Approach-Too-Early WNBA Energy Rankings: Our first take a look at the 2023 season

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The 2022 WNBA season ended with a franchise profitable its first title. The Las Vegas Aces, who originated because the Utah Starzz when the WNBA debuted in 1997, received the championship Sunday, beating the Connecticut Solar 3-1 within the WNBA Finals, and the Aces present no indicators of slowing down for 2023.

Two of the WNBA’s largest legends — Seattle Storm guard Sue Fowl and Minnesota Lynx middle Sylvia Fowles — have retired. This offseason, we are going to wait to see if two different iconic gamers, the Chicago Sky’s Candace Parker and the Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi, will return for 2023. And the league and its gamers will preserve their ideas on Phoenix middle Brittney Griner, who has been imprisoned in Russia since February.

There are not less than two head-coaching hires to be made, for the Los Angeles Sparks and Indiana Fever. After one other troublesome season, the Fever will await the draft lottery, the place they are going to see in the event that they lastly get a No. 1 choose for the primary time in franchise historical past.

We up to date our WNBA Energy Rankings each Monday of the common season. Right here we record the place groups had been in ultimate regular-season rankings a bit of over a month in the past and the place we challenge they could begin the 2023 season — realizing so much can change with trades, free company, the draft and prioritization guidelines that would impression gamers’ eligibility for the season relying on their abroad commitments.

MORE: Full WNBA Finals protection

1. Las Vegas Aces
2022 report: 26-10
Consequence: WNBA champion
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 2

The Aces have a good time a championship with a core 5 — A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Grey, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Younger and Dearica Hamby — who’re all 30 or youthful (Grey turns 30 on Oct. 8) and below contract for subsequent season. Many observers pointed to depth as a possible drawback this season, however it did not cease the Aces from profitable each the in-season Commissioner’s Cup and the general title. Now can they change into the primary WNBA workforce to repeat since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002?


2. Connecticut Solar
2022 report: 25-11
Consequence: Misplaced to Las Vegas in WNBA Finals
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 3

Contemplating they had been with out ground normal Jasmine Thomas (ACL) nearly all season, the Solar don’t have anything to hold their heads about with a runner-up end. Nevertheless, it’s the fourth time the franchise has misplaced within the Finals (the others had been 2004, 2005 and 2019) and so they have some issues about subsequent season’s personnel. Will they have the ability to preserve ahead Brionna Jones, the Sixth Girl of the 12 months this season, and guard Courtney Williams, who’re each unrestricted free brokers? Regardless, with Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner again, they need to be sturdy contenders once more.


3. Washington Mystics
2022 report: 22-14
Consequence: Misplaced to Seattle within the first spherical
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 5

The Mystics strategically rested star Elena Delle Donne all through the common season as a consequence of her again points, and the plan labored, as she averaged 17.2 factors and 6.3 rebounds whereas taking part in 25 video games. When she will play, Delle Donne is without doubt one of the finest offensive gamers within the WNBA. However she simply turned 33, so her availability — along with her again damage historical past — will possible be restricted to a point the remainder of her profession. Washington’s prime 5 scorers in 2022 — Delle Donne, Ariel Atkins, Natasha Cloud, Myisha Hines-Allen and Shakira Austin — are all below contract for subsequent season.


4. Seattle Storm
2022 report: 22-14
Consequence: Misplaced to Las Vegas in semifinals
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 4

We’re rolling the cube placing the Storm this excessive, as a result of issues may look dramatically completely different by subsequent season. As my colleague Kevin Pelton wrote just lately, the Storm face an unsure future. Fowl has been the workforce’s chief for 20 years, and nobody particular person will ever substitute her. However ahead Breanna Stewart, a free agent within the prime of her profession, can be irreplaceable. In all, there are seven free brokers, and guard Jewell Loyd is the one key participant from 2022 below contract for subsequent season. Stewart’s return would solidify so much. But when she does not come again, the Storm will begin subsequent season with a a lot decrease projection.


5. Chicago Sky
2022 report: 26-10
Consequence: Misplaced to Connecticut in semifinals
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 1

For a very long time, the Sky will probably be reliving the nightmare of the final 4 minutes of Recreation 5 towards the Solar, questioning how that sport, that sequence and their likelihood at repeating all received away in a single horrible scoreless stretch. However coach/normal supervisor James Wade additionally has numerous work to do within the offseason. As is the case with Seattle, the Sky won’t be this excessive within the Energy Rankings subsequent season if they appear considerably completely different. Will Parker return? What concerning the franchise’s longest-tenured participant, Courtney Vandersloot, and her spouse, fellow guard Allie Quigley? Kahleah Copper is the important thing participant the Sky have on contract for 2023.


