#1 - Los Angeles Sparks (LW: 1) The Sparks stay atop the list. They are still undefeated, at 11-0, and have the best offensive and defensive ratings in the league. They have the best turnover percentage in the league, the best effective field goal, and true shooting percentages, and generally whoop the crap out of any and every team that gets in their way.
Candace Parker is the engine that drives this team, but she is not the only superstar player on the roster. I've written about Nneka Ogwumike and how dope she is, but the Sparks are not 11-0 without both of them playing at a high tier. Things aren't going to really clear up or get that interesting for Los Angeles until they take on the Minnesota Lynx, who are also undefeated, later today.
#2 - Minnesota Lynx (LW: 2) The Lynx have begun their title defense with a 12-0 record, an astonishing run of success to rival any in WNBA history. This is a deep, talented team, who would be the undisputed favorite for the title were the LA Sparks not eating their way through their enemies.
They've been just behind their LA counterparts in essentially every important statistic, and not far behind, either. Maya Moore is having arguably her best season. Her points are down, and rebounds are down, but she is averaging 1.5 assists more than a season before, while reducing her turnover rate; her field goal percentage is also up from the year before.
Behind her, Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus, and Rebekkah Brunson have been filling any and all cracks on both sides of the ball. They're going to be tough to beat.
#3 - New York Liberty (LW: 4) The Liberty have won four games in a row, and it's hard not to reward that kind of play. They've reasserted themselves (at least for now), as a fringe championship contender.
Their defense is the third-best in the league, but their offense is the fourth-worst; not being able to score points will probably ultimately doom them. The good news is that defensive teams have a better chance, in my opinion, of going deep into the playoffs than strictly offensive-minded teams.
Easier to increase intensity and hustle, than it is to break out of a shooting slump. Perhaps my biggest concern, outside of the overall offense, is how many minutes Tina Charles is playing. She's getting only 6.5 minutes of rest per game, and as the person that anchors both the offense and defense, those minutes count more than most.
That is going to wear her down, and could come back to bite them if they were to make a deep playoff run. More depth behind Charles, Sugar Rodgers, and Kiah Stokes is necessary to give this team a real chance.
#4 - Atlanta Dream (LW: 3) The Dream fell off their three spot this week. It's not just because the Liberty have been playing so well, though that's a big part of it; the thing that concerns me is that the defense has started to go on them.
Not so much in the advanced stats; they're fourth in defensive rating, only a few points behind the Liberty. But they're giving up 86.5 points per game, and that is not something that can continue if they want to compete for a title.
I have completely turned around on Elizabeth Williams. I don't know what her ceiling is, but I do know what her floor is, and that is a solid WNBA center. I don't mean that as an insult; she's proven herself to be a capable, valuable starter, and she can only go up from there.
She's averaging 12.4 points on 50% shooting, grabbing 6.8 boards, and leading the league in blocks with 2.4 a game. She's also shooting 66% from the free throw line, which is a respectable mark for a center. I'm of the opinion that the high scoring against the Dream is going to regress, and they're going to end up as good/slightly above-average defense. Their peripheral numbers are just too good to let their actual production suffer for too long.
#5 - Washington Mystics (LW: 9) The Mystics are on a two-game winning streak, and that accounts for their ascent to this fifth spot. This area is kind of muddled, with a lot of teams that I thought were going to be good struggling to find their footing; I expect the five to nine spots jostling for position for most of the season.
Anyway: the Mystics are average on defense, and worse than that on offense. However, they're still in a good position to win themselves a playoff spot. Emma Meesseman has slowly come into her own this season, after what I thought was a slow start.
She's averaging 15.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, and is shooting 53% from the floor. Washington is going to need everything they can get from her, Tayler Hill, and Ivory Latta, because they are in desperate need of firepower. The Mystics, in many ways, remind me of a poor man's Liberty, and that puts them in a precarious position.
#6 - Dallas Wings (LW: 10) I don't have that many strong feelings about the Wings this week. They have the fifth best offense, and the fourth worst defense; not exactly a recipe for success.
One of the things that could be hurting them is the pace that they play at. They average the third-most possessions per game, which I'm usually a fan of; but when broken down, they're actually hurting themselves at this speed.
They're giving their opponents too many chances to score at this rate; instead of giving them a distinct advantage, it's been at best a wash. Karima Christmas has been a really good player for the Wings this year, especially from the Heart of Winter cold streak from Odyssey Sims. Some hope on the horizon, too: Skylar Diggins is finally, slowly, working her way back into the game. If she returns to form, the Wings will shoot up a few spots on this board.
#7 - Phoenix Mercury (LW: 6) They're gone!!!!!! A two-game losing streak was sure to come after I praised the Mercury last week. I apologize for the curse I bestowed.
However, I really am concerned. It's been a third of a season, and their defense is still the worst in the WNBA. How is this possible? What is going? I'm like a broken record every week about this team.
Look, this section is simple: Diana Taurasi is amazing, and has been the catalyst for this ass kicker of an offense. But none of it matters, because teams score on them at will. Until they fix that, they're going to be taking one step forward and two steps back every time they lace up their shoes.
#8 - Chicago Sky (LW: 4) This one sucks, a lot. I really like Chicago; I think they have a good team around Elena Delle Donne, but they just can't seem to find their footing this season.
They really miss a defensive presence like Sylvia Fowles, who demanded a trade a few years ago. Erika de Souza has been really, really good since she came over in that trade, but Fowles has been a key cog in the Lynx dominance.
Chicago can spray points with the best, but they can't stop anyone from doing the same. The emergence of Jamierra Faulkner is a bright spot for the Sky; she shows real potential playing the point and running the offense. The Sky have a lot of good pieces, and now it's time for them to find a way to win games with them. If they wait much longer to turn it on, they're going to end up too far behind to matter.
#9 - Indiana Fever (LW: 8) Not much to add from what I said last week. I stand by those comments.
#10 - Seattle Storm (LW: 7) The Storm have lost three in a row, and have the second-worst defense in the league.They're young, with a lot of talent, but that's about all you can say right now. That's all I have to say, anyway.
#11 - Connecticut Sun (LW: 11) Not to deprive y'all of sweet, sweet content, but I stand by what I said last week.
#12 - San Antonio Stars LW: 12) The Stars have lost two in a row, and have the worst offense in the league. They do temper that somewhat with the fifth-best defensive rating, just behind the Atlanta Dream, but it hasn't produced the results they would like. They'll probably end up a little higher than this, but not much, I suspect.