#1 - Minnesota Lynx
I think it's fair, even one game in, to say that the Minnesota Lynx are the favorites to win it all again. Maya Moore is at her athletic peak; Sylvia Fowles went toe-to-toe with Brittney Griner, and the Lynx often looked like the best version of last year's team.
They beat the hell out of a very, very good Phoenix Mercury team, who benefitted immensely from the return of superstar Dina Taurasi. Things could change, and I expect the Mercury to be one of the best teams in the league, but this opener belonged to their opponent.
#2 - New York Liberty
The Liberty have played two games, and won both. They beat the Washington Mystics by 11 on Saturday, and the Dallas Wings by eight on Sunday. Last year, they had three players in the top ten of defensive rating (how many points scored per 100 possessions), and they continued the defensive dominance to start the season.
The difference, so far, is that they've scored 90 and 79 points, respectively, both of which were higher than their season average last year. Kiah Stokes is in her second year, Epiphanny Price is in her second year in New York (a year after ranking fourth in PER), and oh, did I forget to mention that Tina freaking Charles is on this team, too? Jesus Christ, what a murderer's row. They are, without a doubt, the presumptive favorites in the Eastern Conference.
#3 - Chicago Sky
At it's most basic, and superficial, level, this paragraph is just the words Elena Delle Donne over and over again. But that sells short the offensive firepower this team possesses.
Delle Donne didn't even play, and the Sky beat the Connecticut Sun by 23 points. Courtney Vandersloot, Cappie Pondexter, Erika de Souza; as easy as it is to think of this as the Elena Delle Donne show, this team is full of high-quality WNBA starters.
Pokey Chatman is in her sixth year as head coach and GM, and has taken the team to the playoffs three years in a row, and gone to the WNBA Finals once. The Sky have developed a reputation for underachieving, losing both in 2015 and in 2016 when they were the two seed, but this year might be the year they put it together. It has been, however, only one game.
#4 - Dallas Wings
The Dallas Wings are the reborn Tulsa Shock, who moved in the offseason and changed their name. They've earned this three spot for beating up the defending Eastern Conference champ Indiana Fever. Skylar Diggins didn't play in this game, but she'll be returning soon, and she'll add star power to a very solid roster.
They relied heavily on free throws, taking and making eight more than their competitors. They lead the league last in year in both attempts and makes, while ranking seventh in make percentage. The Wings made the playoffs last year before being swept by the Mercury, but with Diggins back in the mix, I expect them to put up much more of a fight.
#5 - Los Angeles Sparks
The Sparks are a worse version of the Chicago Sky; they have a superstar in Candace Parker, but their supporting cast isn't as good as Chicago's. Parker dropped 34 points on route to a thirty point victory over the Seattle Storm. Seattle is very bad, the worst in the league (more on that later), but the Sparks picked up from where they left off last year.
Parker rested for much of the early part of the season after an arduous few years, and the Sparks were horrible in her absence. With her in the lineup, they snuck in as the last seed to take on the Lynx, whom they took a game off of before going into the night. Parker was left off the roster for the Olympic team, which is a travesty, and after watching her on Sunday, I expect her to be properly motivated for the season ahead.
#6 - Atlanta Dream
In the planning of this piece, I had the Atlanta Dream below the Phoenix Mercury and the Washington Mystics. I still think that both teams are better than this Dream team (lol), but I can't in good conscience place it below those two teams.
The reason I'm not very high on the Dream comes primarily from looking at their first game: they beat the San Antonio Stars, yes, but the Stars are the second worst team in the league, and they had to go to overtime to squeeze it out.
Atlanta was bad last year, and they traded the fourth overall pick for Elizabeth Williams, a very solid player who is not a star. The Dream have Angel McCoughtry, a borderline star who is as good as drawing contact as anyone in the business, but that roster is not built for contention. They'll have a hard time keeping up going forward.
#7 - Washington Mystics
It's unfair putting them this low. They were beaten by double digits against the New York Liberty, Emma Meesseman, their best player, had an off night, and she can reasonably be expected to get better.
Tayler Hill hit four of eight three-pointers, and should find it easier to shoot when Meesseman is going at her full powers.There are a number of good players on this team, like Bria Harley and Stefanie Dolson, and the Mystics shouldn't have a problem contending in a tough Eastern Conference.
They had the misfortune of playing one of the best teams in the league, and that hurts them more than it should. They wont shoot 35% every night, not with that good of a roster, and that doesn't bode well for their opponents.
#8 - Phoenix Mercury
Well, that wasn't quite what the Mercury had in mind. A 19 point ass kicking is never a good way to open a season, but perhaps it was a necessary one for this team; it might give them the perspective that is needed going forward. Taurasi is playing her first game in two years after taking 2015 off, and this was quite a way to reintegrate her.
This team has as much talent and skill as any in the league, and they won the title only two years ago. There is no reason why they can't push the Lynx, and maybe even topple them if things go their way. Griner is a force of nature, and as their 29-5 record in 2014 indicates, very few teams can stop them when they are on top of things.
#9 - Indiana Fever
The Fever are my own personal nemesis. I threw them under the bus in my big statistical feature during last season, and then rolled my eyes at them as they advanced through the playoffs.
I wasn't super-impressed at their performance against Dallas (though I did laugh when I saw them kicking ass early against the Wings), and as such they fall pretty low. Aside from the Dream, this is the last spot in which I could see a team reasonably compete for a championship.
Indiana almost won it last year against Minnesota, and I've learned from repeated smackdowns that this team can really play. They'll end up higher than ninth, I think, when all is said and done.
#10 - Connecticut Sun
The Sun traded Elizabeth Williams to the Atlanta Dream for the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft, giving them the third, fourth, and sixth (which they acquired from the LA Sparks for the Sun's 2017 1st rounder and Riquna Williams), spurring along the rebuilding process.
While the efforts may not show this season (and did not, in this first game), they are well-suited to the future. All three of their first round picks played at least fifteen minutes, lead by an impressive performance from Rachel Banham, who was taken fourth.
Within two years, if this Sun team keeps this roster together (and makes sure that the young players get experience), they'll be competing for championships. Right now, though, they're going to have to find a way to channel their 33-point third quarter effort, instead of their 12-point fourth quarter collapse.
#11 - San Antonio Stars
The Stars lost in overtime to the Dream, and that is not a good sign. The Dream are not going to stay the sixth place on the power rankings, and the Stars have too much talent to be this low, but I've said that about a million times now. There are many teams with talent that will be relegated to the bottom.
This team has Kayla McBride and Moriah Jefferson, and Jefferson played like hell in this opener. They could compete, if things break their way, but this is a disheartening way to begin the season. I'm a huge fan of McBride, who can go off on scoring bursts to rival any player in the league. It remains to be seen if she and Jefferson gel, and if and when they do, how far that can take them.
#12 - Seattle Storm
The Storm were manhandled by the Sparks in their opening game, and it was uglier than the score indicated. They scored 25 in the third quarter, a rare outburst amongst first and fourth quarters of 15 points and a second quarter 11.
They drafted the best player in college basketball in Breanna Stewart (one of the best college basketball players ever, too), and Stewart played like the superstar she is and will continue to be. Jewell Lloyd also played well, scoring twenty points and finishing only three behind Stewart.
However, this is a team that is going to struggle, even if Stewart and Lloyd play well. They won't be as bad as this position and this first game indicates, but this is not a season that one can reasonably say they'll compete for a playoff spot.