Everything’s still hazy just three weeks into the WNBA season. New teammates are building chemistry, injuries are forcing franchises to re-arrange their plans, and some players are just returning to the United States to play for the first time.
The schedule’s also been a bit erratic. The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have only played five games while the Indiana Fever and Connecticut Sun have both played nine. All of this is to say that in another three weeks, the landscape of the league could be wildly different.
But for now, let’s rank where each team stands while factoring in why their record may be what it is.
12. Indiana Fever (1-8)
The good news: Teaira McCowan is off to a solid start, averaging a career-high 11.2 points per game with 9.4 rebounds in 26.8 minutes. She may be the franchise’s most important player going forward and she’s getting opportunities to develop. Kelsey Mitchell, the team’s leading scorer and a 38.9 percent shooter from range last season, has also been ice cold from three-point range (11-for-50), so things should look up from here. She’ll find her shot again.
The bad news: The team’s last two first-round picks haven’t impressed yet. No. 3 2020 pick Lauren Cox, who suffered from COVID-19 last year and entered this season with a knee injury, has only played in 54 minutes over five games. No. 4 2021 pick Kysre Gondrezick is scoring 3.6 points per game with 1.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists in just 11.3 minutes.
11. Los Angeles Sparks (2-3)
The good news: After battling a back injury in last year’s bubble, Nneka Ogwumike was back to her All-Star ways. In five games, she averaged 16.4 points on 58.6 percent shooting with seven rebounds, and 1.2 assists. The Sparks need the 30-year-old at the top of her game with Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray out of town, and she’s delivered.
The bad news: On Thursday, it was announced that Ogwumike will miss the next four-to-six weeks with a Grade 2 knee sprain. Her absence is devastating for a team that will also be without rookie Jasmine Walker due to a season-ending ACL injury. L.A. will have limited options to search for answers with its best player sidelined.
10. Minnesota Lynx (1-4)
The good news: Sylvia Fowles is back after a calf injury held her out of 15 games in a 22-game season last year. She’s averaging 19.2 points per night, which would be the second-highest total of her Hall of Fame-worthy career, on 61.5 percent shooting with 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks. Also, Napheesa Collier has only played in two games since returning from overseas, including an overtime win over the Connecticut Sun, and, new-acquisition Layshia Clarendon was stellar in their debut, scoring 12 points with five rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes.
The bad news: Aerial Powers’ hamstring injury has her sidelined indefinitely. It’s a total bummer.
9. Chicago Sky (2-5)
The good news: The Sky are off to a tough start, but the simple fix is to get everyone healthy. Candace Parker and Allie Quigley have each only played in one game, and Quigley’s slated to return on Thursday. It’s tough to evaluate a team missing a significant amount of its firepower, and in a month we may forget they ever struggled to begin with.
The bad news: In just a 32-game season, each game matters, and dropping the first five out of seven could really come back to hurt them. In the playoffs, the top two seeds have the ultimate gift of not having to play in a win-or-go-home game. Chicago will have little room for error going forward to earn one of those spots.
8. Washington Mystics (2-4)
The good news: Tina Charles has been awesome, scoring 26.7 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting including 10 three-pointers, which is just one shy of her total from the entire 2019 season. She’s also grabbing 8.3 boards and dishing 1.7 assists, keeping Washington in games. The team’s 29-point rout of the Liberty was convincing.
The bad news: Elena Delle Donne still hasn’t played, and there’s been no date set for when she might return. As great as Charles has been, the Mystics need EDD to compete against the league’s elite.
7. Dallas Wings (2-4)
The good news: Marina Mabrey looks like the most improved player in the league, hitting defenders with step-back three-pointers we haven’t seen from her in the W. She’s scoring 19.3 points per game on 48.8 percent shooting from the field and 46.7 percent shooting from three-point range with 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists. She’s become another weapon next to Arike Ogunbowale in the third-most efficient offense in the league. This is all despite Allisha Gray only playing in one game and Satou Sabally not playing in any. The Wings’ ceiling is high.
