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Power Rankings: Smack dab in the middle

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The top remains unchanged. The middle is chaos.

Juan Ocampo - NBA/Getty Images

Things are happening in the middle of these rankings. Teams that underwhelmed and disappointed at the start of the season have begun to find their groove. Those like the Phoenix Mercury finally resemble the team we thought we were going to see when the season started. But at the top, little has changed.

The Sparks remain on top, with the Lynx a close second; you could argue for either one at the top, but they're clearly the best two teams in the league, even without taking the undefeated record into account. Those two meet on June 21st in Los Angeles, and set up for a titanic clash.

WEEK FOUR RANKINGS

#1 -€” Los Angeles Sparks (LW: 1)

I stand by what I wrote in the last power rankings, but I'll add this addendum: not only are they good, they're also smart. Every player plays their role, and they play defense with more than just athleticism; they know what they're supposed to do, and they do it.

#2 -€” Minnesota Lynx (LW: 2)

Same for the Minnesota Lynx; I don't have anything to this week. They're great; they'll be in the Finals, and I'm just watching now to see how good of a record they can accumulate.

#3 -€” Atlanta Dream (LW: 3)

Who would've thought, huh? At 7-3, the Dream have the third-best record in the league, and are on top of the Eastern Conference standings. I don't mean to deprive y'all of valuable content, but I don't really have much to add again. These three teams have separated themselves from the rest of the league from the start.

I will say: if any of these three were to drop, I think it would be Atlanta. However, that's only because the teams ahead of them are playing historically great basketball.

#4 -€” Chicago Sky (LW: 8)

A big jump for Chicago! Also, I finally have something to say besides ¯\_(ツ)_/¯!

What sells Chicago for me on this second spot is how they've been improving over the season. Their defense, a dumpster fire for the early games, has become merely below-average. It's the sixth-best in a league of twelve teams, with a defensive rating of 102.1, and its offensive rating of 105 is fourth best in the WNBA.

One of the things that concerns me is that Elena Delle Donne is scoring almost six points less than her MVP season of a year ago. She's grabbing fewer rebounds, and shooting worse from the foul line; she's slightly up on three point percentage and assists, but her offensive drop off is a little puzzling.

They've played well on the scoring side of the ball, so it's not catastrophic, but I do believe that if they want to beat any of the teams ahead of them on this list, they need her to be their MVP again.

#5 -€” New York Liberty (LW: 4)

This one spot drop comes from the ass-kicking they received at the hands of the Los Angeles Sparks. That's not really fair, some of you might say; perhaps, but I also think when you're a team that prides itself on its defensive ability and primarily makes it's way through the season as a defensive team, giving up 100 points is pretty embarrassing.

It is a sign of things to come? I don't think so. The problem their having is also kind of unique; their defense has to be so good, so flawless in execution, because their offense just can't get going.

They have the fourth-worst offensive rating in the league, and this is a team with Tina Charles at the helm. The problem is that if the offense isn't clicking, no defense in the world can save you. The Liberty need to figure this out, and quick.

#6 -€” Phoenix Mercury (LW: 12)

They're back!!!!!!

Or, perhaps, I just under ranked them because I was acting like a disappointed fan, instead of objectively analyzing them. That's possible, too. However, there is no understanding or misrepresenting how bad they've been on defense this year. They still give up the most points, and have the worst defensive rating, but they are improving as the year goes on.

The thing that is keeping them in games is an offensive explosion, led by Diana Taurasi; they have the third-best offensive rating, just behind Minnesota and Los Angeles, and are scoring the third-most points per game as well. I'm assuming the defense will come around -€” because, Christ, how could it not -€” but they should be able to hold on even if it never does get to 2014 levels.

#7 -€” Seattle Storm (LW: 7)

I did not expect this team to hang at number seven, but here we are. Breanna Stewart is grabbing the second-most rebounds in the league this season, at 9.6, and is averaging just a shade under 15 points per game. She's not shooting very well, sitting just sub-40%, but she's also playing 34.8 minutes a game for a team that won only ten games all of last season. They have been much better with her here.

That's before you throw in Sue Bird and Jewell Lloyd, both of whom are playing massive roles for this team. At 4-6, they're much improved already over 2015, and should continue to get better. If Stewart gets on a hot streak, this team could really pop off, and could find themselves competing for a playoff spot sooner rather than later.

#8 -€” Indiana Fever (LW: 6)

The Indiana Fever are hanging around, but they haven't looked like a contender. They're around the middle of the pack in both offense and defense, and at 4-6, they sit in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

They don't have a lot superstar firepower; none of their players average more than 13.6 points per game, no player is grabbing more than 5.6 rebounds, and no player is dishing more 2.8 assists. I've been fooled by this team before, but they could struggle going forward.

#9 -€” Washington Mystics (LW: 10)

Emma Meesseman has returned to form, but it hasn't been enough for the Mystics. They are 4-7, with the second-worst defensive rating and the third-worst offensive rating. Nothing is going right for them, and a year after relying on their defense to carry the day, they are without it.

They'll rebound some, I suspect; they'll find a middle ground between bad and good, though I'm more confident in that prediction when applied to their defense. But as of right now, they're underperforming expectations pretty drastically.

#10 -€” Dallas Wings (LW: 5)

The Wings are having a tough, tough time. The scoring that buoyed them very early on has gone the way of the dinosaur, and they have one of the worst defenses in the league. The tenth spot on these rankings feels like their floor, but they were stomped into dust by the Sparks,  losing by 24, and that is not a good look.

Odyssey Sims has dropped to 29.9% shooting from the floor, and is averaging 3.7 turnovers to 3.8 assists. She's making 5.6/6.3 free throws per game, which is down nearly two makes and attempts. They can't win games shooting as poorly as they are, with a primary scorer playing like this.

#11 -€” Connecticut Sun (LW: 11)

I feel the same as I did in the last rankings: in a few years, maybe. They're showing positive signs, more so in previous weeks than right now, but they're going to get better. I think that they should play the rookies as many minutes as possible, because if they want to make the playoffs in the near future, it's going to be on their backs.

#12 -€” San Antonio Stars (LW: 9)

I feel bad about putting them in the last spot, but they do have the worst record, and their offense is catastrophically bad. It's the worst in the league by nearly every measure, and their defense has regressed some as well.

This is a team that just doesn't have enough talent to push for a playoff spot, though that will change as their rookies mature and they draft more players. As for now, just watch the play of Kayla McBride and Moriah Jefferson; they're good players, and a silver lining amongst the poor play of the Stars.