WNBA Power Rankings: Shocks and Surprises Define Week 1

Jackie PowellMay 17, 2022

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The first week-and-a-half of the WNBA regular season was a wild ride. Twenty-two games were played, and because of injuries, players who are overseas, coronavirus outbreaks, standout performances from rookies and more, teams have delivered more shock and surprise than certainty and status quo. Nonetheless, these rankings should be taken with a grain of salt after such a small sample size.

There will be plenty of ebbs and flows throughout the next few months as the teams with a lot of new pieces and even new coaching staffs continue to work and establish a rhythm. Expect to see a bunch of hardship contracts—temporary deals that land players on teams that have less than 10 available players. With so many back-to-backs smushed together and travel via commercial flights, players are not only at risk for in-game injuries but are also exposed to the extremely contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus.

12. Minnesota Lynx (0-4) (↓ 5 Spots)

The shocking moves from the Lynx continued this past week. After beginning the season 0-3, head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve set her roster aflame when she agreed to a buyout with top free-agent acquisition Angel McCoughtry and waived point guard replacement Odyssey Sims. 

Then a day later, she signed 2022 second-rounder Evina Westbrook and former Dallas Wings point guard Moriah Jefferson to rest-of-season contracts. While the Lynx still fell to the Chicago Sky 82-78 on Saturday night, actual point guard play from Jefferson—along with key bench minutes from Westbrook and Nikolina Milic—showed Minnesota is moving in the right direction. 

11. New York Liberty (1-3) (↓ 3 Spots)

While an opening night win at home against the Sun showed a ton of promise and included four players who scored in double digits, the Liberty's focus has been inconsistent. The play of the team's two All-Stars, Betnijah Laney and Natasha Howard, has wavered as well. 

After getting blown out a few days later on the road against the Sky, the Liberty fell to the Indiana Fever in overtime Friday and then lost to the Wings 81-71 two days later. In both home losses, New York had difficulty boxing out and finishing defensive possessions with rebounds. 

One of the few positives thus far for New York has been the health and productivity of third-year player Sabrina Ionescu. The 2020 No. 1 pick is averaging 18.8 points, 5.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game. 

10. Los Angeles Sparks (2-2)  (↓ 1 Spot)

While the Sparks sit at .500, their 17-point loss to the Connecticut Sun was concerning. And though she's averaging 15 points a game, Liz Cambage has looked lost at times and has often found herself in foul trouble. Cambage was meant to be at the center of how L.A. plays but has only played 22.9 minutes a game. 

Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Another flashy acquisition that hasn't shown out as much is Chennedy Carter. At under 14 minutes a game coming off the bench, Carter has shot 34.5 percent from the field while scoring 6.5 points a game. Not the showing that was expected out of "Hollywood" early. 

9. Indiana Fever (2-3) (↑ 3 Spots)

The Fever have played with the second-quickest pace in the league (100.2), thanks to franchise star Kelsey Mitchell and the Fever’s five rookies. No. 2 pick NaLyssa Smith has shown she belongs in this league, averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds in five games. 

Meanwhile, Emily Engstler and Queen Egbo have proved their rim protection is pro-ready, with Engstler averaging 1.4 blocks per game and Egbo averaging 1.8. Point guard Destanni Henderson flashed veteran poise against the Sparks when she scored 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-4 from three. How long will the hot start last? It's hard to know, especially when more veteran-heavy rosters with new pieces begin to jell and master the tendencies of the Fever's rookies. 

8. Seattle Storm (1-3) (↓ 5 Spots)

Two of the Storm's three losses came without one of the best players in the world in Breanna Stewart and floor-spacing veteran guard Epiphanny Prince after both landed in the health and safety protocols. 

While the Storm have gotten better personnel-wise defensively with the additions of Gabby Williams and Briann January, head coach Noelle Quinn is still trying to figure out how she can deploy the pair in lineups. Even with Mercedes Russell still out because of a mysterious non-basketball injury, expect the Storm to find their footing once Stewart and Prince return.

