Five WNBA teams have clinched their playoff spots and, with just over two weeks left of the regular season, three more are still up for grabs.
The power rankings go beyond the standings, taking into account momentum, head-to-head results, strength of schedule and advanced stats. As the playoff race among the teams in the middle tier gets particularly tight, let’s see who has the best chance to come out ahead.
Congratulations to the Atlanta Dream, who have lost 10 games in a row and supplanted the Fever on the bottom rung of the power rankings for the first time this season. Atlanta’s calling card all season has been its high-scoring offense, and even that’s fallen off of late. The Dream were once in the top five of WNBA offensive rating. Now, their offense is averaging just 74 points per game after the Olympic break.
Congratulations to the Indiana Fever, who are finally looking down at a team on the power rankings. Five of Indiana’s six wins have come since July 3, infusing the team with necessary optimism all while they stay close to the probability of earning the No. 1 spot in the 2022 draft. An interesting statistic: The Fever and Dream lead the league in the percentage of points scored from mid-range, a trend most teams have moved away from in favor of the long ball and shots at the rim.
Every time you want to believe Los Angeles can go on a run, another star player gets hurt and the offense goes dry. Defense has never been the problem for the Sparks, who are second in the league in points allowed per game at 78.4. On the offensive side, they’re not only the lowest-scoring team, but they are also last in field-goal percentage and assists per game, suggesting the chemistry is off.
It’s getting ugly in New York. Natasha Howard is back in full swing and Sabrina Ionescu looks more like the player the Liberty drafted first overall in 2020, but neither of those positive strides has translated to wins. The Liberty have lost five straight and eight of their last nine dating back to July 9, and suddenly they are in danger of missing out on the playoffs after a strong first half.
Elena Delle Donne returned to the court on Aug. 22 after nearly two years away and teamed up with Tina Charles, finally forming the potent frontcourt lineup the Mystics envisioned when they signed Charles as a free agent in 2020. Then, Charles went down with a glute strain and Delle Donne’s back started acting up again. With the Liberty free-falling, there’s no ruling Washington out of the playoffs just yet, but health is paramount.
Dallas has been a tough team to gauge this season. They’ve had their moments of brilliance, notably beating the Storm earlier in the year and playing them close in their other meetings, and then they’ve had games where their inexperience is on full display. The good news for the Wings is four of their final six games are against teams beneath them in the standings, and in the early-round single-elimination games of the playoffs, anything can happen.
Just like last season — and just as we predicted — the Mercury have hit their stride late in the season, having won their last seven games and clinched a playoff spot Tuesday night. Team USA’s gold-medal run at the Olympics clearly wore off on the Mercury’s three stars, with Skylar Diggins-Smith alone averaging 19.6 points per game since the break. Their recent strength of schedule has left much to be desired, but they made a promising statement against Chicago this week.
The Storm’s drop in the power rankings doesn’t mean they’ve fallen out of title contention. A three-game losing streak is out of character for the defending champions, especially when it includes losing to the same team back-to-back. In those three games, the Storm shot 26.8 percent from 3, which is significantly below their league-leading average. Once they find their stroke again, they should get back to their winning ways.
As the Sky showed in their 3-0 regular-season series against the Storm, they have one of the most dangerous benches in the league. Coach James Wade has started bringing Stefanie Dolson and Diamond DeShields, who have three All-Star Game appearances between them, off the bench, making it hard for opponents to defend Chicago’s speed, size and length for a full 40 minutes.
The Lynx aren’t overpowering opponents, but they’re playing smart basketball, ranking second in the league in field goal percentage (45.5) and in effective field goal percentage (50.6), which accounts for the value of 3-point attempts. It doesn’t hurt that Sylvia Fowles is making a case for WNBA MVP with her play and coach Cheryl Reeve has one of the sharpest minds in the game.
The Aces continue to get it done on both ends of the floor, leading the league with 88.8 points per game and 38.9 rebounds per game. For a team that plays an inside game and attempts the fewest 3-pointers in the WNBA, Las Vegas is also shooting a second-best 36.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Interestingly, no team plays their bench less than the Sun, whose non-starters average 8.8 minutes per game. You wonder how long their starters can keep up that pace through the postseason, but then again, I have a hard time betting against a starting lineup that includes Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones.