Around the W - The Final Month

A look back at how all the teams have done since the Olympics.

A lot has changed in the WNBA since Team USA won the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo. In this article, I cover every single team and where they stand as we enter the final month of the WNBA’s regular season. We’ve seen quite a bit of movement from certain teams in the standings so let’s take a look at how every team is doing now.

Atlanta Dream

Record since the Olympics: 1-7
Overall Record: 7-20 (Current Record) | 6-13 (pre-Olympic record)

The Atlanta Dream continue to struggle having won just one of their eight games since the Olympic break. Their lone victory came against the Dallas Wings on September 5th (69-65).

They are still without Chennedy Carter who was suspended indefinitely by the team prior to the Tokyo Olympics. Carter was not traded at the deadline but with just a few games remaining, it’ll be interesting to see if she is reinstated before the final regular-season game.

Atlanta is also on their second interim head coach of the season. Interim HC Mike Petersen stepped down due to health reasons and Assistant coach Darius Taylor takes over for the team during this final stretch. The team was put in a bad position from the get-go this year with Nicki Collen leaving to take over the Baylor Ladybears program in college basketball right before the WNBA season tipped off in May.

The Dream finished last season 7-15 and had the third-worst record in the WNBA (10th overall). They are currently the 11th seed and will miss the playoffs for the third season in a row. Atlanta will likely have the second-best odds to win the WNBA Draft lottery and the #1 overall pick.

Chicago Sky

Record since the Olympics: 5-4
Overall Record: 15-14 (Current Record) | 10-10 (Pre-Olympic record)

The Chicago Sky are the most recent team to clinch a playoff spot. They are the 6th team to do so during the 2021 season. They have a winning record after the Tokyo Olympics with the most impressive games coming against the Storm where they swept the Storm in three games. Their biggest win was the third game against the Storm where they won in Seattle by 32 points (107-75)! It was the Sky’s largest victory in franchise history.

Their largest defeat since the Olympics was against the red-hot Phoenix Mercury that beat them by 20 points in Phoenix.

Chicago is pretty much locked into the 6th seed as they can’t move up to the 5th overall seed and it’s unlikely that they’ll fall to the 7th seed either. Being the 6th seed means they will get to host a home playoff game against the 7th seed in the first round of the WNBA playoffs. Right now that appears most likely to be the Dallas Wings.

Connecticut Sun

Record since the Olympics: 8-0
Overall Record: 22-6 (Current Record) | 14-6 (Pre-Olympic record)

Outside of a disappointing performance in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game against the Seattle Storm the Connecticut Sun have been perfect since the Tokyo Olympics. Dating back to before the Olympic break, the Sun have currently won ten games in a row.

With several fantastic performances in recent weeks, Connecticut has picked up huge wins over Minnesota, Las Vegas, and Dallas. They have cemented themselves as the top seed in the WNBA.

Jonquel Jones has played like an MVP all season long and the team’s defense is #1 rated in the WNBA (93.4 DEF Rating).

With one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league, it’s hard to imagine the Sun will fall out of the top seed. Because they own the season series tiebreakers over both Las Vegas (2nd overall) and Minnesota (tied for 3rd overall) they are in a great position to lock up the top overall seed and the incredibly important double-bye.

There may be even better news on the horizon as Sun coach Curt Miller said Alyssa Thomas was beginning to work out in individual drills and there’s at least a small chance she could be available for the playoffs.

Dallas Wings

Record since the Olympics: 3-5
Overall Record: 12-17 (Current Record) | 9-12 (Pre-Olympic record)

The Dallas Wings have had an up and down season. At one point they were playing very good basketball on both ends of the court. But they continue to play inconsistently which is likely a result of the lack of experience and youth of the team.

Their best victory since the Olympics came on August 17th against the Chicago Sky (80-76). But disappointing losses to the Indiana Fever, Washington Mystics, and the Atlanta Dream could cost them a playoff spot. Dallas needs to learn how to defeat the teams that are below them in the standings. The Wings aren’t expected to beat the Connecticut Sun or Las Vegas Aces but if they can at least beat the non-playoff teams it’ll go a long way to clinching a playoff spot.

In two of their final three games this month they play the New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks. Those two teams are also aiming to clinch one of the final two playoff spots. Dallas lost their playoff spot on the final day of the regular season in 2020. They need to win these games to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Indiana Fever

Record since the Olympics: 2-5
Overall Record: 6-21 (Current Record) | 4-16 (Pre-Olympic record)

The Indiana Fever have struggled all season and it’s been no different since the Tokyo Olympics. The team is 2-5 since the break. With that said, they are 5-5 overall in their last 10 games which is actually better than six other teams in the WNBA.

