WNBA Power Rankings: Connecticut Sun take over the top spot

The 2021 WNBA season is less than two weeks old, but we’re already seeing teams separate themselves from the rest of the league as title contenders.

The Week 2 Power Rankings showcase offense. The teams that are in the top half of the rankings are scoring (a lot) and winning (a lot).

The Connecticut Sun, the WNBA’s only undefeated team, have jumped two spots to supplant the Seattle Storm at No. 1. This is only the second time in franchise history that Connecticut has started 5-0 (2018). The Sun have never won a WNBA title but are now seemingly the favorite.

Many teams still aren’t operating at full strength, primarily due to players’ overseas commitments and injuries. But the teams that are already making statements are built differently, able to hang big points on opponents while also shutting them down on defense.

While teams like Connecticut and Seattle are thriving, it will be interesting to see if teams that have started to slide can stop the fall. We’re looking at you, Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics.

There are some significant moves in Week 2.

Previous rankings:Preseason | Week 1

1.Connecticut Sun

2021: 5-0

Previous ranking: 3

The last undefeated team of this young WNBA season, the Sun defeated a hot Las Vegas squad that was looking unstoppable during a two-game win streak.

Connecticut looks like the league’s most complete team, even without Briann January (ankle). The Sun showed they could fight back against scoring runs from their opponent, as well as withstand cold streaks by their own players.

Jonquel Jones notched her fourth consecutive double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds against the Aces. Through Sunday, she ranks sixth in the WNBA in field goal percentage (55.4%) and second in rebounds per game (10.8).

Watching Jones and DeWanna Bonner (team-leading 19.4 PPG) drop buckets against their opponents is a real treat.

This week: @SEA, WAS, @MIN

2.Seattle Storm

2021: 3-1

Previous ranking: 1

The Storm’s two wins this week showed they are the offensive juggernaut to beat in the WNBA, especially on a night when Breanna Stewart makes history. In Saturday’s 100-97 overtime victory over Dallas, Stewie scored 36 points to become the fastest player (125 games) in WNBA history with 2,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. (She’s also the fourth-fastest player to 2,500 points, behind Cynthia Cooper, Seimone Augustus and Elena Delle Donne.)

In their three wins this season, the Storm have scored 97, 90 and 100 points. In the one loss? Just 80. But Seattle can’t always rely on its offense to win games. The Storm were lucky to have Jordin Canada — who came up with the tying basket to force overtime and two key throws late to help seal Saturday’s win — this time. But the Wings exploited a Storm defense that needs help as the season progresses. Had Seattle lost, the Storm would have blown a 9-point lead (76-67) with less than nine minutes to play.

This week: CON, MIN

3.New York Liberty

2021: 4-1

Previous ranking: 4

New York is playing what some (OK, all) might call amazing basketball and shooting incredibly well. Beating a strong Chicago team (albeit one without Candace Parker) on the road bumps up the Liberty — who last season won just two games.

Sabrina Ionescu continues to shine, dropping 19 points, including five buckets from beyond the arc, and 12 assists. Ionescu’s hot hand, as well as Betnijah Laney’s 20 points, helped New York tie a franchise record with 14 3-pointers against the Sky on Sunday. After shooting a WNBA-worst 27.7% from beyond the arc in 2020, the Liberty are shooting a league-best 44.4% from long range this season and have made a league-leading 59 3-pointers.

The Liberty continue to have a balanced offense, with four players averaging double-digit scoring — including Natasha Howard, who made her debut Sunday after finishing her overseas commitments. New York also has been locking down on defense. In its four wins, which include two victories over 1-4 Indiana, the Liberty have held their opponents to an average of 78 points.

If the Liberty continue to work toward better communication — they had 22 turnovers on Sunday — they could continue to rise in the rankings.

This week: DAL, ATL

4.Las Vegas Aces

2021: 2-2

Previous ranking: 5

The Aces, despite sitting at .500, are still one of the best teams in the WNBA. Before Sunday’s loss to Connecticut — a game that was a lot closer than the 72-65 score indicates — the Aces ranked first in field goal percentage (49.5%), second in points per game (92.0) and second in assists per game (23.3).

Liz Cambage is back and better than ever, and made history Sunday by reaching 2,000 career points. She is shooting 66.7% from the field.

But the Aces need to cut down on their own cold streaks. They scored eight points in the first quarter, then rebounded with 25 points in the second before being held to 10 in the third. Though they matched Connecticut’s 22 fourth-quarter points, they were unable to make up those deficits and stop the Sun’s offensive prowess.

This week: @PHX, IND, IND

5.Chicago Sky

2021: 2-1

Previous ranking: 2

Chicago fans might be feeling a little anxious, as star Candace Parker is day-to-day with an ankle injury. Though it doesn’t seem too serious, an injury to your top player at the beginning of the season is never fun. Allie Quigley missed her second straight game with a hamstring injury, too — hence the drop in the rankings after the Sky’s first loss of the season against New York.

Diamond DeShields scored 22 points — one of four Sky players in double digits Sunday — and played complete defense. Ruthy Hebard started in place of Parker and showed she can fill some of her scoring voids, dropping her second straight double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

But the Sky showed where they are weakest, allowing the Liberty to catch a hot hand and make 14 of 28 3-pointers.

