Week one of the WNBA season is in the books! A lot of interesting, and revealing, game action so far; I've learned a bit more about these teams than I expected this early in the season. But, it is still only the first week, and I'm wrong about basically everything all of the time, so with that in mind, let's get going with those power rankings!
#1 - Minnesota Lynx (LR: 1)
No surprise here: the defending champs are undefeated through three games, and as a result, they get to stay on top. They easily beat Phoenix to open the season, handily beat Chicago (though that game was closer than it appeared), and then struggled with the worst team in the league, the Seattle Storm.
That doesn't reflect well on the Lynx; one could say, if they were super into drawing wild conclusions from infinitesimally small sample sizes, that the Lynx play to the level of their competition.
I am certainly not saying that (though if that proves out over the course of the season, remember: you heard it hear first), but a measly seven-point win over the worst team in the league after beating the Mercury by 19 and the Sky by 17 at least makes you squint your eyes a bit.
#2 - Los Angeles Sparks (LR: 5)
The Los Angeles Sparks began the season with a thirty point deconstruction of Seattle, and for a follow-up act beat the living hell out of a very solid Washington Mystics team by thirty points, too. The New York Liberty were the third course, and similarly devoured by the Sparks, 79-72.
It was ridiculous when it happens, but now it's borderline tear-your-hair-out madness that Candace Parker was left off the Team USA roster. I mean, for goodness sake: she's leading her team in points, rebounds, and assists, and is second in steals and first in blocks.
This team is gelling early in the season; they faced progressively tougher opponents in each game so far, and was up to the challenge in every single one. If the Lynx weren't the defending champs, the Sparks might be number one on this list.
#3 - New York Liberty (LR: 2)
The New York Liberty take a one spot stumble, dropping to number three this week. The only game they've lost is to the team directly in front of them. They've beaten the Dallas Wings and the Washington Mystics, and generally looked like the defensive menace that they were last year.
The loss to the Sparks isn't as big of a deal as it perhaps could be; it required overtime to split the two. If anything, it was an impressive loss; the Sparks lead the league in defensive rating by a wide, wide margin and are second only to the Lynx in offensive rating. The Liberty are second in defense and eighth out of twelve in offensive rating; point is, they held their own with the most dominant statistical team in the league.
#4 - Dallas Wings (LR: 4)
The Dallas Wings take number four on this list, same as last week. They've played four games, and won three, losing only to the top shelf New York Liberty by eight.
One thing to keep any eye on is how their scoring changes going forward; of the 13 players on their roster, twelve have scored a point, seven of them are shooting sub 40%, with leader Odyssey Sims shooting 33%. It's going to be tough to keep up with other teams if you have to volume shoot your way to a lead.
They have the third-worst shooting percentage in the league, but have the sixth-best shooting defense as well. They also give up the fifth-fewest points per game; they're bludgeoning people more than their bricking jumpers, and that's a hard way to win games. One positive note: Skylar Diggins is being worked back into the lineup, and if she approaches 80% of what she can be, their offense will improve dramatically.
#5 - Indiana Fever (LW: 9)
After an opening day loss to the aforementioned Dallas Wings, they've won two straight. They beat the Phoenix Mercury by six (though this is rapidly becoming less and less impressive), and then the Atlanta Dream by nine. They're playing at the fastest pace in the league, after placing third in that category in 2015, and they have the third-best offensive rating in the league.
A note of concern: they have the fourth worst defensive rating in the entire league, with a defensive rating of 105.1. They're allowing opponents to convert a little over 45% of their shots; they're also making 39% of their threes against the Fever. Their pace might be playing against them a bit, too, as their giving up the second-most field goal attempts and second-most makes in the league.
That pace gives them more shots to work with, but their opponents are taking advantage of it too, almost as much as the Fever are. That could come back to bite them later in the season, should they cool off fro their scorching offensive start.
#6 - Atlanta Dream (LR: 6)
The Atlanta Dream stay in this sixth spot, and look good for the third straight game. They beat the Chicago Sky at home in Atlanta, 87-81, holding Elena Delle Done to 16 points on 38.5% shooting. They held that potent Chicago team to under 40% from the field, and generally looked like a team that could hold it's own.
