This week, the New York Liberty's Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot go back to the cities that, until this season, defined their WNBA careers. In both cases, these will be bittersweet visits for fans of the Seattle Storm and Chicago Sky.
New York plays at Seattle on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and at Chicago on Friday, and both players seem likely to get warm welcomes. Stewart was the Storm's No. 1 draft pick in 2016, and played at an MVP level there for six years (she missed the 2019 season with an Achilles injury). She was a key factor in Seattle's 2018 and 2020 WNBA titles.
Vandersloot was even more ensconced in Chicago simply by being there longer. The No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft, she became one of the best point guards in WNBA history during her 12 seasons with the Sky. The 2021 championship was the team's highlight, and also seemed like the basketball gods' payoff to Vandersloot for her loyalty to the franchise.
Their moves to the Liberty as free agents made sense for both for different reasons. For Stewart, it's a return to her home state. For Vandersloot, it's a chance to finally experience a different franchise and to team with two MVP post players in their primes in Stewart and Jonquel Jones.
None of this is easy for the Storm or Sky faithful, but the player movement we've seen the past few years in the WNBA is just beginning to resemble what it looks like in other pro sports.
There are still a few players we can't quite imagine wearing any other WNBA uniform, such as the Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi (19th season) and Brittney Griner (10th), Los Angeles Sparks' Nneka Ogwumike (12th) and Connecticut Sun's Alyssa Thomas (10th). Getting closer to that status are Seattle's Jewell Loyd (ninth season) and the Washington Mystics' Natasha Cloud (eighth), although both will be unrestricted free agents in 2024.
In the WNBA of today and the future, the odds of a player spending her entire career with one organization are far less than they used to be. For Storm and Sky fans, this week is a reminder of that, and a chance to say, "Thanks for the memories."
1. Las Vegas Aces
Previous ranking: 1
This week: at Atlanta (Friday), at Indiana (Sunday)
It was awkward, but everyone on both sides got through it OK: The Aces received their diamond-laden 2022 championship rings Saturday, and so did former Aces/current Sparks forward Dearica Hamby. The crowd at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas cheered for Hamby, and then watched the Aces clobber the shorthanded Sparks 93-65. This was two days after a closer game between the teams in Los Angeles, won 94-85 by Las Vegas. Sunday, the Aces beat Minnesota 94-73. If those scores make it seem as if the Aces' offense is already machine-like, it is. Jackie Young, in particular, is on fire, leading Las Vegas at 23.0 PPG while shooting 61.8% from the field, 56.5% from behind the arc.
Connecticut Sun vs. New York Liberty: Full Highlights
2. Connecticut Sun
Previous ranking: 2
This week: vs. Indiana (Tuesday), at Minnesota (Thursday), vs. Dallas (Sunday)
The Sun got their second victory over the Mystics this past week, but then lost their first game of the season at New York. The Liberty made life hard for Alyssa Thomas, who scored just five points, all on free throws. She had double-doubles in her first three games. For now, the Sun stay put in the Power Rankings.
3. Chicago Sky
Previous ranking: 4
This week: at Atlanta (Tuesday), vs. New York (Friday), at New York (Sunday)
You have to hand it to the Sky, whose offseason personnel losses have been well-chronicled. A two-point loss to the Mystics on Friday is their only loss so far. Despite being down to nine available players because of injuries to Rebekah Gardner and Morgan Bertsch, Chicago beat Dallas on Sunday, led by Marina Mabrey's 23 points and Alanna Smith's first WNBA double-double. This week the Sky will see old friend Vandersloot and the Liberty twice.
4. New York Liberty
Previous ranking: 5
This week: at Seattle (Tuesday), at Chicago (Friday), vs. Chicago (Sunday)
New York's only game of the week was a 81-65 victory over visiting Connecticut. The Liberty trailed at halftime, but took over in the third quarter, with Stewart, Vandersloot and Sabrina Ionescu finishing with double-digit point totals. We will see what kind of show Stewart, who already has a 45-point game this young season, puts on back in Seattle this week.
