We continue to get you prepared for the 2022 WNBA season, which is fast approaching. Our staff voted on the preseason power rankings and here they are:
1) Chicago Sky
Connecticut may have the most star power out of any team in the league, but the Sky are close and we’ll give the edge because they have the championship DNA. Chicago has the big four of Courtney Vandersloot, Candace Parker, Kahleah Copper and Emma Meesseman and backs up that quartet with the likes of Julie Allemand, Allie Quigley and Azurá Stevens. The Sun may have the best Top 5, but it’s hard to beat the Sky’s Top 7. Our staff had a tough time ranking the Top 30 players in the WNBA (articles to come) and Vandersloot, Parker and Copper are particularly hard to rank against each other. When it comes to distributing the basketball, there’s nobody better than Sloot, but is that strength alone enough to make her the best player on this team. Meanwhile, Parker has had the best career out of the three, but is also the oldest, and Copper is the one who got the big pay day, showing just how valued she is. Really any one of them could be considered the best player on the team and regardless of who actually is, it’s an exciting time to be in Chicago. ZW
2) Connecticut Sun
Last season, we slotted the Sun at ninth in our preseason power rankings, anticipating that Alyssa Thomas’ expected season-long absence would leave Connecticut struggling to enter the playoff picture. Well, the Sun, always ready to be motivated by the slightest disrespeCT, proved us wrong, securing a league-best 26-6 record behind 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones.
This season, Connecticut begins the season with no personnel concerns. Not only will Thomas be active to start the season but Courtney Williams, after a two-year detour in Atlanta, is back, equipping the Sun with an elite core of six former All-Stars: J. Jones, A. Thomas, Williams, DeWanna Bonner, Jasmine Thomas and 2021 Most Improved Player Brionna Jones. Add in 2021 Coach of the Year Curt Miller, one of the WNBA’s savviest tacticians, and there is no reason to believe that the Sun will not again earn the best record in the league. Possibly, ranking them at No. 2 is, once again, a sign of disrespeCT.
However, while it is easy to be confident in Connecticut’s regular-season prowess, their disappointing performance in the 2021 playoffs leaves lingering doubts about their ability to, finally, win the first championship in franchise history. CA
3) Seattle Storm
Sue Bird showed us last year that it would be unwise to start calling Seattle’s big three a big two. Even at age 41, she is still an elite point guard. Last year she still got it done with 5.3 assists per game and 41.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc, with the latter being better than her career percentage. And Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd make up arguably the best one-two duo in the entire league. They are the main reason Seattle appears this high in the power rankings. Over the past four seasons, the Storm are 2-for-2 winning the championship when Stewart has been healthy for the playoffs. We started them off at No. 5 in our 2021 preseason power rankings and they came out and proved us wrong with the best start in the league en route to a Commissioner’s Cup title. We’re not looking past them again this year. ZW
4) Las Vegas Aces
The Aces had a bit of a talent drain this offseason with Bill Laimbeer and Liz Cambage leaving, and their training camp roster remains shockingly thin, but it’s possible that the remaining pieces make for a more cohesive unit. Las Vegas blitzed through the 2020 regular season running the offense through A’ja Wilson, and that will be the template once again, except she has an even better point guard in Chelsea Gray, forming one of the most lethal 1-2 combos in the league. We’re predicting yet another big season for the 2020 MVP, especially if she and her Aces teammates expand their range to the 3-point line under new head coach Becky Hammon. The addition of rookies Mya Hollingshed and Kierstan Bell should also help in that respect. Assuming Las Vegas can keep its defensive mojo without Laimbeer, this Aces team will be formidable yet again. SM
5) Phoenix Mercury
Phoenix came within two wins of capturing the WNBA title a year ago, but much has changed since then, including the team’s head coach and starting center, at least for the time being. In terms of scoring potential, Tina Charles is as good of a substitute for Brittney Griner as possible (the pair were top two in the league in scoring last year) and her familiarity with Diana Taurasi from Team USA should help ease the adjustment. Charles’ stretch ability should also allow her to work with Brianna Turner in the frontcourt, allowing the Mercury to keep arguably their best defender on the floor more often. Diamond DeShields helps fill in for Kia Nurse on the wing (as does stealth offseason acquisition Neah Odom) and could add a transition element that was missing from Phoenix a year ago, when the team finished ninth in the league in fast-break points.
