What a week. Let's jump right in.
#1 - Los Angeles Sparks
So... they lose to the Minnesota Lynx by three on Tuesday, and then on Friday, whoop their butt by eighteen. I was all set this week to knock the Sparks down a peg, but they reclaimed their spot as quick as they lost it. I've been a big fan of their play, but they're exceeding even what I thought they could do.
I have a piece coming out tomorrow diving into that first Lynx-Sparks matchup, and in it, I noted that the Sparks missed a lot of open shots. Candace Parker also missed a lot of free throws, which I thought was also unusual. I wrote that I believed any contest between these teams would be a toss-up, and still (mostly) believe that, but my gawd.
#2 - Minnesota Lynx
Um, it looks like things have gone kind of sour for the defending champs. I get the loss to the Sparks (not the margin, but the loss itself), but I do not get the whooping they got from the Washington Mystics. The Mystics have been better as of late, but losing in back-to-back games by an average of 21 points? That's rough.
That being said, I don't feel comfortable putting them any lower than this. They're still super-talented, and they still have the second-best record in the league. I expect them to bounce back, because I don't honestly see how they can turn in any worse of a performance than they did this past week.
#3 - New York Liberty
The Liberty have firmly established themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference. They've won eight of their last ten, and now sit 1.5 games ahead of the second-place Atlanta Dream. Tina Charles, who I wrote about for The Breakdown column coming tomorrow, has been the engine that drives this team along.
I am still concerned about their ability to find stable offensive production, however. They have the fourth-worst offensive rating in the league, scoring the seventh-most points in a league with 12 teams. They're third-best in defensive rating, and give up the third-fewest points, so they'll be alright, but they'll need to be the best defensive team in the league to really compete for a championship.
#4 - Atlanta Dream
The Dream have lost three in a row, and have one of the worst offensive ratings in the league. They're scoring 83.1 points per game and giving up 85.8. They rely on free throws to get their points, more so than any team in the league, and they rarely score from the perimeter.
This is much closer to the Dream team that I thought they would be coming into the season. I am a little surprised that they haven't been able to continue that early run, with Elizabeth Williams coming on so strong. There is a good chance that they will find their stride again, but I fear the Liberty have overtaken them for good.
#5 - Washington Mystics
The Mystics dropped the hammer on the Minnesota Lynx, beating them by 24. I expected them to be around this ranking from the start of the season, and they've begun to find themselves nearly halfway through the season.
One thing that bodes well for them is that their offensive and defensive ratings are trending upwards. They've found their footing, which was far from a certainty. Emma Meesseman is playing much better now, as well, after struggling early.
#6 - Dallas Wings
The Wings are an interesting team to watch. They play relatively fast, and score a lot of points. They shoot the second-most shots in the league, but make only 40% of them.
They're doing a lot of inefficient scoring, which can get them in trouble. Their speed probably isn't helping them much on defense, either. However, if they make it into the playoffs, I suspect they'll be able to make some noise from point scoring alone.
#7 - Phoenix Mercury
I stand by what I said about the Mercury last week.
#8 - Chicago Sky
Same thing with Chicago.
#9 - Indiana Fever
And same with Indiana, too.
#10 - Seattle Storm
The Storm have looked better as of late, sitting at 5-9. They have a good offensive rating, but don't score points commensurate with that number. That's an indicator that they will improve over the long term, potentially. The defense, not so much.
#11 - San Antonio Stars
The Stars are still playing good defense, but have the most anemic offense in the league, by nearly any metric. Not much good in holding teams to 80.1 points per game if you're only scoring 74.2.
#12 - Connecticut Sun
The wheels have come off. Time to let the rookies take over for good, and play them as many minutes as they can get. Nine games under .500 is too much to overcome.