WNBA Power Rankings: Washington Mystics up, Seattle Storm down heading into season's third week

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Rhyne Howard drops 33 points in Atlanta Dream victory (2:31)

Rhyne Howard was unstoppable as her 33-point performance led the Atlanta Dream to an 85-79 victory over the Indiana Fever. (2:31)

Ten days into the 2022 WNBA season, it's easy to feel as if we have more questions than answers about the league's 12 teams.

The majority of squads are still missing multiple, key contributors due to overseas commitments, injuries, COVID-19 protocols, etc. Several have just welcomed players back over the past few days, making it difficult to fully determine each team's ceiling and floor and how all the pieces fit. The Connecticut Sun (1-1), for example, were short two starters to start the season, though those absences weren't felt as acutely with the team playing just two games so far. The Seattle Storm (1-3), meanwhile, have been without Mercedes Russell due to a non-basketball-related injury, while two-time WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart and backup guard Epiphanny Prince have missed the past two games in COVID-19 protocols.

The good news for teams and fans? A host of players, including the likes of reigning Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, Kayla McBride and Satou Sabally, will soon rejoin their teams from overseas play, with Spanish and Turkish league competition concluding this weekend.

Even with so many moving parts, some teams have already played about 14% of their regular-season slate, and there are no asterisks in the standings when vying for postseason berths. That said, Power Rankings are an exercise in assessing where each team is at right now -- even with limited data to work with -- so here's an effort to do just that through Week 2 of WNBA play.

Previous rankings: Preseason | Week 1

1. Washington Mystics
Record: 3-1
Previous ranking: 3

The Mystics surprised some by becoming the only team to start the season 3-0 thanks to wins over the Fever, the Lynx and most impressively the Aces, handing Vegas its sole loss of the season to date. The absence of point guard Natasha Cloud, who has missed the past two games in COVID-19 protocols, finally caught up to them Friday, when the Wings scored 26 points off 21 Washington turnovers to complete the upset. The silver lining, though, was that Alysha Clark (Lisfranc injury) took the court for the first time since winning the title with the Seattle Storm in 2020, logging just under 20 minutes. And Elena Delle Donne seems to be moving in the right direction, recording her third consecutive game with at least 19 points.

Most of the offensive issues from Friday should be worked out once Cloud returns. With Clark and soon Elizabeth Williams in the rotation, the Mystics' progress on the defensive end, where the team thinks it can be special this summer, will be a storyline to follow moving forward.

This week: at Dallas (Tuesday), at Atlanta (Friday), vs. Chicago (Sunday)


2. Las Vegas Aces
Record: 3-1
Previous ranking: 1

Tuesday's loss to the Mystics aside, the Aces have thus far thrived under Becky Hammon's free-flowing, pace-and-space style of basketball. No one has impressed more than the one-two punch of Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum, who are each averaging north of 17 points per game. Young's 11.3 field goals attempted per game and 55.6% field goal percentage would both be career bests should she keep them up all season, while Plum is shooting a blistering 52% on 6.3 3s attempted per game. Plum's not the only one launching 3s, though: The Aces set franchise records in both made 3s (16) and attempts (35) in Friday's win over Atlanta. And that's not to mention the prowess of Dearica Hamby and A'ja Wilson -- the top two rebounders in the league -- on the glass.

While depth is a potential area of concern for Vegas (four starters are averaging over 30 minutes per game), the return of Riquna Williams from a foot injury will alleviate some of that, as demonstrated by her 14 points off the bench against the Dream. This week's pair of rematches against the reloaded Mercury will offer a tough test.

This week: vs. Phoenix (Tuesday), vs. Minnesota (Thursday), vs. Phoenix (Saturday)


3. Connecticut Sun
Record: 1-1
Previous ranking: 7

The Sun offer the smallest sample size of games to analyze, having played just twice across the first 10 days of the season. They were flat in some areas in their season-opening loss to the Liberty, but bounced back strong with a thorough takedown of the Los Angeles Sparks (77-60) at home in which Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones combined to outrebound the Sparks 23-21. After missing the majority of 2021 rehabbing from an Achilles tear, Thomas has looked like her usual self, compiling back-to-back performances with at least 23 points while also dominating the glass (11 rebounds Saturday), helping facilitate (five assists) and being a force defensively.

Now that all their major pieces can be incorporated into the fold, this week should be a telling one for the Sun, as Courtney Williams will finally suit up after serving her two-game suspension and DeWanna Bonner could play as early as Tuesday after returning from overseas. Can Williams bring the sort of dynamic shot creation and offensive firepower in the backcourt this team has missed since she initially left? And how will coach Curt Miller navigate lineups with a plethora of bigs (Bonner, Thomas, Jonquel Jones and Brionna Jones) at his disposal?

