2019 Season Midpoint Review

Logopit_1563512002451We are halfway through the season and thus far, it has been a pretty wild ride. Looking back on my preseason predictions, I am reminded as to why I don’t like predictions: because I am terrible at them. But we press on! We press on into the All-Star break and we have all sorts of questions in our minds. “Who will win MVP?”, “Who will win Rookie of the Year?”, “Who is the best team in the league?” and perhaps most troubling of all, “Will there be any players left to suit up for the playoffs uninjured?”

Seriously, if we are going to talk about anything, let’s talk about how players from across the league just seem to keep getting injured, week in and week out. Even when we knew players that were going to be out for much or all of the year before it started, we have continued to see players go down for significant amounts of time. Sancho Lyttle, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Jewell Loyd, Asia Durr, Elena Delle Donne, the list goes on with so many players out with injuries throughout this year. You cannot help but feel for players who get her and have to miss games for their teams. I hope the second half of the season is healthier for everyone across the league.

Now, besides injuries, there has been a fair amount of off the court drama, with players embroiled in domestic disputes, etc. I will only say that I hope the WNBA can come to some sort of consensus on dealing with these matters the right way. I would hope that when concerns are raised, that teams, management, and league leadership listen to those involved and that they take appropriate action. One of the very first articles I wrote for this site was how I felt that the WNBA could be at the forefront of dealing with off the court issues the right way, to lead by example and to show other sports leagues how to handle different issues on and off the court. I talked only briefly about how the league could try to really openly and honestly deal with off the court issues, and how they needed to be prompt in dealing with said issues. Some will say they have not done a very good job this season with the issues that have arisen, while others will say we shouldn’t speculate or give too many opinions on matters we don’t fully understand or have the whole story on. I would agree that as fans, we should wait for the whole story before forming opinions or commenting one way or the other. My only hope is that the league does it’s best, in a timely manner, in any and every situation to help ANYONE affected by any situation involving the league, its employees, its personnel, and its players.

So beyond injuries and off the court drama what has actually been happening on the court in the WNBA this year? Let’s break it down by category:

THE BEST TEAMS: Washington Mystics (9-6) and Las Vegas Aces (11-6)

The Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics look like the two best teams in the league.

For the Aces, Liz Cambage, A’ja Wilson, and Kayla McBride are averaging 15 points a game each and will all be All-Stars on their home court next week. The Aces are the #1 team in the league in rebounds and assists. They are the highest defensive rated team in the league. The Washington Mystics are the best shooting team, they score the most points per game, they are second in steals and blocks. They are first in turnover average, and third in assists. They also commit the least amount of fouls per game.  The Mystics and the Aces have the best plus-minus ratings in the league. It will be interesting to see if both teams can stay healthy and continue to play well until the end of the season. The Mystics want another shot at the title, they want to return to the Finals. The Aces are a young, hungry team proving that they are ready to take on the entire league. They have 3 of the best players in the league right now, but ratings-wise the Mystics absolutely have a complete roster of some of the best offensive players in the league this year. Delle Donne, Toliver, Meesseman, Hawkins, Cloud, Sanders, Powers, Walker-Kimbrough all have an offensive rating of 104 or higher. That means 9 of the top 12 offensive ratings belong to Mystics players. That is tough beat, but maybe the Aces top-rated defense can do just that come playoff time.

THE BEST PLAYERS: Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Howard, DeWanna Bonner, Jonquel Jones

I’m not going to quote a bunch of stats in this section. I’m too tired. But you probably already know, Delle Donne is playing extremely well this season. Howard is breaking out into a bonafide MVP candidate, Bonner is the low key MVP because she is putting up nutso numbers on a team that had more or less struggled without their leader Diana Taurasi. Jonquel Jones is a standout on the boards and is currently the most efficient player in the WNBA. Someone like Tina Charles or Liz Cambage could go nuts the rest of the season and leapfrog everyone to take the award, but that seems unlikely.

However, I have no idea who will ultimately win the MVP award. Howard will be possibly embroiled in off the court issues, Delle Donne may not be healthy, Bonner may be overlooked because of the Mercury’s overall record, and Jonquel Jones may take a dip with her numbers. Like I said at the beginning of the season, we simply cannot predict what is going to happen in 2019. This is a season of incredible uncertainty that has made for a challenging if not exciting and very interesting MVP race.

