. As expected, the defending champion Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty, the league's two superteams, have separated themselves atop the pack. But will their pre-ordained Finals matchup come to pass? On paper the answer would be yes, but the playoffs are not played on paper and the other six teams will be making their best efforts to upset those plans.
First-round action is set to begin on Wednesday night with a doubleheader featuring the Minnesota Lynx versus the Connecticut Sun and the Chicago Sky against the Las Vegas Aces. Ahead of these quick best-of-three series, which feature a unique 2-1 format where the higher seed gets Games 1 and 2 at home, let's take a look at where each team stands.
Here are the final power rankings of the season, pre-playoff edition.
1. Las Vegas Aces (34-6) – No. 1 overall seed
The Aces' late-August slump is officially behind them.and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. That figures to be a significant edge, as they went 19-1 and boasted an astonishing plus-21.9 net rating in Vegas this summer. The Aces are favorites to win it all, and will begin their quest to become the first team to repeat since the 2001 and 2002 Sparks with what should be an easy matchup against the Sky.
2. New York Liberty (32-8) – No. 2 overall seed
Despite a valiant effort down the stretch, in which they won 14 of their last 16 games, the Liberty weren't able to chase down the Aces for the top spot and had to settle for second. While they remain one of the title favorites, they now have a much tougher path to the Finals than the Aces. It will begin against a veteran Mystics team that is much better than their seed would indicate. They should still win that series, but it might not be a walk in the park.
3. Connecticut Sun (27-13) – No. 3 overall seed
What a season for the Sun. Expectations were fairly low after Jonquel Jones was traded to the Liberty in the winter, and when Brionna Jones tore her Achilles tendon it seemed like the Sun would be in even more trouble. Not so thanks to Alyssa Thomas, who put together a historic and unique season to carry them to a franchise-record 27 wins and the No. 3 seed. Against all odds they look likely to advance to the semifinals for the fifth consecutive season.
4. Dallas Wings (22-18) – No. 4 overall seed
An array of offseason changes on and off the court helped the Wings win 20 games for the first time since 2008, when they still played in Detroit, and grab home-court advantage in the first round. Now, they'll seek to win their first playoff series since 2009, when, again, they still played in Detroit. They certainly have the talent and offensive firepower to do so, but a lack of consistency has plagued them all season, particularly on the defensive end. Among playoff teams, only the Lynx have been worse on that side of the ball.
5. Washington Mystics (19-21) – No. 7 overall seed
The Mystics are one of the most underseeded teams we've seen in many years. If it wasn't for an array of long-term injuries, they likely would have been at least the No. 4 seed. Instead, they finished under .500 and enter the playoffs as the seventh seed. That sets up a fascinating first-round matchup with the Liberty. The Mystics likely won't have the scoring to keep up, but they have the experience, toughness and defensive ability to make this a scrappy series.
6. Atlanta Dream (19-21) – No. 5 overall seed
By a slight margin the Dream have the worst (99.7 offensive rating) and most inefficient (52.7% true shooting) offense of any playoff team, and have lost arguably their best defender, Nia Coffey, for the remainder of the season. They did, however, manage to grab the five seed and avoid one of the top-three teams, which gives them a chance to win their first playoff series since 2016. Their hopes may come down to whether Rhyne Howard gets hot. They were 12-5 this season when she shot 40% or better in a game and 6-16 when she was under that mark.
7. Minnesota Lynx (19-21) – No. 6 overall seed
The Lynx made history as the second team ever to make the playoffs after starting 0-6, joining the 2015 Los Angeles Sparks. They choked away a chance at a top-five seed by losing to the Fever on the final day of the regular season, though, and now will have their hands full in the first round against Alyssa Thomas and the Sun. Their 105.7 defensive rating is the worst of any playoff team, and it's hard to see how they'll slow down "The Engine."
8. Chicago Sky (18-22) – No. 8 overall seed
The Sky actually enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league, having won five of their last six games to secure a playoff spot for a franchise-record fifth consecutive season. However, their schedule had a lot to do with that, and they won't be so lucky in their first-round matchup against the Aces. They were 2-9 against the top-three teams this season, including 0-3 against the Aces, and simply don't have the talent to match up with the defending champs.