A wild WNBA Draft and offseason have shaken up the league’s power structure. Find out who ranks where in the first installment of our WNBA Power Rankings.
The 2021 WNBA season is just around the corner. In most years and with most sports leagues, the defending champions would be sitting atop the first power rankings for the following season, but not this year. 2020 saw a lot of the league’s top players sit out and then the 2021 offseason saw the defending champion Seattle Storm lose some of their best players in free agency, so things are a little bit shook up.
How shook up? Well, Seattle landed at fourth in these initial rankings!
Anyway, on to the power rankings!
Where does each team rank in our preseason WNBA power rankings?
The Indiana Fever had a weird offseason that saw them invest money in some free agents that might not have been high on many team’s radars, like Jessica Breland and Danielle Robinson. They followed that up by making some draft picks that went against what most draft analysts expected, taking Kysre Gondrezick at No. 4 and then making a trade for rookie Aaliyah Wilson. There are some good players on this roster, like Kelsey Mitchell and a really intriguing frontcourt duo of Teaira McCowan and Lauren Cox, but it’s hard to imagine this team winning many games in a league where a lot of teams have fewer holes.
Dallas has more young talent than any team in the league, as they’ll enter this season with six players on their roster who were picked in the first round of the 2020 or 2021 WNBA Draft. And that doesn’t even include last year’s leading scorer, Arike Ogunbowale, who has an argument for being the best offensive guard in the league. The problem here is that there is a LOT of youth, and while you could squint your eyes and see the faint makings of a contender, it just feels like we’re still a couple years away from all these players hitting their strides and realizing that potential.
If I’d done these power rankings a couple weeks ago, the Dream would have probably been ninth. But head coach Nicki Collen shocked the women’s basketball world by leaving the Dream to become Baylor’s head coach, which puts the Dream in a weird situation where they’ll have an interim head coach for the 2021 season. This team has a lot of really fun pieces, especially in the backcourt where they have Courtney Williams, Chennedy Carter, and Aari McDonald. As WNBA writer Matt Ellentuck said, this is “the most Vibes Team of all Vibes Teams.” And there’s a lot of talent here too, but I worry it just won’t all come together.
New York Liberty
The Liberty won just two games last year, so why aren’t they 12th? Because of a strong offseason, plus some key returnees who skipped the 2020 season. The biggest addition was Natasha Howard, one of the league’s best defenders, but they also added Betnijah Laney and Sami Whitcomb, two players who should bring some consistent shooting to a team that likes to shoot the ball but didn’t have a lot of players who could do that consistently. And speaking of 3s, they get Rebecca Allen back as well after she sat out last season. Oh, and Sabrina Ionescu should be healthy after playing just three games as a rookie, which will help. I’ll go on record and say no team will see their winning percentage increase as much as New York will this season.
Los Angeles Sparks
Three of the best players in Los Angeles hit free agency this past offseason and two of them — Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray — went elsewhere. They managed to keep Nneka Ogwumike, but I think you can make a solid argument that the other two made a bigger impact on the court than Nneka. The good news, though: they signed Erica Wheeler, a 2019 All-Star, and Amanda Zahui B., so they have solid replacements for Parker and Gray, even if they don’t have the ceilings of the players they replaced. But with Riquana Williams gone too and a lot of other teams getting better, Los Angeles seems to be the 2020 playoff team most likely to fall out of the playoffs. Still, there’s a lot of talent here and Chiney Ogwumike will return this season, so don’t be shocked when this team rockets up the power rankings within a week or two.
Alyssa Thomas will miss the season because of a torn Achilles, which really dampens the outlook for this team. Sure, they get Jonquel Jones back, who is a top-five WNBA player, and DeWanna Bonner, who is just a huge mismatch when she has the ball, but this team might have the league’s shakiest bench, so it’s really hard to know what to expect from them. They’re a playoff team, but they just don’t have the same ceiling that they’d have had with a healthy AT.
If there’s a team I’m wrong about this year, it’ll be the Phoenix Mercury. They have Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith in the backcourt. They have Brittney Griner and Brianna Turner in the frontcourt. Kia Nurse is going to be really good in a lower usage role. But this team finished fifth last year, and other teams ahead of them just feel like they’ve improved more than Phoenix did. The talent is here to make another title run, but at some point Diana Taurasi is going to stop being so good, right?
The Mystics would have been higher on this list, but their biggest addition of this offseason, Alysha Clark, will miss the season with a foot injury. There’s also concern about Elena Delle Donne, who has had multiple back surgeries since she was last on a WNBA floor and whose availability to open the season appears to be in question. There’s also the Tina Charles question: is the former MVP going to return to form now that she’s away from the Liberty? Just a ton of questions here. This team has as high a ceiling as anyone in the league, but…
Last year’s champions fall to fourth in these power rankings. They still have the best player in the world in Breanna Stewart, but Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard are gone, which is going to cause a significant drop off for this team’s defense. The strength that can help negate that is the backcourt, where Jordin Canada is one of the league’s best defensive guards and Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird can provide a lot of offense. But with players like Katie Lou Samuelson and Kennedy Burke likely stepping into bigger roles, this isn’t the unstoppable behemoth that was the 2020 playoff Storm.
Minnesota will go as Sylvia Fowles’ health goes this year. If she’s as healthy, this team can win a title. If she plays just seven games like she did last year, Minnesota could be in trouble. But this team has one of the best young players in the league in Napheesa Collier and last year’s Rookie of the Year in Crystal Dangerfield. They also had a nice offseason, adding Aerial Powers, Kayla McBride, and Natalie Achonwa. This is a really strong team top to bottom,
Las Vegas Aces
The Aces have the defending league MVP in A’ja Wilson, but Monday’s news that Angel McCoughtry will miss the season with an ACL tear knocks them down one spot over where they could have been. They made it all the way to the WNBA Finals last year and then added one of the league’s best scoring centers, Liz Cambage, and one of the league’s best point guards, Chelsea Gray, to that team. Sure, Kayla McBride is gone to Minnesota, but they’ll also be getting Kelsey Plum back from injury, who can slide into that role as the 2-guard. My only concern here is how head coach Bill Laimbeer manages the frontcourt, as there were spacing issues in 2019 with the Wilson/Cambage duo. But Wilson is also better now than she was then, and they can stagger things with Dearica Hamby coming off the bench to alleviate those worries.
The Sky made the splashiest move of the offseason, signing former MVP Candace Parker. She joins a team that has the league’s best point guard, Courtney Vandersloot, and potentially the league’s best 3-point shooter in Allie Quigley, a career 39.2 percent shooter who has hit over 42 percent of her 3s in three of the past four years. The worry in Chicago is that even after adding the defending Defensive Player of the Year, this team won’t have the defense they need to win a title. Only two playoff teams had a worse defensive rating last season than the Sky did. Still, after the McCoughtry injury, the Sky seem to be the team in the best spot to win it all this year.