The Associated Press has released their first (and only) preseason WNBA Power Rankings poll. The Mystics came in at number 8, just barely squeaking into the playoffs (remember, new WNBA playoff rules seed teams with no regard to conference).
The top four are hard to argue with. The Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury have both terrorized the league over the past few seasons, causing many to call the Western Conference Finals the "real" finals (a factor that probably influenced the new seeding rules). The Chicago Sky and New York Liberty are each lead by an MVP in her prime (reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne and 2012 MVP Tina Charles, respectively) and topped the Eastern conference last year.
After the top four, however, there is some room to argue. The Indiana Fever come in at 5th. It's hard to justify that from the roster alone, with franchise player Tamika Catchings well past her prime and retiring at the end of this season, but Indiana always finds a way to overperform (making it to the finals last year and winning a title in 2012).
The number six and seven teams, however, still have a lot to prove. The Los Angeles Sparks are perhaps the anti-Indiana Fever, perpetually underperforming despite having a star-studded roster. Two-time MVP Candace Parker may be especially motivated after being snubbed from the Olympic team, but Parker's production has never been what's wrong with the Sparks. They've been plagued by a combination of poor chemistry and questionable backcourt production, and frankly still need to show us that they can put that behind them.
The Dallas Wings (formerly the Tulsa Shock) have a collection of exciting young talent. Fourth-year player Skylar Diggins looked to be en route to winning Most Improved Player (and contending for MVP) before tearing her ACL last season. But the Wings young core, while having a bright future, still have no proven anything. 2015 was the franchise's first postseason appearance since leaving Detroit for Tulsa (and essentially becoming an expansion team when their free agents refused to follow them). They were easily swept by Phoenix in the first round.
Which brings us to number eight, the Washington Mystics. While some skepticism about the Mystics is warranted (they haven't really proven anything in the postseason, either), they have had more consistency than either Los Angeles or Dallas, and are arguably both better coached and deeper than either of the two teams immediately above them. They are starting with a strong foundation, having been to the playoffs in each of the past three seasons (with the same core players in the last two). Their core players are all entering their primes, making the transition from "young player" to "young veteran." And of course, if Emma Meesseman takes the next leap all bets are off.
It's understandable why the AP writers were skeptical about the Mystics. I probably would only rank them a spot or two higher, personally. But that doesn't mean that there isn't plenty to be excited about for the Mystics this year.
Full poll results:
- Minnesota Lynx
- Phoenix Mercury
- Chicago Sky
- New York Liberty
- Indiana Fever
- Los Angeles Sparks
- Dallas Wings
- Washington Mystics
- Seattle Storm
- Connecticut Sun
- Atlanta Dream
- San Antonio Stars