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Week 16 Power Rankings: Closing Out The Regular Season

With the regular season coming to a close on Sunday, there are only 14 games left to be played before the 2017 Playoffs tip off on September 6. Nearly every game from here on out will have major playoff implications.

While we know six of the eight teams that will be in the playoff field, there are still two spots open and four teams looking to fill them, plus playoff seeding that’s up for grabs.

We’ll break down playoff scenarios for each team as we roll through the final power rankings of the regular season.

1. Los Angeles Sparks

Last Week’s Ranking: 1
2017 Record: 24-8; This Week: 3-0
OffRtg: 106.9 (3); DefRtg: 97.0 (2); NetRtg: 9.8 (2); TS%: 56.4 (2)

By winning the third and final meeting of the regular season with Minnesota, the Sparks won the season series and own the head-to-head tiebreaker should the two teams that met in last year’s Finals finish the season with matching records. The Sparks had to go on the road to win Game 5 last year; now they have a chance to get homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. Minnesota Lynx

Last Week’s Ranking: 2
2017 Record: 24-7; This Week: 2-1
OffRtg: 107.6 (1); DefRtg: 93.9 (1); NetRtg: 13.6 (1); TS%: 55.8 (3)

The Lynx fell to 4-5 since Lindsay Whalen was lost with a broken hand. Her timetable for return remains unknown. Luckily for the Lynx, they are locked into one of the top two seeds and will get the double-bye all the way to the Semifinals, giving Whalen more time to get healthy. Minnesota just got Rebekkah Brunson back, but the past two weeks have shown they need their point guard back on the floor as well.

3. New York Liberty

Last Week’s Ranking: 4
2017 Record: 20-12; This Week: 3-0
OffRtg: 101.3 (8); DefRtg: 97.8 (3); NetRtg: 3.5 (4); TS%: 51.3 (10)

Talk about peaking at the right time. The Liberty have now won eight straight games to climb within a half-game of No. 3 Connecticut and hold a 2.5 game lead over Washington, plus they own the tiebreaker with the Mystics. The Liberty look poised to earn a first round bye, but can they secure the No. 3 seed, which would have them host the lowest seed that advances out of the first round? New York and Connecticut tied their season series 2-2, so the next tiebreaker goes to the team with the best record against .500 or better teams at season’s end. If the season ended today, New York would have the edge.

4. Connecticut Sun

Last Week’s Ranking: 3
2017 Record: 20-11; This Week: 1-1
OffRtg: 107.0 (2); DefRtg: 100.2 (4); NetRtg: 6.8 (3); TS%: 53.7 (5)

As discussed above, the Sun are locked in a playoff position battle with New York that will be resolved over the next six days. There are currently six teams at .500 or better on the season; New York is 8-8 against those teams with no more matchups remaining; they close out the season with San Antonio (7-25) and Dallas (15-17). On the other hand, the Sun are 6-7 against those teams, but close the season with three matchups against .500 or better teams – Washington (17-14), Phoenix (16-16) and Los Angeles (24-8). While the Sun are one up in the loss column, they have the harder schedule to close out the season.

5. Washington Mystics

Last Week’s Ranking: 5
2017 Record: 17-14; This Week: 0-2
OffRtg: 104.1 (5); DefRtg: 102.6 (6); NetRtg: 1.5 (5); TS%: 52.5 (7)

The return of Elena Delle Donne has not been enough to stop the Mystics from skidding out of the top four and out of a first-round bye in the playoffs. Having lost four of their last five games (the last two with EDD in the lineup) the Mystics’ only shot at a first round bye would be for them to win their final three games and Connecticut lose their final three games, beginning with the final regular season matchup between the teams on Tuesday. If that were to happen the Sun and Mystics would finish with equal 20-17 records and Washington would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

6. Phoenix Mercury

Last Week’s Ranking: 6
2017 Record: 16-16; This Week: 1-2
OffRtg: 101.8 (7); DefRtg: 103.3 (7); NetRtg: -1.5 (7); TS%: 54.3 (4)

The Mercury are the final team to have locked up a playoff berth so far and by getting an important win over Seattle on Sunday, they are in a strong position to hold the No. 5 seed and host a first-round playoff game. This comes after Phoenix had to go on the road for their first two single-elimination rounds a year ago. Should either Dallas or Seattle match Phoenix’s record by the end of the season, the Mercury hold head-to-head tiebreakers over both teams by winning both season series’ 2-1.

