After winning their first title in franchise history, the Washington Mystics had a strong chance to go back-to-back this season. Then, the coronavirus pandemic happened. Reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne chose to sit out after some controversy over her health situation, key offseason acquisition Tina Charles got a medical opt-out, and two more starters, Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders, also decided not to play. And not to mention, veteran guard Kristi Toliver left in free agency.
Heading into the bubble, the general consensus was that that was simply too much talent and experience to lose. No one expected them to be terrible, but no one expected them to be a contender either. Through the first week of the season, however, they're making everyone rethink their preseason predictions.
They're 3-1, which is tied for the best record in the league, and their only loss came by two points to the Chicago Sky. They have the best net rating in the league at plus-13.1 points per 100 possessions, the best offensive rating in the league at 110.1 and the best 3-point percentage at 40.6 percent. Their starting lineup, meanwhile, is boasting an outrageous plus-50.1 net rating. Even in a small sample size, all of those numbers are remarkable.
Myisha Hines-Allen has been their breakout player, putting up 17.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and two steals per game. She already has more points (70) in four games inside the bubble than she did all of last season (63). Ariel Atkins and Aerial Powers have impressed in bigger roles as well, while Finals MVP Emma Meesseman has been her typically steady self.
All told, the Mystics look extremely comfortable under head coach Mike Thibault, and though they might not have the top tier talent that some other teams possess, they have the confidence and continuity to compete with them.
1. Seattle Storm (3-1) -- last week No. 1
Breanna Stewart is back from a torn Achilles, and has picked up where she left off in 2018. So too have the Storm, who have jumped out to a 3-1 start -- tied for the league's best record -- and have been dominant on the defensive end. The only team to beat them so far has been the Mystics.
2. Washington Mystics (3-1) -- last week No. 7
No one expected this. Tied for the best record in the league, best net rating, best offense, best 3-point attack, the first week of the season couldn't have gone any better for Washington. Myisha Hines-Allen has been a revelation, jumping into the starting lineup and excelling after barely playing last season.
3. Chicago Sky (3-1) -- last week No. 5
Also tied atop the league at 3-1, the Sky are playing like a team fueled by last season's heartbreaking playoff exit. They have six different players averaging double figures, and are a few missed layups away from potentially being undefeated. Terrific start for them, especially given their difficult schedule.
4. Minnesota Lynx (3-1) -- last week No. 8
As has been the case for a few seasons now, the Lynx are dynamite on defense, but have struggled to find consistent scoring. So far, though, they've been doing enough to win, and check in at 3-1. Sylvia Fowles has been excellent, putting up 15.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
5. Los Angeles Sparks (2-2) -- last week No. 2
So much for Seimone Augustus being done. The 15-year veteran has been a strong contributor off the bench for the Sparks in her first season with the club, scoring 10.5 points on 54.5 percent shooting. As a team, however, L.A. has really struggled to score, which is the main reason for its middling 2-2 start.
6. Las Vegas Aces (2-2) -- last week No. 3
No one expected the Aces to be a perimeter-oriented team, especially with Kelsey Plum out, but the level to which they've eschewed the 3-pointer is almost comical. They're taking 10.8 3s per game, which would be the lowest mark since the Sparks averaged 8.3 attempts in 2014. Despite this, their offense is fourth in the league, with an offensive rating of 104.
7. Phoenix Mercury (2-2) -- last week No. 4
The new-look Mercury have been scoring at will, and allowing their opponents to do the same. While most of the offseason discussion was about Skylar Diggins-Smith's arrival, it's their other new point guard, Bria Hartley, who's been leading the way. At 19.8 points per game, she's second in the league in scoring, and putting up career highs across the board.
8. Indiana Fever (2-2) -- last week No. 9
An embarrassing 25-point loss to the Mystics on Opening Day did not bode well for the Fever, but they've responded well. Their offense -- third in the league with a 107.1 offensive rating -- has been humming, thanks in large part to Belgian rookie Julie Allemand, who is tied for second in the league in assists at 6.3 per game.
9. Connecticut Sun (0-4) -- last week No. 7
Pretty much a nightmare start for the Sun. Because of their lack of depth, Curt Miller has been leaning heavily on his two stars, Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner, who lead the league in minutes at 37 each per game. It would be one thing if you were doing that to secure wins, but the Sun are not. They're 0-4.
10. Dallas Wings (2-2) -- last week No. 11
The young Wings have been up and down, which isn't much of a surprise. Arike Ogunbowale has been extremely inefficient, shooting 36.1 percent from the field, which is a bit concerning. No. 2 overall pick Satou Sabally looks like the real deal, however, turning in a 23-point, 17-rebound performance in just her third game.
11. Atlanta Dream (2-2) -- last week No. 10
Courtney Williams joined the team late, so it's hard to get a complete grasp on the Dream so far. Chennedy Carter has shown some nice flashes with her scoring and distributing, but has been pretty inefficient. Betnijah Laney has been a nice surprise, leading the team in scoring and making an impact on both ends.
12. New York Liberty (0-4) -- last week No. 12
The first week of the season could not have gone worse for the Liberty. They're 0-4, and No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain that may cost her the rest of the season. Not much more to add here. The rest of the season is going to be really tough for New York.