It was a good week for struggling teams, with upsets to make and first wins recorded.
The Minnesota Lynx knocked off the Connecticut Sun to clinch their first victory of the season after opening with four consecutive losses. The Atlanta Dream won in overtime at the New York Liberty to stretch their winning streak to four games and break into the top half of the rankings after debuting at No. 11 in this space just two weeks ago.
Just a week removed from the league’s best teams pulling away from the underdogs, the struggling teams showed up.
That said, the Sun and the Seattle Storm remained 1-2 in our weekly Power Rankings, and the preseason favorite, the Las Vegas Aces, broke into the top three.
Can the teams at the top continue to adapt and refine? Can the teams that want to beat the best continue to build on their successes?
Here’s a look at our week 3 rankings.
1. Connecticut Sun
Previous ranking: 1
If Jonquel Jones is not at the top of your list of MVP candidates, what are you missing? Through Sunday, she was averaging 20.3 PPG thanks to 54% shooting from the floor and a blistering 48.7% (19-of-39) from 3-point range.
Yes, the Sun went 1-2 this week, but both losses occurred in overtime and on the road by a combined eight points. Plus, Jones’ play has been that good that the Sun deserve to remain atop this week’s rankings.
Connecticut ranks sixth in points (81.9) and assists (18.8) per game, thanks to not just Jones, but DeWanna Bonner’s solid play and versatility.
After becoming the first team to lose to Minnesota this season, the Sun will be tested this week when they host Las Vegas and New York, two teams that could bump them from the top spot in the coming weeks. After Saturday’s game against the Liberty, the Sun don’t play again for eight days.
This week: LVA, NYL
2. Seattle Storm
Previous ranking: 2
When Brenna Stewart can sit out the fourth quarter, you know your team is thriving. Stewie is continuing her bid for 2021 WNBA MVP with 22.5 points per game, fourth-best in the league, and 10.3 rebounds, which ranks second. Things are even better for the Storm when Candice Dupree, Jewell Loyd, Sue Bird and Epiphanny Prince are all scoring in double digits, as they did Friday in a victory over Minnesota.
The Storm have a favorable upcoming schedule and should use it to focus more on defense. Yes, they held the then-winless Lynx to just 72 points but prior to that game, Seattle was allowing 88.2 PPG, second worst in the WNBA. The Storm had eight steals and seven blocks, while forcing the Lynx into 12 turnovers.
This week: IND, DAL, DAL
3. Las Vegas Aces
Previous ranking: 4
When you have a team of superstars, it’s only a matter of time before you start looking like the WNBA title favorite. The Aces are riding a three-game winning streak and have scored more than 100 points in back-to-back wins over Indiana. Their lockdown defense doesn’t hurt, either.
Dearica Hamby, Chelsea Gray and Liz Cambage are in the top five in a handful of stats. Cambage is shooting a sizzling 60.3% from the floor. The Aces lead the league in points per game (91.4) and rank third in assists.
Las Vegas might be hitting its stride at the right time but this will be a challenging week with games at Connecticut and New York. Could Las Vegas find themselves atop the rankings in Week 4?
This week: @CON, @NYL, @WAS
4. New York Liberty
Previous ranking: 3
The Liberty are holding strong at No. 3 despite showing some weaknesses in a 90-87 overtime loss at home against the Dream on Saturday. Even if they are hot from beyond the arc, they can’t just rely on the 3-ball. The Liberty shot 37.1% from the field (compared to 41.2% on 3s) and committed 20 turnovers. In their other loss this season, to the Mystics, they committed 16 turnovers.
Even more troubling: When Betnijah Laney and Michaela Onyenwere are playing well (they combined for 49 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds Saturday), New York is unable to close out games when Sabrina Ionescu struggles. She was 2-of-11 from the field, with just one free throw attempt, for six points Saturday.
Can the Liberty rebound with a tough schedule ahead? This could be when we find out if that hot start was a fluke.
This week: LVA, @CON
5. Atlanta Dream
Previous ranking: 8
In the Dream’s overtime upset against the Liberty, four of five starters scored in double digits. Ball movement allowed them to record 25 assists. Courtney Williams, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime, led the way with 31 points, and Tiffany Hayes, Chennedy Carter and Elizabeth Williams added 12 apiece.
The Dream continue to climb the rankings because they are playing well-balanced, unselfish basketball. Through Sunday, Atlanta ranked fourth in points (84.7), second in steals (10.8) and third in blocks (6.2) per game.