7. Dallas Wings

Last Week’s Ranking: 8
2017 Record: 15-17; This Week: 1-1
OffRtg: 103.5 (6); DefRtg: 107.2 (11); NetRtg: -3.7 (9); TS%: 52.1 (8)

A win over Chicago on Wednesday will clinch a playoff berth for the Wings and return the franchise to the postseason for just the second time since they left Detroit in 2009. If the season were to end today, Dallas would be the No. 7 seed and travel to Phoenix for a single-elimination round with the Mercury. Since Phoenix owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas, the Wings’ only hope to move up to the No. 6 seed would be to win out against Chicago and New York and have Phoenix lose out to Connecticut and Atlanta. The Wings also have to keep an eye on No. 8 Seattle, which sits just one game back of Dallas but owns the head-to-head tiebreaker should they finish with matching records.

8. Seattle Storm

Last Week’s Ranking: 7
2017 Record: 14-18; This Week: 0-2
OffRtg: 104.3 (4); DefRtg: 104.4 (10); NetRtg: -0.1 (6); TS%: 57.4 (1)

Sunday’s loss in Phoenix means the Storm can finish no better than the No. 7 seed in the playoffs, which means they’ll be on the road in the first round. Keep in mind that Seattle is just 4-11 away from KeyArena this season. The Storm also close out the regular season on the road as they face Washington and Chicago this week. Seattle needs to win out and have Dallas lose at least one game to move up to the No. 7 seed. History is also on the line this week as Sue Bird needs just three assists over the next two games to become the WNBA’s all-time leader in the category.

9. Chicago Sky

Last Week’s Ranking: 9
2017 Record: 12-19; This Week: 1-1
OffRtg: 98.8 (9); DefRtg: 104.3 (9); NetRtg: -5.5 (10); TS%: 53.6 (6)

For the Sky to make the playoffs, the formula is rather simple – they can’t lose any of their last three games. If they are able to beat Dallas (home on Wednesday) and Minnesota (away on Friday), they would set up a winner-take-all matchup with Seattle on the final day of the regular season. With their season series tied at 1-1, the winner of Sunday’s game would win the series and earn the playoff tiebreaker. Should the Sky win out, they would finish at 15-19, which would be the best record the Storm could have if they lose to Chicago on Sunday.

10. Atlanta Dream

Last Week’s Ranking: 11
2017 Record: 12-20; This Week: 2-0
OffRtg: 97.8 (10); DefRtg: 101.1 (5); NetRtg: -3.3 (8); TS%: 49.4 (12)

The Dream’s playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread. There is literally only one scenario that could play out that would land the Dream in the playoffs. Here it is:

1. Atlanta must win its final two games. If they lose either of the final two games – on the road against L.A. on Friday or Phoenix on Sunday – they are out.

2. Chicago must lose their first two games of the week to Dallas and Minnesota. Since the Sky own the tiebreaker with Atlanta, they must finish with a worse record for the Dream to pass them. However, the Sky cannot lose out, they must win their final game against Seattle because…

3. Seattle must lose both of their final games, including the regular season finale against Chicago. If Atlanta wins out and Seattle loses out, they will both finish at 14-20 and Atlanta would earn the spot by winning the season series.

11. San Antonio Stars

Last Week’s Ranking: 10
2017 Record: 7-25; This Week: 0-2
OffRtg: 95.1 (12); DefRtg: 104.1 (8); NetRtg: -9.0 (11); TS%: 50.7 (11)

San Antonio has been eliminated from playoff contention and will find themselves back in the Draft Lottery for the third straight year. Will their number get called once again for the No. 1 overall pick so they can add another piece to their young club?

12. Indiana Fever

Last Week’s Ranking: 12
2017 Record: 9-23; This Week: 0-2
OffRtg: 96.8 (11); DefRtg: 108.0 (12); NetRtg: -11.2 (12); TS%: 51.5 (9)

As the injuries have mounted, so have the losses and the Fever find themselves out of the playoffs and into the Draft Lottery for the first time since 2004. They had finished with no fewer than 15 wins since the 2002 season. Indiana needs to secure one win in their final two games – home contests against Minnesota on Wednesday and San Antonio on Saturday – to avoid their worst season in franchise history (9-23 in their debut season in 2000).