WNBA Power Rankings: Atlanta surges to No. 5 in topsy-turvy week

M.A. Voepel, ESPN.comJun 19, 2023, 10:10 AM ET

CloseM.A. Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

One consistent thing about the WNBA over the years: Sometimes just when you think you know what paths teams are on, they take a sharp turn the other way. This past week was one of those times, which made for a lot of movement in the ESPN’S WNBA Power Rankings.

The Atlanta Dream are the perfect example. They entered the week having lost three in a row and were headed on a road trip. It looked as if a drop to the Power Rankings basement might be next. Instead, the Dream went 3-0 and made the biggest move up, five spots to No. 5.

Our bottom three teams in last week’s rankings — the Dream, Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm — went a combined 6-2 this past week. Stellar individual performances were a big part of it: Allisha Gray for the Dream, Napheesa Collier for the Lynx and Jewell Loyd for the Storm.

Meanwhile, the teams ranked second through sixth went a combined 4-7. The Chicago Sky, Dallas Wings and Phoenix Mercury were a combined 0-7, and like the Dream each moved five places — in the other direction.

All of which reaffirms that for now, the only team we’re truly surprised to see lose is the defending champion Las Vegas Aces, who won both their games by 30-plus points.



Jackie Young fuels Aces to victory with 28 points

Aces guard Jackie Young puts up a game-high 28 points to lead Las Vegas to a 96-63 win over Seattle.

1. Las Vegas Aces
Record: 10-1
Previous ranking: 1
This week: at Phoenix (Wednesday), vs. Indiana (Saturday)

This was an Aces showcase week, as they pummeled the Storm and Lynx. It was basically, “Did you see that basket by Jackie Young? How about A’ja Wilson on the boards? What an assist by Chelsea Gray!” It’s getting hard to recall when Young wasn’t a 3-point shooter: She was 6-of-12 from long range in Las Vegas’ two wins last week and is 22-of-47 (46.8%) this season from behind the arc.

2. Connecticut Sun
Record: 9-3
Previous ranking: 2
This week: at Seattle (Tuesday), at Minnesota (Thursday), vs. Chicago (Sunday)

The Sun were the second team to lose to Atlanta last week, falling at home in overtime. However, they bounced back with a victory at Los Angeles and improved upon the defensive concerns they had against the Dream. Impressive stat: Forward Alyssa Thomas is averaging a career-best 7.7 assists, second in the WNBA only to New York point guard Courtney Vandersloot (8.6).



Breanna Stewart gets a double-double in the Liberty’s win

With 28 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists, Breanna Stewart becomes the first player in WNBA history with at least 200 points, 100 rebounds and 40 assists in first 10 games of a season.

3. New York Liberty
Record: 7-3
Previous ranking: 3
This week: at Atlanta (Friday), vs. Washington (Sunday)

The Liberty were the first team last week to fall to the Dream, a 86-79 loss coming in an ultra-rare game in which Breanna Stewart struggled a lot from the field (1-of-14) while getting 10 of her 12 points from the line. It tied Stewart’s season-low point total; she also had 12 in the Liberty’s opener May 19. But in Sunday’s 89-71 win over Phoenix, Stewart was back to normal with 28 points. She gets another shot at the surging Dream this week, so they will have to be very prepared, as that 7.1% shooting mark will be on her mind.

Editor’s Picks

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4. Washington Mystics
Record: 7-4
Previous ranking: 4
This week: at Chicago (Thursday), at New York (Sunday)

The Mystics fell at Indiana 87-66 in their lowest-scoring game of the season, plus one of their worst defensive efforts. (We also give the Fever credit for both of those.) But then back home against Phoenix and Chicago, the Mystics looked more like themselves with victories. After missing one game with neck tightness, Elena Delle Donne played all three last week, with a combined 54 points. And Brittney Sykes had back-to-back 16-point games against the Mercury and the Sky, going a combined 12-of-17 from the field.

5. Atlanta Dream
Record: 5-5
Previous ranking: 10
This week: at Dallas (Tuesday), vs. New York (Friday)

The Dream got it done with three consecutive victories on the road, earning this big jump in the Power Rankings. It included wins at New York and Connecticut the week after losing to those teams at home by double digits. Then Sunday, Atlanta hit the 100-point mark for the first time this season in beating Indiana. A’ja Wilson and Aliyah Boston are doing a lot to carry the South Carolina Gamecocks banner in the WNBA, but so is Allisha Gray. Last week, she had a combined 68 points and was particularly sharp from the field against the Sun and Fever, going 19 of 27 (70.4%).



