So far this WNBA season, we have seen so many teams surprise us with great starts. Where do the Liberty, Sun and Dream fit in among the league’s elite teams?
1) Seattle Storm (6-1)
The Storm may have lost Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark via trade and free agency, respectively, but what if Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd are the two best players in the league? Don’t put it past Loyd to reach that level or at least play like it some nights. Right now Stewart is averaging 23.3 points (second in the WNBA) and 9.7 rebounds (second), while Loyd has gone for 19.4 points per game (seventh) and 4.9 assists per game (seventh). A’ja Wilson/Liz Cambage was the duo that received the most hype entering this season and the Elena Delle Donne/Tina Charles duo is elite as well, but could the Stewie/Loyd duo be in the running to overtake them with both players in their prime? They’ve certainly been the most fun to watch so far this season.
Meanwhile, Sue Bird is playing like she’s 25 and Candice Dupree has been solid as well. Seattle’s record speaks for itself and its only loss was to the preseason favorite in the Aces. Respect the champs.
2) Connecticut Sun (7-2)
The Sun were at No. 9 in our preseason power rankings, but Jonquel Jones came in at No. 6 in our Top 30 players and we knew she could be an MVP contender. Her inside-out talents alone make the Sun dangerous, but her supporting cast also deserves a lot of credit for the team’s early success. DeWanna Bonner opened the season with back-to-back 20-point performances and Connecticut head coach Curt Miller called her “an overshadowed superstar.” Meanwhile, is Brionna Jones the new third member of the Sun’s big three, filling in for the injured Alyssa Thomas? She has been phenomenal so far with 12.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and the title of “star” can be placed on her if it wasn’t already after her breakout 2020 season. Then there’s Jasmine Thomas and Briann January, who are always going to be steady two-way players, and Natisha Hiedeman, who reminds us to not sleep on her when she makes big threes. Hiedeman’s numbers are up to 10 points, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
While we put the Sun at No. 9, we said that they have a history of proving people wrong and that Curt Miller is an excellent head coach. Miller has them in a good position nine games into the season and, with J. Jones leading the team, their ceiling is high.
3) Las Vegas Aces (5-3)
The Aces have shown flashes of being a dominant team, but probably aren’t satisfied with where they’re at right now. They have six players (A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, Jackie Young, Dearica Hamby, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum) averaging double figures with Riquna Williams not far behind. So we see the depth and, with 88.4 points per game, we see the scoring. But the Aces lacked that killer instinct in their two seven-point losses to the Sun. In the more recent contest, Cambage was dominant for stretches, but Connecticut’s stars stole the spotlight when the game was on the line.
4) Phoenix Mercury (4-3)
In an effort to exercise caution about the Dream and Liberty, the Mercury get placed at No. 4 in our power rankings. They still have some of the best top-end talent in the league and are winning without Diana Taurasi right now like they won without Brittney Griner last year. If they can find a way to play at their best when Taurasi, Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith are all together, watch out.
Kia Nurse has proven to be a big pick up as she has raised her 3-point percentage from 23.8 percent last year to 41.5 percent this year and is averaging 11.4 points per game. Megan Walker, an extremely gifted offensive player, has also shown improvement after an oddly weak rookie season and could be a key piece moving forward.
5) Atlanta Dream (4-2)
The Dream’s guard-heavy lineup has been working wonders. Tiffany Hayes, Chennedy Carter and Courtney Williams have formed a formidable backcourt big three. C. Williams in particular has impressed by becoming the sixth-best scorer in the league at 19.5 points per game. We knew the Dream were a solid team because of their depth, but C. Williams’ star play has taken them to another level.
Speaking of the depth, Monique Billings has led the way off the bench with 7.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Crystal Bradford and Odyssey Sims have been key contributors as well. When you can say you have someone who played as well as Billings played last year coming off the bench, along with great players like Odyssey Sims and Shekinna Stricklen and the No. 3 pick in Aari McDonald, you know your team doesn’t have any weak links. Also, Cheyenne Parker still hasn’t played yet.
