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.

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WNBA Week in Review: June 22, 2015

Well, the WNBA continued to roll on this week, and the cream is starting to rise to the top. The Tulsa Shock and the Connecticut Sun are now both unbeaten after losing their season openers and stand atop their respective conferences at 6-1. Both these teams look great on both ends of the floor, but the Shock are statistically the better looking team overall. The Shock are 2nd in the league in points per game, 1st in rebounds per game, 2nd in assists per game, and 5th in points allowed per game. Meanwhile, the Sun are 5th in points, 8th in rebounds, 10th in assists, but are 1st in points allowed. I do have to say I think it is their defensive effort that is getting it done as only one team has scored more than 70 points against them all season, and that was the Phoenix Mercury who they still beat in a two overtime game.

The third best team right now, and most everyone’s pick to win the title, is the Minnesota Lynx. Not only are the Lynx the third best team according to the standings, but they are the third best statistically as well, as they are third in points, assists, and points allowed per game. The four starters for Minnesota are all averaging at least 11 points per game, so if they can continue to click offensively while maintaining their defense, which is above the league average, they will eventually be one of the top two teams in the league at season’s end.

The Chicago Sky are the offensive juggernaut of the league right now, led by Elena Delle Donne’s league best 29.3 points per game, which is almost 10 points better than second place DeWanna Bonner. Where the Sky are going to have to improve of course is on the defensive end, where they currently rank 10th in the league, just two spots from last place.

The team that has the best chance to keep improving and go far in the playoffs, in my mind, are the Washington Mystics. They are currently 2nd in points per game and are 1st in assists per game. They sit at 4-2 and second in the Eastern Conference. If their defensive effort holds, and their offense improves as the season goes on, they will make some noise in the playoffs.

As far as the rest of the Eastern Conference, it’s a toss up right now for the Sky, the Fever, and the Dream. They all sit at 3 wins, with the Sky at 3-3, and the Fever and Dream both at 3-5. The Liberty, despite their record of 4-3, still look like a team that could get hot, and move on from what has been an up and down start to the season.

The Western Conference is a two horse race between the Lynx and Shock, one of which I believe will be the team to win the Finals this year. The Mercury sit at 3-3, but should improve with the return of Brittney Griner this Saturday, albeit with a tough matchup on the road at Minnesota. Seattle, L.A., and San Antonio are a combined 2-14, with Seattle the only team with any wins at all. L.A. could improve with the return of Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, Alana Beard sometime in the future, but face a daunting upcoming road trip against the Mystics, Sun, and Liberty.

The San Antonio Stars have had a very rocky start and are dead last in the standings, and almost dead last statistically as well. They rank as the worst rebounding team in the league, the third worst assisting team in the league, and the 2nd worst team in the league for points allowed. They also have the third least points per game. One thing that should be mentioned however, is that they have faced Tulsa back to back, Minnesota, Phoenix, Chicago, and Atlanta, all teams that either are some of the best in the league, or who look to have potential to turn it around. As we’ve previously mentioned Chicago and Phoenix in particular are the teams that are looking to improve as the season goes on. But even with the tough schedule to start the season, it’s not looking good for the Stars as they will probably miss the playoffs this year. Yes, they made the playoffs last year, but they did so with a losing 16-18 record, and I don’t see them bettering or equaling that this season.

Overall, things are starting to settle a bit across the league, and if the top teams in each conference can stay healthy, I see surprising Tulsa, dominant Minnesota, and the Mystics and Sun maintaining the top two spots in each conference. As I mentioned last week though, the season is still relatively young, and a lot can happen between now and August. It’s been a very interesting season so far, and I want everyone to get out there on Twitter, Facebook, and WNBA.com and vote for the best players for the All Star Game! See you all next week!