On Wednesday night, Team WNBA scored an upset win over Team USA in the 2021 WNBA All-Star Game, which means that the Olympic break has officially arrived. The league will now break until Sunday, Aug. 15, when play resumes for the second half of the regular season.
In many ways, the first half has gone as expected. The Storm and Aces, who met in the Finals last season, are once again among the best in the league. Meanwhile, the Sky and Lynx have used their big offseason moves to gain a foothold near the top of the standings.
But there have been surprises as well. The Sun sit in third place despite Alyssa Thomas' absence, while Tina Charles is putting up the greatest scoring season in WNBA history to keep the Mystics in playoff position despite all of their injuries.
With the first half of the season in the books, we're going to use the weekly Power Rankings to take a look at the good and the bad for each team.
1. Seattle Storm (16-5) -- Last week No. 1
The good: Despite losing three key members of their title teams in 2018 and 2020, the Storm are in first place and remain a premier title contender. Breanna Stewart is the best player in the world, Jewell Loyd is putting together the best season of her career and Sue Bird is still a high-level point guard. They have the top-tier talent to defend their title.
The bad: It's hard to find too much wrong with a team that's in first place and at the top of most major statistical categories. That being said, there are some questions about the supporting cast. No one besides the big three averages even seven points per game, and there's a reason why Stewart and Loyd could both set career-highs in minutes and Bird is playing more than she has since 2017.
2. Las Vegas Aces (15-6) -- Last week No. 2
The good: Las Vegas was one of the favorites to win it all coming into the season, and they've only reinforced that status with a strong first half. They sit in second place and own the best net rating, offensive rating and defensive rating in the league. The duo of A'ja Wilson and Liz Cambage (who just withdrew from the Olympics) gives them the best frontcourt in the league, and they have six players averaging double figures in scoring.
The bad: Much like with the Storm, the Aces are one of the best teams in the league, so there's not much to complain about. One potential cause for concern, however, is the Aces' record against the other top teams in the league. They're just 2-5 against the Storm, Sun and Lynx, the other three teams in the top four of the standings.
3. Connecticut Sun (14-6) -- Last week No. 3
The good: Jonquel Jones is back in action after sitting out the 2020 season, and playing at an MVP level. With her in the lineup, the Suns are 12-3, and their 14-6 record overall has them in third place, just 1.5 games out of the top spot. Despite losing Alyssa Thomas to a torn Achilles tendon in the offseason, they've established themselves as one of the teams to beat.
The bad: Again, we're sort of nitpicking here with one of the two or three best teams in the league. One thing the Sun could improve is their performance on the road. They're 8-1 at home, but just 6-5 on their travels. Unless they go on a big run and overtake the Storm for the No. 1 overall seed come playoff time, they're going to have to win away from home in the postseason.
4. Minnesota Lynx (12-7) -- Last week No. 4
The good: The Lynx lost their first three games this season, and have largely been without both Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa -- two of their key free agent signings. Yet despite some of the challenges, they've surged into fourth place at the break thanks to a current seven-game winning streak. They're one of just four teams to be in the top-five in both offensive and defensive rating.
The bad: Injuries have been a problem for the Lynx, as Achonwa has played just eight games due to a knee injury and Powers has been limited to four appearances because of hamstring and thumb problems. On the court, they turn the ball over like crazy, and currently sport an 18.9 turnover ratio. Not turning the ball over one out of every five possessions would help improve their offense.
5. Chicago Sky (10-10) -- Last week No. 5
The good: Hometown star Candace Parker has been as advertised in her first season with the Sky. She's second on the team in scoring and assists, and leads the way in rebounding and blocks. When she's been in the lineup they're 9-3 and have looked like one of the best teams in the league. They have an elite defense for the first time in years, and sit all alone in fifth place.
The bad: Parker's injury, mostly. Early in the season, Parker suffered a nasty ankle injury that kept her out for nearly a month. That was a rough period for the Sky, who went 1-7 without their best player. While they've done well to recover, that slow start put them in such a big hole that it will be difficult for them to overtake the Aces or Storm and earn a top-two seed. That means they'll likely have to play at least one single-elimination playoff game.
6. Phoenix Mercury (9-10) -- Last week No. 6
The good: At a combined 39.6 points per game, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith are the highest scoring teammate duo in the league. Brianna Turner is building on her All-Defensive First Team appearance last season, and has been one of the best young bigs in the league. They've beaten the Storm, Aces and Lynx, and have shown an ability to play with the top teams.
