished with 26 points for her fourth straight game with at least 20 points. After missing her second All-Star appearance in 2015 due to her ACL tear, Diggins-Smith is a top candidate for one of the West reserve spots being announced on Tuesday.
7. New York Liberty
Last Week’s Ranking: 8
2017 Record: 9-9; This Week: 1-1
OffRtg: 98.6 (9); DefRtg: 99.1 (2); NetRtg: -0.5 (7); TS%: 50.4% (10)
The Liberty are coming off a big win over the shorthanded Mystics and face tough tests heading into the All-Star break (hosting Connecticut in a Wednesday matinee) and coming out of the All-Star break (traveling to Minnesota to face the league-leading Lynx next Tuesday). In between, Tina Charles is essentially a lock to head to Seattle for All-Star, where teammate Sugar Rodgers was just announced as one of the participants in the 3-point contest. Rodgers’ 39 3-pointers made ranks third in the WNBA this season.
8. Seattle Storm
Last Week’s Ranking: 7
2017 Record: 9-10; This Week: 1-1
OffRtg: 104.6 (4); DefRtg: 104.2 (9); NetRtg: 0.5 (6); TS%: 58.2% (1)
The Storm will enjoy a week at home as they host the Chicago Sky on Tuesday (9 PM ET, ESPN 2) in their final game before hosting the All-Star Game this weekend. However, after the All-Star break, the Storm will not spend much time in Seattle. Tuesday’s game will be their 13th home game of the season – the most of any team in the WNBA – which means they only have four home games left in their 14 games after All-Star. The Storm are just 2-5 outside of KeyArena this season, a record they must improve upon as they look to return to the playoffs.
9. Atlanta Dream
Last Week’s Ranking: 6
2017 Record: 9-10; This Week: 1-2
OffRtg: 98.3 (10); DefRtg: 99.2 (3); NetRtg: -0.9 (8); TS%: 49.8% (11)
Behind a season-high 25 points from Eastern Conference All-Star guard Tiffany Hayes, the Dream defeated the Stars on Tuesday morning to snap a two-game losing steak. Before heading to Seattle, Hayes and the Dream will be in the nation’s capital on Wednesday for a matchup with the injury-riddled Mystics. The Dream catch another break coming out of All-Star when they host the Phoenix Mercury without Brittney Griner next Tuesday.
10. Chicago Sky
Last Week’s Ranking: 11
2017 Record: 6-13; This Week: 2-1
OffRtg: 97.3 (11); DefRtg: 103.6 (8); NetRtg: -6.3 (10); TS%: 52.3% (8)
The Sky are coming off a strong week that saw them pick up wins over New York and Dallas before falling to the Wings on Sunday in double-OT despite getting a career-best 26 points and 10 boards from Eastern Conference Player of the Week Stefanie Dolson and a season-high 23 points from Jessica Breland. Chicago has won three of its last four games – and has done so without veteran guard Cappie Pondexter, who is currently in the concussion protocol. The Sky will look to keep up this current hot streak with two more games before All-Star, which will see guard Allie Quigley participate in the 3-point contest.
11. Indiana Fever
Last Week’s Ranking: 10
2017 Record: 7-12; This Week: 0-3
OffRtg: 99.2 (8); DefRtg: 107.8 (12); NetRtg: -8.6 (11); TS%: 52.0% (9)
In addition to owning the league’s longest active losing streak at five games, the Fever also lost their second-leading scorer – Shenise Johnson – for the season with an ACL tear. After falling to the defending champs on Monday, the Fever conclude a busy week with a road back-to-back against Phoenix and San Antonio on Wednesday and Thursday before the All-Star break.
12. San Antonio Stars
Last Week’s Ranking: 12
2017 Record: 2-18; This Week: 1-2
OffRtg: 93.5 (12); DefRtg: 105.4 (10); NetRtg: -11.9 (12); TS%: 49.4% (12)
The Stars picked up their second win of the season – and first on the road – last Wednesday with a 79-72 win over the Fever in Indiana. The Stars will host that same Fever squad on Thursday in their final game before the All-Star break.