It’s August, and the WNBA playoff race is heated.
There are just four games of space between current No. 2 seed, the Atlanta Dream, and current No. 8 seed, the Dallas Wings. The Seattle Storm have opened a three-game gap between themselves and Atlanta. With six games to play, Seattle probably owns the #1 seed, barring any collapse. Regardless, the Storm were the first team to clinch a playoff spot.
Seattle and Atlanta have each played very well as of late, securing records of 8-2 and 9-1 in their last 10, respectively. Atlanta was on an eight-game winning streak, with wins against Seattle, Phoenix, Washington (twice), and Los Angeles. Their streak ended as they attempted to sweep Washington for the first time since 2015. However, the Dream responded by beating the Sky by 15 and with an impressive 22-point road win against Minnesota. Atlanta has proven to be the best defensive team in the league, but their weakness is on offense. Atlanta is in the middle of the pack in Net Rating, currently at 1.5, simply due to featuring the second worst Offensive Rating in the league at 95.8. Even if Atlanta secure a top-two seed, they could be primed for an upset in the Semifinals due to their inability to find consistency on the offensive end.
Seattle, meanwhile, leads the league in Net Rating at 9.6, with Connecticut at second (6.9). Seattle is tops with a 57.4% True Shooting percentage and is second, behind at Atlanta, in terms of defensive True Shooting Percentage at 51.7%. Seattle is an extremely well-rounded team that, in my opinion, has the most talent top-to-bottom, and looks primed for a Finals appearance. For the opposition, you just have to hope the shots are not falling for Seattle.
Connecticut, Phoenix, Minnesota, and Dallas, with Las Vegas on the outside looking in, make up the second half of the playoff standings. The Sun are the only team of the group with a winning record over 10 games, at 6-4 and have six of their last eight. Connecticut has the second-best offensive rating at 107.2 while maintaining the fifth-best defensive rating and 100.4. The Sun also own the second best 3-PT shooting unit, making at the 36.4% clip. The Sun play their last four games at home as they look to lock up a playoff spot
The Mercury, even after a 29-point loss on the road to Dallas on July 10th, had a favorable schedule — so favorable that they could have made a run for the top seed. However, Phoenix is just 2-8 in their last 10 games. Despite their high-powered offense, they have featured just a 1.8 Net Rating. The Mercury desperately need to improve their 3-point shot defense, as they rank dead last in terms of defensive 3-point shooting percentage at 34.9%. They play their last five games at home, but what confidence can a Phoenix fan have at this point? The Mercury are 5-7 at home while they are one of two teams with 10 road wins.
The defending champs have been surprisingly mediocre. The Lynx have lost 6 of their last 10 games, including their last three. Those three losses have come against the top of three of the league: Seattle, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, and all have been double-digit losses. Expect Minnesota to turn it around over these last six games and still make the playoffs. However, with the disadvantages of being a lower seed, they could be headed home early.
From the end of June until the mid-point in July, the Wings had won six of eight, with the closest margin being six points. There is some cause for concern as they have lost four in a row and play their final six games against teams fighting for playoff spots. The defense has been lax over this stretch. They have allowed 90 or more points in three of those losses. Prior to this stretch, the Wings had allowed 90 or more points in a game only three times all season. There is little room for as they sit just 1.5 games ahead of the Las Vegas Aces.
The Aces have lost two in row, potentially three pending the league’s decision on Friday’s cancelled game against Washington. The Aces are an inexperienced team, with just two players having more than 4 years of experience. The Aces got off to such a slow start that making the playoffs would be an incredible feat. The Aces have, arguably, an easier remaining six games. The Wings and Aces face each other August 17 which could just as well decide the #8 seed. However, looming over all of this is the cancelled game against Washington.
As my colleague Albert Lee wrote, this is most competitive season ever. Every game is critical, which makes every possession very intense. The fans are definitely in for a treat down the stretch.