Around the WNBA: Mystics still dominant without Delle Donne, Cloud, Charles

Myisha-Hines-Allen

Washington Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen (2) goes up for a shot over Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) during the first half of a WNBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. (Chris O'Meara / AP)

The 2020 WNBA season has finished its first week of play with each team finishing four games in the last eight days since the first tip-off, a total of 24 games during that span, which includes its Monday rest day.

Here’s a quick look around the league at how each team has fared thus far in the early goings.

Early contenders

Though no team has managed to navigate the first week undefeated, four teams currently hold the top spots with a 3-1 record: the Chicago Sky, Washington Mystics, Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx.

It may not seem like a shock to see the Mystics, the 2019 WNBA champions, in this position, but this season they’re playing without reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, and Tina Charles, just to name a few of their key players who aren’t part of the “wubble.” Ariel Atkins and Aerial Powers have been a threat on the offensive end, each averaging 18 points per game, while Myisha Hines-Allen has been holding down the backcourt averaging 9.3 rebounds a game. Washington may have lost its last game to fellow top contender Chicago by one basket, its only loss, but the Mystics still have a top record including a dominant 89-71 win against Seattle the game prior.

The Storm’s record is also a shock to nobody with the return of both Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, a duo that helped the team lift the 2018 WNBA trophy. Stewart has been a driving force for Seattle on both offence and defence, averaging 18 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game – almost double what any of her teammates have this season in the former two categories. Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada have helped fill in any gaps for the Storm on the offensive end, with Loyd adding 17 points in their win over the Los Angeles Sparks while Canada added 16 of her own.

Minnesota may have had what some call an “easy” route to a 3-1 record, playing the 0-4 Connecticut Sun twice already this season, and recording a 24-point loss to Seattle with only a two-point victory over Chicago. Sylvia Fowles has been controlling both sides of the court, averaging 15.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game for the Lynx, leading the league in both rebounds and blocks, averaging 1.8 per game – the same as six-foot-eight Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury.

Possibly the most shocking team to be 3-1 at this point in the season is Chicago, with Kahleah Copper and Azura Stevens both averaging roughly 14 points per game. Three of the Sky’s games have been decided by one basket, including their loss to Minnesota, but Gabby Williams’ impact on both sides of the court helped Chicago navigate past the 2019 champs in their last game, scoring 16 points with four assists and nabbing nine rebounds.

Room for growth

Six teams follow the top four with a 2-2 record: the Sparks, Las Vegas Aces, Indiana Fever, Atlanta Dream, Dallas Wings and Mercury.

Phoenix looks to be the team to beat in the future despite its slow start, crushing the New York Liberty in their last match by 29 points. Bria Hartley has been dominant on offence, with a 19.8 points-per-game average, that puts her second in league scoring, which included a new career-high of 27 against the Liberty. Diana Taurasi continued her sustained success and added 18 points and nine assists in the game, while Griner added 16 points and six rebounds of her own.

Las Vegas also boasts a dominant roster that will be a threat to defenders across the league in the coming games. So far, the Aces have seen their worst loss by only seven points while their biggest win was by a margin of 30 points against Atlanta.

Indiana is another team that had to adjust once the season started as it dropped its first game to Washington by 25 points, but earned convincing wins over both Phoenix and Atlanta. Two members of the Fever put up 20-plus points in their win against the Dream – Kelsey Mitchell with 23 and Candice Dupree added 21 of her own. Teaira McCowan and Julie Allemand also helped drive both sides of the game, McCowan with 12 points and six rebounds as Allemand scored 10 points and nabbed seven rebounds.

Arike Ogunbowale and rookie Satou Sabally are making an impact for the Wings. Despite their loss to Las Vegas, the pair combined for 30 points and seven rebounds, with Ogunbowale dropping 20 alone. Sabally’s defensive efforts led to six of those rebounds, and though the former teammate of Liberty star rookie Sabrina Ionescu may be slightly overshadowed by the 2020 No. 1-overall pick, her 23 points and 17 rebounds in her third-ever WNBA game against Indiana proves that she has hustle of her own.

The 2016 WNBA champion Sparks may be one of the more scrutinized 2-2 records, after they beat the Sun by only five points, following that game with a loss to Seattle. However, Sparks players are in the top-five of leaderboards in six different areas: Candace Parker is third in the league for blocks, averaging 1.5, and fourth in rebounds with 9.8 , while Chelsea Gray is averaging 6.3 assists a game. Parker still tallied 19 points and 12 rebounds in their previous loss, but Los Angeles has a chance to go 4-2 in its next two games against Indiana and Las Vegas.

Atlanta, the final of the 2-2 teams, maybe the most disappointing. Though the Dream sport the same record as the previous five, their 16- and 30-point losses outweigh their 10- and six-point wins, the former against the winless Liberty. On the bright side, rookie Chennedy Carter is already showing out for the Dream, averaging 15.3 points a game including 18 points, eight assists and five rebounds in her debut, proving herself in the early going as a nice complement to the likes of Elizabeth Williams and Betnijah Laney on both sides of the court.

Very slow out the gate

The final two teams in the “wubble” are Connecticut and New York, who have yet to find a win this season.

The Liberty have been battling injuries more than any other team this season, with Kia Nurse suffering a left ankle sprain in the first game of the season, and prized rookie Ionescu suffering the same fate two games later while already missing Asia Durr after her opt-out. Ionescu, however, has proved that her dominance won’t be left in college, scoring 30 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in her second-ever WNBA game. And though the Liberty’s schedule is unforgiving in their next two matches against Minnesota and Washington, there’s potential for their young core to do damage when healthy.

The Sun are another team who are still struggling to find their first win, despite DeWanna Bonner leading the league in scoring with a 27.5 average. Meanwhile, Alyssa Thomas is leading the way for Connecticut with her 11-rebound and a 2.5-steal averages – both good for second in the league. Connecticut has never lost a game by more than nine points and will have played all four 3-1 teams in its first five games, so its matchup against Dallas on Thursday gives it the best chance to finally pick up a win.

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