WNBA: Hopes for title-contending and lottery-bound teams

After trying to arrange through the muddled middle of the playoff race on Monday, we’re having a look at the the 3 groups on top and 3 groups at the bottom of the standings, examining the postseason preparedness of the title-contending Las Vegas Aces, New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun prior to assessing the future potential customers of the lottery-bound Indiana Fever, Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury.

Las Vegas Aces (30-6)

What to make from the existing state of the Aces?

On one hand, it appears reasonable to be more than a bit worried about their current play. For the very first time this season, they lost back-to-back video games, being up to the Mystics and after that the Liberty. In their last 10 video games, they are 6-4.

Of course, a bulk of the league’s groups would be enjoyed go 6-4 in a 10-game stretch. And even as they have actually taken 4 losses in the month of August, the Aces still have the second-best net score in the league for the month. There’s likewise whatever that came previously August. Through the season’s very first 3 months, Vegas devitalized the remainder of the league, with a 24-2 record and 19.0 net score.

Is the late-season slippage merely due to the wear, weariness and subsiding focus brought on by a long season, with arrival of the playoffs supplying the adrenaline rush required to renew the protecting champs? Or, have the Aces, actually, tired the very best variation of themselves, not able to uncover the leading equipment needed to end up being the first string to repeat as champs because the 2002 Sparks?

Recently, head coach Becky Hammon suggested her group had actually tired legs. In the season’s last 4 video games, will she choose to decrease her stars’ minutes, even if that suggests running the risk of another loss or more? Or, will Vegas be intent upon preserving the No. 1 seed over the fast-rising Liberty, therefore ensuring homecourt throughout the postseason?

Up next: Thursday, Aug. 31 vs. Washington Mystics (10 p.m. ET, Prime Video); Saturday, Sep. 2 vs. Seattle Storm (9 p.m. ET, NBA TELEVISION)

New York Liberty (28-7)

All is well in Liberty land!

Earlier this season, it was reasonable to question their “super team” authentic, as, on a number events, the Liberty looked finest when it was the “Stewie Show.” Yet, New York has actually progressively come together throughout the season, deserving credit for preserving a calm, client self-confidence in their procedure. Month by month, their offense has actually enhanced, reaching peak effectiveness with a 112.2 offending score in August. New York likewise has actually tightened up things up on the other end of the flooring, with a league-best protective score of 94.5 in August. A net score of 17.7 for the month likewise compares positively to Vegas’ mark of 19.0 for the season’s very first 3 months.

Even if it is not likely that the Liberty go beyond the Aces for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, they have actually coalesced into, rather perhaps, the most unsafe postseason group.

Up next: Friday, Sep. 1 vs. Connecticut Sun (8 p.m. ET, ION); Sunday, Sep. 3 at Chicago Sky (3 p.m. ET, ESPN 2)

Connecticut Sun (24-11)

With both the Storm and Mercury missing this year’s playoffs, the Sun now own the W’s longest streak of successive playoff looks. Since 2017, Connecticut has actually been a playoff component. However, 2 journeys to the Finals in the previous 6 postseasons has yet to yield a title. Will their seventh-straight shot show to be the fortunate one?

The 2 groups towering above them in the standings recommends not. Instead, it appears that the Sun, when again, will play the function of the “tough out.” If, as anticipated, they fulfill the Liberty in the semifinals, the Sun will provide a heck of a time, with MVP prospect Alyssa Thomas enforcing her force of will on the action, doing anything and whatever as she invests each and every single 2nd on the court.

Yet, for all the methods she is outstanding, Thomas’ constraints tend to become her group’s constraints. In the playoff crucible, a never-say-die spirit cannot make up for an undependable halfcourt offense. Can first-year head coach Stephanie White execute brand-new wrinkles that assist Connecticut rating regularly?