The bad: Diana Taurasi suffered a fractured sternum which kept her out for over a month, and then shortly after returning went down again with a hip injury that kept her out of the All-Star Game. Beyond Taurasi's injuries, it's been another frustratingly inconsistent season for the Mercury. They obviously have the elite talent to play with anyone, but you never know which version of the team is going to show up from night to night.
7. New York Liberty (10-11) -- Last week No. 7
The good: We're at the Olympic break and the Liberty already have five times as many wins as they recorded last season. And sitting in sixth place, they have a real chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Betnijah Laney has proven that last season was no fluke, Sami Whitcomb is thriving in a bigger role and Michaela Onyenwere is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year.
The bad: A late arrival from overseas followed by a knee injury has limited key offseason acquisition Natasha Howard to just two games. In part because of Howard's absence, but also because they turn the ball over more than anyone in the league and are over reliant on the 3-point shot, the Liberty have been inconsistent on the offensive end. They take 42.5 percent of their shots from downtown and are 8-4 when they make at least 10, but just 2-7 when they don't reach that mark.
8. Washington Mystics (8-10) -- Last week No. 8
The good: Tina Charles has been perhaps the best story of the season. The last time we saw her was in 2019, when he put up one of the worst campaigns of her career. Now, she's leading the league in scoring at 26.3 points per game, a mark which if it stands would be the best scoring season in WNBA history. Thanks to Charles, the Mystics are in playoff position despite an abundance of injuries.
The bad: Many teams have had bad luck with injuries this season, but none have been as hard hit as the Mystics. Free agent signing Alysha Clark is out for the season after undergoing foot surgery in the winter, former MVP Elena Delle Donne hasn't played yet due to offseason back surgery, Natasha Cloud has missed time with an ankle sprain and Myisha Hines-Allen has been limited to eight games because of a knee problem. At one point, the Mystics were showing up to games with just six healthy players.
9. Dallas Wings (9-12) -- Last week No. 9
The good: There have been a number of positives for the young Wings to take away from the first half of the season. Marina Mabrey has emerged as a leading candidate for Most Improved Player, they have one of the best offenses in the league and they're sixth in net rating despite being under .500. Though currently outside the playoff picture, they have a good chance to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2018.
The bad: While still one of the league's leading scorers, it's been a little disappointing to see Arike Ogunbowale revert to her rookie levels of inefficiency. Among the top-25 scorers in the league, she has the worst field goal percentage at 38 percent. The Wings' inability to win close games is another issue for them to sort out. They're just 2-8 in games decided by seven points or less.
10. Los Angeles Sparks (6-13) -- Last week No. 10
The good: It's impossible to replace players like Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray, so this season was always going to be a rude awakening for the Sparks. But despite their poor record, they deserve credit for the way they've competed on the defensive end of the floor. They have the sixth-best defensive rating (99.4) and are forcing the most turnovers (18.8 per game) in the league.
The bad: The Sparks are only 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot, but as things stand they're on pace to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and just the fifth time in franchise history. They've also been beset by injuries, with Nneka Oguwumike limited to five games, and her sister Chiney to three. Unsurprisingly, that's led to a big problem on the offensive end, where they're the worst in the league.
11. Atlanta Dream (6-13) -- Last week No. 11
The good: Courtney Williams made the All-Star Game for the first time in her career and scored 15 points for Team WNBA in their upset win over Team USA. And despite everything that's gone wrong for the Dream, they're only 2.5 games out of the playoff race, which means they still have plenty to play for when the season resumes after the Olympics.
The bad: Where to start? Nicki Collen left them in the lurch by resigning out of nowhere in training camp. Injuries have been a major issue, as both Tiffany Hayes and Chennedy Carter have spent extended periods on the sideline. And speaking of Carter, she was suspended indefinitely due to conduct detrimental to the team. On the court they have the worst defense in the league.
12. Indiana Fever (4-16) -- Last week No. 12
The good: In all honesty this has been a pretty rough season in Indianapolis, and the positives are few and far between. But in a rare good stretch, they ended the first half on a three-game winning streak, which is somehow their longest since 2016. At the very least that should give them a little bit of confidence and a moral boost going into the break.
The bad: Just about everything besides the last three games. They're in last place at 4-16, and on pace to miss the playoffs for a franchise-worst fifth straight season. They can't score, they don't defend and they have the worst net rating in the league (minus-12.6) by some margin. On top of all that, they made the bizarre decision to cut Lauren Cox, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft.