WSOU

WNBA power rankings (week of August 4)

Date: August 7, 2019

By: Heaven Hill

We are back with the WNBA Power Rankings, recapping games from July 23-August 7. Yes, while these rankings were meant to be weekly at the onset, it’s good to switch things up every once in a while to prevent staleness. Therefore, you can expect a playoff bracket prediction when that time comes, along with late season award predictions as well. 

With that, it has been an exciting time in the WNBA. The All Star Break has come and gone, and it was the usual grand time for all parties, featuring the Skills Challenge, an enthralling three-point contest, an emotional All Star Game, and even a party full of celebrities DJ’d by Las Vegas Aces star Liz Cambage. 

But now the league is back in full swing, and surprisingly, still no teams have separated themselves from the pack. Teams like the Connecticut Sun and Los Angeles Sparks are beginning to hit their strides with sizable win streaks, but somehow the Washington Mystics stay right behind in the hunt for a top-two seed and double byes to the WNBA semifinals. 

Conversely, the Seattle Storm and the New York Liberty have hit skids in their respective seasons resulting in the Storm falling down the standings and the Liberty inching further from playoff contention. So, with the long layoff, how have the power rankings shifted this time?

1. Connecticut Sun, up one spot (16-6)

Highlighted game: W vs Chicago Sky, 100-94

The Connecticut Sun are back atop these rankings, currently riding a seven-game win streak. They haven’t lost a game since July 10, to put this hot streak into perspective, proving that their five-game losing streak was a fluke and that this team is the real deal. 

For their highlighted game this week, we have an important game against an Eastern Conference foe that was way more dominant than the final score indicates. This game was over through three quarters, with Connecticut building a 19-point lead entering the fourth quarter before the Sky’s offense decided to wake up and make the final score more presentable.

MVP candidate Jonquel Jones dropped 27 points and 11 rebounds, playing great defense against Chicago’s frontcourt as well. Jasmine Thomas added 18 points and eight assists, while Bria Holmes contributed 11 points off the pine in what was a commanding performance for the team.

Chicago is very clearly in the upper echelon of WNBA teams with a top-two point differential. Also, with their recent trade for Theresa Plaisance from the Dallas Wings, it’s evident that this is a team preparing for a lengthy playoff push.

Other results: W vs Liberty, 70-63 (J. Thomas 18 pts/eight asts); W vs Mercury, 68-62 (Williams 12 pts in fourth quarter); W vs Liberty, 94-79 (Williams 28 pts/seven rebs/six asts)

2. Washington Mystics, up one spot (15-7)

Highlighted game: W vs Las Vegas Aces, 99-70

The highlighted game for the Mystics this week was an interesting one to say the least, as this was the continued game from July 5, that was suspended at halftime due to earthquake aftershocks.

The Mystics initially entered halftime of that game up 15 and kept their foot on the gas pedal this time around, albeit against a different Aces lineup as Cambage was out for rest and A’ja Wilson suffered the ankle injury sidelining her season a few weeks back.

LaToya Sanders had a strong showing against Hamby and Las Vegas, scoring 18 points with seven rebounds. Emma Meesseman, who missed the first half due to her participation in Eurobasket, added seven points, six boards and three assists off the bench in the decisive game.

All in all, despite the Sun’s lengthy ongoing win streak, the Mystics are one game back of first place. These teams are currently in possession of the coveted double postseason byes, but time will tell if they can remain at the top.

Other results: W vs Lynx, 79-71 (Toliver 32 pts, Delle Donne 3500 career pts); W vs Mercury, 99-93 (Delle Donne 33 pts/six rebs/three blks); W vs Storm, 99-79 (Delle Donne 29 pts/13 rebs); L vs Mercury, 103-82 (Meesseman 18 pts)

3. Los Angeles Sparks, up three spots (13-8)

Highlighted game: W vs Seattle Storm, 83-75

The Sparks’ highlighted game is very similar to the Sun: an authoritative victory over a conference foe that showcased the team’s championship ceiling when everyone is firing on all cylinders.

The Sparks entered the fourth quarter up 14 points over a strong Seattle team, as a familiar face for Los Angeles has possibly begun to find her footing. Candace Parker scored a season-high 21 points, adding seven rebounds as she shook off the rust that was evident when she initially returned.

Parker’s ability to score from every level on the court, along with the frontcourt depth provided from the Ogwumike sisters, top-10 pick Kalani Brown, and sophomore Maria Vadeeva, truly unlocks the full potential of this squad that can go far come playoff time.

