With only one week left within the 2021 WNBA regular season, the Dallas Wings grew to become the seventh crew to safe a playoff berth amid a chaotic scramble for the ultimate postseason spots. One last bid is up for grabs, and it’ll come right down to the wire between the Washington Mystics, New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks.
One factor that is locked in: the No. 1 seed, which the Connecticut Sun clinched Saturday with their twelfth win in a row. The Solar now have a double bye and an computerized street to the semifinals (the third spherical). The Las Vegas Aces look to have the higher hand for the remaining double bye — for now. The Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm are in third and fourth place, respectively, by Sunday’s video games. However the Phoenix Mercury are proper behind them within the standings and nonetheless in competition for a first-round bye.
With the strain on to execute instantly for some groups just like the Chicago Sky, who face a single-elimination sport within the first spherical, we flip our focus within the last Energy Rankings of the common season to gamers from every crew whom we wish to see extra of.
Whether or not it is somebody who must maintain doing what they’ve been doing, or one who has the flexibility to alter the course of a sport, we wish to see extra of those gamers on every crew because the common season ends and we’re thrust into the playoffs.
1. Connecticut Sun
2021 file: 24-6
Earlier rating: 1
The Solar are on a 12-game profitable streak — with no signal of slowing down. Their Saturday evening win over Phoenix snapped the Mercury’s 10-game profitable streak and clinched Connecticut home-court benefit all through the playoffs.
Jasmine Thomas shone in that win, for her team-high 17 factors and her capability to facilitate ball motion (she leads the crew with 4.2 assists per sport). With the ability to learn a stifling protection, like she did in opposition to Phoenix, means she is aware of find out how to get the ball to the proper teammate to attain.
Thomas is considered one of many the reason why Connecticut is the highest crew within the league. Now, it has simply two video games left at residence, in opposition to groups with dropping information, and a double bye that takes it straight into the semifinals.
This week: NY, ATL
2. Las Vegas Aces
2021 file: 21-8
Earlier rating: 2
The Aces’ win this week in opposition to the Lynx reveals simply how deep they’re — and the way that may assist them go far into the postseason.
Along with gamers A’ja Wilson and Jackie Younger having constantly robust video games, Las Vegas additionally has Riquna Williams — who dropped an environment friendly 16 factors, 4 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 28 minutes in opposition to the Lynx — to contribute to staying excessive up within the rankings.
Williams has began each sport this season, and she or he had some scoring breakouts, nevertheless it’s her defensive chops which have had probably the most impression. The ten-year veteran held All-Star Jewell Loyd to a mixed 11-of-35 from the sphere within the Aces’ two wins in opposition to Seattle, and she or he has performed the identical in opposition to the Dallas Wings’ Arike Ogunbowale. If Williams can defend stars like Loyd and Ogunbowale within the playoffs like she did within the common season, then the Aces’ offense can do the remainder and maintain scoring huge.
To shut out the common season, the Aces have three robust video games in opposition to playoff-bound groups that might show whether or not their depth will get them a WNBA title this 12 months.
This week: DAL, @CHI, @PHO
3. Seattle Storm
2021 file: 20-11
Earlier rating: 4
With out Breanna Stewart, the league’s third-best scorer (20.3 factors per sport), the Storm scored a season-low 53 factors — greater than 30 beneath their season common — in a Sunday evening loss to the Sparks. Stewart suffered a left foot damage on Sept. 7 and is out for the remainder of the common season; she shall be reevaluated in the beginning of the playoffs. The defending champions are simply 4-6 of their previous 10 video games.
With Stewart’s availability for the playoffs in query, Mercedes Russell might want to step up. The 6-foot-6 middle has already had breakout video games this season, taking pictures a career-high 60.7% from the sphere (second within the league) and beginning all however two of the video games wherein she has performed. Russell will get down the court docket rapidly and into the paint to complete on the rim. She outmuscles opponents for rebounds — her 6.1 boards per sport ranks second solely to Stewart in Seattle — and Russell shall be a key to limiting opponent’s second-chance factors.
Seattle has only one remaining sport within the common season: internet hosting Phoenix on Friday. That permits the Storm to get some relaxation, however a first-round bye may very well be on the road after they meet.
This week: PHO
4. Minnesota Lynx
2021 file: 20-10
Earlier rating: 3
Of their previous two wins, the Lynx offense seemed prepared for the playoffs, scoring 89 and 90 factors, effectively above their season common of 82.1 PPG.
Numerous Minnesota’s offensive success come from when it hit an offseason jackpot and signed Aerial Powers. The dynamic scorer has performed in simply 12 video games this season due to damage (hamstring) and surgical procedure (thumb) however is now wholesome and again within the beginning lineup, prepared to assist lead the crew deep into the postseason.
The guard is commonly seen celebrating her teammates’ successes and hyping them after a giant play, a camaraderie that reveals she’s a crew chief. Powers has made 59 3-pointers this season — seventh finest within the league — which can also be a testomony to how aggressive she is offensively. And if she is not going to shoot the ball herself, Powers is adept at facilitating clean ball motion amongst her teammates.
