The defending champion Chicago Sky just had their best week yet of the 2022 WNBA season, giving them momentum for their upcoming road trip east. It moved the Sky up a couple of notches in this week's WNBA Power Rankings, and sets up a big matchup Friday against the Connecticut Sun, our new No. 1 team which moved up to the top spot after a gritty 3-1 West Coast road trip.
The Sky, like many WNBA teams, are still putting together the pieces after late arrival/injury issues contributed to a 4-3 start. But after three victories this past week, look at the Sky now. They are very balanced offensively, with seven players averaging between 13.8 and 8.9 points. That doesn't include veteran guard Allie Quigley (7.9 PPG), who is still finding her game after dealing with a knee injury.
Coach James Wade liked what he saw in Sunday's 91-82 victory over the Washington Mystics. Candace Parker had a double-double, three players had six assists (Parker, Emma Meesseman and Courtney Vandersloot) and nine players scored at least seven points. The way the Sky moved the ball and shot it (55.4%) made them incredibly hard to guard.
"The chemistry's building," Wade said. "More time together, players getting comfortable, communication's building. And just a consistent buy-in of your leaders."
Wade also made this point about 6-foot-4 forward Meesseman, who is in her first year in Chicago: As big a contribution as she can make offensively, she is also very good defensively.
"Emma's hard to play against on the defensive end," Wade said. "She's able to go out and not only stop her man but also help others as well. That's what we need from that position: a lot of mobility, toughness and just disruption."
Fellow Belgian standout Julie Allemand, a guard, is expected to join the Sky later this week as they travel to Washington, Connecticut and New York. The matchup with the Sun on Friday will be the first of four between the teams that met in the semifinals last season.
"I think as a team, we're still trying to find the flow, but today was a really good step forward," Meesseman said after the victory over the Mystics.
Previous ranking: 2
The Sun and the Aces split their much-anticipated back-to-back meetings, so it's not as if the Aces really did anything wrong to drop from the No. 1 spot. But Connecticut deserves a "reward" for its prowess in the Pacific time zone. That includes rallying in the fourth quarter to beat both Phoenix and Seattle. The Sun had 32 points in the final period against the Storm on Sunday, and showed off their powerful inside game as Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones combined to finish with 67 points, while Alyssa Thomas was two points short of a triple-double.
This week: vs. Indiana (Wednesday), vs. Chicago (Friday)
Previous ranking: 1
The games against the Sun felt playoff-worthy, and the second matchup in particular was very physical. Aces guard Jackie Young, who is having a spectacular season, suffered an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter, and her absence the rest of the way after scoring a season-high 26 points made a big difference. Guard Chelsea Gray had to leave that game late after getting hit in the face, but she was back for Sunday's victory over the Wings. Young is still out, but the timing helps: The Aces play just once this week. Guard Kelsey Plum is also putting on a show; she scored a season-high 32 points Sunday and has led the Aces in assists eight of their 12 games, including the last five in a row.
This week: at Los Angeles (Saturday)
Previous ranking: 5
So far, the Sky's bench has been an asset, and that will be even more the case when Allemand arrives. Chicago got 35 points from its reserves Sunday against the Mystics, led by guard Dana Evans' 12. She said Wade's advice to her is, "He just always tells me to be myself. For me, it's just being a point guard first and then figuring out what I need to do, if that's scoring or getting somebody the ball."
Quigley hasn't been shooting like herself thus far (6 of 27, 22.2%, from 3-point range) after returning from the injury, but Wade is confident that will change. "I tell her I believe in her ... it's going to come back," Wade said. "She's the best shooter I've ever coached; it's about her getting her timing and her rhythm."
This week: at Washington (Wednesday), at Connecticut (Friday), at New York (Sunday)
Previous ranking: 7
The Dream went 2-1 last week, with wins over Minnesota and Indiana, and continue to be the most pleasant surprise of the WNBA season. Sunday's victory against the Fever was a showcase for Nia Coffey, who had her second double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) of the season and third of her six-season WNBA career. The forward out of Northwestern is in her second go-round with Atlanta (she spent the 2019 season there) and so far has been a key part of the Dream's starting lineup.
This week: at Seattle (Tuesday), at Phoenix (Friday)
Previous ranking: 3
It was a disappointing 1-2 week for Washington, especially a loss at home to New York in which the Mystics were outshot 11-5 from behind the arc. Forward Elena Delle Donne played in that game, but then rested and didn't make Sunday's trip to Chicago, which was also a loss. Washington gets another shot at the Sky this week. Coach Mike Thibault has been out due to health and safety protocols.
