After a somewhat nerve-wracking offseason, the Seattle Storm brought back all three of Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird, and traded for Gabby Williams. The hope was that with their big three healthy once again, and an improved defense, they could once again rejoin the ranks of title contenders.
So far, however, that hasn't happened. While the Storm certainly haven't been bad this season, they've also clearly been a tier below the top teams like the Aces, Sky and Sun. The main issue is on the offensive end, where they simply don't score consistently enough – especially when multiple starters are off the court. Their 98.9 offensive rating is ninth in the league, and their 15.9 bench points per game are 10th.
Having one of the best defenses in the league is great, but come playoff time you're going to be able to need to put points on the board to beat other elite teams in a series. It's hard to do that when Stewart and Loyd are the only players who can reliably create their own shot.
To that point, it's no surprise that the Storm quickly came to an agreement with Tina Charles on a contract for the remainder of the season following her shocking departure from the Mercury. The reigning scoring champion put up 17.3 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting from the field and 36.4 percent from 3-point land in her 16 appearances with the Mercury, and is still one of the most talented individual offensive players in the league.
However, she reportedly left Phoenix in part because of complaints about her role in the offense, and passed on signing with Seattle in the offseason because of how they were planning to use her. It's hard to imagine those concerns suddenly disappeared, and have to be considered along with the negative impact she'll have on the defensive end.
The upside, though, is clearly worth it for the Storm, who would not have been able to find another player as talented as Charles on the waiver wire or trade market. If they can find the proper balance between Charles' offensive abilities and their defensive system, she could be the boost they need to truly compete for a third title in five seasons.
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1. Chicago Sky (13-5) -- Last week No. 3
What a week for the Sky. It started out with a 28-point comeback win over the Aces on the road, which set a record for the biggest comeback in WNBA history, and ended with a buzzer-beating victory over the Lynx. While the coaching staff and fans would probably prefer it if they stopped making things so interesting all the time, wins are wins and the Sky have been racking up a lot of them lately. With their three-game winning streak and 8-2 mark in their last 10 games, they're suddenly just one game out of first.
2. Las Vegas Aces (14-4) -- Last week No. 1
After cruising through nearly the entire first half of the season, the Aces have finally hit a rough patch. They blew a 28-point lead to the Sky, then lost in overtime to the Mystics to record back-to-back defeats for the first time all season. They're still clearly one of the best teams in the league, but this week was the first sign that relying almost entirely on your starters may not be sustainable.
3. Connecticut Sun (13-6) -- Last week No. 2
Much like the Aces, the Sun are in a bit of a rut. With their loss to the Liberty, they dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season, and are just 3-3 in their last three games. Their continued inability to get Jonquel Jones consistent touches remains baffling. She took just seven shots in their win over the Dream, and is averaging 10.3 – her lowest mark since 2018. There's no reason the reigning MVP should be 33rd in the league in shot attempts per game.
4. Seattle Storm (11-7) -- Last week No. 5
Just as the Storm seemed to have it rolling, they went and lost to the Sparks at home in a game in which they scored just nine points in the fourth quarter. Offense has been a problem for them at times this season, but they hope they've found the answer in Tina Charles. The reigning scoring champion has signed with the Storm for the remainder of the season after leaving the Mercury in stunning fashion.
5. Washington Mystics (12-9) -- Last week No. 4
Despite a 1-2 mark this week, there were a lot of positives for the Mystics to take away. Most notably, they went on the road and took down the league-leading Aces in overtime for their best win of the season. Furthermore, Alysha Clark seems to be fully healthy and back in her groove. She averaged 12.7 points, six rebounds and 2.7 steals this week, while shooting 59.3 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from 3-point land.
6. New York Liberty (8-10) -- Last week No. 9
Two games and two wins this week for the Liberty, who went into Connecticut and handed the Sun just their second home defeat all season, then followed that up with a comfortable win over the Dream. The Liberty are now 7-3 in June and have the league's best net rating (plus 7.3 points per 100 possessions) in the month. At this point it's time to throw their disastrous start out the window; the Liberty are for real.
7. Dallas Wings (9-10) -- Last week No. 6
The Wings' topsy-turvy season continued with a win over the Fever sandwiched between losses to the Dream and Mercury. As a result, they are now once again back under .500 for the season. It wasn't all bad news for the Wings this week, however, as head coach Vickie Johnson noted that the team hopes to have Satou Sabally back before the All-Star break. She's missed the last six games with a knee injury
8. Phoenix Mercury (8-12) -- Last week No. 8
In perhaps the most surprising news of the season, at least to those outside the organization, Tina Charles parted ways with the Mercury this week. As it turns out, there had been issues all season long, including multiple games where Charles elected not to play. While the Mercury won't be able to replace her talent, they may benefit from a better locker room experience. Plus, with Charles out of the equation they'll be forced to play with only one big, which is probably for the best.
9. Los Angeles Sparks (7-11) -- Last week No. 11
The Sparks looked like a defeated club last week so, of course, they bounced back this week with wins over the Mystics and Storm, and a narrow defeat to the league-leading Aces. For all of this team's faults, it does have talent, and on nights when All-Star starter Nneka Ogwumike gets even a little bit of help the Sparks can play with anyone. The problem is there's just no reason to trust that will happen on a consistent basis.
10. Atlanta Dream (8-10) -- Last week No. 7
While the Dream did beat the Wings early in the week to end their season-long four-game losing streak, they weren't able to build on that result and promptly suffered double-digit defeats to the Liberty and Sun. Injuries are really starting to pile up in Atlanta, and they couldn't have come at a worse time given the unkind schedule in the coming weeks. Up next is a road trip to face the Mystics and Liberty, followed by a home game versus the Storm.
11. Minnesota Lynx (5-14) -- Last week No. 12
Sylvia Fowles returned to the lineup out of nowhere this week, so apparently her knee injury was not as bad as the Lynx made it seem. With Fowles and Moriah Jefferson back, and Jessica Shepard playing the best basketball of her career, the Lynx are now a much more competitive club. Unfortunately, they haven't been able to turn those better performances into wins often enough. After a buzzer-beating loss to the Sky, their last four losses have all been by four points or less.
12. Indiana Fever (5-15) -- Last week No. 10
The first two games of the Fever's West Coast road trip did not go well, as they suffered double-digit defeats to both the Wings and the Mercury to drop to 5-15 on the season and back into last place. While there have definitely been some positive signs for the Fever this season, this week was a reminder that there's still a lot of work to do in Indiana. They've now lost 11 games by double digits; no other team has more than six such losses.