6. New York Liberty
2022 report: 16-20
Consequence: Misplaced to Chicago within the first spherical
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 10

We’re bullish on the Liberty based mostly on the perfect issues we noticed from them this season, when guard Sabrina Ionescu broke by means of to be the type of triple-double menace we had been anticipating. The Liberty’s key gamers are below contract, and they’re going to have had a yr of taking part in in coach Sandy Brondello’s system. The Liberty are certain to nonetheless be making an attempt to enhance within the offseason, however this workforce may very well be able to make a optimistic step ahead that features a longer playoff run.


7. Dallas Wings
2022 report: 18-18
Consequence: Misplaced to Connecticut in first spherical
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 6

The Wings had been the lone .500 workforce within the WNBA in 2022, and that was a step in the suitable route for Dallas. Arike Ogunbowale was injured on the finish of the season and wasn’t in a position to contribute within the playoffs, however Dallas nonetheless pushed the Solar to a few video games of their sequence. However can Dallas break into that group of title contenders, versus simply being a workforce that may make the playoffs? Ahead Isabelle Harrison is an unrestricted free agent. Guard Marina Mabrey, who took over an enormous management function particularly when Ogunbowale was harm, and middle Teaira McCowan, who saved bettering because the season went alongside, are restricted free brokers. It could assist if the Wings may get something near a full season in 2023 from ahead Satou Sabally, who has been restricted every of her three years within the league with accidents.


8. Atlanta Dream
2022 report: 14-22
Consequence: Missed playoffs
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 8

With a brand new coach in Tanisha Wright, a largely younger squad and veteran guard Tiffany Hayes restricted to 11 video games, little was moderately anticipated from the Dream in 2022. But they practically nabbed a playoff spot, thanks largely to a Rookie of the 12 months season from guard Rhyne Howard, the No. 1 draft choose. She shortly answered no matter questions individuals may need had about how quickly she would modify to the professional sport. This was an overachieving squad, which is a superb one-year story within the WNBA however not one thing you wish to construct a franchise round long run. Youthful gamers like Howard, Aari McDonald and Naz Hillmon competed with numerous vitality, however GM Dan Padover has work to do within the offseason so as to add extra expertise.


9. Minnesota Lynx
2022 report: 14-22
Consequence: Missed playoffs
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 9

Just about every part that would go flawed in Fowles’ final season did go flawed, but the Lynx nonetheless did not get eradicated from playoff rivalry till the final day of the common season. Coach/GM Cheryl Reeve was frank in her evaluation after the season that numerous the buttons she tried to push for 2022 by way of roster development simply did not work. Additionally, ahead Napheesa Collier performed solely 4 video games in 2022 after giving start to her daughter. She is predicted to be again to her ordinary self in 2023. Collier, Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers are all below contract for 2023, however the Lynx are going to want extra assist inside. Getting again to the postseason can be a really optimistic step. Issues the Lynx as soon as simply anticipated of their dynasty years cannot be taken without any consideration anymore.


10. Phoenix Mercury
2022 report: 15-21
Consequence: Misplaced to Las Vegas in first spherical
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 7

Even in case you did not take note of the truth that longtime Mercury star Griner was in jail 1000’s of miles away, it was a drama-filled season for Phoenix. From Tina Charles’ contract divorce round midseason, to Taurasi’s late-season damage, to Skylar Diggins-Smith leaving the workforce for private causes whereas the Mercury had been preventing for a playoff spot, first-year coach Vanessa Nygaard had her palms full. Diggins-Smith, Diamond DeShields and Brianna Turner are the Mercury gamers below contract for 2023. It appears exhausting to imagine that Diggins-Smith and Nygaard can co-exist for one more season, so what is going to the Mercury do about that?


11. Indiana Fever
2022 report: 5-31
Consequence: Missed playoffs
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 12

The Fever parted methods with coach Marianne Stanley early within the 2022 season, however it did not change something. Indiana was very younger, and whereas the Fever battled to not less than problem groups, they only did not have the developed expertise to do it. Their subsequent coach has to assist nurture that development in 2023. No. 2 draft choose NaLyssa Smith had a strong season (13.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG), however the Fever want the lottery to go their manner to allow them to add a possible franchise-changing participant reminiscent of South Carolina put up participant Aliyah Boston.


12. Los Angeles Sparks
2022 report:> 13-23
Consequence: Missed playoffs
Closing regular-season Energy Rating: 11

The Sparks have simply two key gamers below contract for subsequent season in guard Chennedy Carter and ahead Katie Lou Samuelson — and neither of them averaged double-figures scoring in 2022. Face-of-the-franchise Nneka Ogwumike is among the many unrestricted free brokers. With a lot to determine, you’ll assume the Sparks really feel a way of urgency in hiring a brand new GM — however you by no means know with this franchise. The Sparks have not had that place stuffed since coach/GM Derek Fisher was fired in June. Will the Sparks attempt to substitute coach/GM with one particular person once more, or will they rent for each jobs? Previous to 2021-22, the Sparks hadn’t missed the playoffs two years in a row since 1997-98, the league’s first two seasons. The franchise looks as if it’s at a crossroads now.

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