Watch out for mystics

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A month into the season, the WNBA midfield is (still) very tight. Two games separate fourth place and a one-round playoff pass from 11th place and missing the cut. Almost every team (sorry, Indiana Fever) must feel like they’re in range to do a deep run through October.

There is also a good reason. Most of the franchises in this lineup have performed without a significant contributor to return. The Mystics await Elena Delle Donne’s return, the Liberties are approaching Natasha Howard’s clearance to play, Diana Taurasi could be back as early as this weekend for the Mercury, and Nneka Ogwumike is in line to play before the break. Olympic for the Sparks.

So, with all of that in consideration, let’s talk about the 12 teams ranked based on how well they performed now, and what they could be like when they’re at full power.

1. Seattle Storm (12-3)

Despite the loss to the hugely shrunken Mystics, I’m not yet ready to topple Seattle. Jewell Loyd is playing at another level this season averaging 19.1 points, a career-high, with 46.4% shots from the field and 39.3% 3-pointers. Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird also look good. Two of the team’s three losses resulted in a total of five points, and the third loss to the Aces came one game after knocking out Las Vegas first. Their Sunday afternoon revenge in Vegas could shake things up.

2. Las Vegas Ace (10-3)

Aces are on a five-game winning streak, and three are in double digits. The Aces are now rolling with A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young, Dearica Hamby and Kelsey Plum all playing well together. They could claim the top spot with a win over Seattle this weekend.

3. Connecticut Sun (9-5)

It’s hard to read too much in Connecticut’s last four games (1-3) because Jonquel Jones hasn’t played in any of them. She still dominates the competition at EuroBasket for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hopefully she comes back soon, though. The Chicago Sky is soaring.

4. Chicago Sky (8-7)

We didn’t need more proof that Candace Parker is one of the best ever, but Sky’s six-game winning streak since returning from a sprained ankle tells the story itself. . Chicago missed her presence as a versatile defender, quick decision maker and relentless goal scorer when called upon. The panic for Sky is over. They are undefeated this season as long as the double MVP is playing.

5. The mystics of Washington (7-6)

It’s hard not to be excited about the Mystics’ victory over the Storm on Tuesday. They were without injured Natasha Cloud and Myisha Hines-Allen, while Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman also remained on the sidelines. Still, it didn’t matter. Tina Charles was amazing in her second straight game of 30+ points, 15+ rebounds, and newly-appointed Olympian Ariel Atkins co-starred with 10 points and six assists. Washington are a solid team now and can be an even bigger threat when their roster is healthy.

6. Phoenix Mercury (6-7)

They are just 4-5 since Taurasi’s injury, but with the league’s all-time top scorer likely returning on Sunday, things could turn around quickly for Phoenix. It should be noted that four of those five losses involved two possessions or less. Skylar Diggins-Smith (19.2 points, 5.5 assists per game) and Brittney Griner (19.6 points, 10.1 rebounds) are having some formidable seasons, and the field could open even more for them with the return from Taurasi.

7. Dallas Wings (6-8)

There are nights when the Wings look like the WNBA’s next big thing, and others where their inexperience shows. This is to be expected with a list of young people in their twenties. Still, Dallas’ plethora of scoring weapons should scare the rest of the league. They have a pair of wins against the Mercury and another against the Storm, and I wouldn’t want to see them in a knockout game.

8. Minnesota Lynx (6-7)

The Lynxes still have a lot to be desired, but injuries and late arrivals haven’t helped. Aerial Powers (thumb) and Natalie Achonwa (knee) are still sidelined indefinitely. A comeback victory over Dream was needed on Wednesday, and Sylvia Fowles’ dominant 26-point, 19-rebound performance is reason enough to buy into Minnesota’s potential.

9. New York Freedom (7-7)

With Sabrina Ionescu collapsing as she returns from her ankle injury and Howard still days away from her sprained knee, the Liberties are no longer where they once were. Their 5-1 start has always seemed a bit hit and miss, but it’s still hard to judge where exactly New York is in the playoff race. Remember, it was a 2-20 team last season, and should be growing pains. We will see if they can fight through them.

10. Dream of Atlanta (5-8)

It’s a shame we barely saw Chennedy Carter and Tiffany Hayes on the floor together. Health also played a role in Atlanta’s average start to the year. Carter has just returned from an elbow injury. If Atlanta is capable of staying in the playoff mix, Courtney Williams is probably the biggest reason. She is probably weeks away from her first All-Star game.

11. Los Angeles Sparks (5-7)

With Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike on the sidelines and Jasmine Walker out for the year, it has been a tough start to the season for LA. The upside of the injury situation is that others have had to step up, and Erica Wheeler has been great. In her last three games, she’s scored 55 points on 22 of 46 shots with 22 assists and just eight turnovers. When the Ogwumike sisters return, maybe the Sparks will have a hard time.

12. Indiana fever (1-14)

Yes. There is a lot of work to be done here. Please, Indy, start playing more with your first and second year players.


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