They continue to feast at the free throw line; they shot 22-31 from the line, which is three more makes and nine more takes than the Chicago Sky had. This is a hallmark of their offense, especially from star forward Angel McCoughtry, who shot 9-12 from the line and was one of the free throw leaders in 2015.
It's a good sign when a team wins doing the things that it's best at, rather than getting an explosion of threes or something that skews perception; they're winning because of their bread-and-butter, is what I'm saying.
#7 - Chicago Sky (LR: 3)
It's weird to note that the Sky have yet to win a game in which Elena Delle Donne plays. They smoked the Connecticut Sun by 23 when she was out with an illness, and then lost subsequent games to the Minnesota Lynx and the Atlanta Dream.
Delle Donne has been her usual outstanding self on offense, scoring 22 points per game on 51% shooting and 40% from beyond the arc, but the team is giving up so many points. They have the fifth-worst defensive rating in the league, and were it not for that opening night defensive stranglehold; they'd be much lower.
They're playing fast, they're grabbing the highest percentage of offensive rebounds in the league, and the second-highest percentage of defensive rebounds, as well.
They've got good peripheral numbers, and the defense will clean up somewhat as they move deeper into the season, but they were not a good defensive team last year, and required an incredible offensive season to offset that. They'll end up higher than seventh, I'm confident.
#8 - Seattle Storm (LR: 12)
The Storms are not the seventh best team in the league, but we're in a spot on the rankings where all of these teams are virtually interchangeable. The Storm takes this spot almost entirely on the close loss to the Minnesota Lynx. While nearly every other team around this spot does not have anything like that to bolster their resumé.
This team is not going to make the playoffs, or will have a very tough time doing so, because they have the second-worst defensive rating and the third-worst offensive rating, and are finding it tough to score points. They scored 81 points against the Mercury in their only win, and the Mercury have the worst defense in the league through this first week. They'll end up lower than this.
#9 - Washington Mystics (LR: 7)
The Washington Mystics have had a tough go of it in this early season. Sitting at 1-3, every loss has been by double digits, including a 30 point smackdown from the Los Angeles Sparks. Their top scorer, Tayler Hill, is shooting sub 40%, and Emma Meesseman is still finding her legs this season; her field goal percentage is almost ten percentage points down from last season.
They have the fourth-worst offensive rating, and the third-worst defensive rating, and have only beaten the lowly Connecticut Sun so far in this 2016 season. If they want to be the near-contender they were last year, it's going to take a significant turnaround.
#10 - Connecticut Sun (LR:10)
The Connecticut Sun are in the midst of a pseudo-rebuild, having traded lottery pick Elizabeth Williams to the Atlanta Dream for the fifth overall pick. They don't have much in the way of pure scoring, as none of their players are averaging over 12.3 points per game, but their defense is has a little more bite to it, sitting in the middle of the pack.
Their offense is where it all falls apart, sitting with the second-worst offensive rating, and the third-fewest points in the league, as well. That isn't likely to change this season.
#11 - San Antonio Stars (LR: 11)
The San Antonio Stars take up our second-to-last spot, with zero wins and three losses. The biggest indictment against them is their loss to the Connecticut Sun, which are only one spot ahead of them, and the fact that they haven't broken 80 points in any of their first three games.
It should be noted, however, that Kayla McBride is doing some serious work for this Stars offense. She's averaging 22 points per game on 45% shooting, and is one of only two players on the team in double-digit points for the season.
They have the worst offense in terms of points scored, at 69.3 (nice), but have the third-best defense, giving up only 75.7 points per game. Even if the offense never really gets better this year, having a defense with that much tenacity is a good sign for the future.
#12 - Phoenix Mercury (LR: 8)
I mean, what do you even say, at this point? It's one thing to get beaten down by the Lynx, who are a top-tier contender, or even play close with the Fever, who are a good, if not great, squad. But to lose to the Seattle Storm? To give up 81 points to the third-worst scoring offense in the league? It's atrocious.
They're giving up an astronomical 91 points per game, while scoring 83; that's an eight point separation, one of the highest in the league. This is a team with the league-leading scorer and future Hall of Famer Diana Taurasi; this is a team with arguably the most dominant force in Brittney Griner, and they have yet to win a game! Griner is one of the best defenders in WNBA history already, and they're giving up 91 points per game!
They'll right the ship, because it's inconceivable that they wouldn't. But for now, they are the worst team in the league, and deservedly so.