Candace Parker signing with her hometown Chicago Sky was the biggest move of the offseason, and it generated plenty of excitement. Not only was she on the move after spending the first 13 seasons of her career in Los Angeles, but her arrival in Chicago meant the Sky were suddenly legitimate title contenders.
And then she hurt her ankle after just one game, and everything fell apart. Allie Quigley was injured as well, and Stefanie Dolson was on international duty, but Parker's absence was the primary reason they lost seven of their next eight games and briefly fell all the way down into 11th place in the standings.
As if intent on proving that point, Parker returned to the lineup on June 9 and the Sky haven't lost since. They've now won seven games in a row -- the longest winning streak in franchise history -- and have climbed all the way up to fourth place in the standings. When Parker plays, they're a perfect 8-0.
Admittedly they haven't had the toughest schedule during this stretch, with two wins against the Fever and two against the Jonquel Jones-less Sun. At the same time, five of the wins have come by double digits, so it's not as if this is some sort of fluke hot streak. They're generally destroying teams and have a plus-15.8 net rating since Parker came back.
They'll still have some things to prove come playoff time, but the Sky are showing why they were considered a contender coming into the season.
1. Seattle Storm (12-3) -- Last week No. 1
The Storm's five-game winning streak finally came to an end, as they lost to the Mystics in their only outing of the week. They remain in first place, however, and this result doesn't do anything to change their status as a contender. Now, they'll look ahead to a big showdown with the Aces on Sunday. Not only is that a Finals rematch, but it will decide the season series between the teams, which could prove important for seeding purposes.
2. Las Vegas Aces (10-3) -- Last week No. 2
The quirks of the WNBA schedule mean that every so often a team will go a long time without playing a game. Like, for example, the Aces, who had this entire past week off. They remain in second place and will carry their five-game winning streak into a big weekend that includes a matchup with the Lynx and a Finals rematch with the Storm. Depending on how things go, they could be in first place in a few days.
3. Chicago Sky (9-7) -- Last week No. 4
Chicago just keeps rolling right along. They've now won seven games in a row since Candace Parker returned to the lineup and are a perfect 8-0 when she plays this season. During the winning streak the Sky have a 109.9 offensive rating, which is the best in the league over that span. All of a sudden the Sky are only two and a half games out of a top-two seed.
4. Connecticut Sun (9-5) -- Last week No. 3
Jonquel Jones is still overseas putting together record-breaking performances for Bosnia and Herzegovina, who she led to the quarterfinals of EuroBasket for the first time ever. As a result, she still has at least one more game over there and might not feature for the Sun until July. Without her, the Sun are 1-3 and both their offense and defense have fallen off a cliff. The good news for them is they're still all alone in third place.
5. Washington Mystics (7-7) -- Last week No. 6
A loss to the Sparks ended the Mystics' three-game winning streak, but they're still 5-2 in their last seven games and are all alone in fifth place. No one would have projected that a few weeks ago given how the season started amid extensive injuries and absences. In wins over the Fever and Storm, Tina Charles became the first player in WNBA history to put up back-to-back 30-point, 15-rebound games.
6. Minnesota Lynx (6-7) -- Last week No. 5
The Lynx have now alternated wins and losses for their last seven games, and are just sort of hovering in the middle of the pack with a number of other teams. Injuries and absences have made it difficult to find any consistency; their most-played lineup has only been on the court for 57 minutes together. The Wings and Sparks are the only teams whose most common lineup has played fewer minutes.
7. Phoenix Mercury (6-7) -- Last week No. 7
Only one game for the Mercury this week, as they beat the Sparks to snap a four-game losing streak. In more good news, Diana Taurasi is nearing a return after more than a month on the sidelines with a fractured sternum. She told reporters she's "feeling much better" and hopes to play on Sunday against the Sparks. That will be a big boost for a Mercury team that has struggled in recent weeks.
8. Dallas Wings (7-8) -- Last week No. 9
Early in the season, the Wings could seemingly only play close games. Now it's flipped and they're only playing blowouts. After a mini two-game losing streak, the Wings bounced back this week with double-digit wins over the Lynx and Fever. As a result, they're closing in on a .500 record for the first time since the opening days of the season, and have climbed into a tie for sixth place.
9. Los Angeles Sparks (6-7) -- Last week No. 8
Led by a career-high 26 points from Te'a Cooper, the Sparks' bench scored a whopping 53 points in their win over the Mystics earlier this week. It was such a big night that it moved the Sparks from eighth to third in the league in bench scoring per game. Unfortunately for the Sparks that was a rare offensive outburst. They're still 11th in offensive rating and just haven't been able to find enough scoring to win consistently.
10. New York Liberty (7-8) -- Last week No. 10
The Liberty are still a mess. They did manage to beat the Sparks this week, but followed that up with back-to-back 20-point losses to the Sky. After a surprising 5-1 start, they've lost seven of their last nine games and are now under .500 for the first time all season. Sabrina Ionescu has only scored 18 points on 3 of 20 from the field since her return from an ankle injury, which makes you wonder if she came back too soon.
11. Atlanta Dream (5-8) -- Last week No. 11
Things just keep getting worse for the Dream lately. After falling to the Lynx this week they've now lost six of their last seven games and have dropped all the way to 11th place in the standings. If that wasn't bad enough, they'll also be without Tiffany Hayes until some time after the Olympic break due to a knee injury.
12. Indiana Fever (1-15) -- Last week No. 12
After falling to the Mystics and Dream this week, the Fever have now lost 11 games in a row and are 1-15 on the season. In the first 17 years of the franchise's existence, the Fever finished with single digit wins just once. Now, they're on pace to do it for the fourth time in five seasons.