The WNBA Playoffs begin on Thursday, Sept. 23, and all but one playoff spot has been secured.
With three teams currently battling for the eighth and final spot in the 2021 WNBA Playoffs, we are back with our final power rankings of the regular season, based heavily on the playoff picture with respect to each team's chances to compete for the 2021 WNBA title.
Onto the rankings…
10. New York Liberty
The Liberty entered the Olympic break at 10-11, appearing primed to make a playoff run upon the resumption of play. Since returning, New York has posted a 2-9 record, including eight consecutive losses, which has the team on the brink of elimination.
New York won its season finale at home against the Washington Mystics, keeping its playoff hopes alive, but the team will need some help. Washington will have to lose out, as will the Los Angeles Sparks, who are each ahead of the Liberty in the standings.
9. Los Angeles Sparks
Remaining game: Sept. 19 at Wings
It's been a season of ups and downs for the Sparks, whose overall record is impacted by two separate six-game losing streaks this season. Still, LA has an opportunity to advance to the postseason, thanks in part to a recent two-game winning streak that has come in conjunction with the Liberty's struggles.
After a blowout victory over the defending champion Seattle Storm, the Sparks took care of business with a six-point win over the Atlanta Dream powered by the trio of Brittney Sykes, Te'a Cooper and Nneka Ogwumike. LA trails Washington by a half-game in the standings, so it needs to win and some help. The Mystics own the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning they have to lose out in order for the Sparks to make the playoffs.
8. Dallas Wings
Remaining game: Sept. 19 vs. Sparks
The Wings are playoff-bound for just the third time since playing their first season in Dallas in 2016. That being said, this team is talented, but young, and lacks the postseason experience that some of the other playoff contenders have.
Leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale will get her first taste of playoff experience, as will All-Star Satou Sabally, second-year forward Bella Alarie and the rookie trio of Charli Collier, Chelsea Dungee and Awak Kuier. Allisha Gray and Kayla Thornton were both active the last time the Wings qualified for the playoffs and Marina Mabrey experienced playoff action as a member of the Sparks, but the three have played in just a combined seven postseason games.
As a whole, this team will have to learn the ins and outs of postseason basketball quickly.
7. Washington Mystics
Remaining games: Sept. 19 vs. Lynx
For the Mystics, it's quite simple: win and you're in.
Win and we're in. #TogetherDC pic.twitter.com/n3aM5oQk0q- Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) September 17, 2021
Washington's record might leave more to be desired, but here's your reminder that the team has been without Elena Delle Donne for all but three games this season. Delle Donne remains sidelined with a back injury after seeing action at the end of August.
Much has changed, but the Mystics are just two years removed from a title and are fuelled by the duo of Ariel Atkins and Tina Charles, who is averaging a league-leading 24.8 points to go along with 9.6 rebounds this season. They'll be a scary opening-round matchup, provided they can take care of business to make the playoffs.
6. Chicago Sky
Remaining games: Sept. 19 vs. Fever
The story of this season is taking the Sky's record with a grain of salt, as the team is 13-9 since welcoming Candace Parker into the lineup nine games into the season. In reality, this is more of a 20-win team that is hovering around .500 due to a slow start.
Chicago might have needed Parker to complete the puzzle, but it has a number of pieces in leading scorer Kahleah Copper, the sharpshooting Allie Quigley, league assists leader Courtney Vandersloot and the electric Diamond DeShields.
Diamond DOES IT 💪 pic.twitter.com/dG93bk4hvL- Chicago Sky (@chicagosky) September 12, 2021
They can make real noise in the playoffs.
5. Seattle Storm
The defending champs are owed their respect, but the uncertainty surrounding Breanna Stewart's availability puts their chances to repeat in question.
Seattle is taking the cautious approach with its superstar to close the season, but the latest reports indicate that Stewart's left foot injury could impact her postseason availability as well. Without Stewart, who is arguably the best player in the world, Seattle suffered an ugly blowout loss to LA, managing just 53 points on 18-for-56 shooting.
It's too early to hit the panic button, but the concerns are very real.
4. Phoenix Mercury
Remaining games: Sept. 19 vs. Aces
Talk about controlling your own destiny.
Phoenix closes the season with opportunities to move up in the standings, but it will have to do so without Diana Taurasi, who continues to work back from an ankle injury. Regardless of where they finish, the Mercury have no shortage of talent with Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner and Kia Nurse leading the way.
The team also recently welcomed Bria Hartley back to action, as she was sidelined for the first few months of the season while rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in 2020. Based on availability and health, the Mercury could go on a serious run if they secure a first-round bye.
3. Minnesota Lynx
Final games: Sept. 19 at Mystics
Minnesota has all but clinched a bye to open the playoffs, which is a great way to begin a potentially deep run.
Behind Napheesa Collier, Sylvia Fowles and Kayla McBride, the Lynx have taken care of business this season. How has Minnesota done against the league's elite teams? It has posted a combined 6-6 record against the Connecticut Sun (1-2), Las Vegas Aces (2-1), Mercury (2-1) and Storm (1-2).
Given some uncertainty around the top teams, the Lynx are a legitimate contender.
2. Las Vegas Aces
Final games: Sept. 19 at Mercury
After coming up short in the 2020 Finals, Las Vegas has its eyes on the prize in 2021.
The abundance of talent on the Aces roster is no secret, with reigning MVP A'ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Dearica Hamby, Chelsea Gray and Riquna Williams all averaging in double figures to pace the league's top-rated offence, scoring 106.4 points per 100 possessions.
For the Aces, the real season begins in the postseason, and they're primed to get over the hump.
1. Connecticut Sun
Final game: Sept. 19 vs. Dream
Everything is clicking for the Sun at the right time.
Connecticut hasn't lost since July 3, piecing together a 13-game win streak over the last two and a half months to cruise to the league's best record. To make matters even better, the Sun just welcomed back two-time All-Star Alyssa Thomas, who underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles just eight months ago.
Guess who's back? Tell a friend. pic.twitter.com/ZGIWNSypqU- Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) September 15, 2021
Thomas' role could be limited to open the playoffs, but her presence alone adds to a team that features the MVP favourite in Jonquel Jones, who is averaging 19.5 points and 11.3 rebounds this season, in addition to DeWanna Bonner, Brionna Jones and Jasmine Thomas.
When the playoffs get underway, Connecticut will be the team to beat and is the title favourite.
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