I wrote that Marianne Stanley may have saved her job with the improvement the team showed prior to the Olympic break where they won three straight games to end the first half of their season. While the team still has a long way to go, they’ve made significant improvements since they started this season with a 1-16 record.

Indiana won’t make the playoffs this year and with the (current) worst record in the WNBA and having the second-worst record in 2020, they are primed to have the best odds in the 2022 WNBA Draft lottery. If they can land the #1 overall pick, they may be able to turn their misfortune around.

Indiana has not made the playoffs since 2016, Tamika Catchings final season in the WNBA.

Las Vegas Aces

Record since the Olympics: 5-2
Overall Record: 20-8 (Current Record) | 15-6 (Pre-Olympic record)

The Las Vegas Aces remain one of the best teams in the WNBA since the Olympic break. They were the #2 overall seed prior to the Tokyo Olympics and they remain in that spot. With a 5-2 post-Olympic record they still have some of the best odds to finish in the top-two, earn a double-bye and reach the WNBA Finals.

With that said, the Minnesota Lynx are hot on their heels and the two teams play on Wednesday, September 8th with a ton on the line. If Vegas wins this game, which is a home game for them, they will be one step closer to locking up a double-bye.

Vegas has arguably the most talented roster in the entire league. They have an excellent opportunity to get back to the WNBA Finals again and this time finish the job.

The only real concern for the Aces is that they have struggled this season against some of the other top teams in the league. They were swept 3-0 during their season series against the Connecticut Sun. If they lose to Minnesota on Wednesday, they will have also been swept by the Lynx (3-0) this season and have at a minimum lost the season series. The Aces are going to have to go through at least one of these two teams (if not both) to win the WNBA title. Will they be able to get it done in the playoffs when they weren’t able to in the regular season battles? That’s what we’ll get to find out!

Los Angeles Sparks

Record since the Olympics: 4-5
Overall Record: 10-18 (Current Record) | 6-13 (Pre-Olympic break)

The Los Angeles Sparks have played considerably better since the Tokyo Olympics and Nneka Ogwumike has been a big reason why. They actually started their post-Olympic play with four straight victories but have unfortunately lost five games straight since then. Even still, their 4-5 record is considerably better than how the team was playing in the first half of the season.

LA’s defense has been really good. They are the 4th best defensive team in the entire WNBA according to DEF Rating metrics (98.1). Their big problem is their lack of offensive scoring output.

In their five straight losses, the Sparks haven’t scored more than 72 points and in three of their games didn’t even reach the 70-point mark. In their most recent loss, they scored just 57 points.

The Sparks have the worst offensive rating in the entire WNBA (91.6). This is the biggest issue they’ll need to address in the offseason, especially if they miss the playoffs.

Los Angeles is just 1/2 game back from the 8th and final playoff spot. They will have to leapfrog the Washington Mystics and New York Liberty in order to reach the playoffs.

There is no real benefit for the Sparks to “tank” for a better draft pick because their 2022 first-round pick was traded away to the Dallas Wings. Los Angeles is going to have to improve their roster primarily through free agency.

Minnesota Lynx

Record since the Olympics: 6-2
Overall Record: 18-9 (Current Record) | 12-7 (Pre-Olympic record)

The Minnesota Lynx are one of three teams that have really stood out since the Tokyo Olympics and helped themselves considerably. The Lynx started this season 1-4 and have gone 17-5 over their last 22 games.

Minnesota is 6-2 since the Olympics and has won five games in a row. Their strong performance combined with Seattle’s post-Olympic struggles has allowed them to move up to the third overall seed (tied with Seattle).

Even more impressive is that if the Lynx can defeat the Las Vegas Aces on Wednesday and finish the season with five more wins (including against the Aces), they will actually finish with the second overall seed and earn a double-bye with automatic advancement to the WNBA semifinals.

While this would require the Lynx to win 10 games in a row to finish the season, that’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. If they can defeat the Aces, they then play the Indiana Fever (worst team in the WNBA) three straight times before ending the season against the 10th seed, Washington Mystics.

Minnesota controls their own destiny in that if they win out they earn the double-bye. The Lynx can finish anywhere from the #1 overall seed or all the way down to the 5th seed.

New York Liberty

Record since the Olympics: 1-7
Overall Record: 11-18 (Current Record) | 10-11 (Pre-Olympic record)

The New York Liberty have really struggled since coming back from the Olympics. They have won just a single game in the eight games since the teams returned from Tokyo. Their lone victory came against the Seattle Storm that played without Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart who were resting after traveling back from Japan and playing in the Commissioner’s Cup.

What’s even more concerning for the Liberty is not just how much they’ve struggled since the Olympics (1-7). It’s the fact that they are 6-17 overall since starting the season with an impressive 5-1 record.

The good thing for the Liberty is they currently still hold onto the 8th and final playoff spot. Reaching the playoffs a year after the team went 2-20 would be an incredible achievement.