The bad news: Ogunbowale hasn’t found her shooting touch yet, but it’s nothing to be too concerned about. She’s shooting just 38 percent from the field, but still getting her 21.8 points per game on 18 field goal attempts. Dallas is in good shape.
6. Phoenix Mercury (4-3)
The good news: The Mercury are 2-1 without Diana Taurasi thanks to Kia Nurse’s euro-step halfcourt game-winner. Nurse is having a bounce-back season scoring 11.4 points on 41.5 percent three-point shooting. Brittney Griner, who left the bubble early last season, is also off to a stellar start, scoring 17.1 points on 56.3 percent shooting with 9.3 rebounds, two assists, and 2.4 blocks per game.
The bad news: Taurasi will miss at least a month with a fracture in her sternum, and Bria Hartley remains sidelined after her torn Achilles last year, too. It’s unclear if Phoenix can maintain this level of play for extended time, but the All-Star combination of Nurse, Griner, and Skylar Diggins-Smith has been great so far.
5. Atlanta Dream (4-2)
The good news: The Dream entered the season as a team most expected to be fighting for a playoff spot, but cruising through a four-game win streak, Atlanta looks ready now. Courtney Williams is leading the way scoring 19.5 points per game on 55.2 percent three-point shooting, taking nearly three times the amount of attempts she did per game in 2020. She’s just five makes short of her most from distance in any season.
The bad news: Atlanta hasn’t had the most difficult schedule to start the year, and the real test will come as the team plays two games against the Lynx followed by a pair against the Storm in the next two weeks. They’ll likely have to play without Chennedy Carter, who suffered a hyperextended right elbow, too.
4. New York Liberty (5-2)
The good news: The front office made some great decisions in the offseason, and the new-acquisitions are showing why. Betnijah Laney is building off her Most Improved Player of the Year season as a sure-fire All-Star scoring 22.3 points per game on 51.9 percent shooting with five assists and four rebounds. No. 6 pick Michaela Onyenwere looks like the Rookie of the Year, scoring 12.1 points on 44.1 percent three-point shooting with 3.3 rebounds. Sabrina Ionescu looks fully healed from her ankle sprain last season, too, scoring 16.1 points with 7.1 assists and 6.6 rebounds.
The bad news: Natasha Howard is out for 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Kylee Shook and Kiah Stokes have done an OK job backing her up, but it’s impossible to replace everything the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year brings. Can New York keep this up without her?
3. Las Vegas Aces (5-3)
The good: The Aces’ stars all look great. A’ja Wilson is scoring 17.6 points per game on 51.6 percent shooting, Liz Cambage is scoring 14.8 points on just 9.4 shots, and Chelsea Gray is quickly settling in as the team’s new point guard, dishing a career-high 6.4 assists per night with just 2.4 turnovers. Jackie Young has been tremendous in spurts, too. Even without Angel McCoughtry, whose knee injury will sideline her for the entire season, and Kelsey Plum, who missed six games to compete in the Olympic 3×3 qualifiers, Las Vegas has looked scary.
The bad: It’s super early in the year, but Vegas was put to the test playing the Storm and Sun twice each in their first eight games and only came away with one win. It’s too soon to read too much into that, though.
2. Seattle Storm (6-1)
The good: Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, and Breanna Stewart are so dang good. Loyd, in particular, has been impressive, scoring 19.4 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting from the field and 40.5 percent shooting from distance with 4.9 assists. Even without Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard, Seattle’s looked like a championship-caliber unit.
The bad: The team isn’t as deep as it once was, and Katie Lou Samuelson has only played in two games as she competed in the 3×3 Olympic qualifier. We’ll have to see how she fits back into the rotation.
1. Connecticut Sun (7-2)
The good: Even without Alyssa Thomas, the Sun have been a defensive gauntlet with height and wingspan to keep nearly anyone out of the paint. And on the other end, Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner look like the toughest one-two scoring punch in the league. A pair of wins over the Aces and an overtime loss to the Storm are proof enough that this team can compete with the best. Three double-digit wins over the rest of the field shows they’re a head above everyone else, too.
The bad: I’ve got nothing. Connecticut is the team to beat.