THE MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS: Odyssey Sims, Mercedes Russell, Kia Nurse, Jordin Canada

This is one of the hardest categories to try to choose an overall winner of. My vote right now is Odyssey Sims, not only because of her stats but because of that fact that I was personally rooting for her to have some kind of career revival with her move to Minnesota. Mercedes Russell looks like a player who was not going to last in the league as a rookie in 2018. As LWPRODUCTIONS pointed out on Twitter, she has totally transformed her game this season and looks ready to be a solid player for the surprising Storm as the season goes on. Like Russell, Kia Nurse is another second-year player who looks like she is here to stay. She was one of my favorite rookies last year, but she, unsurprisingly had an up and down year stats wise. She looks more solid and more ready to take some of the offensive load that has been weighing down Tina Charles for several seasons. Jordin Canada is another player that has seen more minutes due to injuries in Seattle. She is having a breakout year but that comes as less of a surprise because was such a dynamic force for UCLA in college. All of these players are deserving of the Most Improved Player award, but we will have to wait to see how it all plays out at the end of the year.

THE BEST ROOKIES: Napheesa Collier, Arike Ogunbowale, Asia Durr

I think people are realizing that Collier was the steal of the draft. I think I’m realizing it just now typing it. I think the only person not realizing it is Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve because she knew all along and that’s why Minnesota drafted her. Ogunbowale has been pretty darn impressive at times in her rookie season, but I just don’t like her shooting percentages and would love her to pass first and shoot second. Asia Durr can be the 3rd or 2nd go-to scorer on a New York Liberty team that really needs a 2nd or 3rd go-to scorer behind Charles and Nurse. I like all three of these players. People must think I have some deep, strange bias against Arike, but I just like Collier’s all-around game in the first half of 2019. I would like to see other rookies like McCowan, Kalani Brown, and Jackie Young have a more lasting impact on their teams in the years to come, and I think like some of the Most Improved players we talked about earlier, they could certainly have breakout sophomore efforts and go on to have very good WNBA careers. I wish nothing but the best for this rookie class because it was so full of talent you couldn’t help but want to cheer for every single rookie that made a team in 2019.

CONCLUSION

I have enjoyed the season so far, and I hope you have as well. I haven’t been able to follow as closely as I have in years past, but it has been a very interesting year all around the league, and I hope the second half is as wild and fun as the first. Everyone make sure to tune in to the All-Star Game in Las Vegas on July 27th! As always, thank you for reading!

 

Advertisements

Saturday 25 May 2019

Want to know what to be watching out for in the WNBA this year? Which players are going to have breakout seasons and really shine? Who’s going to take up the MVP mantle? Which rookie will meet or exceed expectations? Which younger veteran will have a career year? Which veterans will surprise the heck out of everyone and lead their team to a deep playoff run? Which team is going to take home a championship trophy? The answer to all these questions is the same: Everyone and anyone!

You cannot predict what is going to happen this year, at all. NOBODY has a clue as to whether or not the Phoenix Mercury or the Las Vegas Aces or the Seattle Storm or the Washington Mystics or the Connecticut Sun or the Atlanta Dream or any else is going to win it all this year.

No one has a clue as to whether or not Brittney Griner, Liz Cambage, DeWanna Bonner, Tiffany Mitchell, Courtney Vandersloot, Elena Delle Donne, Nneka Ogwunike, A’ja Wilson, Jonquel Jones, Jewell Loyd, Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles or any number of players will win the MVP award. If they knew they’d have already placed their bets.

Who’s going to be the best defender this year? Will Alana Beard win ANOTHER DPOY? What about Griner? Well heck, don’t forget Fowles or Meesseman or Elizabeth Williams or Jonquel Jones or Natasha Howard or A’ja Wilson or about 10 other players that could come out of nowhere to take the award. I HAVE NO IDEA, but neither does anyone else if we are all being honest.

Who’s going be Coach of the Year? Brian Agler could really take a Wings team that people have been writing off in the off-season and get to the playoffs, but so could Cheryl Reeve and the Lynx, so could James Wade and the Sky, but they might just as soon give it to Curt Miller or first year coach Derek Fisher. Heck the Liberty could get their stuff together and have Katie Smith winning the thing. But so could Pokey Chatman, Nikki Collen, and basically any coach in the league at this point.

