With the 2021 WNBA season entering its fourth week, the best teams in the league should feel confident as their offenses keep rolling and their wins keep growing. Teams like the Connecticut Sun and the Las Vegas Aces are impressive.
But teams that started the season looking for a win, like the Los Angeles Sparks, have started to find answers. And victories. The top trio are in a new order this week and likely won’t be overthrown anytime soon. But previously fighting teams like the Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx are making adjustments and running winning streaks.
As the season approaches the break for the Tokyo Olympics in July, we have already been treated to some extremely fun games and buzzers. Both Seattle Storm-Dallas Wings competitions this weekend were decided by victorious exploits, first with a rainbow 27-footer from Jewell Loyd on Friday in overtime, and then Arike Ogunbowale retaliated with a 28-foot Sunday for a 12 – Point Wings comeback on the road.
And last Tuesday, Kia Nurse hit a 3-pointer one step inside the half-field line to pull the Phoenix Mercury past the Chicago Sky.
A look at how things are doing in the week 4 power rankings.
Previous placements: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3
1. Las Vegas Aces
Previous ranking: 3rd
No, they don’t have the best record in the league, but when the Aces play well they are without a doubt the best team to beat.
Las Vegas ranks third (behind Seattle and Dallas) in the WNBA in points per game (89.7). In addition to a lightning-fast offensive, their defense was robust: The Aces ranked fourth with only 80.1 points per game. When the offense is off, they have a lockdown defense to aid them and vice versa.
Liz Cambage follows only Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles with a field goal percentage of 61.2% and her 2.2 blocks per game rank third in the WNBA. A’ja Wilson (18.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG) and Chelsea Gray (12.2 PPG, 6.8 APG) also show the light, with Gray putting on a nice show with their assists.
Despite a streak of two games (and five wins in the last six games), Las Vegas showed some weaknesses against Washington on Saturday: Sometimes the aces get too complacent and give up the lead. Regardless of the narrow 96-93 win over the Mystics, it’s fun to watch the Aces play their best basketball.
In this week: DAL
2. Connecticut sun
Previous ranking: 1st
Jonquel Jones is still on the move. A large. As the only player in the WNBA with an average double-double (21.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG), she is the leading MVP candidate to date. Jones lost 13 rebounds and a career high of 31 points on Sunday against struggling New York. She is fourth in the WNBA in points per game and leads the table in rebounds. Also, it doesn’t hurt that DeWanna Bonner (16.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG) and Brionna Jones (12.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG) score double-digit points alongside her.
Sunday’s win showed how serious the Sun is about defense, too. The Liberty shot well, especially from the 3-point distance, where they made 41.4% of the league attempts. But the sun kept the Liberty – which averaged 81.7 PPG – at its lowest point of the season (64). The Sun play the best defensive in the league and keep their opponents at just 72.5 points per game.
The Sun are serious contenders for the title, and their back-to-back wins over the Aces and Liberty prove it. But Connecticut has to go into the next few weeks with a little trepidation. Jones will miss at least four games while playing for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the FIBA European Women’s Basketball Championship.
In this week: SEA
Jewell Loyd picks up Winner 3 while the buzzer sounds to give the Storm a dramatic victory over the Wings.
3. Seattle storm
Previous ranking: 2nd
Arike Ogunbowale and the Wings ended Seattle’s six game winning streak. The Storm averaged 88.8 PPG but hit a season low of 67 points on Sunday in its first loss since May 18. Jewell Loyd had 25 points, Breanna Stewart – another MVP leader – had 14 and Sue Bird had 13, but they were the only Seattle players in the double digits. The Storm shot just 34.4% from the ground and 33.3% from 3-point area.
Sure, the storm kept the wings on similar numbers, but Dallas saved an impressive split on the road against one of the best teams in the league. The Storm scored just 11 points in the fourth quarter before losing to Ogunbowale’s buzzer-beater.
Aside from the losses, the storm remains a legitimate threat that should repeat itself. Stewart hits a career high of 22.2 PPG this season, on top of 9.3 RPG, which is the career high she averaged as a rookie in 2016. Loyd also has career highs of 20.7 PPG and 4.8 APG as well as 4.3. achieved ROLE PLAY.
The Storm is now traveling to Atlanta for back-to-back play against the Dream and a chance to get back on track.
In this week: @ATL, @ATL, @CON
4. Phoenix Mercury
Previous ranking: 6
Without the injured Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner jumped up. Griner ranks second in the league for both rebounds (9.6) and blocks per game (2.6), with an average of 17.0 points and 2.1 assists. In eight games, Griner, who was named Player of the Week at the Western Conference on June 1, has five doubles and has dipped twice.
Diggins-Smith ranks fifth in the WNBA in assists per game (5.3), and Kia Nurse has stepped up in recent games to temporarily give Phoenix a reconfigured Big Three. In consecutive wins against Sky, Nurse lost 18 points and eight rebounds, followed by 14 points and four rebounds. Diggins-Smith scored 52 points and was the Mercury’s top scorer in both games.
Despite a three-game winning streak and a slight rise in the rankings, the Mercury achieve on average as many points as they allow per game (80.3). That won’t help them in the playoff hunt if they want to stand out from the rest of the WNBA.
In this week: DAL, DAL, NYL
5. New York Freedom
Previous ranking: 4th
The Liberty have lost three games and show their weaknesses in every game. Saturday’s defeat held the fewest points in a game that season, racking up just 64 points against a suffocating Sun defense, despite averaging 81.7 points per game for the season.
