WNBA Power Rankings: Can anyone stop Aces? Wings are up next

ByM.A. Voepel ESPN logo
Monday, July 3, 2023

The Las Vegas Aces have faced nine of the WNBA's other 11 teams, with only the Connecticut Sun securing a victory, on June 8. This week, the Dallas Wings get their shot at the league's top team for the first time in 2023, and they head in feeling about as confident as they have this season.

Will that assuredness be dented by back-to-back games versus the Aces, first in Las Vegas on Wednesday then in Dallas on Friday? That's what the Aces -- again firmly No. 1 in ESPN's WNBA Power Rankings -- generally do to opponents. But the Wings, who went 2-0 this week and made the biggest jump in the rankings, up to No. 6, feel good about their team -- not just superstar guard Arike Ogunbowalebut also their interior game.

In Sunday's 89-72 victory over the Washington Mystics, Wings forwardSatou Sabally had a season-best 27 points, along with 15 rebounds and four assists. It was her 11th double-double of the campaign. Sabally was voted an All-Star starter, along with Ogunbowale.

Admittedly, Washington -- which will be the last team to face the Aces, as all three of their matchups are in August -- was without injured Elena Delle Donne and Shakira Austin on Sunday. That contributed to the Mystics' 54-24 rebounding deficit.

However, Dallas statistically is the league's best team on the boards, leading in total rebounds per game (39.7) and in offensive rebounds (12.1). The 6-foot-4 Sabally is joined in the starting lineup by 6-foot-7 Teaira McCowan and 6-foot-2 Natasha Howard, while 6-foot-7 Kalani Brown, 6-foot-4 Awak Kuier and 6-foot-2 Maddy Siegrist come off the bench. Coach Latricia Trammell is very high on this group.

The Wings are 8-8, but their home record (6-2) and away record (2-6) are mirror opposites. Dallas has four of its next five games on the road, with the home game in that stretch against the Aces. This is a crucial part of the schedule for the Wings, whom Trammell thinks just need to stay better connected on the road.

Sabally is excited about what will be her second All-Star appearance but even more so about the team she thinks Dallas can be.

"We're good," Sabally said Sunday. "We're growing, and today you could see it."

Here's a look at the Week 7 Power Rankings:

1. Las Vegas Aces

Record: 15-1

Previous ranking: 1

This week: vs. Dallas (Wednesday), at Dallas (Friday), at Minnesota (Sunday)

The Aces went 3-0 last week, and their closest matchup was to Indiana, which they beat by eight points. Then against the two teams directly behind them in standings, the Aces topped New York by 17 and Connecticut by 18. Against the Liberty and Sun, Las Vegas combined for 57 assists to 19 turnovers. That included a season-high eight assists from Candace Parker versus Connecticut. The Aces train keeps on rolling.

2. New York Liberty

Record: 11-4

Previous ranking: 3

This week: vs. Phoenix (Wednesday), vs. Seattle (Sunday)

It wasn't a bad 2-1 road trip for the Liberty last week; they beat Connecticut and Seattle, although the 98-81 loss at Las Vegas wasn't what New York was hoping for. Coach Sandy Brondello said the Liberty needed to be a lot better defensively against the Aces, and the game came down to Las Vegas' dominant 27-14 third quarter. Liberty guardCourtney Vandersloot, who will join teammates Breanna Stewart and Sabrina Ionescu in the All-Star Game, had a season-high 13 assists on Sunday against the Storm, and she continues to lead the WNBA at 8.7 dimes per game.

3. Connecticut Sun

Record: 12-5

Previous ranking: 2

This week: vs. Seattle (Thursday), vs. Washington (Sunday)

The absence of injured Brionna Jones is going to hurt for the rest of this season but some weeks even more than others -- such as last week, when the Sun fell to New York and Las Vegas in their first back-to-back losses this season. On the bright side, against the Liberty, Alyssa Thomas had her third double-double of 2023 and fifth of her career, along with two in the playoffs. She is headed to the All-Star Game to play for the fourth time.

4. Washington Mystics

Record: 9-7

Previous ranking: 4

This week: vs. Indiana (Friday), at Connecticut (Sunday)

The Mystics went 1-2 last week, but injuries were the big news. The team confirmed center Shakira Austin is out due to a hip strain suffered June 25 at New York. Washington still got a victory against Atlanta on Wednesday. But then the Mystics fell in the rematch with the Dream on Friday, plus lost Elena Delle Donne to an ankle sprain. Washington was just a little too beat up to stop Dallas in Sunday's loss. Right now, getting healthy is the Mystics' biggest goal.

