Happy Fourth of July Everyone! There are no games scheduled for today. But in the meantime, here are some grades for each team, based on their preseason expectations.
As a note, please be aware that grades are listed in alphabetical order based on the city of the team.
Atlanta Dream (11-5)
Grade: A-. When Michael Cooper first took the job to be the Atlanta Dream's new head coach, he was fully committed to the "Run with the Dream" style of play in his own way. Atlanta is currently first in the WNBA for pace, and also has the WNBA's best defensive rating.
Atlanta certainly was expected to be first which they are. But the Dream's guard play, at least to me has been a bit better than I expected with Tiffany Hayes now starting. She also has developed a reliable three point shot and that has been a weapon that this team is lacking. Still, the Dream is going to need more three point shooters besides Hayes, Shoni Schimmel, and franchise star Angel McCoughtry long term, but overall, they've played well.
Chicago Sky (8-9)
Grade: C-. The Sky started out 5-1 in May, but went 2-7 in June. Sure, part of the June record is because of the combined absences of Sylvia Fowles and Elena Delle Donne, but I don't think that Chicago, even with those injuries should have been 2-7 in June.
With Courtney Vandersloot now out, effectively for the rest of the regular season along with Delle Donne, wins will be harder to come by as Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince shoulder the load, but it won't be impossible given that every team in the Eastern Conference except for Atlanta is below .500 as of July 4.
Connecticut Sun (8-10)
Grade: B. The Sun's young roster went on a six game winning streak which catapulted the team to an 8-6 record, and second place in the East. Connecticut has lost four straight since then, but that early six game win streak showed what this team is capable of doing long term. And many expected this team to be dead last in the East, which is why their grade is high for an otherwise mediocre record.
Indiana Fever (8-9)
Grade: B-. It is admirable to see that the Fever has been able to get to an 8-9 record considering that Tamika Catchings has yet to play a game, and Katie Douglas has returned to Connecticut. It will be interesting to see how this team does perform once Catchings is back in the fold.
New York Liberty (6-11)
Grade: D+. The Liberty has started the season on the wrong foot. But thanks to the overall mediocrity with other teams in the conference, New York can still get into the playoffs and with room to spare. The Libs have also won three of their last four games, so things may be turning around as we speak. If the Libs finish strong and make the playoffs, they may also be a team that "no one" wants to play.
Washington Mystics (7-11)
Grade: B. I have more detailed thoughts here. But I'll just reiterate that the Mystics are a young team, not unlike the Sun and the Tulsa Shock. But they have no lottery picks playing right now, and no #1 or #2 overall picks like the other two young teams. Therefore, that makes things harder for them in many ways. Still, there are a lot of young players who are playing well together, and it will be interesting to see how they develop over time.
Los Angeles Sparks (7-9)
Grade: D+. The Sparks started their June by losing six of seven games and many were wondering if the team was heading in the right direction and they would easily get an F. But since a June 19 win against the Tulsa Shock, they have won four of their last six games and are now currently fourth place in the Western Conference so things may be turning around now.
Minnesota Lynx (13-5)
Grade: B+. The Lynx have played well generally speaking considering the injuries that they have suffered. But the team is still really, really dependent on the starting lineup and there hasn't been enough bench production from the players who were there. Fortunately, most of their players, such as Monica Wright and Dev Peters, are now back for the second half, given that Seimone Augustus is having injuries of her own, namely on her left knee.
Phoenix Mercury (12-3)
Grade: A. The Mercury leads the WNBA in field goal percentage and their defensive rating is sixth, which is an improvement over previous seasons where they were generally among the bottom three in that same category. Overall, things are finally clicking, and Phoenix has as good of a shot to win it all as anyone else in the league.
San Antonio Stars (9-9)
Grade: B+. Many, if not most pundits believed that the Stars would be a lottery team, let alone in third place for the West. But they have played around .500 basketball, with three of those wins coming against the Sparks (twice) and the Mercury. It's not like they had an "easy" schedule to get there, and that also helps their grade.
Seattle Storm (7-12)
Grade: C-. In short, the Storm is not playing up to expectations as Sue Bird tries to get back in form after missing all of last year. Let's just say that her offensive and defensive ratings make her look bad...
But if you think that Seattle is a considerably better team than a 7-12 record, it may be deflated to some degree because of a road-heavy first half. Since the Storm does play much better at home, perhaps this record will improve much more quickly than it looks at first glance given that 10 of the team's 15 remaining games are at home.
Also, one of the bright spots for the Storm is ... Crystal Langhorne. She has been rebounding at the highest rate in her career by significant margins. Her total rebounding percentage is 20.5% and her defensive rebounding percentage is a really high 30.6%. In short, Lang is being utilized to her strengths in Seattle.
Tulsa Shock (7-10)
Grade: B. The Shock is second in offensive rating, but are last in defensive rating, which partially explains their 7-10 record. Even if Tulsa ultimately is lottery bound for the fifth straight season, it is still pretty refreshing to see how well Skylar Diggins, Odyssey Sims, Glory Johnson, and Courtney Paris are playing together. Given how veteran-laden some of these other Western teams are, they are going to decline soon, if they aren't already. But at the same time, this group is continuing to improve and is putting itself to be in line to be a perennial power sooner than some might think.