5. Washington Mystics
Previous ranking: 3
This week: vs. Dallas (Friday), vs. Minnesota (Saturday)
Both the Mystics' losses so far are to Connecticut. It was big week for Elena Delle Donne, who had 27 points in falling to the Sun on Tuesday and 25 in Washington's 72-69 victory at Chicago on Friday. That was a rough offensive game for the Mystics' backcourt, but as a team they still got the job done. This week brings their first games on back-to-back days, something Delle Donne avoided last season.
Dallas Wings vs. Chicago Sky: Full Highlights
6. Dallas Wings
Previous ranking: 7
This week: vs. Minnesota (Tuesday), at Washington (Friday), at Connecticut (Sunday)
The Wings got off to a 2-0 start, the franchise's first since 2007. But their first loss came in Chicago on Sunday. Center Teaira McCowan is still out with injury; the Wings hope she will return soon. Right now, they have just nine available players, two of them rookies. A lot is on the shoulders of guard Arike Ogunbowale, as usual, and she's leading the league in scoring at 26.7 PPG.
7. Los Angeles Sparks
Previous ranking: 6
This week: at Phoenix (Friday), vs. Seattle (Saturday)
It's hard enough to face Las Vegas when you are at full strength. The Sparks did it twice this past week limited to eight players both games due to injuries and illness. Having to go against the Aces on the night they got their championship rings made the second meeting a really tall order for Los Angeles. Hopefully, things will improve personnel-wise for the Sparks this week.
8. Phoenix Mercury
Previous ranking: 10
This week: vs. Los Angeles (Friday)
After opening 0-2, the Mercury had a fun game Thursday in beating Minnesota 90-81 and dropping 13 3-pointers. Diana Taurasi -- whose 41st birthday is around the corner on June 11 -- became the oldest player to score at least 20 points in a WNBA game with 23 vs. the Lynx. Thus far, Brittney Griner is shooting 74.2% from the field (23 of 31). It's early, but Griner's best field goal percentage for a full season is 57.8% in 2014, when the Mercury won the WNBA championship.
NaLyssa Smith leads the Indiana Fever to their first win in nearly a year.
9. Indiana Fever
Previous ranking: 12
This week: at Connecticut (Tuesday), vs. Las Vegas (Sunday)
Let's hear it for the Fever, who are out of the Power Rankings basement after Sunday's 90-87 victory at Atlanta, their first win since last June. That ended Indiana's 20-game losing streak, which tied with the 2011 Tulsa Shock for longest in league history. The Baylor Bears connection of NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo combined for 33 points and 21 rebounds vs. the Dream, and Aliyah Boston, this year's No. 1 pick, had 13 points and seven rebounds. Considering the Fever's next two foes were in the WNBA Finals last year, an actual winning streak might not be forthcoming for Indiana. At least not yet.
10. Atlanta Dream
Previous ranking: 9
This week: vs. Chicago (Tuesday), vs. Las Vegas (Friday)
The Dream topped Minnesota last Tuesday behind 26 points and 10 rebounds by Allisha Gray. But they lost their home opener to Indiana on Sunday. Being outrebounded by 14 was a big factor. However, the Dream have their next four games in Atlanta, so there's a chance for them to build some momentum.
11. Seattle Storm
Previous ranking: 11
This week: vs. New York (Tuesday), at Los Angeles (Saturday)
After a dispiriting blowout loss to the Aces on opening weekend, the Storm were more lively against Dallas on Friday despite a 95-91 defeat. They made it close with a 27-point fourth quarter. Jewell Loyd led Seattle with 30 points, while Ezi Magbegor had a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Kia Nurse made six 3-pointers on the way to 20 points. The Storm would love to spoil Stewart's return to Seattle this week, but that will be a tall task.
12. Minnesota Lynx
Previous ranking: 8
This week: at Dallas (Tuesday), vs. Connecticut (Thursday), at Washington (Saturday)
Napheesa Collier had her first double-double of the season (21 points, 10 rebounds) in the Lynx's loss Sunday at Las Vegas. It was their third defeat of the week, having also lost to Atlanta and Phoenix. Minnesota is averaging a league-low 74.3 PPG, while giving up 86.0. That's an imbalance the Lynx will have to work hard to fix.