2020 WNBA power rankings — Seattle Storm replace Washington Mystics at No. 1


When we posted our initial 2020 WNBA power rankings after the league’s draft in April, there was no certainty there would be a season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are still hurdles and questions ahead, but the plan is in place now: The WNBA will play at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, from July to October, with a 22-game regular season and standard playoffs.

June 24 was technically the deadline for players to announce whether they’re playing or opting out for 2020. But there might still be more roster movement if players are deemed medically exempt based on pre-existing conditions, or if more players test positive and can’t join their teams in time for the start of the season.

Here are our updated rankings based on the current rosters through Monday.

1. Seattle Storm

Last year: 18-16, lost in second round

The Storm won’t have coach Dan Hughes. A medical assessment put Hughes, who is 65 and battled cancer last year, as being at a higher risk should he contract the coronavirus. But assistant Gary Kloppenburg stepped into the head coaching role last year while Hughes was out after surgery. So, it will be a familiar situation for Kloppenburg and the players as he steps into that job again, this time for the whole season.

Other than Hughes, the gang is pretty much back together like the 2018 title team, with Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird returning from injuries that kept them out in 2019. Provided everyone currently on the roster plays, the Storm will have star power and depth, and they’ll get a look at Australia’s Ezi Magbegor. The 6-foot-4 post player was the No. 12 pick in the 2019 draft but didn’t play in the WNBA last season. Last ranking: 2


2 Los Angeles Sparks

Last year: 22-12, lost in semifinals

Two veterans — Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver — have announced they won’t play this season. Last year was Ogwumike’s first with the Sparks alongside her sister, Nneka. And Toliver, who won the 2016 WNBA championship with the Sparks, was returning to Los Angeles after being in Washington the last three seasons, winning the title in 2019.

But Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray are the best of building blocks, and we’ll see what newcomers to the Sparks — such as Seimone Augustus, a Lynx legend who made a difficult decision to leave as a free agent, and younger players such as Brittney Sykes and Kristine Anigwe — can bring to Los Angeles. Last ranking: 3


3. Washington Mystics

Last year: 26-8, WNBA champions

Two starters from the title team — Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders — won’t play in 2020. Kristi Toliver went to Los Angeles (and is also sitting out). At this point, we’re still waiting to hear about 2019 season MVP Elena Delle Donne, who has a history of Lyme disease and required offseason back surgery. Suffice to say the Mystics will look different — especially if Delle Donne doesn’t play.

Still, with veterans Tina Charles and Essence Carson joining the Mystics, 2019 WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman and Ariel Atkins coming back, and the debut of Kiara Leslie, a rookie who was injured and didn’t play last year, there will be a new vibe in D.C. That could be a good way to follow up the great chemistry of last year, which would have been hard to duplicate even with the same personnel. Last ranking: 1


4. Las Vegas Aces

Last year: 21-13, lost in semifinals

One thing the Aces really didn’t want to lose was perimeter shooting, but they did with Kelsey Plum being out for the season with an Achilles injury. She had a strong playoff run last season, and the Aces will miss her.

Angel McCoughtry is the biggest addition; the longtime Atlanta guard/forward was out last season (knee) and is eager to play again and make an impact on her new franchise.

The inside duo of A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage is one of the best tandems in the league, and forward Dearica Hamby became a much bigger factor last year. Las Vegas will be counting on that trio a lot. The Aces seem a bit guard-heavy, yet still might not be a great 3-point shooting team. Kayla McBride will lead the way on the perimeter, and we’ll see how last year’s No. 1 draft pick, Jackie Young, has progressed. Last ranking: 5


5. Connecticut Sun

Last year: 23-11, lost in Finals

Post player Jonquel Jones is sitting out the season, and that’s a very big loss. But it could provide an opportunity for rookie post Beatrice Mompremier, who was drafted by the Sparks, was cut, and then was signed by Connecticut. Two other starters from the WNBA’s runner-up team a year ago — Shekinna Stricklen and Courtney Williams — are gone to Atlanta. But Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas have become rocks for Connecticut, and they’re back.

Connecticut definitely helped itself by signing DeWanna Bonner, a prized free agent who has previously spent her career in Phoenix. Briann January also came from Phoenix, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis from Seattle, to help shore up the Sun’s perimeter game. And rookie Kaila Charles will be eager to prove herself. Last ranking: 4


6. Phoenix Mercury

Last year: 15-19, lost in first round

Guard Diana Taurasi turned 38 in June, and was limited to six games last season because of injuries. During the USA Basketball college exhibition games, she said she was feeling better but didn’t want to push things. How healthy is Taurasi now? Even in a more limited capacity than we’re used to seeing her, she can have an impact because of how much confidence she inspires in her teammates.