And that is ALL exactly why this season is going to be amazing and completely unexpected and unpredictable. Because everything that has happened this off-season has been unexpected and unpredictable. Oh, Breanna Stewart’s out for the season, but wait, so is Sue Bird?? Anyone see that coming? How about the Sparks getting rid of Brian Agler and hiring Derek Fisher of all people? Anyone predict that before it happened? How about Chiney Ogwunike working a deal to leave Connecticut and join her sister on the Sparks? Wouldn’t have dared dream that one up. How about Liz Cambage actually getting traded to the LAS VEGAS ACES?? After everything else that was happening, you called that trade, eh? That was a surefire bet right? How about the league hiring an actual commissioner and getting advanced stats on THEIR WEBSITE FINALLY? Wouldn’t have put money on that if my life depended on it. But guess what? It all happened and now the season is starting this weekend and we all should be jumping for joy and just how wild and crazy and unpredictable and insane and fun this season is going to be! I can’t wait to see who the most improved player is, or who 6th woman of the year, or LOOK AT THIS ROOKIE CLASS?! WHO IN THE WORLD is going to be Rookie of the Year??? IT COULD BE SO MANY DIFFERENT PLAYERS!

So please, buy the dang WNBA League Pass, it costs as much as you were going to spend on breakfast this morning. Please buy tickets and go to games if you live near teams. Buy merchandise from the WNBA team stores. Shout out and retweet you favorite people, teams, and players on Twitter and Instagram every game. Watch all the teams. Watch every award race. Read the stats. Support the WNBA because it’s going to be more fun and crazy than you can even imagine this year!

2019 Season Predictions

If you follow me regularly you know I hate predictions due to their fickle, insane nature. But here we are. Best of luck to every single player and team this year. It is going to be a wild ride.

Here are my predictions for the 2019 Season:

MVP: Elena Delle Donne

Champions: Phoenix Mercury

Rookie of the Year: Katie Lou Samuelson

Most Improved: Odyssey Sims

Defensive Player: Brittney Griner

6th Woman: Emma Meesseman

Coach of the year: Nikki Collen

Some back up choices just to make it fun:

MVP: Liz Cambage

Champions: Atlanta Dream

Rookie: Alanna Smith

Most Improved: Kelsey Plum

Defensive Player: Ariel Atkins

6th Woman: Alex Bentley

Coach of the year: Brian Agler

2019 WNBA Pre-Season Power Rankings

The 2019 WNBA Season is underway this week with our first group of preseason games featuring the Liberty taking on China, the Mystics taking on the Lynx, and the Sparks taking on the Mercury. Now that the draft is over and moves and roster cuts continue to happen, let’s rank each team as they head into what looks to be a very interesting and uncertain WNBA season. This is a tough list because almost every team should be ranked in a tie for 4th place given all the talent and potential each roster has going into the season.

1. Washington Mystics

The Mystics are looking to make back to back trips to the WNBA Finals in 2019 after being swept last year by Seattle. With Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver, LaToya Sanders, Emma Meesseman, Natasha Cloud, and plenty of other young talent, I expect them to get there. Delle Donne has to stay healthy, and Meesseman has to contribute off the bench immediately. The team needs to rebound better and get more assists, and they have to continue to be the best free throw shooting team in the league. If they can do everything they were doing at the end of the last year, they will be a strong contender to make the Finals once again.

2. Los Angeles Sparks

The Sparks got Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike on the same team. They traded Odyssey Sims for Alexis Jones. They got Tierra Ruffin-Pratt in free agency. They lost Essence Carson to Phoenix. They probably won’t get Liz Cambage. But this roster is still one of the most talented in the league. Candace Parker, Chelsea Gray, who they just re-signed, Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, the newly drafted Kalani Brown, Alana Beard, and Jantel Lavender look to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing season in 2018 and get back to the WNBA Finals. They have a new head coach in long time NBA star Derek Fisher. They made have some ups and downs as they adjust to a new coach, but I believe with this roster, they have a great chance this year at another title run.

3. Connecticut Sun

Still young and full of talent with a great coaching staff, the Sun are also looking to bounce back from a frustrating 2018 season. Jonquel Jones has to return to form, and the team will need to continue to be the fastest offense in the league. If they can continue where they left off in 2017, they will be back in the playoff hunt, hopeful to get over their past playoff disappointment.