This week: at New York (Tuesday), vs. Indiana (Friday), at Indiana (Sunday)


4. Chicago Sky
Record: 2-1
Previous ranking: 8

After dropping their season opener to the Sparks, the Sky got back on track with wins over the Liberty and Lynx as they awaited the return of their full team. Allie Quigley made her 2022 debut Saturday after missing time with a knee injury, while Kahleah Copper has finally tied a bow on her overseas season. Still settling in with her new team, free agency get Emma Meesseman showed off just how impactful she can be with a 17-point, seven-rebound, seven-steal outing against Minnesota (all were team highs), and Courtney Vandersloot stepped up as a much-needed closer in the fourth quarter with 10 points. The most unexpected developments this season, though, have been the emergence of Dana Evans, who leads the team in scoring with 14.7 points per game, and the solid contributions of 31-year-old rookie Rebekah Gardner (12.0 PPG).

The Sky's pair of victories came against teams with a combined 1-7 record, though; this week's slate of matchups at Seattle and Washington will be a much better litmus test.

This week: at Seattle (Wednesday), at Washington (Sunday)


5. Phoenix Mercury
Record: 2-1
Previous ranking: 9

The Mercury dropped their opener to the Aces as Brianna Turner and Diamond DeShields were still making their way back from Italy, but with a more complete roster since (albeit sans Kia Nurse, who remains out rehabbing her ACL injury, and Brittney Griner, who remains detained in Russia), Phoenix went 2-0. Both wins came against a depleted Seattle Storm without their starting frontcourt, so take from that what you will.

In the series, the Mercury demonstrated an ability to win in different ways. Tina Charles went off in Game 1 with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and when the Storm zeroed in on containing Charles in Game 2 (limiting her to five points), Diana Taurasi led the way with 24 points on 6-for-12 shooting from 3. All along, Skylar Diggins-Smith (team-best 19.3 PPG through three games) has remained steady following last year's First Team All-WNBA bid.

All eyes will be on how the Mercury, closer to full strength but still short two key defensive pieces, fare against the Aces in a pair of road matchups this week. It's still unclear how much reliable depth they can lean on down the stretch; the integration of DeShields (11.5 PPG) will be a key area to watch in that regard.

This week: at Las Vegas (Tuesday), vs. Dallas (Thursday), at Las Vegas (Saturday)


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Cheyenne Parker hits a clutch 2-pointer

Cheyenne Parker reaches up and over for a 2-pointer, giving the Atlanta Dream enough room to a win over the Indiana Fever.

6. Atlanta Dream
Record: 3-1
Previous ranking: 6

Arguably the surprise of the season so far, the Atlanta Dream are one of three teams with a .750 record and one of six above .500, starting strong despite missing the playoffs the previous three years and undergoing a top-down franchise overhaul. Leading the way has been 2022 No. 1 overall draft pick Rhyne Howard, whose 83 points to date make her just the sixth WNBA rookie to hit the 80-point threshold in her first four games, joining the likes of Cappie Pondexter, Diana Taurasi and Seimone Augustus. Thirty-three of her points came in Sunday's 85-79 win over the Fever, and were the most for any WNBA player in a game this season. Adding Tiffany Hayes back into the rotation will take some of the scoring burden off Howard, as the Dream could use more go-to options beyond Howard.

Atlanta hasn't had the strongest schedule to date, and when the Dream did face one of the tougher teams in the league last week, they got trounced pretty badly (96-73 versus the Aces). They might have their hands full Friday at Washington.

This week: at Indiana (Tuesday), vs. Washington (Friday)


7. Los Angeles Sparks
Record: 2-2
Previous ranking: 2

The Sparks' start, which featured four road games before their upcoming home opener Tuesday, was a bit of a mixed bag: After storming out of the gate 2-0 (including a win over the defending champs in Chicago), they dropped both games this week to the Dream and to the Sun. At their best, the Sparks' Jordin Canada looked like a budding star ready to take the reins of her own team, while Nneka Ogwumike returned to her pre-injury dominance. At their worst, against the Sun specifically, they looked discombobulated on offense and ineffective both defensively and on the glass, where they allowed two Sun players (Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones) to jointly out-rebound them.

For the Sparks to reach their ceiling, they'll need more from Liz Cambage, their blockbuster free-agency acquisition, who is shooting 47.6% from the field and managing just 5.3 rebounds per game, which would be among her career-worst marks. More from that mixed bag: Katie Lou Samuelson should be able to return to the team soon, though it'll be a while before Kristi Toliver, who is on the Dallas Mavericks' coaching staff, makes it to L.A.

This week: vs. Minnesota (Tuesday), at Seattle (Friday)


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Arike Ogunbowale drains a 25-foot 3-pointer

Arike Ogunbowale drains a 25-foot 3-pointer.

8. Dallas Wings
Record: 2-1
Previous ranking: 11

The Wings are back in the win column twice over after upsetting the previously undefeated Mystics and taking down the Liberty on the road. They managed to capitalize off their adversaries' miscues in both games, scoring at least 23 points off opponent turnovers. After a quiet opener, Arike Ogunbowale had an Arike-esque outing (27 points including 6 for 12 shooting from 3) to catapult the Wings over short-handed Washington.

Dallas will have several interesting rotation questions to sort through, especially once Satou Sabally makes her way back from Europe following the conclusion of her overseas season. Teaira McCowan, whom the Wings traded for this offseason, is two games into her career with the Wings, but hasn't played more than 10 minutes in either contest. Also of note: Last year's No. 1 overall draft pick Charli Collier has played only five minutes in two appearances this year.