Atlanta Dream vs. Indiana Fever: Full Highlights

Atlanta Dream vs. Indiana Fever: Full Highlights

6. Indiana Fever
Record: 4-7
Previous ranking: 8
This week: at Seattle (Thursday), at Las Vegas (Saturday)

After coming close the week before to getting their first consecutive wins in more than a year, Indiana beat Washington and Chicago to get it done last week. That set up something we haven’t seen in a while, as these franchises have struggled in recent years: a Fever-Dream matchup that everyone was looking forward to. Indiana fell in that game, but Boston continued her exceptional play, tying her season high of 25 points. Also notable: In the win against the Mystics, the 6-foot-5 post player led the Fever in points, rebounds and assists.

7. Los Angeles Sparks
Record: 5-6
Previous ranking: 9
This week: vs. Minnesota (Tuesday), vs. Dallas (Friday), vs. Dallas (Sunday)

It wasn’t a great week for the Sparks, who went 1-2, but it was good enough to move up a couple of spots. Los Angeles won at Dallas, then fell at home to Minnesota and Connecticut. The Sparks are 2-4 in their past six games and at times seem out of sync, which is explainable as they continue to adjust to new coach Curt Miller and vice versa. Nneka Ogwumike, Dearica Hamby and Jordin Canada provided the most consistency last week. That’s something to build on going into three games at home this week, including Sunday on ABC at 3 p.m. ET.



Loyd, Ogunbowale battle it out in high-scoring clash

Jewell Loyd and Arike Ogunbowale combine for 80 points in a high-scoring affair between the Storm and Wings.

8. Seattle Storm
Record: 3-7
Previous ranking: 12
This week: vs. Connecticut (Tuesday), vs. Indiana (Thursday), vs. Phoenix (Saturday)

It was an affirming week for the Storm, who climbed out of the Power Rankings basement by going 2-1 on the road. They won at Phoenix and Dallas, and fell at Las Vegas. In a marquee matchup of Notre Dame Fighting Irish alums on Saturday, Seattle’s Jewell Loyd (39 points) and Dallas’ Arike Ogunbowale (41) both had career highs in scoring, but the Storm prevailed 109-103 while making 17 3-pointers. The next two weeks could be key in showing if the Storm really are upwardly mobile, as they play five of their next six games at home.

9. Minnesota Lynx
Record: 3-8
Previous ranking: 11
This week: at Los Angeles (Tuesday), vs. Connecticut (Thursday)

The Lynx went 1-1, winning at Los Angeles and falling at Las Vegas. After starting the season 0-6, Minnesota has gone 3-2 since. In the last Power Rankings, we addressed whether Minnesota and Seattle were “bound for the draft lottery,” and, of course, they might still be. There would be no shame in that, considering the stars both lost from last season. But we saw this past week that the Lynx and Storm are battling for victories right now, not looking ahead to what could be in April 2024. It’s the only way to play, especially for two franchises that each have four WNBA titles.

10. Dallas Wings
Record: 5-6
Previous ranking: 5
This week: vs. Atlanta (Tuesday), at Los Angeles (Friday), at Los Angeles (Sunday)

The Wings have lost three in a row, two of them last week at home in drastically different games. After scoring a season-low 61 points in falling to Los Angeles, Dallas scored a season-high 103 against Seattle — yet still lost. Guard Crystal Dangerfield returned to the Wings from injury, but that meant Odyssey Sims — who seemed to give Dallas a play-making lift — had to be released from her hardship contract. Maybe the Wings can get things back together this week, which includes Sunday’s appearance on ABC vs. Los Angeles.

11. Chicago Sky
Record: 5-7
Previous ranking: 6
This week: vs. Washington (Thursday), at Connecticut (Sunday)

Injuries and absences have cost the Sky, who have lost four in a row and six of their past eight. Kahleah Copper sat out Chicago’s loss to Indiana last week for personal reasons, but returned to face Washington, scoring a season-low eight points. The Sky have shown definite positives this season, but have hit a rough patch. We’ve mentioned the Aces’ Young, the Storm’s Loyd and the Wings’ Ogunbowale, but another former Notre Dame guard also had a big performance last week: Marina Mabrey with a career-high 36 points against the Fever.

12. Phoenix Mercury
Record: 2-8
Previous ranking: 7
This week: vs. Las Vegas (Wednesday), at Seattle (Saturday)

The Mercury and the WNBA worked out the newest travel plans for Brittney Griner and the team going forward after the airport heckling incident on June 10. Meanwhile, Phoenix lost three in a row last week and has the fewest victories in the WNBA. Currently both Griner (hip) and Diana Taurasi (hamstring) are out with injuries. Sophie Cunningham stepped up with a combined 61 points in the three losses. But right now, the Mercury are struggling.

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