4. Seattle Storm

The Seattle Storm surprised everyone by jumping leaps and bounds forward in the play of their young stars Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart. They won the off-season by trading for Natasha Howard who turned into the Most Improved player of the year along side Stewart. Key players like Alysha Clark and rookie Jordin Canada played important roles starting and coming off the bench. And leading the Storm was the always amazing, ageless wonder Sue Bird. Her play during the regular season and heroics and leadership in playoffs were some of the most important factors in bringing Seattle it’s third WNBA title. Unfortunately Breanna Stewart got hurt overseas and will miss all of 2019. Without her, the Storm will really need to conjure up something special to repeat what they did last year.

5. Phoenix Mercury

No Taurasi? No problem. DeWanna Bonner, Yvonne Turner, Briann January, and rookie Sophie Cunningham can step up with Griner in the post to continue to be a force in the Western Conference. Taurasi will be back just in time to continue to push the Mercury into yet another playoff run. Maybe….

6. Atlanta Dream

Another team loaded with talent yet missing their best player, the Dream hope they can continue to improve and win games without Angel McCoughtry. With a roster of Elizabeth Williams, Brittney Sykes, Renee Montgomery, Tiffany Hayes, and Alex Bentley, the Dream should be able to continue to find ways to win with transition play and hard defense.

7. Chicago Sky

Like the rest of the league, the talent is there on the roster for the Sky. The question is whether or not it translates to wins in 2019. Cheyenne Parker is breaking out, as is Diamond DeShields. Recent addition Kahleah Copper, last year’s other rookie Gabby Williams, and veteran post Stefanie Dolson should all be ready to help their two backcourt leaders in always underrated Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley improve and get back into playoff contention. Alaina Coates could be another important young player to have a breakout season for Chicago, as could rookie Katie Lou Samuelson from Connecticut. Rookie Chloe Jackson could see minutes behind Vandersloot or Quigley, but only time will tell.

8. Las Vegas Aces

A’ja Wilson, Kayla McBride, Kelsey Plum, Moriah Jefferson, and new #1 draft pick Jackie Young. The Aces are another team with a really good looking young roster brimming with potential. But like the Sky, the Sun, and even the Dream, Las Vegas is a team that can really go either way this season. Veterans like Dearica Hamby, Tamera Young, and new trade addition Sugar Rodgers will look to provide leadership on and off the court for a team that missed the playoffs by just a few moments in the final game against the Wings last season.

9. Minnesota Lynx

Yet another team that will miss their star player with Maya Moore sitting out the season, the Lynx dynasty looks headed for a rebuild. Brunson may or may not be back, and Lindsey Whalen has retired. Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus are, as Kelsey Plum so succinctly put it “old”. But you can’t buy wisdom and experience, and youthful additions Lexie Brown from the Sun and Odyssey Sims from the Sparks are looking good in training camp. The Lynx Dynasty as we knew it may be close to over, but with this front office and coaching staff, you cannot count this team completely out.

10. Dallas Wings

New head coach Brian Agler has question marks staring at him in his first season in Dallas. The biggest one is will Liz Cambage ever play for the Wings again, and second when will Skylar Diggins-Smith be back after giving birth in the off-season? Beyond that, that still have the veteran strength of Glory Johnson and young stars like Allisha Gray and Azura Stevens to continue to make progress towards winning in the regular season and winning in the playoffs. Rookies Arike Ogunbowale and Megan Gustafson will also help to add depth to a team that needs help on both ends of the floor.

11. Indiana Fever

Ever since Tamika Catchings retired, the Fever have been in a continuing rebuild. With last year’s rookie standout Victoria Vivian’s out with an ACL injury, the Fever are going to need a boost of offense if they want to try to turn things around this season. Rookie Teaira McCowan from Mississippi State should be the answer for the size under the basket they have been desperately needing the past couple of years, while Kelsey Mitchell and Tiffany Mitchell will need to continue to develop and grow in the backcourt. The future is there for the Fever, but it is still in the future. Playoff hopes are dim at the start of this year.

