WNBA Power Rankings: Watch out for the Phoenix Mercury

Skylar Diggins-Smith (@PhoenixMercury)

We’re nearly a month into the WNBA season, and due to injuries and international commitments, we still haven’t seen some teams at full strength.

What we have had are competitive matchups and thrilling finishes, with three games this past week ending on last-second 3-pointers.

We only hope you can find as much excitement in this week’s edition of the JWS power rankings.

12. Indiana Fever (1-9) —

The Fever have lost five in a row and their smallest margin of defeat during that streak was 15 points against the Storm. Indiana is scoring the fewest points per game in the league (74.7) and surrendering the most (89.6). You have to wonder when coach Marianne Stanley will start giving first-round draft picks Kyrse Gondrezick and Lauren Cox more playing time.

11. Chicago Sky (2-7) -3

The only losing streak worse than Indiana’s is Chicago’s. The Sky have lost seven straight games since winning their first two and they’ve yet to play any of the top three teams in the league. Their defense has kept them in games and given them a chance to win, but turnovers and inefficient shooting continue to plague them.

10. Washington Mystics (2-5) —

The Mystics have the individual talent to keep up with some of the best teams, which explains how they played both the Sun and Aces close this past week. But when you’re shooting as many 3-pointers as Washington does — currently leading the league with 29.1 attempts per game — you have to connect on more than 32.4 percent of them to close out games.

9. Los Angeles Sparks (4-3) +2

The Sparks’ wins have come against the two worst teams in these power rankings. They’ve tightened up their defense since surrendering 90-plus points in each of their first two games, but they haven’t been tested as much as other teams. Amanda Zahui B. should at least help the Sparks improve on the glass, where they rank last in the WNBA.

8. New York Liberty (5-4) -4

The Liberty are pin-balling around these power rankings, and you might disagree with their placement here given they’re sixth in the actual league standings. For the middle tier, I accounted for head-to-head results, common opponents and strength of schedule. For New York and Atlanta, who have similar track records up to this point, it comes down to the fact that the Liberty have lost three straight, with one of those losses being to Atlanta.

7. Atlanta Dream (4-4) -2

The Dream dropped two straight to the Lynx since going on a four-game winning streak, which is more excusable now that the Lynx are looking like the team many believed to be a contender. The Dream are still scoring at will and third-leading scorer Chennedy Carter should return to the lineup this month after missing two games with a hyperextended elbow.

6. Dallas Wings (3-5) +3

The Wings get the award for the best team with the worst record. Each of their losses this season have been by single digits and they’ve played the Storm — No. 1 in our power rankings — close every time, which translated to a win over Seattle on Sunday and makes you believe more are coming. They’re a young team, but their bench is deeper than most.

5. Minnesota Lynx (3-4) +2

This is why I wasn’t sleeping on the Lynx when they lost four straight to open the season. Napheesa Collier has given the team a jolt of confidence in her return, not only getting hers but also drawing defenders to take some of the pressure off her teammates. Crystal Dangerfield is also settling into her role as the first player off the bench, giving Minnesota another weapon.

4. Phoenix Mercury (5-3) +2

The Mercury haven’t been overpowering opponents, but they’re showing the value of their veteran lineup by closing out tight games. Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner are averaging 24.3 and 18.7 points per game, respectively, during Phoenix’s three-game win streak. That Kia Nurse is looking more comfortable, too, is only a good sign for this team while it waits for Diana Taurasi to return.

3. Las Vegas Aces (7-3) —

When you have six players who can step up and lead you to victory on any given night, as the Aces do in their starting lineup plus Dearica Hamby and Kelsey Plum off the bench, you’re set up for success. They showed that this past week, holding on to defeat the Liberty and Mystics despite suffering defensive breakdowns at times.

2. Connecticut Sun (8-2) —

We’ve written before about the powerhouse offensive duo of Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner. An underrated aspect of the Sun’s surge this season is their defense, which is giving up the fewest points per game in the WNBA and consistently winning on the glass. That could be what sustains them while Jones misses at least four games for EuroBasket.

1. Seattle Storm (7-2) —

If there’s anything for the Storm to worry about, it’s that no one outside of their Big 3 of Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird has emerged as a consistent offensive weapon. That was evident in their loss to the Wings on Sunday, when the most any other player scored was four points. The good news is those three have already led them to seven wins and the role players are bound to improve.