Sunday, July 3, 2022

WNBA Power Rankings: Aces take over top spot; Sky’s Candace Parker makes history

After leading her hometown Chicago Sky to the first title in franchise history last season, Candace Parker was thinking about retirement until her daughter Lailaa convinced her to keep playing. While Parker’s status beyond this summer remains in doubt, she’s made it clear that she’s still at the top of her game.

Over the weekend, she became the oldest player in WNBA history to record a triple-double when she put up 16 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in the Sky’s impressive road win over the Washington Mystics. In addition, she joined Sheryl Swoopes and teammate Courtney Vandersloot as the only players in WNBA history with multiple triple-doubles.

“It means a lot,” Parker said. “To be in the company of Sloot, who is going to end her career probably leading the league in assists, and then Sheryl Swoopes — I grew up watching her play, and just idolizing her.

“I’ve always [been] the person who was like, ‘Posts can dribble, too, and posts can pass, too.’ I hope that coaches are watching. I hope that the game is evolving. We’re gonna see more and more triple-doubles.”

If that wasn’t enough, Parker recorded another achievement off the court when she was named to TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022 list. Fellow Chicago native and former NBA star Dwyane Wade had the honor of writing Parker’s entry:

“Candace Parker is a force to be reckoned with. She’s a champion (and six-time WNBA All-Star) who has built a legacy by revolutionizing her game. As a fellow athlete and a fellow parent, I admire what she’s accomplished and how she has taken her daughter all over the world while playing to provide for her family.”

1. Las Vegas Aces (7-1) — Last week No. 3

The Aces are rolling. They crushed the Sparks by 28 on Monday to extend their winning streak to five games and improve to 7-1. Six of those wins have come by double digits, and in addition to sitting in first place in the standings, they also have the best offense in the league (110.8 points per 100 possessions) and are the best 3-point shooting team (39.9 percent). This team might just be a juggernaut. 

2. Connecticut Sun (4-1) — Last week No. 2

Now that the Sun have their full team back together again, they look dominant. Sure, it helps that four of their five games have come against the Liberty and Fever, but they’re absolutely destroying their opponents to the tune of a league-best plus-18 net rating. Alyssa Thomas continues to excel, winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, and the Sun’s four-game winning streak has them up to second place. 

3. Chicago Sky (3-2) — Last week No. 1

The Sky traveled over 4,200 miles this week, as they concluded a long road trip with games on both coasts – a loss to the Storm followed by a win over the Mystics. In the latter, Candace Parker became the oldest player in league history to record a triple-double when she put up 16 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. She followed that up by being named to TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022 list.

4. Washington Mystics (5-2) — Last week No. 4

Though the offense went cold in a loss to the Sky, this was another overall positive week for the Mystics. They improved to 5-2, which has them in third place, and No. 3 overall pick Shakira Austin had her best stretch of play yet. She put up a career-high 20 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in a win over the Wings, and has now scored in double figures in three straight games.

5. Seattle Storm (3-3) — Last week No. 5

As expected, the Storm got back on track with Breanna Stewart back in the lineup following her stint in the health and safety protocols. They’ve now won two in a row, including a nice result over the defending champion Sky. If there was any issue for the Storm this week, it was that they didn’t make it easy on themselves. They had to hold on down the stretch for three-point wins in each game despite having big second-half leads.

6. Atlanta Dream (4-2) — Last week No. 7

If the Dream could have just held on down the stretch against the Mystics, they would be sitting in second place right now. Even so, this has been quite an impressive start for the young club, especially on the defensive end. They are first in opponent field goal percentage (38.0), tied for first in opponent 3-point percentage (31.9) and third in defensive rating (94.9).

7. Dallas Wings (4-2) — Last week No. 8

Another 2-1 week has the young Wings in a tie for fourth place at 4-2. This team can really put some points on the board, especially when Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey have it rolling. The duo combined for 42 points on 17 of 32 from the field in a win over the Lynx, and Ogunbowale put up 37 to record the highest individual scoring game in the league this season in a win over the Mercury.

8. Phoenix Mercury (2-4) — Last week No. 6

We knew we would learn a lot about the Mercury this week with a home game versus the Wings sandwiched between two trips to Las Vegas to play the Aces, and what we found out was not good. They lost all three games by double digits, and Diana Taurasi and Skyler Diggins-Smith got in a heated discussion on the bench during the first matchup with the Aces that was never addressed in the media.

9. Los Angeles Sparks (2-5) — Last week No. 9

The Sparks’ encouraging 2-0 start has given way to a five-game losing streak that is the longest in the league by any team this season. One major problem: They are last in the league in 3-point attempts per game (16.7) and 3-point percentage (28.2). Without any consistent outside threats, the paint becomes cramped for guards like Jordin Canada and Chennedy Carter and bigs like Nneka Ogwumike and Liz Cambage. 

10. Indiana Fever (2-6) — Last week No. 11

It appears the Fever’s competitive start to the season may have been a bit of fool’s gold. They had two 20-point losses this week and have now dropped four games in a row. One bright spot, though, has been the play of Queen Egbo. The No. 10 overall pick was widely seen as a reach in the draft, but she’s more than holding her own, and is currently 11th in the league in rebounding (7.6 per game).

11. Minnesota Lynx (1-6) — Last week No. 10

While the Lynx finally got on the board this season with a win over the Sparks, there’s still a lot of problems in Minnesota. The biggest is that they can’t get any stops. Defense has always been a trademark of Cheryl Reeve teams, but the Lynx are currently last in the league with a defensive rating of 108.7. To put that in perspective, the Lynx have only finished outside of the top five in defense twice since Reeve arrived in 2010: eighth in her first season and sixth in 2014.

12. New York Liberty (1-4) — Last week No. 12

The Liberty’s only outing this week was an ugly 27-point defeat at the hands of the Sun that extended their losing streak to four games. Turnovers continue to be a major issue, as they coughed it up an absurd 32 times in that game and now have a league-worst 24.1 turnover ratio. To that point, it’s worth noting the team just signed Crystal Dangerfield to a hardship contract. The former Rookie of the Year will give them another point guard option. 

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