WNBA Power Rankings: Breanna Stewart leads midseason awards and puts Storm in top spot
We're now just past the halfway point of the 2018 WNBA season, so let's hand out some midseason awards
As we move into the second half of the WNBA season, it seems appropriate to revisit some. Some are looking pretty good so far, while others were way off the mark. So it goes in the business of making predictions. Here's to a fun and exciting close to what has been a thrilling season so far.
Most Valuable Player
Preseason pick: Maya Moore, Lynx
Midseason pick: Breanna Stewart, Storm
It's only taken three seasons for Breanna Stewart to force her way to the forefront of the MVP discussion. Averaging 22.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, Stewart is leading the league in scoring and among the top-seven in all three of the aforementioned categories. And she's doing all of that while leading the league's best team; the Storm currently sit atop the standings at 15-5.
Rookie of the Year
Preseason pick: A'ja Wilson, Aces
Midseason pick: A'ja Wilson, Aces
This one was pretty much a lock heading into the season, and Wilson's dominance hasn't offered even a moment's hesitation. She's been not only the best rookie by far, but one of the league's best players over the first half of the season. Honestly, if the Aces had a bit better of a record, she could have a case for MVP, as she's putting up 21 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
Defensive Player of the Year
Preseason pick: Brittney Griner, Mercury
Midseason pick: Brittney Griner, Mercury
No reason to change this pick either, as Griner is once again putting up an impressive season on the defensive end. Her 3.1 blocks per game lead the league by a wide margin, as she looks likely to lead that category for the sixth straight season. Of course, blocks aren't everything. She's also the anchor of the league's fourth-best defense, as the Mercury have seen their defensive rating drop from 102.4 last season to 98.9 this campaign.
Most Improved Player
Preseason pick: Kelsey Plum, Aces
Midseason pick: Natasha Howard, Storm
Howard has always had talent. In 2016, she was named to the USA Women's Basketball select team -- arguably the second best team in the world -- which practiced and scrimmaged against the national team ahead of the Olympics. But now, she's finally gotten her chance to shine in the WNBA. Her 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game are all career-highs, as she's forced her way into the Storm starting lineup.
Sixth Woman of the Year
Preseason pick: Cappie Pondexter, Fever
Midseason pick: Cheyenne Parker, Sky
OK, let's just pretend that preseason pick didn't happen. Great, thanks, now that that's out of the way, let's talk about Cheyenne Parker. It's been a tough year for the Sky, but that's through no fault of Parker's. The fourth-year big is having the best season of her career, putting up 10.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game off the bench.
Coach of the Year
Preseason pick: Brian Agler, Sparks
Midseason pick: Dan Hughes, Storm
Hughes took last season off after coaching the then-San Antonio Stars, but has returned in a major way in his new job with the Storm. He's turned them from a young, inconsistent team with plenty of potential into arguably the best team in the league. Currently on a five-game winning streak, they're first in the standings at 15-5, and should easily record their first season above .500 since 2011.
WNBA Power Rankings
1. Seattle Storm (15-5) -- Up 1
This is no fluke, no hot start; the Storm are really, really good. Winners of five in a row, and nine of their last 11, they've moved into first place in the league at 15-5. They also possess the league's best net rating by a wide margin at plus-9.5 points per 100 possessions. The last time they led the league in net rating? Oh, just 2010, when they won their second championship.
2. Phoenix Mercury (14-6) -- Up 1
With all three of Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner healthy, and some key veteran acquisitions in the offseason, everyone expected the Mercury to join the ranks of potential contenders. And that's just what they've done, racking up a 14-6 record that has them in second place. As for Taurasi, Griner and Bonner, all three of them are among the top-25 in points per possession.
3. Washington Mystics (12-7) -- Up 2
The second season of the Elena Delle Donne era is going well for the Mystics, who boast a 12-7 record, which has them in third place. And when you look at just games where EDD was in the lineup, the Mystics are 11-4. Regardless, this is a good team, and a fun one to watch. Not only do they have Delle Donne, one of the league's most exciting players, but they fire up 3s like crazy, scoring over 28 percent of their total points from behind the arc.