Despite Betnijah Laneys unreal game this season – she scored at least 20 points in her first games before the streak ended on Saturday and ranks fifth in the league with 20.8 PPG – the rest of the team is in a shootout. Sabrina Ionescu (13.7 PPG, 7.1 APG, 6.4 RPG) has scored six points, five points and five points in her last three missions after an offensive crack.
The Liberty still lead the league with a 3-point field goal percentage (41.4) and will have to keep shooting lights if they want to stop their losing streak and slide down the leaderboard.
In this week: @PHO
6. Los Angeles sparks
Previous ranking: 9th
The Sparks are in a two-game winning streak thanks to their lockdown defense, allowing only 63 points against Indiana and Chicago. Even outnumbered – they can do without Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike – they have created an offensive thanks to a spectacular defense. The Sparks keep their opponents at just 76.6 points per game, which takes second place in the league.
Erica Wheeler has stepped up in the absence of the Ogwumikes. In the Sparks’ 82-79 overtime win over Sky on May 30, Wheeler had 17 points, including the bucket to force overtime, and followed with a game high of 22 points in Saturday’s win over Chicago.
Nia Coffey also made a difference. It leads the league in a 3-point percentage and shoots 53.8% out of the box. She also averages 2.1 blocks per game, which shows how valuable she is on both sides of the floor.
After a shaky start to the season, the Sparks seem to have turned the corner. Maintaining that rhythm means the Sparks could move up the rankings with the return of the Ogwumike sisters.
In this week: @WAS, @MIN
7. Atlanta dream
Previous ranking: 5th
After winning four games in a row, the Dream lost two in a row. But even with successive street losses in Minnesota, Atlanta must feel great as Courtney Williams (18.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG) and Tiffany Hayes (18.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG) keep playing.
In addition to an average of 84.0 PPG (fourth in the WNBA), the Dream lead the league with 10.1 VPG. After starting the season 0-2, Atlanta is now in the playoff hunt.
The key will be to improve the defense. Aside from stealing, the Dreams give up 86.6 PPG, the second most in the league.
In this week: SEA, SEA, WHAT
8. Washington Mystics
Previous ranking: 8
The mystics still feel … mysterious. Despite having recorded only two wins, their last two losses were only five and three points against two of the best teams in the league in the Aces and the Sun. If you lead these two teams to the end of the game, it shows they have a lot to look forward to, even if Elena Delle Donne is not in sight.
Tina Charles joins Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones to the top of many MVP lists earlier this season, leading the league in points per game (25.1). The recently acquired Sydney Wiese also added the offensive, hitting 46.7% of their 3-point tries, which ranks seventh in the WNBA.
Nevertheless, the Mystics ranked in points per game (80.4) and allowed points per game (81.9) in the middle of the league. That’s why they lose close games. If they want to end these games and do some kind of playoff push, someone else besides Charles has to be on the offensive.
In this week: MIN, LAS, @ATL
9. Minnesota lynx
Previous ranking: 11
It’s slow, but it’s an climb. The Lynx have won three in a row after losing their first four games at the start of the season. The return of Napheesa Collier has strengthened the entire team to play better. In her four games this season, she has an average of 16.3 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Overall, the Lynx still have a lot to do. They score 80.7 PPG and allow an average of 81.9 which isn’t a good sign of finishing games on the track. Collier is the best player on the Lynx and clearly the team leader, and we look forward to how she continues to pull her teammates with her.
In this week: @WAS, LAS
Arike Ogunbowale nails the victorious 3-pointer to help the wings overcome a 12 point deficit and beat the storm. (processed)
10. Dallas Wings
Previous ranking: 10
The Wings split back-to-back away games against the Storm, and that’s quite a highlight. If Arike Ogunbowale doesn’t drop buzzer beaters, she’ll drop 22.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 3.4 APG on both sides of the square.
Ogunbowale is having a stellar season and is getting a lot of help from Marina Mabrey (19.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG), perhaps the front runner for the 2021 WNBA Most Improved Player Award. The two are why the Wings have the third best offensive in the league have (87.6 PPG).
If the wings are to keep going in the positive direction, they have to play better defense. Forgoing 86.3 PPG – the third most popular in the league – will keep them from getting a possible playoff push.
In this week: @PHO, @PHO, @LAS
11. Chicago Sky
Previous ranking: 7th
The Sky was number 2 on this list just a few weeks ago, but then they suffered injuries and after two wins at the start of the season, they lost seven in a row. Candace Parker is still out, but even with Allie Quigley and Stefanie Dolson, Chicago has not won a game since May 19.
Having Quigley and Dolson back should help the starters get back into the groove. And the Sky played a great defense, keeping their opponents at just 78.1 points per game (third in the league).
But if you only get 75.9 points per game – the second worst in the WNBA – you won’t win any games. Sky also flips the ball 18.3 times per game in the league. They have to correct the ball losses and get back on their feet offensively if they want to win their third game of the season soon.
In this week: IND, @IND
12. Indiana fever
Previous ranking: 12th
Giving up 89.6 league points per game is why the Fever have a five-game losing streak. In addition to poor defense, they have an average of 15.5 turnover per game.
The Fever are the worst 3-point shooting team in the league (26.6%) and also rank last with 74.7 PPG.
This week could offer Indiana a chance for a second win of the season as back-to-back games against Sky await, who also struggle.
In this week: @CHI, CHI