WNBA Power Rankings: A sprint to the Olympic break

Dallas' Satou Sabally (@WNBA)

The past week was a competitive one in the WNBA. The Wings and Sky traded barbs, the Fever won a game (over the Sun, no less) and the Dream played two good games before dealing with controversy.

As a result, there aren’t any dramatic risers and fallers in this week’s edition of the power rankings. But it could mean that we see some teams ride their momentum up the rankings before the WNBA breaks for the Olympics.

12. Indiana Fever (2-16) —

The Fever had their best week of the season, putting up a fight against the Sun in an 86-80 loss before defeating them two days later. What is discouraging about those results is Indiana didn’t necessarily play any better than Connecticut. The Sun shot far below their season averages from the field and 3-point range, and the games turned into battles of attrition.

11. Los Angeles Sparks (6-11) -1

The Sparks have one of the best defenses in the league — and that’s about where the positives end. Even when you hold the Aces to 66 points on 37.7 shooting from the field, you’re not going to win when you’re as inefficient from the field as the Sparks were. In that game last Friday, Los Angeles went 6 for 21 from deep and scored a season-low 58 points, epitomizing their offensive struggles.

10. Atlanta Dream (6-11) +1

For so long, we were wondering just how much better the Dream’s offense could be when a healthy Chennedy Carter returned to the lineup. Now, the second-year guard is serving an indefinite suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team” after an incident during Sunday’s game. The Olympic break is coming at a good time for the Dream.

9. Phoenix Mercury (7-9) -1

It’s surprising, to say the least, that a team with Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner and Kia Nurse has its offense and rebounding to blame for recent losses. Oddly, the Mercury are averaging the fewest field-goal attempts per game at 64.8. And in both of their losses to the Lynx last week, they were out-rebounded by a significant margin.

8. Washington Mystics (7-10) -1

Tina Charles scored 31 points in the Mystics’ latest loss to the Liberty. The next highest scorers on the team, Ariel Atkins and Sydney Wiese, had nine points. That’s been the story of Washington’s season. Until they figure out how to spread out the offense, Charles can only win them so many games by herself.

7. New York Liberty (10-9) +2

We’ve harped on this before, but it bears repeating: New York scores 38.4 percent of its points from 3-point range, the highest in the WNBA. So when the Liberty are connecting on their shots from deep, they’re hard to beat. That will only be truer when Natasha Howard returns from injury and drags opposing defenses farther into the paint.

6. Dallas Wings (9-10) -1

We realize Liberty fans might not like this placement given New York has the winning record and has beaten Dallas in each of their meetings this season. I remain bullish on the Wings because they have more quality wins — they’ve beaten the Storm and the Lynx and Sky with their star players on the floor — and they have more scoring weapons. That said, I also remain confused why Marina Mabrey isn’t starting and Ty Harris’s playing time has dwindled.

5. Minnesota Lynx (9-7) +1

The Lynx have finally seemed to find some roster stability amid the injury chaos, with Layshia Clarendon signed for the season, Jessica Shepard back in the lineup and Kayla McBride hitting her stride. That roster depth has helped them win four straight games and get over .500.

4. Connecticut Sun (12-6) -1

The WNBA has increasingly become a league that favors 3-point shooting. So it’s interesting that, other than the Storm, the top teams in the power rankings lead the league in the percentage of their points that come in the paint. That includes the Sun, who are at their best when Jonquel Jones and Brionna Jones win their battles down low.

3. Chicago Sky (10-9) +1

The Sky have been winning in the second quarter of the season by playing the Aces’ game. They draw a lot of fouls on drives to the hoop and hit their free throws, currently leading the league in that category at 86.5 percent. Unfortunately, we have to wait until September for the Sky-Aces matchups.

2. Seattle Storm (14-4) —

The most promising sign for the Storm over the past week was that their role players stepped up when the stars were absent or not at their best, something we hadn’t seen consistently yet from Seattle this season. Ezi Magbegor, for one, took advantage of the increased playing time, scoring in double digits in both of the Storm’s wins.

1. Las Vegas Aces (14-4) —

The Aces continue to lead the WNBA in points per game (91.8), field-goal percentage (47.3), trips to the free-throw line (10.3) and rebounds (38.7), and they’re in the top percentiles in nearly every other category besides 3-pointers. That’s hard to beat.