The 2018 WNBA season is a little more than halfway through. If there’s one word to describe this season, it’s this: COMPETITIVE. Here’s a look at the current playoff picture.
Before the 2018 season started, many around the WNBA predicted that the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks would likely win the first two seeds in the playoffs and meet in the Finals for the third consecutive season. However, both teams have gone on longer-than-usual losing streaks at times.
The Lynx fell to a 2-5 record early in the season and are now just 12-10 — or eighth place in the WNBA standings. Meanwhile, the Sparks are currently 14-9 — or third place in the standings — but they lost six of their last eight games and have a 1-3 record for July.
Usual suspects vs. the new superteam
Instead of the “usual suspects” running the tables, a young Seattle Storm team leads the WNBA with a 16-6 record. After several seasons of rebuilding with youth, in the 2015 through 2017 seasons, Seattle’s young franchise duo of Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd are coming into their own. Meanwhile, Sue Bird continues to stay in tip-top shape in the twilight of her career, while new acquisition Natasha Howard is having a career season of her own. If there’s a new superteam that has blossomed a year early, it’s Seattle.
That said, the Storm are just 1.5 games ahead of the veteran-laden Phoenix Mercury, who are 15-8. Phoenix is still building around their veteran franchise guard Diana Taurasi, forward DeWanna Bonner and center Brittney Griner for one more veteran-laden push at a fourth WNBA championship.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Sparks are just one game behind Phoenix.
Slim margin of error
The five teams in the fourth through eighth spots in the WNBA standings are separated by just ONE GAME, with those teams being the Dallas Wings, Atlanta Dream and Washington Mystics — all holding identical 13-9 records.
The storied Lynx, however, have the seventh seed and the Sun have the eighth.
But these five teams could swing quite wildly in the coming weeks, especially when they play each other to secure playoff berths.
Middling but marvelous
If there is a team in the middle of the standings that has the talent and momentum to finish in the top two, it is Dallas. Skylar Diggins-Smith continues to be the Wings’ heart and soul in the backcourt where she is averaging 19 points and 6.5 assists per game.
Along with Diggins-Smith, Aussie Liz Cambage is averaging a near double-double for the season, with 21.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. On July 17, Cambage scored a WNBA all-time high 53 points on 17-of-22 shooting against the New York Liberty. After several seasons of struggling to make the playoffs consistently, the Wings are now in as good of a position as any team to make the WNBA semifinals, if not go further.
The Las Vegas Aces, New York Liberty, Chicago Sky and Indiana Fever are currently the ninth through 12th place teams in the WNBA. If the season ended today, they would miss the playoffs. That said, Las Vegas is just two games behind the Connecticut Sun for the eighth seed.
After a 1-7 start, when Kayla McBride and Kelsey Plum were still overseas, the Aces have since gone 9-6. Along with Rookie of the Year candidate A’ja Wilson (who was just got her first All-Star nod yesterday and was the WNBA Player of the Month for June), McBride, Plum and Moriah Jefferson form a strong young foundation, while Tamera Young provides a veteran presence.
The Aces have more than enough talent to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014, back when they were the San Antonio Stars. And it won’t be a surprise if that happens next month.
Though the Liberty. Sky and Fever are unlikely to make the playoffs, all three teams still have signature wins under their belts this season. The Liberty have wins over the Dream, Sun and Wings. The Sky have wins against the Lynx, Mercury and Dream. And the Fever’s two wins of the season have come against the Dream and Lynx. Although these teams may not win most of their remaining games, any wins could become playoff spoilers for some of the teams in the middle of the playoff pack.
The 2018 WNBA season still has another month to go before the playoffs begin. Given how close the playoff pack is, don’t be surprised to see the playoff seedings look quite different from where they are now.