Until then, it would be sensible for White and the Sun, all however locked into the No. 3 seed, to take it simpler down the stretch of the season, making sure Thomas and DeWanna Bonner, in specific, are as fresh as possible for the playoffs.

Up next: Thursday, Aug. 31 vs. Phoenix Mercury (7 p.m. ET, Prime Video); Friday, Sep. 1 at New York Liberty (8 p.m. ET, ION)

Indiana Fever (11-24)

As Christie Sides exulted after the Fever beat the Storm last Thursday, Indiana has actually won 10 video games in a season for the very first time because 2019. After notching three-straight wins with their triumph over the Dream on Sunday, the Fever can reach 13 wins for just the 2nd time because 2017 with simply another win in their last 5 video games.

It’s been 7 seasons of battle in Indiana, with the company not able to discover a focusing force because the retirement of Tamika Catchings. Until this season. Soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston quickly has actually become the sort of force of gamer and character that the Fever have actually done not have.

Even if this season still has actually included more disappointment than optimism, things lastly are moving on in Indy. And while it would feel great to win 2, and even 3, more video games prior to season’s end, protecting the very best lottery game chances in the 2024 WNBA Draft lottery game will feel even much better. Add presumptive 2024 No. 1 choice Caitlin Clark as Boston’s co-star and, earlier than later on, Indiana will be smashing through that 13-win barrier.

Up next: Friday, Sep. 1 vs. Dallas Wings (7 p.m. ET, ION); Sunday, Sep. 3 at Dallas Wings (4 p.m. ET, ESPN 3)

Seattle Storm (10-25)

Although they will miss out on the playoffs for the very first time in 7 seasons, the Storm have spirit. Can it rollover into 2024?

As Eric Nemchock just recently checked out, Seattle deftly has actually approached a 2023 season of shift, offering young gamers the time and area to make errors, as is particular of a reconstruct, while likewise depending on experienced veterinarians to set a favorable culture that does decline losing.

Whether or not Seattle rapidly goes back to playoff contention mostly depends upon the choice unlimited complimentary representative Jewell Loyd makes this offseason. If Loyd decides to continue constructing a tradition in Seattle, the re-ascent might be reasonably fast, specifically if the lottery game gods bless the Storm with the No. 1 choice. Imagine Loyd leading a young core of Caitlin Clark, Ezi Magbegor and Jordan Hortson. Add in the pledge flashed by Dulcy Fankham Mendjiadeu and the return of veterinarians Sami Whitcomb and Kia Nurse (and possibly unlimited complimentary representative Gabby Williams), and unexpectedly things are extremely appealing in the Emerald City.

Even if Loyd selects to take her skills in other places, this season has actually provided Seattle enough factors to be positive about the young group that would take the court in 2024.

Up next: Thursday, Aug. 31 at Los Angeles Spark (10 p.m. ET, League Pass); Saturday, Sep. 2 at Las Vegas Aces (9 p.m. ET, NBA TELEVISION)

Phoenix Mercury (9-26)

At least the Mercury have their 2024 first-round draft choice.

Otherwise, it is difficult to summon much optimism about the instant future in Phoenix, which will miss out on the playoffs for the very first time because 2012. It would be a shock if upcoming unlimited complimentary representative Skylar Diggins-Smith, who was far from the group the whole season, ever used a Mercury jersey once again. And while Brittney Griner constantly has actually revealed gratitude for the Phoenix company, she likewise is an unlimited complimentary representative.

That leaves Diana Taurasi, who will turn 42 years of ages right after the 2024 season starts, as the main star in Phoenix. Although DT is an all-time fantastic, it appears reckless for a company to attempt to develop around her, even if just for another season. It will be intriguing to observe how the management group deputized by brand-new owner Mat Ishbia will browse a possibly challenging course forward.

Up next: Thursday, Aug. 31 at Connecticut Sun (7 p.m. ET, Prime Video); Sunday, Sep. 3 at Minnesota Lynx (7 p.m. ET, NBA TELEVISION)

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