The main reason to worry about the Mercury is their depth. Beyond Charles and Turner, the bigs consist of Emma Cannon, Kristine Anigwe, and rookie Maya Dodson. And how much does Taurasi have left in the tank in her age 40 season after playing 41 combined games in the last three years? This Phoenix team will be a tough out on any given night but might slog through the regular season again. The bet is that the Mercury will be ready come postseason time as they tend to be even if it’s a bit painful to get there. SM
6) Minnesota Lynx
We don’t know how long the Lynx will be without Napheesa Collier, whose baby is due on May 31. Since she will be out for at least a good chunk of time, you can understand why the Lynx appear this low. If Collier were set to go with the same core from last year (Sylvia Fowles, Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers, Damiris Dantas and Layshia Clarendon) as well as new addition Angel McCoughtry, a WNBA legend who may still have something to give coming off a torn ACL and meniscus at age 35, it would justify putting Minnesota where they finished last year (third). It was an incredible feat for Fowles to be in the MVP conversation last year at age 35 when aging is harder on someone her height (6-foot-6). It would be unwise to sleep on her as she prepares for her farewell tour. Meanwhile, Clarendon, who was waived by the Liberty last year before the Lynx picked her up, will be an X factor. If she can once again be one of the top point guards in the league, watch out. ZW
7) Washington Mystics
Last year we all got our hopes up about Elena Delle Donne and she ended up missing far more time to start the season than anticipated. And when she came back, her back injury was re-aggravated. So we’ll have to see it to believe it this year with one of the WNBA’s top players. But even though the Mystics lost Tina Charles to the Mercury and Emma Meesseman to the Sky, they’ve built up a great young core to surround Delle Donne. Ariel Atkins is now an Olympian and a star and Myisha Hines-Allen is still lurking, threatening to be the star she was in 2020. Plus, Alysha Clark is ready to go after missing what would have been her first season with the team due to a foot injury. Add new addition Elizabeth Williams into the mix and you see a Mystics team that may no longer be a superteam, but is still solid. ZW
8) New York Liberty
The Liberty got my vote for fifth place, but the 7 to 9 range, again battling with the Mystics and Sparks for the final playoff spot, seems like a better reflection of where most media members would have them. The case for them as a playoff team begins with the big three of Betnijah Laney (should we now put her ahead of Natasha Howard?), Natasha Howard and Sabrina Ionescu. Laney took charge and put her stamp on the Liberty’s 2021 season because Howard missed time with an MCL sprain. That big three seems underrated and then you factor in the addition of Stefanie Dolson and some solid depth with Sami Whitcomb, Rebecca Allen, reigning rookie of the year Michaela Onyenwere and Asia Durr, who is hoping to make a strong comeback from COVID, and you realize the Liberty have enough working in their favor to make a return to the playoffs. Walt Hopkins had them moving in the right direction. Can Sandy Brondello take them to the next level? ZW
9) Los Angeles Sparks
That the Sparks appear this low is a testament to the competitiveness of the league. The eight teams above them are all very talented, but so are the Sparks. Liz Cambage wasn’t the most exciting version of herself last year, but expect her to re-invent herself at the still young age of 30 in LA, where she is closer to being the team’s best player than she was in Vegas. She may in fact be the team’s best player, but don’t forget about Nneka Ogwumike. One thing that stood out from the Sparks’ media day last year was how everyone gushed about her being the No. 1 player on a team for the first time because of Candace Parker’s departure. All anyone could talk about was how good of a leader she is, with head coach Derek Fisher even drawing a comparison to Tim Duncan. LA loves Nneka and they’re gonna love Jordin Canada and Katie Lou Samuelson being back home as well. Positive vibes coming from the City of Angels. ZW
10) Dallas Wings
I jumped on the Wings’ bandwagon last year. They were a fun team to root for. And remember, they came in seventh last year, so their fall to No. 10 is another testament to how good the teams above them are. Dallas has all the pieces it needs to get back to the playoffs. It’s just going to have to step up and win some competitive games. We know Arike Ogunbowale is phenomenal and Satou Sabally has only scratched the surface of her potential. Marina Mabrey should have joined them in the All-Star game last year and the passion she brings to the court is contagious. The talent continues with Gold Medal Lish (Allisha Gray) and Athletes Unlimited standout Isabelle Harrison. The addition of Teaira McCowan confirms that the Wings have gotten better, not worse. ZW
11) Atlanta Dream
The Atlanta Dream head into 2022 with a promising young core of players, most notable among them being No. 1 overall pick Rhyne Howard. Despite the loss of Courtney Williams and Chennedy Carter, Howard will make for a nice pairing with last year’s first-round pick, Aari McDonald. Both have the potential to develop into potent offensive players thanks to their versatility. Returning players Tiffany Hayes and Monique Billings as well as new addition Erica Wheeler will provide a much-needed veteran presence on this young team.
Second-round draft pick Naz Hillmon could provide much-needed scoring and rebounding on the inside along with Kia Vaughn. First-year head coach Tanisha Wright will have quite the opportunity to mold and shape this team into a potential future contender. 2022 will definitely be a foundational year for a franchise trying to find it’s identity and will set the course for years to come. AW
12) Indiana Fever
The 2021 draft class did not make a huge immediate impact on the league. Indiana hopes the 2022 class will be different. NaLyssa Smith easily could have been the No. 1 pick had Atlanta not traded up with Rhyne Howard in mind. The Fever’s hopes of moving out of last place lie with her, but she’ll have help. Kelsey Mitchell is one of the most gifted scorers in the league and Bria Hartley was a star in 2020 when she averaged 14.6 points and 4.5 assists per game. Danielle Robinson is a very good point guard and Tiffany Mitchell is a dangerous weapon as well. Plus there’s the rest of the team’s draftees. Emily Engstler at No. 4 is considered to be a good pick and Destanni Henderson was a steal at No. 20. Whether or not No. 6 (Lexie Hull) and No. 10 (Queen Egbo) work out is uncertain, but if Smith and Engstler can become impact players along with the Mitchells, Hartley and Robinson, Indiana may have the beginnings of a more respectable rotation. ZW