7. Dallas Wings (2-1) (↑ 3 Spots)

The home opener for the Wings was one to forget. Marina Mabrey was the only player who could reliably hit a field goal, as the rest of the team shot 16.7 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 17 times in a 66-59 loss to the Dream. But since then, the Wings surprisingly have turned it around. Against Washington and New York, the Wings shot over 44 percent from three-point range and won by capitalizing on mistakes. 

However, Dallas fans should be cautiously optimistic. While the Mystics were out of sorts with turnovers and the Liberty have had difficulty getting on the glass, both teams were without key pieces who stabilize some of those issues. 

6. Atlanta Dream (3-1) (↑ 5 Spots)

It's been the Rhyne Howard show. In four games, the No.1 pick in this year's draft has made an excellent case for Rookie of the Year, averaging 20.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

That's more points and rebounds than the last two ROYs, Michaela Onyenwere and Crystal Dangerfield, averaged in their first W seasons. The Dream coaching staff has found a way to adhere the offense to Howard, putting her in spaces where she can play with the most comfort.

5. Phoenix Mercury (2-1) (No Change)

The Mercury have shown why they have the potential to be an offensive powerhouse. Five players are averaging in double figures: Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Tina Charles, Diamond DeShields and Shey Peddy.

But the only other reliable players available for impactful minutes are Sophie Cunningham and Brianna Turner. Also, the Mercury's wins came against a Storm team without Breanna Stewart. Take that as you will.

An even greater looming issue that I see is their team defense, which is ranked 10th with a 100.4 rating. This shouldn't come as a surprise since Phoenix is without Kia Nurse and Brittney Griner, who are exceptional defenders.

4. Connecticut Sun (1-1) (↓ 2 Spots)

The Sun are difficult to judge because they have played the fewest games. Their first contest against New York looked a whole lot like how they exited the playoffs in 2021. Their spacing was off, Alyssa Thomas had to carry them. Jonquel Jones was passive, similar to how she looked during the semifinal series against the Sky.

But in its second game without Courtney Williams, who was serving her two-game suspension, and DeWanna Bonner, who had just returned from overseas play but wasn't yet available, Connecticut turned up the heat and outmuscled post players Liz Cambage and Nneka Ogwumike. The Sun scored 40 points in the paint to the Sparks' 28.

3. Chicago Sky (2-1) (↓ 2 Spots)

After an overtime home loss to the Sparks on opening night, the Sky have reminded teams why they are the defending champions. Chicago blew the Liberty out of the water at Wintrust Arena, with Candace Parker trapping and hedging Sabrina Ionescu like it was no one's business, and then held off the Lynx at Target Center.

The Sky have had encouraging performances from 31-year-old WNBA rookie Rebekah Gardner and second-year point guard Dana Evans. Both proved they can play impactful minutes behind stars Kahleah Copper, who just finished her overseas season, and Courtney Vandersloot.

2. Las Vegas Aces  (3-1) (↑ 2 Spots)

Is Becky Hammon the favorite for Coach of the Year? What works in her favor is that the majority of her starting five has played together for multiple seasons and has built the chemistry necessary for Hammon's free-flowing, modern motion offense. The days of an Ace winning the Sixth Player of the Year award are over.

And that leads me to my concern for this team. Las Vegas' only loss came against the Mystics. It was a back-to-back after the Aces flew from Nevada to Washington, D.C. The starters looked gassed and played like it. Will this happen again?

The only player who can reliably produce off the bench is Riquna Williams. How the Aces address that lack of depth is something to keep an eye on.

1. Washington Mystics  (3-1) (↑ 5 Spots)

Health has led to great wealth for the Mystics. Besides Natasha Cloud's stint in the health and safety protocols, Elena Delle Donne has proved to be effective and very close to the player she was pre-multiple back surgeries. She's scored 20 points per game in three contests.

But even when Delle Donne wasn't available against the Lynx, the Mystics got double-digit scoring from five players, including 20 from Ariel Atkins and 19 from Cloud.

What's truly scary about this team is that it can only get better on the defensive end when wing Alysha Clark is more comfortable after her Lisfranc injury and Elizabeth Williams is ready to play after winning the Turkish championship.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.