WNBA Bucket Scale: Sparks unseat Sun for top spot in our rankings
Flexes: Qualities the team has shown it can consistently showcase nightly.
Focus: Opportunities for growth
MVP: Most Valuable Player (at time of publication)
X-Factor: Player currently projecting potential to push team to the next level.
Pulse: Player you can look to during any crucial moments of the game to determine whether the team will sink or swim
i. Los Angeles Sparks
- Flexes: Efficiency, defensive intensity, ball movement, FT & FG shooting
- Focus: Rim protection, rebounding
- MVP: Chelsea Gray
- X-Factor: Riquna Williams
- Pulse: Candace Parker
- If we’re honest, the Sparks showed us who they were when they began the season with one post & seemingly enjoyed the challenge. As the dust settles, Agler’s Sparks control their own destiny: adding two new, youthful weapons to the fold permanently in Vadeeva & recently resigned sniper & British army knife Karlie Samuelson while simultaneously restoring the confidence of WNBA single-game scoring record holder in Riquna Williams. If she continues to play at this pace, there won’t be much a team can do to stop this team from moving forward.
ii. Phoenix Mercury
- Flexes: Rim protection, Big 3, ball movement, FT shooting
- Focus: Rebounding, defensive discipline to three, fouling shooters
- MVP: Brittney Griner
- X-Factor: Diana Taurasi
- Pulse: DeWanna Bonner
- This ranking is more indicative of the dominance of the 8-game winning streak than the Mercury’s current pace. This team has reached gut check number two 15 games in & neither response has been positive nor promising. With the recent confirmation of DB’s intentions to be on the same team as wife & former Merc teammate Candice Dupree, if the Merc can’t start taking each game seriously, contention will be an afterthought & the Taurasi-Pitman-Brondello era could end abruptly & disappointingly.
iii. Connecticut Sun
- Flexes: Offensive punch, depth, rebounding
- Focus: FT shooting, health, foul trouble
- MVP: Chiney Ogwumike
- X-Factor: Jonquel Jones
- Pulse: Alyssa Thomas
- Beating the Fever had to feel good but the journey to getting there was much more difficult than anyone in Uncasville would have preferred. Jonquel Jones has struggled to find her way thus far & that’s even considering Alyssa Thomas has missed the last 4 games. Sunday’s game ended as such. Needless to say, JJ will determine just how far this team goes as it has become blatantly obvious how much of a security blanket Chiney Ogwumike is for Curt Miller.
iv. Seattle Storm
- Flexes: Defensive intensity, ball movement, offense
- Focus: The process
- MVP: Breanna Stewart
- X-Factor: Natasha Howard
- Pulse: Sue Bird
- Had it not been for an attempt to rest the legendary Sue Bird, the Storm would be the hottest team in the league. That seems to be the biggest issue to this point. Following years on the treadmill of mediocrity, Crystal Langhorne seems to have embraced her new role & its allowed the most underutilized player in the WNBA since she was drafted to finally flourish. Go Natasha. It’s yo world.
v. Washington Mystics
- Flexes: Defensive intensity, FT & 3-pt shooting
- Focus: Rebounding, taking care of the ball, rotation.
- MVP: Elena Delle Donne
- X-Factor: Lara Sanders
- Pulse: Kristi Toliver
- The greatest enigma in the league is now fully healthy which is a scary sight. Tayler Hill seems to have a different calm about her game that comes with time & experience. OGs know that feeling when the game slows down & you start to appreciate that you really can get your shot off any time. The struggle now is defining a rotation & allowing the team to find a consistent rhythm of play.
vi. Minnesota Lynx
- Flexes: Rebounding, 3-pt shooting, defending the three, defending champs
- Focus: Turnovers, FT shooting
- MVP: Sylvia Fowles
- X-Factor: Danielle Robinson
- Pulse: Lindsay Whalen
- When Whalen is engaged & playing well, the Lynx of old are still present & looming. It just isn’t often that this happens these days. Unfortunately for the rest of the WNBA, the past week was the closest to consistent she’s been. The biggest issue is that she’s essentially become a liability on the floor if she isn’t scoring as her impact has dwindled with age. Her consistency or Reeve’s capacity to mask it will define this season.