4. Minnesota Lynx (11-8) -- Down 3
The Lynx were done, then they were back, and now they're bordering on falling apart again. It's been a strange season for the usually dominant group in Minneapolis. Nothing encapsulated it better than this week. Riding high on a seven-game winning streak, they became just the second team to lose to the Fever this season, then bounced back and beat the Sparks, before turning around and getting waxed by the Sky.
5. Los Angeles Sparks (12-8) -- Down 1
Everything started out according to plan for the Sparks, as they jumped out to an 11-3 start, and looked like the dominant team they've been for the past few seasons. Lately, however, there have been some warning signs, as they've dropped five or their last six games. It's likely just a combination of a tough schedule, some injuries and a general lack of drive after two straight Finals appearances. Still, it's clear the Sparks won't waltz to the Finals this season.
6. Dallas Wings (10-8) -- Up 2
Ahh, the Wings. Like a handful of teams in the middle of the pack, it's hard to know what you're going to get on a night to night basis. With Skylar Diggins-Smith and Liz Cambage, they have as good of a one-two punch as anyone in the league. Unfortunately, their supporting cast is all pretty young and inconsistent. When everything's clicking, the Wings can look like one of the league's best, but on too many nights they barely look like a playoff team.
7. Atlanta Dream (9-9) -- Down 1
We're halfway through the season now, and the Dream are still holding on to the incredible accomplishment of owning the league's best defense and worst offense. But weird statistical achievements aren't enough to make the playoffs, and the Dream are in limbo in that regard. They're currently hanging on to the eighth seed, which leaves them just two and a half games ahead of the 10th-place Sky, but also just two games behind the fourth-place Sparks.
8. Connecticut Sun (10-9) -- Down 1
This has been a strange season in Uncasville for the young Sun. Following last season's breakout campaign, the Sun picked up right where they left off, jumping out to a 7-1 start. But then their do-it-all, All-Star forward Alyssa Thomas went down with a shoulder injury. She hasn't played for a month, and without her they've gone just 3-7. Plus, there are now reports that Courtney Williams' recent absence from the team was due to an altercation with teammate Alex Bentley. Can the Sun figure things out in the second half?
9. Las Vegas Aces (8-12) -- No movement
Are… are the Aces going to make the playoffs? It seemed absurd heading into the season just because of how young they are, but it might not be so crazy. A'ja Wilson is second in scoring and already one of the league's best bigs. They've won two games in a row, five of their last eight, and are all of a sudden just two games back of the No. 8 seed. They have their work cut out for them, but don't count them out yet -- especially now that they're healthy.
10. Chicago Sky (7-12) -- No movement
After dropping nine out of 10 games to start June, the Sky have stabilized things, going 4-3 in their last seven games. They haven't shown quite enough to have much confidence in them putting together the type of run that would be necessary to make a playoff push, but as they're only two and a half games out of eight, it's technically not out of the question. When healthy they can certainly be a pesky team though, as they've shown the Mercury and Lynx recently.
11. Indiana Fever (2-17) -- Up 1
After shocking the Lynx a few days back to pick up their second win of the season, the Fever only need two more wins the rest of the way to avoid finishing with the worst record of all time. Everyone expected the young Fever to struggle this season, but the first half of their season was worse than imagined. They clearly have young talent though in Kelsey Mitchell, Victoria Vivians and Natalie Achonwa, and better days are ahead in Indianapolis.
12. New York Liberty (5-14) -- Down 1
The Liberty are easily the most disappointing team this season. After finishing third in the league last season, they're just 5-13 this time around despite having pretty much the same exact squad. The poor start, coupled with the team's forced move from Madison Square Garden to a dingy civic center in the New York City suburbs has made this Liberty season pretty depressing. At least their first-round pick Kia Nurse looks legit.
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