WNBA Power Rankings: Griner returns, Stewart stars and Sky make big jump

Kahleah Copper drops 8 consecutive points for the Sky (0:44)

Kahleah Copper is automatic as she knocks down three consecutive baskets to extend the Sky's lead. (0:44)

After an opening weekend when Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner's official "welcome back" was the WNBA's biggest story, the Chicago Sky were the league's biggest movers in ESPN's WNBA Power Rankings.

The Sky jumped six spots to No. 4 after road wins against the Minnesota Lynx and the Mercury, the latter when the focus was on Griner making her home debut after missing last season while imprisoned in Russia.

The Sky, led by 15 points from Kahleah Copper in Phoenix on Sunday, kept the Mercury from a perfect ending on BG's big day and began their season in such a way to make people second-guess their gloomy preseason predictions.

The loss of Courtney Vandersloot and Candace Parker to free agency sent the Sky plummeting in many prognostications, including ESPN's preseason rankings. And while it's early, the 2-0 start was just what Chicago and coach James Wade were hoping to get.

Meanwhile, Breanna Stewart made her home debut for the New York Liberty an unforgettable one with a franchise-record 45 points Sunday in beating the Indiana Fever. If you're a Seattle Storm fan, there's no reason to toss your Stewie jersey on the flames; she did help the franchise win the 2018 and 2020 WNBA championships during her six seasons in the Emerald City.

However, you might feel like packing the jersey away far out of sight after her "Feels like I made the right decision" remark on what it was like to take the court in Brooklyn in front of family and friends. Makes complete sense for the Syracuse native to feel that way, but it stings for Seattle fans to think Stewart won't spend her career with the Storm. But to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, you'll always have Sue Bird.

Aces dominate in opening game of the season

The Aces look like the defending champs as they cruise to an opening game victory over the Storm.

1. Las Vegas Aces
Record: 1-0
Previous ranking: 1
This week: at Los Angeles (Thursday), vs. Los Angeles (Saturday), vs. Minnesota (Sunday)

The defending champion Aces picked up where they left off last year, overwhelming the Storm by a record-41 points in Seattle to get the 2023 season started. Coach Becky Hammon was suspended for that game and this week's first game by the WNBA after it investigated former player Dearica Hamby's allegations against Las Vegas when she was traded to the Sparks in January. Look who the Aces play back-to-back this week: Hamby and the Sparks. Could be a bit awkward.

2. Connecticut Sun
Record: 2-0
Previous ranking: 4
This week: at Washington (Tuesday), at New York (Saturday)

Jonquel Jones, Jasmine Thomas and coach Curt Miller have all moved on, but the Sun started strong under new leader Stephanie White. After extending the Indiana Fever's woes into a new season by beating them 70-61 on Friday, Connecticut then edged the Mystics 80-74 Sunday in the best game of the weekend. The Sun's "Big Three" -- Alyssa Thomas, Dewanna Bonner and Brionna Jones -- led the way, as they are expected to all season.

Mystics' Shakira Austin with the big block

Mystics' Shakira Austin with the big block

3. Washington Mystics
Record: 1-1
Previous ranking: 3
This week: vs. Connecticut (Tuesday), at Chicago (Thursday)

The Mystics hold onto the No. 3 spot on the strength of their season-opening 80-64 victory over the Liberty, when Stewart was held to just 12 points. Washington then fell to Connecticut, but Shakira Austin and Elena Delle Donne both had double-doubles for the Mystics. We will see what new head coach Eric Thibault does differently in a rematch with the Sun this week.

4. Chicago Sky
Record: 2-0
Previous ranking: 10
This week: vs. Washington (Friday), vs. Dallas (Sunday)

We knew returning star guard Copper would be the Sky's stalwart player; she had a combined 35 points in Chicago's victories over Minnesota and Phoenix. One newcomer to Chicago really stood out, too: veteran center Elizabeth Williams with a combined 24 points and 14 rebounds. With post players Parker, Emma Meesseman and Azura Stevens all gone off last year's Sky team, Williams should be a crucial factor in Chicago's success.

Breanna Stewart's 45-point game sets Liberty record

Breanna Stewart sets a new career high in points as she finishes with 45 in the Liberty's victory over the Fever.