This week: @IND, @WAS
5. Phoenix Mercury
2021 file: 17-10
Earlier rating: 6
The Mercury’s 10-game profitable streak got here to an finish Saturday evening in opposition to Connecticut. Regardless of the loss, Phoenix stays a robust contender for the championship.
A few of that’s because of the crew’s fourth-leading scorer, Kia Nurse, an offseason commerce acquisition who has introduced essential accuracy from past the arc: She leads the crew with 52 3-pointers made, which can also be the tenth finest within the league. Whereas different groups’ defenses deal with teammates Brittney Griner down low within the put up or Skylar Diggins-Smith driving inside, Nurse’s capability to hit these 3-point photographs is invaluable.
As a guard, she’s additionally aggressive off the dribble and useful in passing the ball to Diggins-Smith or Diana Taurasi. Nurse’s versatility on protection shall be essential in serving to to shut the gaps in opposition to higher defensive groups within the playoffs.
Phoenix nonetheless has an opportunity to safe a first-round bye, however a troublesome schedule awaits: on the street in opposition to the Storm and at residence in opposition to the Aces.
This week: @SEA, @PHO
6. Chicago Sky
2021 file: 15-15
Earlier rating: 5
Heading into the playoffs, Chicago has the flexibility to go far — as long as we see Kahleah Copper at her finest. The primary-time All-Star this season is ready to rating extra when she’s attacking the basket, and she or he leads the crew with 14.4 PPG. However we additionally wish to see extra of her defensive rebounding as a guard. When she’s not taking the ball coast to coast, she’s getting her personal offensive rebound and turning it into factors.
As soon as a task participant who got here off the bench when she was traded to the Sky in 2017, Copper is now a constant starter, essential for what may very well be sixth-seeded Chicago’s single-elimination playoff sport in opposition to the seventh seed within the first spherical. Proper now, that may be in opposition to the Wings, who’ve already overwhelmed the Sky twice this season. In these two losses, Chicago performed poor protection, so Copper should proceed her defensive rebounding and maintain the ball away from the Wings’ stars if that matchup occurs.
This week: LV, IND
7. Dallas Wings
2021 file: 13-17
Earlier rating: 7
After turning into the seventh crew to secure a playoff berth with a Saturday night win against New York, the Wings have one objective heading into the playoffs: keep wholesome. Their lack of constant lineups — due to accidents or COVID-19 protocols — reveals when the momentum throughout shut video games inexplicably switches to the opposite crew, usually as a result of poor rebounding or poor transition protection.
Out since July 11 as a result of Achilles soreness, Satou Sabally returned in Saturday’s sport and instantly displayed what Dallas had been lacking with out her. Sabally is ready to rebound the ball on each side of the court docket, permitting for her teammates — particularly Arike Ogunbowale — to attain second-chance factors. At 81.3 PPG, Dallas will want each alternative to maintain scoring within the playoffs in opposition to different groups that constantly drop 90 factors or extra each evening.
That is the place Sabally is available in. She would not simply move the ball effectively; she will be able to additionally end on the basket with each palms — she’s the crew’s third-leading scorer with 12.4 PPG, though she has performed in simply 16 video games this season.
The Wings, who’ve secured their first playoff berth since 2018, have some robust video games this week — at Las Vegas earlier than internet hosting Los Angeles — to arrange them for the postseason.
This week: @LV, LAS
8. Washington Mystics
2021 file: 12-18
Earlier rating: 8
For a majority of the season, the Mystics did not seem like they’d be capable of make a run for the playoffs. Even now, they’re simply 4-6 of their previous 10 video games — they usually’re barely holding on to the eighth seed. Which implies Washington might head into the playoffs short-handed, with star Elena Delle Donne’s status for the rest of the season in doubt.
Gamers all season have stepped up with accidents plaguing Washington, however Myisha Hines-Allen’s contributions — and potential — stand out probably the most.
Hines-Allen has missed 16 video games this season, however when wholesome, she shoots 43.3% from the ground (for 13.8 PPG) and averages 5.4 defensive rebounds per sport. Her physicality is what makes her a key element of the Mystics, and somebody we wish to see extra of not simply within the playoffs, however subsequent season.
She improved her sport between 2020 and 2021, particularly by taking management and taking pictures the ball as an alternative of passing it. She’s additionally harder this season to beat within the put up.
Hines-Allen’s well being, like that of her teammates, is what is going to helps get Washington into the playoffs. The Mystics have two big video games to finish the common season, together with on the street in opposition to a struggling Liberty, who’re attempting to take the No. 8 seed from Washington.
This week: @NY, MIN
9. New York Liberty
2021 file: 11-19
Earlier rating: 9
The Liberty began the season robust however are actually combating for an Eleventh-hour playoff berth. The crew seems disjointed on offense, and it has received simply as soon as in its previous 10 video games.
