Right now, there are only 4 teams above .500. Every one of these 4 teams, the Sparks, Lynx, Liberty, and Dream, are led by players that historically have been MVP caliber players. As an interesting side note, all 4 players won Rookie of the Year. Let’s take a look at these teams, their leaders, and what we can expect from them for the rest of the season.
Before the season started, did anyone else predict the Los Angeles Sparks would get to 20-2? No. No one did. Yet here they are, 2nd in points per game, 1st in assists, and 1st in points allowed. They also have the best team shooting percentage at 49.4%, and are the second best 3 point shooting team behind the Sky. They lack in rebounding, but seem to be making up for it by simply playing great defense. Candace Parker just missed a triple double two games ago, and that apparent ankle injury was not serious. They continue to roll behind not only Parker, but from stellar play by Nneka Ogwumike as well. Parker, however, is still the leader of this team, and has really brought together all her talent to push this team to entirely new level this season.
Second best are the Minnesota Lynx who look pretty much as strong as usual. They can take that 3 game losing streak at the end of June with a grain of salt because 2 of the games were against the other 2 best teams in the league. Maya Moore continues to outshine just about everyone in the league, and is 3rd in points and 7th assists. The team as whole per game is 3rd in points, 2nd in assists, 2nd in points allowed, and decent 5th in rebounds. Despite having those 2 more losses than the Sparks, I won’t be surprised if they still come out on top in the playoffs.
The New York Liberty are led by Tina Charles, who is an absolute scoring and and rebounding machine. She is leading the league in points and rebounds per game, and just as importantly, is assisting well this season, standing 12th per game. Why do the the Liberty have the 3rd best record in the league right now? I think it comes down to being the best rebounding team, a very good passing team, and a very good defensive unit. Just like the Lynx and Sparks, they are led by a player who is having an MVP worthy season.
Lastly we have the Atlanta Dream, who went out last night and dismantled the Sparks, handing them only their second loss of the season. The Dream are led, as always, by Angel McCoughtry, who continues to shine on a team that has lost a bit of it’s shine since starting the season off strong with only one loss in their first seven games. McCoughtry is 7th in points and 4th in steals, but is giving up more turnovers than anyone else in the league. Where the Dream really need to improve is with their passing and 3 point shooting. They are dead last in both categories, but a bright spot is rebounding, where they rank 2nd in the league per game at 36.3. Thus far the Dream are a middling team with potential to make the East Conference Finals. But compared to the other three teams with winning records, I don’t see them having quite what it takes yet to get much beyond the first couple rounds of the playoffs.
So what can we take away from these four teams? What are setting them apart from the rest of the league? I’d say two important things are team assists and rebounds. All four teams are doing either one of both of those things very well, and I believe rebounding and assists are a big key to winning games. There’s still plenty of basketball to be played this season, but I’d already be willing to bet it’s one of these teams that wins the title this season.