12. New York Liberty

A new owner in Joseph Tsai certainly seems to brighten the future for the New York Liberty. After last season’s dismal performance however, any news seems like good news. The Liberty will continue to play home games at the unfit Westchester County Center , which drove down attendance and only made things worse for a team seemingly at the beginning of a real transition under new Coach Katie Smith. Last year’s rookie gem Kia Nurse will now team up with fellow guard Asia Durr, and Tina Charles will only hope that Durr can take some of the offensive load of of her back. No team in the league depends on a single player more than the Liberty do with Tina Charles. But it’s not just Durr she’ll be hoping to have contribute more; rookie Megan Huff and other young players Kiah Stokes, Bria Hartley, Amanda Zahui B, and Brittany Boyd will all need to step up their games if they want to start winning more games and get back to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Twitter’s Favorite Players to Watch 2018

I ran an informal question poll on Twitter the weekend after the 2018 season ended and asked, “Who was your favorite WNBA Player to watch in 2018?” I was happy to see a lot of folks respond and give their opinions on who they enjoyed watching the most this season. I wasn’t surprised but many of the answers, I was more surprised by the number of players that didn’t get mentioned, even once. First let’s look at the list, broken down simply by each player and the number of votes (or times someone mentioned them in a response) that player received. Bear in mind that many respondents mentioned more than one player, as the general consensus seemed to be that it was simply too difficult to name only one player as their favorite to watch. Second, we’ll talk about some of the players I was surprised that no one voted for, and why that may be. I will be updating the list periodically if more votes come in, but it has stayed fairly consistent numbers wise. There have been 87 responses so far, but remember that some responses contained more than one player.

The List

15 votes – Elena Delle Donne
15 votes – DeWanna Bonner
12 votes – Liz Cambage
10 votes – Natasha Howard
10 votes – Diana Taurasi
09 votes – Sue Bird
09 votes – A’ja Wilson
08 votes – Brittney Griner
08 votes – Breanna Stewart
07 votes – Tiffany Hayes
07 votes – Kristi Toliver
07 votes – Ariel Atkins
07 votes – Natasha Cloud
05 votes – Candace Parker
04 votes – Kia Nurse
04 votes – Courtney Vandersloot
03 votes – Allie Quigley
03 votes – Alysha Clark
03 votes – Chelsea Gray
03 votes – Diamond DeShields
02 votes – Kelsey Mitchell
02 votes – Maya Moore
02 votes – Gabby Williams
02 votes – Courtney Williams
02 votes – Kelsey Plum
02 votes – Kayla McBride

Alyssa Thomas, Brittany Boyd, Azura Stevens, Tiffany Mitchell, Briann January, Sugar Rodgers, Seimone Augustus, LaToya Sanders, Lindsay Whalen, Renee Montgomery, Alex Bentley, Angel McCoughtry, Sami Whitcomb all received one (1) vote.

So there it is. At the top you’ve got two of best players in the league, Elena Delle Donne, and DeWanna Bonner getting the most votes. They are both very dynamic scorers on two very talented teams, so it is not surprising to see either of them at the top of the list. Many of the players on the list are long-time fan favorites, players with WNBA titles, All-Stars, but there are also a lot of really young players, rookies and younger vets alike who people are excited about. That bodes well for the future of the WNBA, as fans can follow a player for many years and become more invested in that player’s success and career as time goes on. The 7 rookies who got votes certainly all got talked about a lot on Twitter and around the league all season long, so it will be fun to see how they continue to improve and play next season as well.

It is interesting to see that not a single vote came in for Jewell Loyd, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles, Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Rebekkah Brunson, or Skylar Diggins-Smith, who were all All-Star selections this season. I began to wonder like a player like Skylar Diggins-Smith or Tina Charles didn’t get a vote, and I came up with some ideas. One, for a player like Tina Charles, she was the best player on one of the worst teams in the league this season. Yet her teammate Kia Nurse got 4 votes. Maybe people were just more excited to watch a young rookie make her way through the league, and maybe her style of play would be considered more fun or exciting compared to Tina’s low post up game. And if it was simply about the standings, no one should have voted for Kelsey or Tiffany Mitchell. But again, those are two young players that maybe a few more people are excited to watch RIGHT NOW, as opposed to a veteran like Charles. But what about Skylar Diggins-Smith, she is one of the best guards in the league, can make great plays, and she is fun to watch. My reasoning for her not getting any votes on this list is that she was likely overshadowed by her new teammate, Liz Cambage, who put up record-setting numbers and drew a lot of eyeballs to the Wings with not only her play but her reactions to what was happening on the court, whether it was a big shot or foul she was upset about. Similarly, Jewell Loyd is not short or talent or creating excitement on the court, but she was likely put in the back off people’s minds when they thought of who they liked watching on the Storm this season, as Howard had a breakout year as Most Improved, Stewart was the MVP, and Bird is an all-time fan favorite. Players like Sylvia Fowles, last season’s MVP, seems likely to have also been overshadowed by her own teammates, but also it may come down positional play as well, like Charles, Fowles is a less flashy, grind it out in the paint and score buckets type of player. She may simply not strike someone as their favorite player to watch, even though she is one of the best in the league. Brittney Griner is a similar player, and maybe she got more votes because a lot of fans’ responses simply included the Mercury as the big three of Bonner, Taurasi and Griner. Same thing occurred with Mystics fans, who mentions Delle Donne along with Toliver or Natasha Cloud in the same response.

