Midseason grades for all 12 WNBA teams: Why Liberty, Lynx and Sun get high marks

  • Michael Voepel, ESPN.comJul 4, 2024, 08:00 AM ET

    Close

      Michael Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

The WNBA team in the Big Apple is at the top of the class. The two-time defending champion is above average. And a playoff team from last season needs study hall.

With the league’s 12 teams at or near the halfway point of the 40-game schedule, it’s time for the WNBA midseason report card.

Grades are always somewhat subjective, but the top three — the New York Liberty, Minnesota Lynx and Connecticut Sun — were clear. The Liberty have a slight grading edge with three more wins than the Lynx, although New York also has played one more game.

The 17-3 Liberty’s high grade isn’t unexpected; they returned all the key players from the 2023 team that lost to the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Finals. But New York’s depth and cohesion were on display when it played an eight-game stretch without point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who was away because of her mother’s death.

Last year’s experience with a new-look team — the Liberty brought in forwards Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones in addition to Vandersloot — helped prepare New York for what it hopes is the franchise’s long-awaited championship run.

Minnesota (14-5) won the in-season Commissioner’s Cup title and hopes to get back to the WNBA Finals for the first time since the Lynx won their fourth championship in 2017. The 15-4 Sun, like the Liberty, are still seeking the franchise’s first WNBA championship, but once again they are in the mix.

The back-to-back champion Aces are 11-6 and not in the “A” grades now. But after hitting what for them seemed like rock bottom with a .500 record on June 15, things have gotten considerably better, as they match the Liberty’s current five-game winning streak. The Aces’ grade has improved a lot in the past two weeks.

Rookies Angel Reese of the Chicago Sky and Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever would both get As for how quickly they’ve adjusted to pro ball. Their teams don’t grade that high, but the Sky and Fever should feel good about being in the playoff discussion.

The teams at the bottom of the report card aren’t out of playoff contention yet. But things must change a lot for them to climb into the top eight.

New York Liberty: A+

The Liberty haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been pretty darn good. They made the Commissioner’s Cup final, losing to Minnesota, and they also have gone 1-1 vs. the Lynx in the regular season. New York is 9-1 in its past 10 games (not counting the Cup final) and ranks second in the league in scoring (87.2) and first in rebounding (36.3) and 3-pointers per game (10.5).
Extra credit: Mascot Ellie the Elephant is killing it.

play

0:59

Liberty surge into lead with late 15-0 run

The Liberty take the lead for good with a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter vs. the Lynx.


Minnesota Lynx: A

Any external doubts about the Lynx were gone almost as soon as the season started; it was clear how well they played together. Napheesa Collier, the Commissioner’s Cup final MVP, has elevated to “face of the franchise” importance. Alanna Smith has shown that last year’s improvement in her game was sustainable. Kayla McBride, who turned 32 the day the Lynx won the Cup, is shooting a career-high 43.3% from 3-point range.
Extra credit: The Lynx are the WNBA’s “Team World,” with players from six countries other than the United States on their roster.


Connecticut Sun: A-

Coach Stephanie White kept saying even during the Sun’s 13-1 start that she could see areas in which the Sun weren’t playing well. They have gone 2-3 since but are still near the top of the standings and among the teams with realistic hopes to reach the WNBA Finals. Five players are averaging in double-figures scoring, led by DeWanna Bonner’s 16.2 points per game.
Extra credit: Guards DiJonai Carrington and Tyasha Harris could compete for Most Improved Player; both are full-time starters for the first time and having career years.


Seattle Storm: B+

The Storm knew 2023 would be rough; they went 11-29. Guard Jewell Loyd, who led the WNBA in scoring last season, has more help this year with forward Nneka Ogwumike and guard Skylar Diggins-Smith signing with Seattle. Those three plus forward/center Ezi Magbegor — who was robbed of a deserved All-Star spot — have become the big four for Seattle (13-6).
Extra credit: The Storm are the only team in the top five of the current standings that didn’t make the playoffs last year.


Las Vegas Aces: B

Short version: The Aces missed Chelsea Gray. The Point Gawd missed Las Vegas’ first 12 games as she rehabbed from a foot injury suffered in last year’s WNBA Finals. The Aces were 6-6 before she returned June 19. Since then, they are 5-0. Gray takes pressure off everyone else and helps them focus on what they do best. Forward A’ja Wilson, though, is doing everything the best and is the MVP front-runner.
Extra credit: Kate Martin seems charmingly baffled as to why she’s so popular, but the 18th overall pick last April has been the perfect rookie addition for Las Vegas.

play

1:56

Kelsey Plum scores season-high 34 in win over Fever

Kelsey Plum shines with 34 points to lead the Aces over the Fever at home.


