In the final WNBA Power Rankings, we take stock of the season with an eye towards the playoffs and championship contenders.
The 2021 WNBA regular season is over, which means that four of the league’s 12 teams are done for the season. Among those four, the biggest shock has to be the perennial contenders Los Angeles have missed the postseason for the first time since 2011. Joining them outside of the postseason picture are the Fever, the Dream, and the Mystics.
That means the New York Liberty are headed to the postseason! Backing in with a 12-20 record and winning because they had the tiebreaker over the also 12-20 Mystics and Sparks, the Liberty are set for some playoff basketball for the first time since 2017.
Of course, there is this fact:
Where does each team rank in this week’s WNBA Power Rankings?
Indiana drops back down to 12th in our final rankings because the team has just a skeleton crew by the end of the year. Just six players were available for the final game, with Lindsay Allen — a reserve for most of the year — playing 36 minutes. The Fever have a ton of questions heading into this offseason, but they also have the best chance to win the lottery of any team. Will Rhyne Howard be on this team next season?
It’s official: Chennedy Carter’s indefinite suspension lasted for the rest of the season. The Dream enter the offseason with so many questions and barely any players under contract next year. Per Her Hoop Stats, only Cheyenne Parker, Tianna Hawkins, Aari McDonald, Chennedy Carter, and Maite Cazorla are under contract next year. Only Parker’s deal is guaranteed.
Despite her best effort this year, Tina Charles couldn’t get the Mystics into the playoffs, but she did lead the W in points per game at 23.4. The biggest question this offseason for the Mystics: what’s going on with Elena Delle Donne, who has now played three games over the past two games because of back injuries. She’ll be 32 next year and while her limited minutes this year did show that she’s still an elite shooter, one has to wonder if she’s going to be able to play a full season.
The Sparks were the last team eliminated from the playoffs, losing a game that went down to the wire against Dallas. Adding to the team’s woes: Dallas owns L.A.’s 2022 first-round pick, so that loss not only cost the Sparks a playoff spot, but it also meant that they’ll be sitting by helplessly on lottery night to see just how good of a pick the Wings are going to get from them.
Well, it wasn’t pretty, but the Liberty are a playoff team, and the WNBA’s single-elimination format means that this team could conceivably make a run. The team did have the second-worst net rating in the league this season at -8.7, behind only the Fever. But the Liberty also led the league in 3-pointers, so there’s room for some one-game variance here that can lead to an upset over Phoenix.
Not only did the Wings secure a lottery pick with the win over the Sparks, they also ended the season with wins in two of the final three games. Arike Ogunbowale is set to make her playoff debut against the Sky and if her NCAA Tournament runs are any indication, we’re about to see Arike at her clutchest. The Sky are ripe to be picked off by a team with the offensive ceiling of Dallas, and the Wings lack of a rim defender doesn’t matter as much against the Sky as it would against a team like Phoenix.
The Sky finished right at .500, which makes sense because this team spent the whole year looking sometimes good and sometimes bad. The pieces are all there for Chicago — Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley — but the team just can’t seem to consistently put things together. They have a positive net rating and have the league’s sixth-best defensive rating, so the old “Sky can’t play defense” narrative isn’t even fully to blame here.
Yikes. The Mercury were on fire in the second half, but they back into the postseason on a three-game losing streak. There’s a good explanation for why, as the team was without Diana Taurasi in all of those losses. The big question going forward for this team: will Taurasi be ready for Thursday’s playoff opener against the New York Liberty? This is a team that can beat basically everyone when healthy.
The Storm had a weird second half. They lost Breanna Stewart for the end of the regular season and went 5-5 over the final 10 games. I still believe that a healthy Storm team can win a title, but they’ll have to do so with questions about the health of Stewart, whose foot injury is a concern. The good news: Jewell Loyd is Jewell Loyd. She had 37 points in the regular-season finale against the Mercury.
It was such a great second half for the Lynx, who were 9-1 over the final 10 games. Sylvia Fowles burst into the DPOY conversation, then into the MVP conversation, and now appears set to put the Lynx in the championship conversation. Fowles was fourth in steal percentage and sixth block percentage — she was the only big in the top 10 in steal percentage.
Last year’s runners-up look poised for a deep postseason run thanks to the talent of A’ja Wilson and the league’s best one-two bench punch of Kelsey Plum and Dearica Hamby. Liz Cambage has returned from COVID, bolstering this frontcourt. Connecticut has been the kryptonite for this team, but Vegas has the personnel to make for a competitive series against them, assuming full health and coaching adjustments.
LOL, the Sun won 14 regular-season games in a row to end the season. Curt Miller’s team did an incredible job this season and now Alyssa Thomas is magically back from an Achilles tear that she suffered THIS CALENDAR YEAR. Seriously, I know that Thomas plays a game based a lot more on skill and power than on athleticism, but she’s returning in nine months from the most devastating injury that a basketball player can have. Maybe Thomas is just magic. Maybe she really wanted to win a ring. The Sun won’t need her a ton, but that they’ll have her at all is just wild.