As the 2021 WNBA season enters its fourth week, the league’s best teams should feel confident as their offenses continue to roll and their wins continue to rack up. Teams like the Connecticut Sun and the Las Vegas Aces are formidable.
But teams that started the season searching for a win, such as the Los Angeles Sparks, have begun finding answers. And victories. The top trio is in a new order this week, and those three likely won’t be toppled anytime soon. But previously struggling teams such as the Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx are making adjustments and riding win streaks.
As the season churns toward the break for the Tokyo Olympics in July, we’ve already been treated to some extremely fun games and buzzer-beaters. Both of this weekend’s Seattle Storm-Dallas Wings contests were decided by game-winning heroics, first with a rainbow 27-footer from Jewell Loyd on Friday in overtime and then Arike Ogunbowale returning the favor with a 28-footer Sunday to cap a 12-point Wings comeback on the road.
And last Tuesday, Kia Nurse hit a 3-pointer a step inside the half-court line to lead the Phoenix Mercury past the Chicago Sky.
A look at how things shape up in the Week 4 Power Rankings.
Previous rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3
1. Las Vegas Aces
Previous ranking: 3
No, they don’t have the best record in the league, but when the Aces are playing well, they are undoubtedly the top team to beat.
Las Vegas ranks third (behind Seattle and Dallas) in the WNBA in points per game (89.7). In addition to having a lightning-hot offense, their defense has been sturdy: The Aces rank fourth, allowing just 80.1 points per game. If the offense is off, they have a lockdown defense to back them up, and vice versa.
Liz Cambage trails only Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles with a 61.2% field goal percentage, 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) are also playing lights out, with Gray putting on a beautiful show with her assists.
Despite a two-game win streak (and five wins in its last six games), Las Vegas showed some weaknesses against Washington on Saturday: Sometimes the Aces get too complacent and give up leads. Regardless of the narrow 96-93 win over the Mystics, the Aces are fun to watch when they’re playing their best basketball.
This week: DAL
2. Connecticut Sun
Previous ranking: 1
Jonquel Jones is still on a roll. A big one. The only player in the WNBA averaging a double-double (21.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG), she is the leading MVP candidate to date. Jones dropped 13 rebounds and a career-high 31 points Sunday against struggling New York. She’s fourth in the WNBA in points per game and tops the league leaders in rebounds. It also doesn’t hurt that DeWanna Bonner (16.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG) and Brionna Jones (12.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG) are scoring double-digit points alongside her.
Sunday’s win showed how serious the Sun are about defense, too. The Liberty have been shooting well, especially from 3-point range, where they hit a league-best 41.4% of attempts. But the Sun held the Liberty — who are averaging 81.7 PPG — to their lowest point total of the season (64). The Sun are playing the best defense in the league, holding opponents to just 72.5 points per game.
The Sun are serious title contenders, and their back-to-back wins over the Aces and the Liberty prove it. But Connecticut has to approach its next few weeks with a little trepidation. Jones will miss at least four games while she is competing for Bosnia and Herzegovina at the FIBA European women’s basketball championship.
This week: SEA
Jewell Loyd hoists up the winning 3 as the buzzer sounds to give the Storm a dramatic victory over the Wings.
3. Seattle Storm
Previous ranking: 2
Arike Ogunbowale and the Wings put an end to Seattle’s six-game winning streak. The Storm average 88.8 PPG but had a season-low 67 points Sunday in their first loss since May 18. Jewell Loyd had 25 points, Breanna Stewart — another MVP front-runner — had 14 and Sue Bird 13, but they were the only Seattle players in double digits. The Storm shot just 34.4% from the floor and 33.3% from 3-point range.
Sure, the Storm held the Wings to similar numbers, but Dallas salvaged 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 on the Ogunbowale buzzer-beater.
Putting the loss aside, the Storm remain a legitimate threat to repeat. Stewart is averaging a career-high 22.2 PPG this season, in addition to 9.3 RPG, which matches the career high she averaged as a rookie in 2016. Loyd is also chipping in a career-high 20.7 PPG and 4.8 APG, as well as 4.3 RPG.
The Storm now head to Atlanta for back-to-back games against the Dream, and a chance to get back on track.
This week: @ATL, @ATL, @CON
4. Phoenix Mercury
Previous ranking: 6
Without injured Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner have stepped up. Griner ranks second in the league in both rebounds (9.6) and blocks per game (2.6), and also averages 17.0 points and 2.1 assists. Through eight games, Griner — named Western Conference player of the week on June 1 — has five double-doubles and has dunked twice.
Diggins-Smith ranks fifth in the WNBA in assists per game (5.3), and Kia Nurse has stepped up in the past few games to temporarily give Phoenix a reconfigured Big Three. In back-to-back wins against the Sky, Nurse dropped 18 points and eight rebounds, followed by 14 points and four rebounds. Diggins-Smith totaled 52 points and was the Mercury’s top scorer in both games.
Despite a three-game win streak and a slight rise in the rankings, the Mercury are averaging as many points as they are allowing each game (80.3). That isn’t going to help them down the road in the playoff hunt if they want to separate themselves from the rest of the WNBA.
This week: DAL, DAL, NYL
5. New York Liberty
Previous ranking: 4
The Liberty are on a three-game losing streak, and showing their weaknesses in every game. In Saturday’s loss, they were held to their fewest points in a game this season, mustering just 64 points against a smothering Sun defense despite averaging 81.7 points per game on the season.