On the middle is Sabrina Ionescu, who was drafted by the Liberty as the primary general choose in 2020 with very excessive hopes — she was the NCAA’s all-time chief in profession triple-doubles, in any case. However in her third WNBA sport, she damage an ankle and did not play the remainder of 2020. In 2021, she entered the season wholesome and had an unreal buzzer-beater within the season opener. Video games later, she grew to become the youngest participant in WNBA historical past to file a triple-double.
Clearly, Ionescu is proficient on all ends, particularly as a pure, assured scorer. Although she has scored in double digits in each sport because the Olympic break, she’s struggling from past the arc. She’s simply 21-of-64 (32.8%) from 3-point vary, often a robust swimsuit.
Ionescu’s capability to make photographs from wherever is essential, however she makes up for it in different methods. She’s averaging 5.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists per sport. Nevertheless, simply because she’s facilitating good ball motion to her teammates doesn’t suggest they’re capitalizing on it.
The Liberty received simply two video games final season, so for Ionescu to make them the playoffs after an ankle damage can be seen as successful. Getting there shall be difficult, although, as New York performs on the street this week in opposition to the top-seeded Solar earlier than internet hosting the Mystics, who’re additionally within the hunt for the ultimate playoff berth.
This week: @CON, WAS
10. Los Angeles Sparks
2021 file: 10-19
Earlier rating: 10
The Sparks ended a six-game dropping streak with a defensive showcase to beat the Storm on Sunday and maintain their playoff hopes alive (a loss would have eradicated Los Angeles).
Accidents have plagued the Sparks all season. Kristi Toliver, who missed a handful of video games in June and July due to an eye fixed damage, is sidelined with a damaged pinkie finger. With out her this season, the Sparks are 1-9.
Toliver’s absence has given Te’a Cooper an opportunity to step up and fill in at guard. In her second WNBA season however first in Los Angeles, Cooper shines on protection. Although her taking pictures has been inconsistent — she averaged 8.4 PPG was taking pictures 35.9% from the sphere heading into Sunday — Cooper is commonly attacking the basket and drawing fouls. That aggression helps make up for Toliver’s lacking veteran management and gritty play. On Sunday, Cooper shot 7-for-13 and scored 19 factors, her best offensive sport in additional than two months.
It is must-win the remainder of the best way for Los Angeles, which can need assistance from different outcomes to stay in competition for a postseason berth. On Thursday, the Sparks play on the Dream; Los Angeles is 2-0 in opposition to Atlanta this season. Then the Sparks play on the Wings on Sunday of their regular-season finale. Via Sunday’s video games, Los Angeles is only one sport behind Washington for the ultimate playoff spot.
This week: @ATL, @DAL
11. Indiana Fever
2021 file: 6-23
Earlier rating: 12
The Fever are on a three-game dropping streak however have received 4 of their previous 10, after profitable solely two earlier than the Olympic break. One of many larger questions they must reply going into subsequent season is that if Kysre Gondrezick shall be again with the crew.
The No. 4 select of West Virginia in April’s WNBA draft, Gondrezick has not had a really profitable rookie 12 months. In 19 video games performed, she averaged simply 9.1 minutes per sport, and 1.9 PPG on 2.4 discipline objective makes an attempt per sport. Then final month, the crew introduced she was taking a private go away for an undisclosed time frame.
Gondrezick was a famous person for the Mountaineers, electrical on offense and averaging 19.5 factors and 4.5 assists per sport. Her ballhandling expertise and skill to thrive in a pick-and-roll offense made her what many thought can be an excellent match with the Fever.
Although the Fever have been eradicated from playoff competition, they’ve three video games to shut out their season. Going through Minnesota and Chicago offers them an opportunity to probably play spoiler with their playoff seedings and see what speedy, in-sync offenses seem like.
This week: @ATL, MIN, @CHI
12. Atlanta Dream
2021 file: 7-22
Earlier rating: 11
The Dream have received just one sport of their previous 10, are on a two-game dropping streak and have formally been eradicated from playoff competition. Looking forward to 2022, they’ve a couple of inquiries to reply, together with what their beginning lineup might seem like.
Aari McDonald may very well be a part of that after a robust end to the season. McDonald, the No. 3 general choose in April’s WNBA draft, has had a couple of video games scoring in double digits this season, exhibiting bursts of what made her profitable on the College of Arizona. If she needs to be a profitable guard for the Dream, her pace and her clean taking pictures capability should proceed in her second 12 months.
It has been a turbulent season for Atlanta, which has gone by three head coaches and a front-office shake-up. With Darius Taylor now set to be the pinnacle coach and having a veteran sport govt for a brand new president and chief working officer, subsequent 12 months may very well be McDonald’s 12 months to interrupt by.
This week: IND, LA, @CON
https://www.espn.com/wnba/story/_/id/32198640/wnba-power-rankings-dallas-wings-clinch-playoff-berth-connecticut-sun-lock-overall-no-1-seed | WNBA Energy Rankings – Dallas Wings clinch playoff berth; Connecticut Solar lock up No. 1 seed