And when you think of it, when you think of how much talent is in the league, it is hard to think of just one single player you could say was your favorite player to watch this season. In the same way, it is easy to think of one player and then totally overlook so many other exciting, talented, and fun players across the league. Like I said, I was quite happy to see so many responses include more than one player.

Week/Month in Review: August 3, 2015

We are now into the second half of the season in the WNBA, and as the standings have shifted, things are really starting to look interesting in the playoff races for both conferences. In the West, the Minnesota Lynx have continued to improve on both ends of the floor, and have seen their fortunes turn around not only by their own play, but with the season ending injury of Skylar Diggins for the Tulsa Shock. The Lynx are now 15-4 overall, and 11-2 in the Western Conference. They are getting MVP numbers yet again from Maya Moore, and scored big with a trade that brought former Sky center Sylvia Fowles to the team. Seimone Augustus had knee surgery in mid July and is out indefinitely, but the Lynx have still gone 3-1 since her absence, and still look like the best team in the league. They are 2nd in points per game, 4th in rebounds, 2nd in assists, and 1st in points allowed. As of right now, the addition of Fowles has been great, with her averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds a game.

2nd place in the West are the Phoenix Mercury. This is a team that struggled early on in the season without Griner and Taurasi, but had the talent in players DeWanna Bonner, a first time all star this year, and Candice Dupree to step up and lead in their absence. Since Griner returned, the Mercury have continued to improve, and sit at 12-7 after nail biting win yesterday on the road against Atlanta. They are 4th in points per game, 8th in rebounds, 8th in assists, and 4th in points allowed. They are going to have to improving their defense and their passing if they want to compete come playoff time against Minnesota.

The only other real contenders in the west other than Phoenix and Minnesota are the Tulsa Shock, but even then, I still believe it’s a two horse race. Tulsa had everything going for them at the beginning of the season, after losing the season opener to the Lynx, they went on an 8 game win streak and looked like the best team in the league, until tragedy struck and their leader Skylar Diggins went down in Seattle June 28th with a ACL knee injury that will keep her out the rest of the season. Since then the Shock went on a 3 game losing streak, a two game win streak, and are now mired in a dismal 6 game losing streak. Looking at their record at 10-10, they will actually probably still make the playoffs, thanks to the three teams they are in front of, the Stars who sit at 6-14, Los Angeles who sit at 5-14, and the Storm who sit at 5-16. All three of these teams are slowly improving, and have young talent for the future, but none at the moment stand any real chance come late September.

The Eastern Conference has been a bit more competitive, and we’ve seen a real shift in the standings as well as what you might call the power rankings of the conference. The Liberty currently sit at the top of the Eastern Conference at 13-6, and have gone 7-2 since the start of July. Tina Charles is leading the team with 17 points a game, but on the defensive end, rookie Kiah Stokes is second in total blocks and 3rd in the blocks per game but also 1st in blocks per 40 minutes, something to watch out for as she gets more playing time in the games and seasons to come. One of the Liberty’s biggest weaknesses is their 3 point shooting. They are attempting and making the least amount of 3 pointers in the league, and will need outside shooting to improve as the season gets into crunch time.

