It took until the final day of the regular season, but the 2021 WNBA Playoffs are now set. All of the action will get underway starting on Thursday night with the single-elimination first-round matchups featuring the Phoenix Mercury against the New York Liberty and the Chicago Sky versus the Dallas Wings.
The winners of those games will move on to face either the Minnesota Lynx or Seattle Storm on Sunday in the single-elimination second round. From there, the two teams that advance will meet either the Connecticut Sun or Las Vegas Aces in the semifinals.
Before the games begin, here's where each team stands in our pre-playoffs power rankings:
1. Connecticut Sun -- No. 1 seed, bye to semifinals
The Sun have been the team to beat for a while now, and there's no reason for that to change heading into the playoffs. In fact, Alyssa Thomas' return should make them even tougher. Jonquel Jones is going to win MVP, they can hit 3s and they have the best defense in the league by a wide margin. With the extra boost of homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, the Sun have a great chance to win their first title in franchise history.
2. Las Vegas Aces -- No. 2 seed, bye to semifinals
After getting swept in the Finals last season, the Aces are out to redeem themselves and claim their first-ever championship. Even without Angel McCoughtry, who went down with a torn ACL, they have the deepest roster in the league, and boasted seven double-figure scorers this season -- a WNBA record. The Sun's dominance has overshadowed them, but with A'ja Wilson leading the way, the Aces are a real threat to win it all.
3. Minnesota Lynx -- No. 3 seed, bye to second round
It took a little while for them to get going, but the Lynx's offseason moves paid off as they established themselves as one of the top teams this year. Napheesa Collier, Sylvia Fowles and Kayla McBride are a strong big three, and the Lynx are just so solid on both sides of the ball. They aren't one of the main contenders, but they're going to be a really tough out for whoever has to play them.
4. Phoenix Mercury -- No. 5 seed
It's hard to get a good read on the Mercury. They were unstoppable for a stretch just after the Olympic break, ripping off 10 wins in a row, but then missed out on a top-four seed because they lost their last three games. On the one hand, they have as much top-tier talent as anyone and an easy first-round matchup. On the other hand, Diana Taurasi's status is still up in the air due to an ankle injury and they were just 6-9 against .500 or better teams this season.
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5. Seattle Storm -- No. 4 seed, bye to second round
The Storm secured a vital first-round bye, which not only makes their path to the Finals easier but potentially buys Breanna Stewart a few more days to get healthy. Her status for the playoffs is still up in the air because of a foot injury and will determine how far the Storm can go. Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird are still an elite duo but without Stewart, it's hard to see the Storm repeating as champions.
6. Chicago Sky -- No. 6 seed
If Candace Parker hadn't missed nine games due to various ankle injuries, the Sky might not be in a position where they have to win two single-elimination games just to get to the semifinals, but alas. This team is too talented to write off completely, and on their day they can beat anyone in the league. It's just hard to have much confidence in them when you don't know what you're getting from game to game.
7. Dallas Wings -- No. 7 seed
First-year head coach Vickie Johnson has the Wings back in the playoffs for the first time since 2018, but it's hard to see them making much noise. There's a lot of young talent on this team, but right now they don't have the experience or consistency to hang with the league's elite. They were just 6-12 against teams .500 or better this season, compared to 8-6 against sub-.500 opponents.
8. New York Liberty -- No. 8 seed
The Liberty are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2017, but that says more about the state of the bottom half of the league than anything else. They closed the season losing 11 of their last 13 games, and at 12-20 they have the lowest winning percentage (0.375) of any playoff team in WNBA history.