5. Minnesota Lynx

Record: 7-9

Previous ranking: 8

This week: vs. Indiana (Wednesday), vs. Phoenix (Friday), vs. Las Vegas (Sunday)

Wait -- the team that started the season 0-6 and was in last place in the Power Rankings heading into June is now in the top five? Indeed, it has been a turnaround for Minnesota, which has won six of its past eight. Last week's three victories came against Seattle (twice) and Phoenix, the bottom two teams in the league. Still, wins are wins, and the biggest victory actually was the return of No. 2 draft pick Diamond Miller from an ankle injury. After missing a month, she scored 18, 19 and 25 points in the wins. Napheesa Collier also had a week, posting 27.6 PPG and 9.0 RPG in the three games.

6. Dallas Wings

Record: 8-8

Previous ranking: 10

This week: at Las Vegas (Wednesday), Las Vegas (Friday), at Indiana (Sunday)

Last week, the Wings brought back veteran guard Odyssey Sims, who played for the team on a hardship contract earlier in the month. To make room, Dallas waived second-year player Jasmine Dickey and rookie Ashley Joens, neither of whom were seeing court time. They also brought back center Kalani Brown on her second hardship contract of the season. Sims and Brown, both of whom played for Baylor, have contributed off the bench and could be important in these upcoming games against the Aces.

7. Atlanta Dream

Record: 7-8

Previous ranking: 7

This week: at Los Angeles (Wednesday), at Chicago (Friday), at Chicago (Sunday)

The Dream stay put in the Power Rankings after a 2-1 week, which included a Rhyne Howard statement game. An All-Star last year as a rookie, she wasn't selected this year. However, no one seemed happier than Howard to see Dream teammate Cheyenne Parker get her first All-Star nod in her ninth season in the league. We can expect to see Howard in the ASG in the future, but she had a superstar game Sunday in a 112-84 win over Los Angeles, with a career-high 43 points on 70% shooting from the field.

8. Chicago Sky

Record: 8-9

Previous ranking: 11

This week: vs. Atlanta (Friday), vs. Atlanta (Sunday)

Just when you think you've seen everything, the Sky have a week like this. After losing six in a row, Chicago beat Los Angeles in back-to-back games Wednesday and Friday, with Courtney Williams getting her first career triple-double in the second matchup. Saturday -- ka-boom! -- the Sky announced coach James Wade is leaving for the NBA's Raptors. Sunday, the Sky gave interim coach Emre Vatansever his first win. And they jumped three spots in the Power Rankings after going 3-0. If anyone had all that on their bingo card, they might want to go early to Las Vegas for All-Star weekend.

9. Indiana Fever

Record: 5-11

Previous ranking: 5

This week: at Minnesota (Wednesday), at Washington (Friday), vs. Dallas (Sunday)

Nothing like playing Las Vegas back-to-back to start a four-game losing streak, and that's what happened to Indiana. Following a loss to the Aces, Indiana encountered the rare night in which Phoenix was playing well, and then got stung by a Courtney Williams game-winning jumper in losing by two points to Chicago. Kelsey Mitchell's first All-Star nod was the good news in a rough week for Indiana. As a reserve, she will join starter Aliyah Boston in the game.

10. Los Angeles Sparks

Record: 7-10

Previous ranking: 6

This week: vs. Atlanta (Wednesday), at Phoenix (Sunday)

All-Star starter Nneka Ogwumike had 25 points Sunday on her 33rd birthday, but it wasn't enough as the Sparks lost at Atlanta to go 0-3 for the week. Over the past three weeks, Los Angeles is 3-7, with all three victories coming against Dallas. The Sparks play Dallas only once more this season, so they need to figure out the winning formula against some other teams.

11. Seattle Storm

Record: 4-12

Previous ranking: 9

This week: at Connecticut (Thursday), at New York (Saturday)

Like Indiana and Los Angeles, the Storm also went 0-3 this week. Two losses were to surging Minnesota, the other was more salt in the wound with former Storm star Breanna Stewart back in Seattle for the second time this season leading New York to a win. The Storm, who next play four in a row in the Eastern Time Zone, will get back Gabby Williams soon. That should help, but the Storm are just barely holding off Phoenix to stay out of the Power Rankings cellar.

12. Phoenix Mercury

Record: 3-12

Previous ranking: 12

This week: at New York (Wednesday), at Minnesota (Friday), vs. Los Angeles (Sunday)

The Mercury went 1-2 last week under interim leader Nikki Blue, who took over June 25 and was the WNBA's newest head coach for just six days before Vatansever took the interim reins at Chicago. A name familiar to women's basketball fans -- longtime Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne --is back on the sidelines, now as Blue's assistant. Thursday's win over Indiana broke a six-game losing streak and gave Phoenix a 2-9 record for June, with both victories coming against the Fever.

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