This week: vs. Chicago (Wednesday), at Minnesota (Friday), vs. Phoenix (Sunday)
Previous ranking: 6
Frustration can get the best of us, and that happened to Wings star Arike Ogunbowale in a loss at Los Angeles. She went to the line with less than a second left and a chance to tie the score, but missed the first free throw and then pump-faked the second for a shooting violation. Ogunbowale vented by kicking the extended scorer's table, but then bounced back with 16 points and six rebounds as Dallas beat Seattle. A Sunday loss at Las Vegas made it a 1-2 road trip for the Wings, but they stay put in the power rankings.
This week: vs. Seattle (Friday), vs. Seattle (Sunday)
Previous ranking: 8
After Ogunbowale's misadventure at the foul line derailed a likely overtime, the Sparks grabbed the victory over Dallas and then looked to extend Phoenix's losing streak. But a loss on the road Sunday to the Mercury -- center Liz Cambage had a season low in points (eight) and minutes (13) -- left Los Angeles with a 1-1 week. The good news was defensive stalwart Brittney Sykes had two of her best offensive games, with a combined 38 points and nine assists. Now, how will the Sparks react to increased practice time, as they have just two games over the next two weeks?
This week: vs. Las Vegas (Saturday)
Previous ranking: 4
The Storm went 0-2 and are sitting at .500, which is not where they expected to be in early June. COVID-19 has had an impact with Sue Bird and Ezi Magbegor being out three games each. And center Mercedes Russell just returned for last week's games against Dallas and Connecticut after missing the early part of the season with an non-basketball injury. Bird and Magbegor were back against the Sun, and Seattle had a 67-61 lead going into the fourth quarter. Then Connecticut shredded the Storm's defense for 32 points and the win. As good as the Sun are, that's not a bad loss, but Seattle is hoping to stay healthy and get back to the team the Storm think they can be.
This week: vs. Atlanta (Tuesday), at Dallas (Friday), at Dallas (Sunday)
Previous ranking: 10
Two of Minnesota's three wins thus far are against New York, which tells you it has been a rough season for the Lynx. They play the second of their back-to-back games at New York on Tuesday after beating the Liberty on Sunday. That followed a loss at Atlanta in which the Lynx had 24 turnovers, almost twice as many as the Dream. A 1-1 week isn't the worst, of course, but it keeps the Lynx treading water below a playoff spot.
This week: at New York (Tuesday), vs. Washington (Friday), vs. Indiana (Sunday)
Previous ranking: 11
The Mercury finally could let out a sigh of relief as they beat Los Angeles on Sunday -- following losses to Chicago and Connecticut earlier in the week -- and ended a seven-game skid. But even the two defeats seemed like steps forward. Diana Taurasi was ejected for complaining to officials in the second quarter at Chicago, but the Mercury lost to last year's WNBA Finals opponent by just three points. Then they led the Sun for much of that game before it got away in the final minutes. After scoring just five points with the early exit in the Windy City, Taurasi had a combined 51 points and 11 assists against the Sun and Sparks. Skylar Diggins-Smith also totaled 51 points in those two games. When they're both scoring, things go much more smoothly for the Mercury.
This week: vs. Atlanta (Friday), at Washington (Sunday)
Previous ranking: 12
At last, it was a good week for the Liberty, who went 2-1. They moved decisively out of last place in the Power Rankings, and would have jumped up even further had they defeated Minnesota at home on Sunday. As it was, their wins over Indiana and at Washington were confidence-builders. And it was a notable stretch for guard Sabrina Ionescu, who led New York in scoring all three games with 23, 24 and 31 points.
This week: vs. Minnesota (Tuesday), at Indiana (Friday), vs. Chicago (Sunday)
12. Indiana Fever
Previous ranking: 9
With new coach Carlos Knox settling in, the Fever had a rough 0-3 week with losses to Washington, New York and Atlanta. In short, after the feel-good moment of Indiana winning Knox's debut on May 27, when they scored 101 points, the Fever then averaged 71.6 PPG in their three losses. Kelsey Mitchell has been a consistent scoring threat (19.5 PPG), and rookies NaLyssa Smith, Queen Egbo and Emily Engstler are all averaging at least 7.0 rebounds. But Indiana now is in the cellar.
This week: at Connecticut (Wednesday), vs. New York (Friday), at Minnesota (Sunday)