Despite Betnijah Laney’s unreal play this season — she scored at least 20 points in her first games before the streak ended Saturday and ranks fifth in the league with 20.8 PPG — the rest of the team is in a shooting slump. Sabrina Ionescu (13.7 PPG, 7.1 APG, 6.4 RPG) has had six points, five points and five points in her last three outings after opening the season on an offensive tear.
The Liberty still lead the league in 3-point field goal percentage (41.4) and need to continue to shoot lights out if they want to stop their losing streak and slide in the rankings.
This week: @PHO
6. Los Angeles Sparks
Previous ranking: 9
The Sparks are on a two-game winning streak thanks to their lockdown defense, allowing just 63 points against both Indiana and Chicago. Even shorthanded — they are without Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike — they have managed to create offense thanks to spectacular defense. The Sparks are holding opponents to just 76.6 points per game, which ranks second in the league.
Erica Wheeler has stepped up in the Ogwumikes’ absence. In the Sparks’ 82-79 overtime win against the Sky on May 30, Wheeler had 17 points, including the bucket to force the extra period, and followed it up with a game-high 22 points in Saturday’s win over Chicago.
Nia Coffey has also been a difference-maker. She leads the league in 3-point percentage, shooting 53.8% from beyond the arc. She’s also averaging 2.1 blocks per game, showing how valuable she is on both sides of the floor.
After a shaky start to the season, the Sparks look to have turned it around. Maintaining that rhythm means when the Ogwumike sisters come back, the Sparks might continue to rise in the rankings.
This week: @WAS, @MIN
7. Atlanta Dream
Previous ranking: 5
After winning four consecutive games, the Dream have dropped two straight. But even with the back-to-back losses on the road at Minnesota, Atlanta has to feel great about how Courtney Williams (18.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG) and Tiffany Hayes (18.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG) continue to play.
In addition to averaging 84.0 PPG (fourth in the WNBA), the Dream lead the league with 10.1 SPG. After an 0-2 start to the season, Atlanta is now in the playoff hunt.
The key will be to improve the defense. Steals aside, the Dream are giving up 86.6 PPG, second most in the league.
This week: SEA, SEA, WAS
8. Washington Mystics
Previous ranking: 8
The Mystics still feel … mysterious. Despite only having two wins, their past two losses were by just five and three points, against two of the top teams in the league in the Aces and the Sun. Taking those two teams to the very end of the game shows that they have a lot to be excited about, even without a return for Elena Delle Donne in sight.
Tina Charles joins Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones at the top of many early season MVP lists, leading the league in points per game (25.1).Recently acquired Sydney Wiese also has been adding offense, hitting 46.7% of her 3-point attempts, which ranks seventh in the WNBA.
Still, the Mystics rank in the middle of the league in points per game (80.4) and points allowed per game (81.9). That’s why they are losing close games. If they want to close those games out and make any sort of playoff push, someone else besides Charles has to step up on offense.
This week: MIN, LAS, @ATL
9. Minnesota Lynx
Previous ranking: 11
It’s slow, but it’s a climb. The Lynx have won three in a row after losing their first four games to open the season. Having Napheesa Collier back has lifted the entire team to play better. In her four games this season, she’s averaging 16.3 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Overall, the Lynx still have a lot of work to do. They’re scoring 80.7 PPG and allowing an average of 81.9, which doesn’t bode well for closing out games down the stretch. Collier is the best player on the Lynx and clearly the team leader, and we are looking forward to how she continues to pull her teammates along with her.
This week: @WAS, LAS
Arike Ogunbowale nails the game-winning 3-pointer to help the Wings overcome a 12-point deficit and defeat the Storm. (edited)
10. Dallas Wings
Previous ranking: 10
The Wings split back-to-back away games against the Storm, and that is quite a highlight. When Arike Ogunbowale is not dropping buzzer-beaters, she’s dropping 22.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 3.4 APG, clutch at both sides of the court.
Ogunbowale is having a standout season and getting plenty 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 of them are why the Wings have the third-best offense in the league (87.6 PPG).
If the Wings want to continue to trend in the positive direction, they have to play better defense. Giving up 86.3 PPG — third most in the league — will be what prevents them from making a possible playoff push.
This week: @PHO, @PHO, @LAS
11. Chicago Sky
Previous ranking: 7
The Sky were ranked No. 2 in these rankings just a few weeks ago, but then injuries hit, and after two wins to open the season, they’ve lost seven straight. Candace Parker is still out, but even with Allie Quigley and Stefanie Dolson back, Chicago hasn’t won a game since May 19.
Having Quigley and Dolson back should help the starters get back into a groove. And the Sky have been playing great defense, holding opponents to just 78.1 points per game (third in the league).
But when you’re scoring just 75.9 points per game — second worst in the WNBA — you are not going to win games. The Sky are also turning over the ball a league-high 18.3 times per game. They have to fix the turnovers and get back into sync offensively if they want to win their third game of the season anytime soon.
This week: IND, @IND
12. Indiana Fever
Previous ranking: 12
Giving up a league-high 89.6 points per game is why the Fever are on a five-game losing streak. In addition to poor defense, they average 15.5 turnovers 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 present Indiana with a chance to get their second win of the season, as back-to-back games await against the Sky, who are also struggling.
This week: @CHI, CHI