The month long Olympic break has ended. Players afforded the opportunity to compete in Rio have returned to their respective teams, and the league is once again in full swing. With play having resumed over a week ago, now is a good time to look at who used the break as a time to improve and set themselves up for a playoff push, and who is faltering under the pressure. As always, the power rankings will be based on a composite ranking of Winning Percentage (WP), Expected Winning Percentage (EWP), Relative Percentage Index (RPI), and recent performance.
Just to act as a reminder, the previous edition of the power rankings, put out at the onset of the Olympic Break are provided for you here:
Instead of breaking the ranking down, by one metric at a time, I will present the complete and final rankings all at once, followed by an explanation and analysis. I am confident, that those of you who have been following the power rankings have become familiarized with the measurements. If you are not, a simple search of the power rankings on http://sky.wnba.com/ will get you up to speed. Without further ado, I present to you the post-Olympic Break power rankings (8/26-9/4):
We have a new leader atop the power rankings, as the Minnesota Lynx overtake the Los Angeles Sparks. Despite having equal records, the Lynx come out ahead in EWP, RPI, and have started the final month of the season more neatly than the Sparks. The Sparks dropped their first two games, but have since won three straight. The two teams meet September 6 at Los Angeles, so the power rankings will be put to the test then. New York Liberty has a firm hold of the third spot in the power rankings, they trail the Lynx and Sparks by a pretty sizable amount, while still holding a significant lead over the rest of the field.
Spots four through eight are where things get interesting. The Chicago Sky have emerged from the Olympic Break red hot. They are the only team to have not lost a game yet, and have also staked claim to the four spot WP, EWP, and RPI. There is a slight chance they make a run at the New York Liberty, but they would need a bit of help from New York in way of a late season collapse. Still, they now hold sole possession of the fourth spot in the rankings and fourth seed in the playoffs. Finishing in the top four guarantees you at least a one round bye in the playoffs.
Atlanta, Phoenix, and Indiana are all very close to in the five, six, and seven slots, respectively. Atlanta’s fifth best record and RPI gives them a slight edge over Phoenix and Indiana. Their body of work is a bit more impressive. Their EWP is lower than the other two, but I do not consider that a negative factor here, it more or less tells us that Atlanta has been lucky this season. As the season comes to a close and the playoffs start though, will their luck run out? Phoenix comes in ahead of Indiana, despite being a half game back in the standings for two reasons. First, Phoenix has been playing better basketball since the season has resumed, two of their three wins have come against Los Angeles and Indiana. Second, their potential. They have the potential to be a very scary team, and any team with Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner should not be taken lightly. If they can put it all together in this last month, they can definitely make some noise. Indiana comes in below Atlanta and Phoenix for the reasons stated above. They are not playing good basketball right now, as evident by their 1-3 record over the past 10 days.
Closing in on the Fever is the Seattle Storm in the eighth spot. Seattle has come out of the break playing extremely well, with victories over Los Angeles, Dallas, and Atlanta, as well as a four-point loss on the road to Chicago. Seattle also ranks very well in EWP and RPI despite their lower WP. One could say they have just been unlucky this far through the season. Connecticut takes the nine spot in the rankings over Washington. The Sun are another team playing good basketball as of late, winning three of their last five and six of ten. Washington is a half game up on them in the standings and does rank one slot higher in RPI, but the Mystics have been trending down since late June, only winning two of their last 10, both of which came in the past 10 days. They will have to show me more, before I can justify ranking them above Connecticut.
Last, but certainly not least is both of the Lone Star state teams. Dallas and San Antonio have all but cemented their positons at the bottom of the power rankings. They are a combined 1-19 over their past 10 games, not much to write home about. San Antonio has been decimated by injury this season. The good news for both teams is that they are both full of youth, so the future certainly looks bright.