The All-Star break is a good time to put the wnba in tiers.
The Sky have a great combination of depth with every player on the roster able to contribute during the regular season, but also a fairly clearly defined top 7 or 8 for the playoffs. The Sky’s ability to stretch the minutes for Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot in the playoffs will give them the leg up on the rest of the league. James Wade is my favorite for head coach and GM of the year. I am overall skeptical of combining the two in one person, but he has made it work with the Sky.
Finals favorite, championship hopeful
Las Vegas Aces
Becky Hammon has mostly coached this team well, but I would like to know what is happening with the team’s bench. If the players on the bench were not good enough, then they should have been cut and better options found. Was Crystal Bradford healthy to take backup 3/4 minutes? I am as high on Kierstan Bell as anyone, but waiting for her to develop may be counterproductive for a team that could win the championship this year. Wonder if Hammon and the front office are on the same page.
Semifinal hopefuls. Could win championship if things break right
Can this team score enough in the playoffs against the best defenses? The defense has been as good as ever, but scoring can be a real chore for this team when the big 3 are not on the court. Tina Charles may help that, provided she doesn’t hurt the defense too much. Breanna Stewart is my pick for MVP and DPOY if the season ended today. I picked them to win before the year, but the offensive issues have knocked them down a step from the top 2.
Jonquel Jones is the Sun’s best player, but possibly because of her malleability the Sun have not been set up to maximize her skill set. This contributes to the team’s issues scoring in the half court against good teams. Their offensive rebounding and transition offense can pound mediocre teams, but the team’s issues against the Sky in last year’s playoffs do not seem to be fixed. More DiJonai Carrington, if her 3 point shooting maintains, and less AT at the 3 might be one solution, to give JJ more space to operate.
Is EDD a top 4 player in the W on the same tier as A’ja, Breanna, Jonquel? If so, Washington could win a championship. But that is a lot to ask of someone who missed two seasons with injury. The new playoff structure is perfect for this year’s Mystics, who deserve better than a one and done game on the road as the 5th seed, if that is where they end up. While they would be on the road for two games in Seattle if the season ended today in a best of 3, that is much better than the old single elimination style. Series are where basketball is at its best.
Likely making the playoffs. Not winning a round.
The Dream keep winning a decent number of games and I still think they would be better off with one more lottery trip as I wrote here. I’m not going to complain too much though, because getting to see Rhyne Howard play 2 games in Connecticut in the playoffs, or whoever the end up facing, will be awesome.
This has been a promising season for most of Dallas’s better players. Allisha Gray should have made all-star over Kahleah Copper. Satou Sabally when healthy and available has been excellent. Arike Ogunbowale will be paid like a top 5 or so player next year, so continuing to improve her shot selection is important, as her 54% TS so far this season is an improvement and ok, but could be better. Dallas would benefit from Vickie Johnson settling on a big rotation. Fun location for Brionna Jones to end up next year, cause presumably that would solve who the starting center is.
Hoping to make the playoffs
Los Angeles Sparks
Start Chennedy Carter. The Sparks do not have their own draft pick in the next draft because of trading for Carter. Nneka Ogwumike is carrying the Sparks to hopefully make the playoffs, but for this team to climb any higher in the next couple of seasons they need see if Carter can begin to reach her potential. Jordin Canada has been fine and Kristi Toliver can still shoot, but they aren’t changing LA’s fortunes in future seasons.
Until Brittney Griner is free it will be tough to talk about the Mercury. But basketball is still being played there. The Tina Charles experiment did not work, for among other reasons, this team seemingly not realizing who their best players are. Charles was going to be a somewhat awkward fit with Griner, but even more so with Skylar Diggins-Smith. The Phoenix Mercury should not trade SDS unless things are really untenable. If they do, picks and at least one decent young player should be the goal and a full rebuild, even if Diana Taurasi plays one more year. Struggling for relevance for DT’s year 41 season is not worth it.
New York Liberty
Sabrina Ionescu living up to her full potential has been the most important development of the season for New York, but the best story in the W for me is Han Xu looking like a real live W level player. She should be starting, but as the first big off the bench she has been excellent. Who knows how often she will make it to the W in future seasons, so I am going to enjoy every game I see of her this year and appreciate her growth as a player
Cheryl Reeve the coach is once again bailing out Cheryl Reeve the GM. The process of arriving at a functional W team was unorthodox with year 2 of Reeve stumbling into a veteran pg bought out by their original team, this year with Moriah Jefferson. This team getting Aliyah Boston to pair with Napheesa Collier next year would be very fun, if they can’t make the playoffs. Otherwise, hopefully Reeve can figure out a decent center on reasonable money, cause one more year of the Powers, McBride, Achonwa contracts will hamstrung this team as Collier begins her well deserved max in 2023.
Hoping for Aliyah Boston
See my piece on both Atlanta and Indiana to get my thoughts. Basically, good job Indiana getting good young talent. Try for that for one more season next year and then see about really competing.