6) New York Liberty (5-2)
Sabrina Ionescu is already playing like a star and Betnijah Laney has been on a mission to dominate. Rookie Michaela Onyenwere has been a pleasant surprise, Sami Whitcomb has morphed into a core player after years of being a 3-point specialist and the team is getting key contributions up and down the roster. When Natasha Howard returns, New York will have an even better big three than what we expected with Ionescu and Laney exceeding expectations. And the role players are exceeding expectations too. The Liberty were right there with Atlanta competing for that No. 5 spot.
We knew the Liberty could compete for a playoff spot this year, as we put them at No. 8 in our preseason rankings.
7) Dallas Wings (2-4)
After all the hype about Dallas’ four draft picks, it has been young, unheralded vets stepping up that has made the Wings an interesting team early on. From Kayla Thornton to Isabelle Harrison to third-year player Marina Mabrey and second-year player Tyasha Harris, anybody could step up for Dallas on any given night. Mabrey has been particularly impressive with 19.3 points per game, good for eighth in the league. If she can continue to be a star alongside Arike Ogunbowale, the Wings could be dangerous. Don’t forget that they will also be getting Allisha Gray and Satou Sabally back. Gray led the team with 23 points in its season-opening win.
The Dallas rookies haven’t been getting a lot of playing time and their lack of involvement is one cause for concern. But Charli Collier and Awak Kuier not needing to be among the Top 7 players on the team is impressive.
8) Washington Mystics (2-4)
The Mystics could be higher on this list if you consider the fact that Elena Delle Donne will be returning. With her, Washington should be drastically better. But for now Tina Charles has been carrying too much weight on her shoulders. Myisha Hines-Allen and Natasha Cloud’s numbers have disappointed a bit, though Hines-Allen has only played in three games, and the Mystics’ lack of good depth has shown. Ariel Atkins is doing well, though, with 16 points per game and a 3-point shooting percentage of 42.9.
9) Chicago Sky (2-5)
Similar to the Mystics, the Sky will be a lot better when Candace Parker, Allie Quigley and Stefanie Dolson return. Kahleah Copper was phenomenal during the team’s 2-0 start, but has been a little inconsistent. It’s a bit surprising that she, Courtney Vandersloot and Diamond DeShields couldn’t lead this team to more wins without Parker, but a lot of their losses have been close. Vandersloot had one game where she scored just two points, but for the most part has been amazing to watch as she continues to remind us how valuable her command of the court is.
10) Minnesota Lynx (1-4)
Maybe it’s not time to hit the panic button in Minnesota. And, considering the fact that they are No. 10 in out power rankings, that shows the depth of the league. With Napheesa Collier playing, the Lynx lost to the first-place Storm and defeated the second-place Sun. That’s not bad at all, though they did score under 80 points in both of those games and really struggled without N. Collier, including when they gave up a 19-point lead in their other game against the Storm.
11) Los Angeles Sparks (2-3)
The Sparks beat the Sky twice, but lost by double digits in their three other games, including losses by 28 and 23. With Washington, Chicago and Minnesota all set to improve, it’s hard not to put the Sparks at No. 11. They were expected to be in the bottom half of the league entering the season and though they have a better record than Dallas, their overall performances have paled in comparison to the Wings (who lost four close games), Sun, Dream and Liberty (the other teams picked at No. 7 through 11 in our preseason power rankings). Is Nneka Ogwumike good enough to carry this team, or do they need better pieces surrounding her to be a true contender? We’ll find out as the season progresses.
12) Indiana Fever (1-8)
The Fever really deserve some credit for playing the Liberty close in both of their first two games. If we’re going to put New York on a pedestal, those were signs of promise for Indiana. However, the Fever have indeed been the weakest team in the league as expected. They were once again a unanimous pick at No. 12 in our power rankings. Kelsey Mitchell only scoring 14 points per game and shooting 22 percent from three isn’t going to get Indiana many wins. She was expected to have a really good offensive season and be a big star after averaging 17.9 points per game in the wubble. She could be shining brighter than she is right now.