The other good news is that they’ve also been competitive in most of their games despite their 1-7 post-Olympic record and six-game losing streak. The only loss that was really bad was on Wednesday, August 25th when they fell to the Phoenix Mercury by 27 points (106-79).

Natasha Howard has also returned from injury and given them a boost. And Didi Richards and Michaela Onyenwere have both been impressive rookies this season. Richards has come on strong late in the season and Onyenwere is the current favorite to win Rookie of the Year.

Phoenix Mercury

Record since the Olympics: 9-0
Overall Record: 18-10 (Current Record) | 9-10 (Pre-Olympic record)

No team has been better since the Tokyo Olympics than the Phoenix Mercury who has won nine straight games since the break. Phoenix has completely turned their season around with their post-Olympic play.

Coach Sandy Brondello may have been on the hot seat had this team continued to struggle throughout the entire season. But their turnaround has been extremely impressive and Brondello should get a lot of credit for pushing the team back in the right direction.

Brittney Griner has had an MVP-type season and not enough people are talking about that. Griner is #2 overall in scoring (20.7 PPG), Top 5 in rebounding (9.4 RPG), #1 in blocks (2.0 BPG), and #2 in FG% (57.7%). The Mercury currently hold the 5th overall seed. If they’re able to move into the Top 4 then Griner should definitely receive some MVP votes.

We’ll get to see how good this Phoenix Mercury team really is as they have the most difficult remaining schedule as they finish the year playing against the Connecticut Sun, Seattle Storm, and Las Vegas Aces.

Seattle Storm

Record since the Olympics: 4-5
Overall Record: 20-10 (Current Record) | 16-5 (Pre-Olympic record)

The Seattle Storm have really stumbled after the Tokyo Olympics. They were the #1 team in the WNBA prior to the Olympic games. But after a dominant performance in the Commissioner’s Cup against Connecticut that didn’t actually count in the league standings, the team has really struggled.

Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird sat out two games in which Seattle lost both to Chicago and New York. In both games, Seattle could have won but faltered late in the 4th quarter.

Seattle then ran out of gas against a very good Minnesota Lynx team and shot under 38%. They then collapsed at home in the 4th quarter against the Chicago Sky after leading the entire game. Chicago then blew them out in the third matchup between the two teams when the Sky shot nearly 70% from the three-point line (15-22).

It was Seattle’s first three-game losing streak of the season and the team started post-Olympic play losing five of their first seven games. That caused them to drop out of the top two seeds all the way down to 4th place in the WNBA standings.

The WNBA schedule makers did the team no favors by having them play six road games in 12 days and 8 games in 17 days total right after the Tokyo Olympics where Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, and Jewell Loyd combined to play more minutes than any other teammates in Tokyo.

Seattle got some much-needed time off to rest and get practices in and the results have been noticeable in September with a double-digit victory over the Liberty and then a 34-point blowout win over the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night.

The Storm are still battling for a Top 4 seed to get at least a first-round bye. They still have a very small chance at the #2 overall seed and can guarantee themselves at least the 4th seed by defeating the Phoenix Mercury on Friday, September 17th.

Health is an even greater concern for the defending champions right now as backup point guard Jordin Canada has missed the last two games with a right knee injury and Breanna Stewart limped off the court on Tuesday with a left foot injury. It is unclear at this time if either will be back before the playoffs or even available for the postseason as of this writing.

Washington Mystics

Record since the Olympics: 2-8
Overall Record: 10-18 (Current Record) | 8-10 (Pre-Olympic record)

The Washington Mystics have had a disappointing season after so much promise in the offseason. Alysha Clark, their big free agent acquisition has missed the entire season with a Lisfranc foot injury. Elena Delle Donne returned to play a couple of games after having her second back surgery earlier this year but tweaked it and has been sidelined again over the past several games. Delle Donne has played in just three games all season long. It’s unclear if she will be able to return at all this season and the Washington Mystics may not even reach the playoffs.

Washington has lost to all the top five teams in the league since the Tokyo Olympics including the Sun, Aces, Storm, Lynx, and Mercury. They’ve only managed to beat Dallas and the Los Angeles Sparks during these last 10 games.

Despite the 2-8 performance in those 10 games, they are only 1/2 game behind the New York Liberty for the final playoff spot and they still have four games remaining. Washington will likely need to pick up two wins in their final four games to reach the playoffs. None more important than their trip to the New York Liberty on September 17th.

Tina Charles leads the WNBA in scoring at 23.9 PPG but has not had enough around her to keep the Mystics competitive.

Myisha Hines-Allen, one of the best stories from the 2020 bubble season, has missed nearly half of the games this season. Which has been another major reason for the team’s struggles this year.

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