5. New York Liberty
Record: 1-1
Previous ranking: 2
This week: vs. Connecticut (Saturday)

The Liberty fell to the Mystics in Friday's season opener, but before anyone could start dragging one of the WNBA's superteams, New York got the Stewie Show on Sunday. It came against still struggling Indiana, but it set a perfect tone for Stewart's home opener in a Liberty uniform. Stewart led New York in rebounding, and Courtney Vandersloot was tops in assists in both games.

6. Los Angeles Sparks
Record: 1-0
Previous ranking: 8
This week: vs. Las Vegas (Thursday), at Las Vegas (Saturday)

There was a lot to like as the Sparks opened the Curt Miller era with a 94-71 victory over Phoenix: such as rookie Zia Cooke from the South Carolina Gamecocks getting 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and looking like a pro already. Also the Ogwumike sisters, Nneka and Chiney, combined for 32 points and both were at plus-19. Plus, Hamby had nine points as she returned to action after the birth of her second child.

Arike Ogunbowale's 3 caps off 19-0 run for the Wings

Arike Ogunbowale sinks a deep 3-pointer to finish off a 19-0 run for the Wings.

7. Dallas Wings
Record: 1-0
Previous ranking: 5
This week: at Seattle (Friday), at Chicago (Sunday)

The Wings looked like they had Saturday's opener in control vs. the Atlanta Dream, but it got a little too close for comfort at the end. Still, a win is a win, and Arike Ogunbowale remains a scoring tour de force, opening with 27 points, while Satou Sabally had 25 and Natasha Howard 20. Center Teaira McCowan had to leave the game with an apparent knee injury, so that could be a concern.

Napheesa Collier drills trey for Minnesota Lynx vs. Chicago Sky

Napheesa Collier drills trey for Minnesota Lynx vs. Chicago Sky

8. Minnesota Lynx
Record: 0-1
Previous ranking: 7
This week: vs. Atlanta (Tuesday), at Phoenix (Thursday), at Las Vegas (Sunday)

All the pieces to be a good team seem to be there for the Lynx, but they need time to come together. You could say that about several WNBA teams this early, but that's definitely the feeling here after Minnesota's 77-66 loss to Chicago in the opener. Napheesa Collier, who missed most of last season on maternity leave, was 5 of 14 from the field against the Sky. That inefficiency is something she seems likely to fix soon.

9. Atlanta Dream
Record: 0-1
Previous ranking: 9
This week: at Minnesota (Tuesday), vs. Indiana (Sunday)

Rhyne Howard, the 2022 No. 1 draft pick and WNBA Rookie of the Year, led the Dream in their season-opening loss at Dallas with 20 points, while Cheyenne Parker had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Those two seem likely to be pillars for whatever the Dream accomplish this season, along with Allisha Gray.

10. Phoenix Mercury
Record: 0-2
Previous ranking: 6
This week: vs. Minnesota (Thursday)

After a joyful but also emotionally taxing weekend in welcoming Griner home, the Mercury and their star center are looking forward to things quieting down a bit. Plus, they hope to get healthier. Sophie Cunningham was on a minutes restriction Sunday due to injury, and Megan Gustafson and Shey Peddy are still out. Brianna Turner hasn't taken a shot from the field yet, so that's something Phoenix will look to remedy, too.

11. Seattle Storm
Record: 0-1
Previous ranking: 11
This week: vs. Dallas (Friday)

Somebody had to face Las Vegas first this season; unfortunately for the Storm, it was them. Six Aces players scored in double figures Saturday, and the team shot 54.8% in Las Vegas' 105-64 victory. Guard Jewell Loyd was the only Seattle player to score in double figures, and the Storm shot just 32.1%. Seattle has to put this game in the rearview mirror and work on every aspect of becoming a better team.

12. Indiana Fever
Record: 0-2
Previous ranking: 12
This week: at Atlanta (Sunday)

The Fever ended last season on an 18-game losing streak; it has stretched to 20 now after Indiana fell to Connecticut and New York on opening weekend. The good news was No. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston had 15 points in each game. We'll watch her progress. The Fever seem to have a long road ahead again.