The Wings are the only team above .500 that are in the bottom-half of these rankings; wins in a challenging stretch this upcoming week (don't underestimate Minnesota on Saturday, either) would help prove that they truly belong in the upper tier of the league and could be a dangerous team this summer.

This week: vs. Washington (Tuesday), at Phoenix (Thursday), vs. Minnesota (Saturday)


9. Seattle Storm
Record: 1-3
Previous ranking: 4

The Storm are 1-3 after back-to-back losses to Phoenix, the first time since Breanna Stewart's rookie season in 2016 they've opened by losing three of four. That circumstance would have seemed unthinkable weeks ago, before the absences of Stewart, Mercedes Russell and Epiphanny Prince were on anyone's radar. There have been issues on both ends of the floor, and while there was improvement game-to-game defensively in the Mercury series, the Storm have shot better than 38% from the floor just once this season.

The good news is Stewart and Prince might be able to return for the Storm's matchup against the defending WNBA champs Tuesday. Even with those two key pieces back, Seattle could use more help on the offensive end from the likes of Sue Bird, Gabby Williams and Briann January, who are each shooting worse than 30% from the field on the season. Wins this week over Chicago and L.A., both home games, would get the champion-minded Storm back on track.

Will the Storm finish the season in the bottom quartile of the rankings? Highly unlikely, barring a rash of injuries. But regardless of their tough schedule and slew of absences, a 1-3 start is a 1-3 start.

This week: vs. Chicago (Wednesday), vs. Los Angeles (Friday)


10. Indiana Fever
Record: 2-3
Previous ranking: 12

How about this youth infusion? NaLyssa Smith has looked as pro-ready as expected, compiling two double-doubles including a career-high 18 points Sunday against the Dream prior to being sidelined in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. Elsewhere, Destanni Henderson has been steady, Emily Engstler impactful and Queen Egbo better than most outsiders expected when she was drafted 10th overall last month. The Fever have improved most dramatically on the defensive end compared to last season, and Kelsey Mitchell's improvement from deep (her 43.8% clip is significantly better than her career best of 38.9%) has helped the Fever establish themselves as one of the better 3-point shooting teams so far.

Sunday's loss to the Dream was a microcosm of the Fever's season to date: Indiana might still lose more often than it wins, but boy, are the Fever way more fun to watch this year. To boot, the Fever are already one-third of the way to matching their 2021 win total 10 days into the season. And they'll benefit from adding another offensive weapon once Bria Hartley gets back from playing overseas in Turkey.

This week: vs. Atlanta (Tuesday), at Connecticut (Friday), vs. Connecticut (Sunday)


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Han Xu buries her second 3-pointer of the season

Han Xu buries her second 3-pointer of the season.

11. New York Liberty
Record: 1-3
Previous ranking: 5

New York's emphatic season-opening win over Connecticut seems like a lifetime ago, as the Liberty finished the week losing their last three games to the Sky (a 33-point blowout), Fever (an overtime heartbreaker) and Wings (where they trailed most of the game at home). They are the only team in the bottom two in the league in both offensive and defensive rating, as well as rebound percentage.

Missing Bec Allen and DiDi Richards hasn't helped, but the problems don't stem just from that: Betnijah Laney and Natasha Howard have been mostly inconsistent, while prized free-agent acquisition Stefanie Dolson is clearly still trying to find her footing in a new system. One bright spot from Sunday's loss, though, was the reemergence of Han Xu, who finished with 10 points off the bench.

If Connecticut plays the way it did Saturday against the Sparks, the Liberty might be in deep trouble, though they'll have a week off afterward to try to hit the reset button. Faring better on the glass would be a great place to start.

This week: vs. Connecticut (Tuesday)


12. Minnesota Lynx
Record: 0-4
Previous ranking: 10

It's been a bleak start for Minnesota, which looked all out of sorts before general manager/head coach Cheryl Reeve went scorched-earth earlier this week, parting ways with veterans Angel McCoughtry and Odyssey Sims. In an effort to reverse course, Reeve brought in a pair of former UConn guards, Moriah Jefferson and Evina Westbrook, in hopes of establishing stability at the point guard spot.

Though the Lynx dropped Saturday's matchup versus Chicago, the four-point decision was clearly a step in the right direction. Minnesota produced its best offensive outing of the season, notching highs in offensive rating (104.0), assist percentage (79.3%) and effective field goal percentage (54.2%). Jefferson and Westbrook, the latter in her WNBA debut, combined for 10 assists and just two turnovers, while hardship signee Nikolina Milic impressed with a game-high 18 points. The Lynx may be starting the season 0-4 for the second straight year, but hope is alive in Minnesota, especially with Kayla McBride returning to the States imminently and Jessica Shepard holding down the fort in the meantime.

As the only team yet to record a win this season, the Lynx come in last place in this week's power rankings, but don't be shocked if they jump up in iterations to come.

This week: at Los Angeles (Tuesday), at Las Vegas (Thursday), at Dallas (Saturday)