Sitting in second place in the East at 11-7 are the Mystics, who really struggled at the beginning of July losing 3 games in row, albeit against the three toughest opponents in the conference, the Sky, the Liberty, and the Fever. Starting July 17th however, they went on a 5 game winning streak until losing to the Sky yesterday in a tough to swallow 71-68 loss. One area where the Mystics have shined is in passing the ball, as they are first in assists per game, while they are just 8th in points per game and 6th in rebounds. Defensively, they are 2nd in points allowed, and they are led by their forward and center duo of first time All-Stars Emma Meeseman and Stefanie Dolson. Dolson and Meeseman are statistically mirror images of each other, with both averaging 13 and 12 points per game and 7 rebounds a game as well. The other leader on their team is Ivory Latta who is also pulling out 12 points per game and is 9th in 3 point shooting in the league. If the Mystics can improve their overall offensive output while improving their overall rebounding, I think they can take on anyone else in the East come playoff time.

The Chicago Sky sit 3rd in the East just behind the Mystics with win more win but also one more loss than Washington at 12-8. The Sky continue to dominate the league in offense, as they are the only team averaging more than 80 points a game. However, their struggles defensively have hampered them, as not only are the only team to average at least 80 points per game, they are also the only team to give up 80 or more points per game as well. They are the second best shooting team percentage wise, just barely behind Minnesota at 45.4% per game, as well as the best free throw shooting team in the league at 85.8% per game. They are 3rd in rebounds per game, but only 9th in assists. They are led by Elena Delle Donne, who is having a MVP worthy season thus far. Delle Donne is first in points per game, tied for 2nd in rebounds per game, 4th in blocks average while 2nd in total blocks, and is 1st in the league in free throw percentage at an amazing 95.3%, which is even more impressive when you realize she has also taken 16 more free throws than anyone else in the league. The Sky are 7-3 since the start of July, but it’s not all Delle Donne, they are getting great production from their other 2015 All-Star Cappie Pondexter and Courtney Vandersloot, who leads the league in assists, and Allie Quigley who is averaging 11 points a game. Where the Sky have to step it up of course is on the defensive end, and not having a true center is hurting them in the interior. If they want to stay competitive, especially in the playoffs, they are going to have to get someone like Jessica Breland or Shasha Goodlett playing better inside defensively.

Sitting 3rd in the East are the Indiana Fever, who are now 11-8 thanks to a 3 game win streak and only 2 losses since the start of July. The Fever are led as ever by Tamika Catchings, and are getting good numbers out rookie Natalie Achonwa, steadily improving since injury Erlana Larkins, Marissa Coleman, and Shenise Johnson. As a team overall, they are 11th in assists and rebounds, and 9th in points allowed, as well as 5th on points per game. They need to stay together and have someone different stand out every night to win in the playoffs.

After going 7-1 at the start of the season, to the surprise of pretty much everyone, the Connecticut Sun have cooled off mightily in the last month, and have only won 2 games since June 30th. They endured a 6 game losing streak from then until July 22 where they got a huge overtime win against Minnesota. They have lost two more games since however, only winning again at home 67-66 against Seattle. The rest of the season does not bode well for the Sun either, as they face a daunting schedule with only 5 games against teams with worse records. They need to get back on track on both ends of the floor and they have to improve in rebounding and passing the ball, as they sit 10th in the league in both categories. They are led by their young duo of Kelsey Bone and Alex Bentley, who both made the All-Star team for the first time this year. They are the only players on the team averaging double figures in points, and need more production from everyone else to get things back on track.

Last place in the Eastern Conference goes to the Atlanta Dream, who sit at 7-13 in the middle of a disappointing season thus far. They have been up and down all season, but now are in the middle of the 5 game losing streak, thanks in part to their weak defense and middle of the pack offense. Led by MVP candidate Angel McCoughtry, who is averaging 19 points a game, just behind Delle Donne and Maya Moore, the Dream aren’t getting enough from the rest of the roster to win games, who are second to last in field goal percentage at 40% and are giving up the second most points per game in the league at 79.7. Even if they get hot and make the playoffs, I don’t see the Dream having the depth to make it out of the first round, and that’s a big IF they get there.

When looking at the league as a whole, we have seen teams like the Sun and Shock start the season playing very, very well, and then suddenly having their season jump off a cliff in terms of wins and quality play. It will be interesting to see if any other teams start losing lots of games as the season goes on. Teams like the Mercury, the Liberty, Chicago, or the Mystics could suddenly go cold or get hit with a starting player’s injury. And as the season stands now, I have to say it’s Minnesota’s title to lose, because they have had big injuries, but have stayed strong and played extremely well all year. Maya Moore is an MVP candidate as usual, and has a very strong cast of supporting players behind her helping this team look like a very tough team to beat in the playoffs.