With a little over a month of basketball already played including preseason, the league is starting to take shape, and there are certainly a few surprises that I doubt many folks saw coming. And of course a few not so surprising things to take into consideration as well. I want to look simply at teams as whole, rather than individual players.
First, most surprising of all is the Los Angeles Sparks. They are still tied with the other best team in the league, Minnesota at 8-0. The Sparks are team that looks like they are loving playing together, and have some of the best all around talent in the league. Despite their youth, I won’t be surprised if they keep up with the Lynx and contend for a Finals appearance, or at least battle in the Conference Finals. Another interesting surprise is that no other team in the West has a winning record. Maybe that is because of how well the Lynx and Sparks are playing, but we should also consider how inter-conference play, new this season, is affecting both conferences. Sure, the West has only two winning teams, but in the East only the Dream have a winning record, while the Sky, Liberty and Fever sit at 4-4. I would honestly venture to say that inter-conference play is separating the contenders from the non-contenders sooner than expected, but it is also still early in the season. Nevertheless, the fact that Minnesota is 8-0 does not surprise at all, while that fact that the Sun are 1-7 does. The Sun, with the talent they already had, as well as the talent they drafted, look like a team with a lot more growing and learning to do.
So, Connecticut is disappointing, but the Mercury and the Mystics are as well. If any of these three teams can really turn it around, I’d say it’s Phoenix, but it simply may not be their year. Their biggest rival Minnesota looks so good, and so does Los Angeles, that it appears to be another two-horse race in the West like last season, only it’s the Sparks instead of the Mercury. The rest of the West, although maybe unable to keep up with Lynx or Sparks, still look to provide some very entertaining moments this year. The Storm look promising with a VERY dynamic duo in Lloyd and Stewart, the Wings look like they could possibly do some damage if they can get Skylar Diggins healthy this season, but once again San Antonio looks destined for another single digit number of wins season.
In the East, the Dream are the pleasant surprise that many in Atlanta have been hoping for. Like Los Angeles, Atlanta looks like a team with chemistry and a real desire to win now rather than hope for a success later. Angel McCoughtry continues to lead her team and has a good group of players around her that are contributing well and having fun doing so. The other team of note is the Liberty. They have shown flashes of last year’s regular season toughness and ability, but are going to have to find answers fast if they want to stick around come playoff time. The same could be said for Chicago and Indiana, but it will be interesting if anyone will really compete with the Lynx the rest of the season. They are so talented, so deep, and have so much experience these past several seasons, I think only major injuries are going to stop them from winning another title this year. As for the rest of the East, the Mystics and Sun look like almost wrecked ships even well before the All-Star Game. But can Atlanta, New York, or the Sparks get close to an upset like Indiana last year, or even do the Fever one better and topple the league’s best team? My advice is to simply stay tuned and above all else, enjoy some great basketball.