vii. Dallas Wings
- Flexes: Rim Protection, rebounding
- Focus: Turnovers, defensive discipline
- MVP: Elizabeth Cambage
- X-Factor: Azura Stevens
- Pulse: Skylar Diggins-Smith
- Ironically, all the issues the Wings had last season have seemingly been addressed while everything that could’ve been considered a strength before has completely deserted them to date. The Cambage effect. Nevertheless, having a talent as such to lob the ball into & rely on defensively changes everything & the Wings are right on schedule. You want to peak in August. Not June.
viii. Las Vegas Aces
- Flexes: Rebounding, youth, energy.
- Focus: Skill development, health, growth
- MVP: A’Ja Wilson
- X-Factor: Moriah Jefferson
- Pulse: Kayla McBride
- The Aces have been the most surprising team in the league for me this season for a reason that isn’t surprising at all. Bill Laimbeer doesn’t garner the love & support of every person he meets nor does he desire such. But his understanding, love, & knowledge of the game is immeasurable & he’s got quite a few talented kids out in Vegas, even if the record says they’re “struggling.” Competitively? The Aces have been locked in & engaged every single game. Not the same can be said for every other team in the league.
ix. Atlanta Dream
- Flexes: Defense, rebounding, culture
- Focus: Offense, offense, offense
- MVP: Tiffany Hayes
- X-Factor: Elizabeth Williams
- Pulse: Angel McCoughtry
- A recurring theme with some of the more inconsistent teams this season has been in that the teams show very little growth game-to-game. Where other teams lack is in the consistency of their defense & the level of expertise by their head coach before her injury paved the path to Angel’s first POW award since taking last season off. The next step for this team will be finding a balance for the two going forward because the other end of the floor always gives them a chance.
x. New York Liberty
- Flexes: Tina Charles, depth, guards
- Focus: Rebounding, shot selection, defensive discipline
- MVP: Tina Charles
- X-Factor: Epiphanny Prince
- Pulse: Shavonte Zellous
- Katie Smith is a great motivator & has had tons to manage this season that the average first-year coach doesn’t, hasn’t nor should they have to. Nevertheless, this major step backward has to be concerning. Tina Charles is even proving to be human & there’s rarely enough support for the outcome to even matter. Skill development, a defined rotation & consistent effort will go a long way to settling things for this proud franchise.
xi. Indiana Fever
- Flexes: Youth, ball control
- Focus: Rim protection, rebounding, sharing the ball, improvement
- MVP: Candice Dupree
- X-Factor: Erica Wheeler
- Pulse: Natalie Achonwa
- The Fever are very disciplined defensively & don’t turn the ball over but this team must find ways to generate more possessions every single game then, once that’s done, simply put the ball in the basket. Shenise Johnson’s return will help shift everyone down a slot. Right now, staying the course & remaining positive matters more than win-loss.
xii. Chicago Sky
- Flexes: Youth
- Focus: Turnovers, defense
- MVP: Cheyenne Parker
- X-Factor: Stefanie Dolson
- Pulse: Courtney Vandersloot
- Another placement indicative of the level of play in the league versus its current state. Beating the Mercury was a huge way to end a slide for Amber Stocks & crew who seemingly had no clue what was happening to cause it. Stefanie Dolson’s return to health will be crucial as Stocks will finally have the entirety of her roster available.
Smoove’s Dishes of the Week
Point Guard: Jewell Loyd Seattle Storm
2-Guard: Breanna Stewart Seattle Storm
Wing: Angel McCoughtry Atlanta Dream
Pivot: Candice Dupree Indiana Fever
Post: Elizabeth Cambage Dallas Wings
6th Woman: Riquna Williams Los Angeles Sparks
Rookie: A’ja Wilson Las Vegas Aces
Coach: Cheryl Reeve Minnesota Lynx