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.

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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.

WNBA Week in Review: June 29, 2015

So we are three weeks in and there was a ton of great action across the league this past week. The Mystics sit at 6-3 after starting the week with a close win against the still win-less Sparks on Tuesday, and the Sky started off an up and down week with a close win as well against the Dream. On Thursday we saw San Antonio finally get their first win this season against Phoenix, and the Lynx came back to beat the Storm on the road. Friday’s group of games had Chicago beating the Fever, the Sun winning their only game this past week, just holding on to win against Los Angeles, the Mystics falling to Atlanta in a close game as well, and the Shock beating the Liberty at home 71-62. Saturday the Stars picked up their second win of the season beating Seattle 73-71, and the Lynx found a bit of revenge as they beat the Mercury despite Brittney Griner’s strong return as she 14 points and 11 rebounds. Sunday had the Liberty with a good showing against LA, winning 79-70, the Mystics with a very big win against Chicago, and the Shock with a thrilling overtime win against Seattle.

What do all these results mean? Well, it means the Connecticut Sun still stand atop a slightly shifting Eastern Conference, as they have the second best record in the league at 7-1 and are ranked first in points allowed per game and 3rd in points per game. The Washington Mystics faltered a bit going 2-1 on the week and 6-3 overall. They still look very strong however, as they are first in assists in the league and 4th on points allowed. They need to get their rebounding up, but they still look like playoff contenders who could eventually pass up the Sun in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Chicago Sky are easily the most potent offense in the league by a wide margin, but are 11th in defense and 10th in assists. They will continue to struggle defensively without Sylvia Fowles. After this week, the New York Liberty look like a team that is just middle of the road at 5-4, as they are 9th in points per game, 2nd in rebounds, 4th in assists, and 3rd in points allowed. If they can improve the offensive scoring they can move up the standings. Atlanta is the most up and down team in the Conference if not the league. Their record looks like roller coaster, as they have gone L L W W L L W L L W to start the season. They have to find more consistent execution if they expect to move up in the Conference. They also get a nice break this week as they don’t play until this Sunday against Seattle Indiana fared no better as they lost their only game of the week and now sit at 3-6 and are dead last in points allowed per game, second to last at 11th in rebounds and 9th in assists.

The Western Conference has been sadly, far less competitive, as it is simply a two horse race so far between the Tulsa Shock and the Minnesota Lynx. The Shock won both of their games this week and are now 8-1 and yet to lose since posting the loss against who else, the Lynx in the season opener. Tulsa’s offense is hot and is 2nd in the league in points per game, 1st in rebounds, 4th in assists and 5th in per allowed. They are getting great offense from guard Skylar Diggins, whose averaging 17.8 points and 5 assists per game, and they are getting it done on the boards, especially with Courtney Paris, as she is averaging a league leading 11.2 rebounds per game. Plenette Pierson and Riquna Williams are also contributing big while averaging 15 and 12.8 points per game respectively.

The Lynx still look like the 2nd or third best team in the league, as they are 5th in points per game, 5th in rebounds, 3rd in assists, and most importantly, 1st in points allowed. They are getting double digit point averages from 4 starters, and getting a ton of rebounds from Rebekkah Brunson. If they can keep up the defense, and keep improving on offense, they will be one of few teams to beat in the playoffs.

Phoenix continues to struggle without Diana Taurasi, despite the All-Star caliber play of DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree. Losing to the Stars hurt, but what especially stung for the Mercury was losing to Minnesota in Griner’s return. With Griner back though, they have real hope of becoming more competitive as the season continues, and could still certainly do well come playoff time. The Stars finally have shown some life as they got their only two wins of the season this week, and their young team looks to have some fight and some real potential in guard Kayla McBride. Seattle looks lost offensively, as they are just 2-7 and are 2nd to last in points per game and dead last in rebounds per. Only Crystal Langhorne and Sue Bird are averaging at least 10 points a game, and everyone else is so far inconsistent.

The saddest story of the season so far however is the Los Angeles Sparks. They are 0-7, dead last in points per game, and 8th in points allowed. They are middle of the road however in assists and rebounds, ranked 6th in both categories. They do have some life left in them though as they have seen the return of Kristi Toliver and Alana Beard, as well as Nneka Ogwumike, who should give them a real boost offensively. The Western Conference however, despite being the weaker of the two so far, still has what I think will end up being the two juggernauts of the league in Tulsa and Minnesota. The Eastern Conference will continue to be competitive, but the Western Conference as a whole could get more interesting if we see improvement in Phoenix and Seattle.

This year has been full of interesting games, nail biters, and a lot of great individual performances from players like Elena Delle Donne, DeWanna Bonner, Angel McCoughtry, and Skylar Diggins. It will be interesting to see if the return of players like Kristi Toliver and Brittney Griner can change their teams’ fortunes around and into playoff shape, if not at least into a few winning games.

Weekend Review: WNBA Season Tipoff

So we have the first weekend of the season in the books, and it was a great opening weekend for the WNBA. The team that looked the strongest was of course the Minnesota Lynx, who won tough, back-to-back games against Tulsa and Indiana. Maya Moore and company look to get back to the WNBA Finals and the GMs around the league certainly picked them as the overwhelming favorite to win the title this year.

Another team that looked good and is hoping to get back to the playoffs are the Washington Mystics. Led by Emma Meeseman who had 16 points and 9 rebounds in the win against the Liberty, the Mystics also beat the Sun earlier in the week thanks to Stefanie Dolson’s career high 18 points and 12 rebounds.

The most disappointing team thus far is the 0-2 Atlanta Dream. They should improve as the season goes on, but start off with two straight losses has to hurt their confidence a bit. They should bounce back at home against San Antonio this Thursday, and they still have a strong chance at contending for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Seattle looked great at home against the Sparks, with an abundance of three pointers coming in the second half, and it didn’t hurt that the Sparks were without Candace Parker, Kristi Tolliver, or NNeke Ogwumike. Both teams, especially once the Sparks are back at full strength, will have tough road in the Western Conference, but either team could get back to winning in the playoffs. That’s what is great about a new season, some teams don’t live up to expectations, while others rise above them and really surprise you. I’m most excited to see just which teams surprise us this year and come out swinging and winning against the rest of the league, and if this opening weekend was any indication, the rest of season certainly appears to hold plenty of excitement and surprises.