With a two-game road swing at Minnesota — which earned its first win Sunday — and Atlanta up next, the Dream will look to improve to 6-2. But they might have do so without Carter, who hyperextended her right elbow Saturday and is out indefinitely.
This week: @MIN, @MIN
6. Phoenix Mercury
Previous ranking: 6
Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith are rounding into form, even without their third star, Diana Taurasi, who is out at least four weeks with a fractured sternum. But when Kia Nurse steps up offensively, as she did in Saturday’s win over Dallas (21 points), Phoenix showed it can be a threat to the top teams in the league.
Griner is playing top-tier, well-rounded basketball. She’s averaging 17.8 PPG and shooting 55.6% from the field. She ranks third in rebounds per game (9.7) and is tied for the lead in blocks (2.7).
But the Mercury remain in the middle of the WNBA pack, having yet to show they should be any higher. They rank fourth in assists and seventh in points per game. What can they do to show they can stand out? Back-to-back games against Connecticut, the best team in the league, will provide a big opportunity.
This week: @CHI, CHI
7. Chicago Sky
Previous ranking: 5
We’re a little worried about the Sky, who are on a four-game losing streak without star Candace Parker (ankle).
Turnovers have been an issue during the skid, but so has a lack of healthy players. In addition to Parker, Allie Quigley (hamstring) is also out. Stefanie Dolson has been away with the USA Basketball 3×3 team that has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
But we’re hopeful the roster will be at full strength soon, and we can finally see Parker back in action.
This week: PHO, @PHO, @LAS
8. Washington Mystics
Previous ranking: 9
Despite the sub-.500 record, the Mystics moved up this week because of Tina Charles’ MVP-level play, as well as Myisha Hines-Allen joining her in what has been a great frontcourt. The two have been rolling offensively, with Charles leading the league at 26.7 points per game.
But the Mystics are still struggling to find a rhythm. Washington ranks eighth in points (78.3) and last in assists per game. Charles and Hines-Allen are good, but they really need Elena Delle Donne to return — and yes, we know we say this every week. The Mystics don’t play again until Saturday.
This week: LVA, MIN
9. Los Angeles Sparks
Previous ranking: 10
Look out: The Sparks are on a two-game winning streak and have reached .500 after struggling at the start of the season.
Los Angeles looked its best Sunday, taking down the Sky in overtime. The Sparks executed on defense after starting slow and showed that they can grind out hard wins when necessary.
But despite the gritty win, they are still struggling. They rank 12th in points (74.5) and 11th in assists per game.
Hopefully, Chiney Ogwumike returns quickly; she sat out Sunday’s game with right knee soreness. If the Sparks can take down Dallas and Indiana this week on the road, they could move up the rankings.
This week: @DAL, IND, CHI
10. Dallas Wings
Previous ranking: 7
The Wings are playing with heart, but that unfortunately hasn’t been good enough to move them up the rankings. They are on a four-game skid despite ranking second in points (90.4) fourth in rebounds (37.4) and fourth in shooting from the floor (44.2%).
But when you can’t close out games, you’re apt to find yourself on a losing streak. A lot of that has to do with the young roster: four rookies and three second-year players. Dallas is still missing Satou Sabally and Allisa Gray, who are both overseas in FIBA’s 3×3 Olympic qualifiers. While the Wings wait, 2021 No. 1 overall pick Charli Collier and No. 2 overall pick Awak Kuier need to find a rhythm and a way to contribute more.
This week: LAS, @SEA, @SEA
11. Minnesota Lynx
Previous ranking: 11
There is perhaps no happier team this weekend than the Lynx, who got Napheesa Collier back mid-week and then notched their first win Sunday against arguably the best team in the WNBA.
We knew the Lynx were poised to improve when they got Collier back. Signing veteran guard Layshia Clarendon also helped.
The Lynx not only played lockdown defense against a very strong offensive Sun team, but they trailed at many points throughout the night. Still, Minnesota kept pushing and grinded out a much-needed 79-74 overtime win.
The Lynx host a hot Atlanta team for back-to-back games this week, and will look practice more with Clarendon and hopefully find a rhythm.
This week: ATL, ATL
12. Indiana Fever
Previous ranking: 12
The Fever are still struggling, losing three consecutive games. Indiana continues to fall behind quickly in games and can’t manage to catch up.
The Fever need to discover an offensive groove if they want to earn some wins. They rank 10th in points (76.4).
This week: @SEA, @LAS