The Mercury will revolve around center Brittney Griner. But Bonner, January and Leilani Mitchell have gone elsewhere. New faces like Skylar Diggins-Smith, especially, and Bria Hartley, Jessica Breland and Kia Vaughn all can be contributors. Of last year’s three rookies, Brianna Turner had the most impact and should continue to build on that. Sophie Cunningham might bring more consistent shooting, and Alanna Smith might be able to show more of her skills than in 2019, when she was slowed by injury. Last ranking: 7


7. Chicago Sky

Last year: 20-14, lost in second round

How much further will Diamond DeShields, who led the Sky in scoring last season, progress? Can she step forward to be a truly elite, go-to player every game? How will Azurá Stevens adapt with the Sky after coming from Dallas, where she was injured most of last season? How about the impact of veteran Jantel Lavender? She was a solid contributor when she came to the Sky last year, but her season was cut short due to injury.

How big a presence will rookie Ruthy Hebard be? And what of Gabby Williams, who has had to fill in gaps wherever needed? Is that her true value, or would she be better in a more consistent role at one spot? There are a lot of questions with the Sky, but all the answers could be good. And they still have the veteran backcourt of Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley. Last ranking: 6


8. Minnesota Lynx

Last year: 18-16, lost in first round

Sylvia Fowles, 34, is the only starter from the most recent Lynx champions, in 2017, still playing with the team. The Lynx are in a transition stage that all dynasties have to go through at some point. Last year there were bright spots in that process — none bigger than Napheesa Collier, who earned league Rookie of the Year honors.

This year, the Lynx drafted another young post player who they hope adjusts quickly to the pro game in South Carolina’s Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, and they also picked point guard Crystal Dangerfield from UConn. But the Lynx’s leading scorer from last season, guard Odyssey Sims, is out on pregnancy leave. Offense, once in abundance in Minnesota, now will be more of a challenge. How much newcomers to the Lynx like Shenise Johnson, Rachel Banham, Kayla Alexander and Megan Huff will add remains to be seen. Last ranking: 9


9. Indiana Fever

Last year: 13-21

There is a lot to be optimistic about with the Fever, who are under a new coach in Marianne Stanley, fresh off a championship season as an assistant in Washington. They drafted Lauren Cox out of Baylor and Kathleen Doyle from Iowa, and both could be contributors this year. They have back Victoria Vivians, who had a good rookie season in 2018 but missed last year with a knee injury. Teaira McCowan, college teammates with Vivians at Mississippi State, has a lot to build on from her good rookie year in 2019.

In her third WNBA season, maybe Kelsey Mitchell can take her game up another level. Veteran Candice Dupree, who turns 36 in August, just seems to keep on going. Erica Wheeler had a breakout performance as MVP at the 2019 All-Star Game, and had her best all-around season last year. If all goes well, you could see the Fever grabbing a playoff spot. Last ranking: 10


10. Atlanta Dream

Last year: 8-26

Two key players are sitting out the season, and both are former UConn standouts: Renee Montgomery decided to focus on social issues, and Tiffany Hayes said she felt it was in her best interest to not play. Plus, Brittney Sykes was traded to Los Angeles. All of which means the Dream don’t have their top three scorers from last season. And they lost Angel McCoughtry, the longtime face of the franchise, to Las Vegas, although she didn’t play last season due to a knee injury.

Elizabeth Williams is the leading returning scorer from last year. The Dream have picked up players who, like Williams, should be able to help on both sides of the court, including Courtney Williams and Shekinna Stricklen, who came from Connecticut, Glory Johnson from Dallas and Kalani Brown from Los Angeles. A lot is different from last year, but considering the Dream had the league’s worst record in 2019, that’s probably a good thing. Last ranking: 8


11. Dallas Wings

Last year: 10-24

This team really could be fun to watch, even if it has expected growing pains. The Wings have three first-round draft picks in Satou Sabally, Bella Alarie and Tyasha Harris, all of whom have skill sets that Dallas was seeking, plus have the kind of competitive mindset the organization wanted, too.

Katie Lou Samuelson, the No. 4 pick by Chicago last year who averaged just 7.6 minutes per game with the Sky, was traded to the Wings and can hit the reset button. If she can be the 3-point shooter Dallas is hoping for, she will be a weapon. Arike Ogunbowale, taken one spot behind Samuelson in the 2019 draft, already has proven how well she has adjusted to the pro game. She was a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year last season as Dallas’ leading scorer. The Wings might still be putting pieces together this season, but there’s a chance they could blossom in the next few years. Last ranking: 11


12. New York Liberty

Last year: 10-24

No team comes in with fewer external expectations than the Liberty, despite having No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu. That’s because she’s one of seven rookies on the ground floor of a rebuilding process under new coach Walt Hopkins. Then there are Kia Nurse, who’s in her third season, and Asia Durr, who’s in her second.

Even the player with the most experience in the league — Layshia Clarendon, who’s entering her eighth WNBA season — is new to the Liberty. The longest-tenured Liberty player is Amanda Zahui B., who’s entering her fifth season playing for New York. So Hopkins might not have a completely blank slate, but it’s as close as any new coach could get. Outside of Ionescu, the most intriguing of the Liberty’s rookies is probably Megan Walker, who bypassed her senior season at UConn to go pro. Last ranking: 12



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