Other results: W vs Dream, 78-66 (Ruffin-Pratt 23 pts/six-threes); W vs Aces, 76-68 (N. Ogwumike 19 pts/11 rebs)

4. Las Vegas Aces, down three spots (15-8)

Highlighted game: L vs Los Angeles Sparks, 76-68

While the Aces are still in possession of a top-four seed, which would mean at least one playoff round bye, they could potentially slip down the standings if their important players continue not to show up.

Wilson’s ankle injury has resulted in Dearica Hamby’s entry into the starting lineup, which as a result severely hindered the bench production of Las Vegas. While Hamby posted an 11-point double double, her efficiency has taken a hit now that she’s playing against starters. Wilson’s injury has essentially tanked the frontcourt depth, setting off a domino effect of problems.

And in the backcourt, recent number one picks Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young combined for 11 points on 4/18 from the field, continuing their season-long struggles. 

Yet again, the Aces’ highly touted backcourt members have struggled to pick up the slack, and if this maintains for the duration of Wilson’s injury, they might miss out in a first-round bye.

Other results: W vs Storm, 79-62 (Hamby 24 pts, nine rebs); W vs Wings, 86-54 (T. Young 18 pts/six rebs); L vs Mystics, 99-70 (Plum 17 pts/five asts)

5. Phoenix Mercury, up two spots (11-10)

Highlighted game: W vs Washington Mystics, 103-82

These next two rankings were a toss-up between the Mercury and the Sky, but it came down to the quality of wins, as the Mercury annihilated the Mystics for the second time in a month, while the Sky’s one win since the All-Star break was against the lowly Atlanta Dream.

With that, the addition of Leilani Mitchell to the starting lineup has continued to pay dividends for Phoenix, as her sustained hot streak has been huge to the success to this team. Her and Yvonne Turner combined for 45 points and 13 assists as they provided more than enough production to help Brittney Griner, who added 26 points, nine boards and eight assists herself.

DeWanna Bonner struggled this game, but when everyone on the team is on fire like they were, then it won’t matter. And if Bonner is playing like her usual self, then the opposing team might as well stay in the locker room.

Other results: W vs Fever, 95-77 (Griner 22 pts/seven rebs); L vs Mystics, 99-93 (Mitchell 28 pts/eight asts); L vs Sun, 68-62 (Bonner 20 pts/10 rebs)

6. Chicago Sky, down one spot (12-9)

Highlighted game: L vs Connecticut Sun, 100-94

The Sky’s highlighted game of the week was simple: it was either a choice of a big game for tiebreakers with the Sun, or a blowout victory over the Atlanta Dream. As you can see, we didn’t highlight their win over Atlanta.

The Sky sent the All-Stars to Vegas; their three-headed powerhouse of Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot and Diamond DeShields. In this game, the married couple of Quigley and Vandersloot came to play, as they combined for 46 points, with 11 assists from Vandersloot as well.

DeShields, however, continued her streaky season as she scored just 10 points, on 3/11 from the field. Simply put, if the Sky want to beat elite teams, they need their All Stars to produce at similar levels.

Other results: W vs Dream, 87-75 (DeShields 12 pts/12 rebs/six asts)

7. Minnesota Lynx, up one spot (11-11)

Highlighted game: W vs Atlanta Dream, 85-69

The Minnesota Lynx have had a rough set of games post-All-Star break, going one for two. However, they haven’t been as bad as the next team, so this warrants a slight uptick up the rankings.

In their highlighted game, which featured the on-court return of Seimone Augustus, rookie All-Star Napheesa Collier completely took over, dropping 22 points and 11 rebounds, with five assists. She scored 10 straight points during a 15-0 Lynx run that put the game out of reach, and she’s really starting to look like a future star.

Meanwhile, Sylvia Fowles had a 12-point double-double and became the fourth player in league history to reach 600 blocks; also, Augustus scored 8 points to move into the top 10 in scoring all-time.

Collier’s recent performance has been huge, but the return of a member of the Dynasty Four could be even more important for a team clawing for a playoff spot.

Other results: L vs Mystics, 79-71 (Fowles 18 pts/11 rebs); L vs Fever, 86-75 (Fagbenle 14 pts off the bench)

8. Seattle Storm, down FOUR spots (12-11)

Highlighted game: L vs Las Vegas Aces, 79-62

The Seattle Storm haven’t won a game since July 19, going winless in the three games during that span. In their highlighted game, we have a simply astonishing loss. Not because of who they played, but simply how they lost.

Seattle took on the recently shorthanded Aces who were missing arguably their best player in Wilson. So, what do they do? They allowed Hamby, who’s more of a game changer, tone setter off the bench, to drop 24 points to lead all scorers.

Not only did that happen, as Seattle only allowed a total of four bench points. How do you allow only four bench points and still lose? You shoot 35% as a team and find a way, that’s how.

Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard combined for 26 points on 9/27 from the field, and the other Storm starters combined for 17 total points in what was an abysmal performance for mostly everyone.

Jewell Loyd has returned from that nasty ankle injury she sustained a few weeks ago, but the team needs more than just her if they want to snap out of their losing ways.

Other results: L vs Mystics, 99-79 (Howard 26 pts/six rebs/three stls/three blks); L vs Sparks, 83-75 (Whitcomb 16 pts/four asts/four stls)

9. Indiana Fever, up two spots (8-15)

Highlighted game: W vs Minnesota Lynx, 86-75

Compared to last season, this year has been a huge improvement for the Indiana Fever as they have now surpassed their win total from last season, with a current two-game winning streak.

Indiana was unstoppable in their highlighted game, as they went on a 25-5 run to open the third quarter. Even though All-Stars Candice Dupree and Erica Wheeler both struggled and didn’t play more than 12 minutes, it was the bench that propelled the Fever to victory.

Kelsey Mitchell scored 20 points with nine assists to lead Indiana, with Natalie Achonwa, Stephanie Mavunga and Shenise Johnson joining her in double figures coming in as a substitute.

Tiffany Mitchell scored 17 points to lead the starters in what was a big win for the Fever over a playoff team.

Other results: L vs Mercury, 95-77 (Wheeler 18 pts/nine asts); W vs Dream, 61-59 (Wheeler 15 pts/game winner)

10. New York Liberty, down one spot (8-13)

Highlighted game: L vs Dallas Wings, 87-64

Since the Liberty’s other two losses post-All-Star break have come to the powerhouse Connecticut Sun, their highlighted game was a simple choice: a blowout loss to the previously last-place Dallas Wings.

Down 30 points entering the fourth quarter, this game was simply astonishing for the Liberty. They entered the game with everyone healthy, from Tina Charles to Amanda Zahui B., but they couldn’t hit the side of a barn on offense and their defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed.

Rebecca Allen and Asia Durr scores in double figures off the bench for New York, while Kia Nurse scored 13 points to lead the starters in what was a bad loss for a team attempting to make the playoffs.

Other results: L vs Sun, 70-63 (Charles 13 pts/11 rebs); L vs Sun, 94-79 (Charles 20 pts/10 rebs)

11. Dallas Wings, up one spot (6-16)

Highlighted game: L vs Las Vegas Aces, 75-70

While the Wings’ blowout victory over the Liberty could’ve been chosen as the highlighted game, where rookie Arike Ogunbowale was phenomenal, the nailbiter loss to the Aces was more competitive and is the highlighted game of the week.

Dallas entered the fourth quarter with a two-point advantage over Las Vegas, and both teams traded big buckets down the stretch. Unfortunately, the Aces were able to eke out the victory, but this game showed how far the Wings have come this season in terms of development.

Ogunbowale scored 24 points in this matchup, suggesting that she is beginning to hit her stride in the league. Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis joined her in double figures, with Davis getting a crazy block that made every highlight reel.

All in all, this is a different Wings team committed to constant improvement. With their trade of Plaisance for rookie and former college superstar Kristine Anigwe, they’ve gotten even younger and there’s hope that they’ll be even better.

Other results: L vs Aces, 86-54 (Gustafson 11 pts/eight rebs/three stls); W vs Liberty, 87-64 (Ogunbowale 22 pts/five asts)

12. Atlanta Dream, down two spots (5-18)

Highlighted game: L vs Fever, 61-59

The Dream have currently hit a rough patch on their schedule, as they are on a current eight-game losing streak. However, the difference between the last rankings and now is that last time, the Dream were actually competitive, keeping the games close. At this point, they’re starting to roll over for teams.

Their highlighted game was the closest game in scoring margin, as it ended in a heartbreaker for Atlanta, a game winning layup from All-Star Game MVP Wheeler.

Elizabeth Williams dropped 17 points and seven rebounds to lead the team, while Tiffany Hayes and Alex Bentley joined her in double figures. This year has been an unfortunate washout for Atlanta, as Angel McCoughtry’s injury really sidelined the entire team’s season. 

Not to mention, they aren’t a bad young team like Dallas, so the Dream can’t even trade their good players for potential prospects. At this point, the Dream might as well just simulate to next year’s draft lottery and hope to wake up from this nightmare.

Other results: L vs Sparks, 78-66 (Billings 16 pts/eight rebs); L vs Sky, 87-75 (Bentley 21 pts/four rebs); L vs Lynx, 85-69 (Montgomery 19 pts/three rebs/two asts)

Heaven Hill can be reached at heaven.hill@student.shu.edu.

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