We’re still looking forward to seeing what this team looks like when fully healthy, with Courtney Vandersloot and Candace Parker helping DeShields and Kahleah Copper really thrive.

This week: ATL, LAS, LAS

6.Phoenix Mercury

2021: 2-2

Previous ranking: 6

The Big Three of Brittney Griner (13.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG), Diana Taurasi (15.8 PPG, 3.8 APG) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (16.5 PPG, 4.3 APG) continues to drive the Mercury.

But overall chemistry is still lacking for Phoenix, which dropped its second game to Connecticut due to struggles rebounding the ball. In their home opener Friday against the Sun, the Mercury were outrebounded 48-24.

The Mercury also continue to struggle on offense. On Friday against the Sun, they shot just 38.2% from the field, hitting 5 of 20 from beyond the arc. In their two losses this season, they have scored 78 and 67 points, and rank seventh in the league with 78.3 PPG. Phoenix averaged 86.1 last season.

This week: LVA, @DAL

7.Dallas Wings

2021: 1-1

Previous ranking: 10

Last week, we were hesitant to rank the Wings higher, but we liked what we saw from them Saturday against the Storm, despite losing the game. Taking the defending WNBA champions to overtime shows that this young team is scrappy and eager to prove itself.

Arike Ogunbowale, who led the Wings with 28 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists against Seattle, continues to lead the way offensively. But Marina Mabrey added a career-high 26 points as the duo became the first college-turned-pro teammates in WNBA history to score 25 or more points on the same night.

Just imagine how good this team will be offensively when Satou Sabally and Allisha Gray return; Sabally is with the German national team right now, while Gray is with USA Basketball’s 3×3 team and was just named MVP at the Big Twelve International Tournament on Sunday in France.

The Wings have scored 97 and 94 points in their first two games, and if the defense catches up to the offense, they will rise in the rankings.

This week: @NYL, @ATL, PHO

8.Atlanta Dream

2021: 1-2

Previous ranking: 11

The Dream got their first win of the season this past week, against Indiana, and there were bright spots for Atlanta.

Chennedy Carter had 23 points and four assists, and two other starters also shined: Courtney Williams had 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, and Tiffany Hayes had 14 points.

Atlanta’s bench also demonstrated why it has improved since last season: Crystal Bradford and Shekinna Stricklen combined for 17 points.

The Dream also had some defensive highlights, including 10 steals before halftime. It took until the second half for any Fever player to reach double-digit scoring. Last week we said Atlanta’s defense needed to step up, and it has.

Atlanta has a tough week ahead, but how it fares against Chicago and Dallas could generate some momentum and upward movement.

This week: @CHI, DAL, @NYL

9.Washington Mystics

2021: 1-3

Previous ranking: 6

The Mystics continue to slide in the Power Rankings after falling to previously winless Indiana on Sunday.

Washington’s offensive woes keep compounding despite consistent scoring performances from Tina Charles (25.3 PPG; second only to Breanna Stewart). The Mystics shot 38.6% from the field and 33.3% from 3-point range on Sunday. They rank ninth in the WNBA in points per game and 11th in assists per game, and are struggling to get into offensive sync.

We’re curious to see what happens with a little more time. Myisha Hines-Allen is finally out of COVID-19 quarantine protocols and Sydney Wiese hasn’t even been with the team for two weeks. Elena Delle Donne is still out, rehabbing from two back surgeries.

This week: @IND, @CON

10.Los Angeles Sparks

2021: 0-2

Previous ranking: 7

We had more faith in the Sparks last week, but they continue to slide, and a lot of it comes at the hands of their offensive struggles. They’ve scored just 71 and 69 points in their two losses this season and shot 36.5% from the field in their 28-point loss to Las Vegas.

Nneka Ogwumike and Chiney Ogwumike are still carrying the team, which has a lot of offensive struggles to work out. But if good defense leads to good offense, then it is also understandable why the points haven’t been there for the Sparks. They are allowing 95.5 points per game.

Up next is a back-to-back on the road at Chicago, where Los Angeles will face Candace Parker — if she’s able to play — for the first time since she left in the offseason.

This week: @CHI, @CHI

11.Minnesota Lynx

2021: 0-3

Previous ranking: 8

Now that Napheesa Collier — who recently returned from playing overseas — has tested negative for COVID-19 for six straight days, she can infuse her skills into a team that really needs her.

Collier will join Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers in a lineup that will have to work together for a bit to get the chemistry going, but that should be able to get some wins once it does.

This week: @SEA, CON

12.Indiana Fever

2021: 1-4

Previous ranking: 12

The Fever capitalized on Washington’s offensive woes Sunday to notch their first win of the season. And it aptly came on a day honoring Fever general manager and new Naismith Hall of Fame inductee Tamika Catchings.

Indiana had an all-around effort, with five players scoring in double digits. Teaira McCowan and Jessica Breland both had performances of 17 points and 10 assists.

The Fever held the Mystics to 38.6% shooting from the field (27-of-70) from the floor. To further spark hope for the Fever as the young WNBA season carries on, Victoria Vivians and Lauren Cox — two players whose 2020 seasons were cut short due to injuries — had strong games.

This week: @WAS, @LVA, @LVA

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