Chicago Sky: C+

The Sky came close to being in the “B” grades despite their 7-11 record. That’s because many assumed it was a rebuilding year in Chicago and the Sky would be in last place. But they’re not. New coach Teresa Weatherspoon has gotten the best thus far from forward Angel Reese, the WNBA’s leading rebounder and a strong Rookie of the Year candidate. Guards Chennedy Carter and Marina Mabrey are having their best all-around seasons.
Extra credit: The Sky have won the same number of games at home and on the road (four each). Dallas is the only other team to do that, with two each.

play

1:29

Angel Reese’s double-double streak hits 11 in win over Dream

Angel Reese racks up 12 points and 19 rebounds to extend her WNBA single-season record to 11 consecutive double-doubles.


Atlanta Dream: C

The Dream are where many projected them to be: around the middle of the pack and in playoff position. Guard Rhyne Howard, who hasn’t played since injuring her ankle June 19, is Atlanta’s biggest concern right now. Guard Allisha Gray and center Tina Charles, in her first season with the Dream, are leading the way for the Dream, who also got guard Jordin Canada back from injury June 23.
Extra credit: Charles has played for six of the current 12 franchises and averaged nearly a double-double in her 14 seasons.


Indiana Fever: C

No team, player or coach has been under more scrutiny than the Fever, Caitlin Clark and coach Christie Sides. But after a 1-8 start during a challenging schedule, Indiana is 8-13 and has three players going to the All-Star Game: Clark, fellow guard Kelsey Mitchell and forward Aliyah Boston. The Fever’s goal: ending the franchise’s seven-season playoff drought. Along the way, they are racking up huge attendance numbers.
Extra credit: Not everyone agrees, but the Fever’s colorful new home-court design looks great on TV.


Phoenix Mercury: C-

The Mercury were headed to a “D” grade had they lost at Dallas on Wednesday, but they won 104-96. They have been the league’s biggest enigma in 2024: beating four of the top five teams in the standings but also losing to two of the bottom four. Center Brittney Griner, who missed the first 10 games with a toe injury, is one of three U.S. Olympians on the Mercury, with Kahleah Copper and Diana Taurasi. With new coach Nate Tibbetts and new faces including Copper and Natasha Cloud, the Mercury are still figuring out how to play together.
Extra credit: The Mercury are 10-10, the seventh time this season they’ve had a .500 record.


Washington Mystics: D

Natasha Cloud left in free agency, and Elena Delle Donne isn’t playing in the WNBA this season, her future uncertain. The Mystics are entering a new era in which No. 6 draft pick Aaliyah Edwards could play a big role. But with guard Brittney Sykes and center Shakira Austin limited to nine games combined because of injuries, it’s not surprising the Mystics went 0-12 to start the season. Still, they have won five games and are not in last place, both positives.
Extra credit: Center Stefanie Dolson’s WNBA career started in Washington in 2014 and she’s now back there 10 years later.


Los Angeles Sparks: D-

Of the Sparks’ two 2024 lottery selections, No. 2 pick Cameron Brink is out for the rest of the season because of a knee injury and No. 4 pick Rickea Jackson (10.2 PPG) is the only Sparks player besides Dearica Hamby (18.3 PPG) who is averaging in double-figures scoring. Hamby (10.3 RPG) is the only strong rebounder with Brink out; the next best is center Li Yueru’s 3.6 RPG. Guard Lexie Brown is out indefinitely with Crohn’s disease. The Sparks (4-15) have the WNBA’s longest current losing streak at eight in a row and are likely to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
Extra credit: The Sparks were spared the lowest grade because of Dallas’ struggles.


Dallas Wings: F

The Wings wanted to pick up where they left off last season with the momentum of making the semifinals. The opposite has happened. Forward Satou Sabally (shoulder) is out until after she plays for Germany in the Olympics. Natasha Howard (broken foot) missed eight games. She is back, but fellow forward Maddy Siegrist now is out with a broken finger.
Extra credit: Guard Arike Ogunbowale is second in the league in scoring (23.8 PPG) and an All-Star, so it’s not completely bleak for Dallas (4-16).