WNBA Power Rankings: Aces on top again; picking starters for the 2022 All-Star Game

The 2022 WNBA All-Star Game is less than a month away, and voting for the starters came to an end on Monday night. That’s when the final ballots from fans, media members and players were due. On Wednesday, the starters and captains (two players who received the most fan votes) will be announced.

I do not have an official media ballot, but before the starters are announced here’s a look at the players I would have selected to start the All-Star Game:

backcourt

  • Skylar Diggins-Smith, Phoenix Mercury

  • Kelsey Mitchell, Indiana Fever

  • Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces

  • Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces

Plum and Young really don’t need any explanation. They’re both in the top-10 in scoring, contribute in every department and have been stellar leading the Aces to the best record in the league. It would be stunning if they aren’t both starters.

Diggins-Smith was another clear choice for me. She got off to a bit of an inconsistent start, at least by her standards, but she has been dynamite over the last month or so and along with Plum is one of just two players in the top 10 in scoring and assists.

The final spot was pretty up for grabs and there are a number of deserving candidates. Ultimately I went with Mitchell, who is having the best season of her career. She’s fourth in scoring, and doing so rather efficiently despite having almost no help.

frontcourt

  • Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

  • Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx

  • Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun

  • Nneka OgwumikeLos Angeles Sparks

  • Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm

  • A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Again, we’ll run through some of the obvious choices quickly. Stewart is leading the league in scoring and the best all-around player. Wilson is the best player on the league’s best team. Ogwumike is one of two players (along with Wilson) in the top 10 in scoring and rebounding, and is second in field goal percentage.

Moving along, Jones’ numbers aren’t spectacular like they were last season, but that has more to do with different team dynamics than anything. She’s still clearly the best player on the Sun, and she is a two-way force. Alyssa Thomas has been great, but if the Sun only get one starter it should be Jones.

Now we come to Delle Donne. I understand why some may not select her given her season-long maintenance plan has limited her to 11 games and she only played 27 minutes a night. Still, she’s played in over 60 percent of her team’s games, and the Mystics being 8-3 with her compared to 3-4 without her has to count for something. Her per-36 numbers are right there with all the top players in the league, and it’s obvious she’s still one of the biggest game-changers around.

Finally, why Fowles? The legendary center is sidelined with a knee injury and may not be able to play in the game. Still, her dominance before getting hurt means she deserves a starting nod in her final season, even if it’s just ceremonial. She was leading the league in rebounds and field goal percentage, and was the only player in the league averaging a double-double.

1. Las Vegas Aces (13-2) — Last week No. one

Las Vegas keeps on winning, but it hasn’t been super easy as of late. The Aces had to battle back from double-digit deficits in each of their last two outings, but were able to pull away from the Wings and hold off the Lynx. Still, wins are wins, and the Aces now have four in a row to improve their league-best record to 13-2. Though few players seem to really care, they’ve also clinched a spot in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game on July 26.

2. Connecticut Sun (12-5) — Last week No. 2

The Sun’s offense completely disappeared on Sunday in a loss to the Mystics, but this was still a positive week that included double-digit wins over the Dream and Storm. While they haven’t been able to gain any ground on the Aces in the race for the No. 1 seed, the Sun are the only team to beat the league leaders in the last five weeks and have established themselves as the “best of the rest” so far.

3. Chicago Sky (10-5) — Last week No. 3

Only two games for the Sky this week, both of which were played without Candace Parker, who is nursing a sore knee. She is n’t expected to be on the sidelines for long, which is good news for the Sky because her absence was obvious; they needed overtime to beat the Dream, and blew a 15-point lead to the lowly Fever. In Sunday’s defeat, they missed four go-ahead layups in a shocking 14-second span in the final minute.

4. Washington Mystics (11-7) — Last week No. 5

In what has been a very common theme this season, the Mystics beat the Mercury and Sun this week with Elena Delle Donne in the lineup, and lost to the Liberty while she was resting. For the season they are now 8-3 with EDD and 3-4 when she does not play. Not that it should be a surprise considering she’s one of the best offensive players ever, but the team just cannot score consistently without her.

5. Seattle Storm (10-6) — Last week No. 6

While the Storm dropped a game to the Sun, they bounced back on Sunday to beat the Liberty in Sue Bird’s farewell to New York and close out their long road trip on a positive note. The Storm have now won five of their last six games, and are 9-3 since a tough 1-3 start that was marred by COVID-19-related absences. For all the wins, though, the extent to which they struggle to score in the halfcourt at times is becoming concerning.

6. Dallas Wings (8-8) — Last week No. 7

The Wings had some rough moments in recent weeks, but that was to be expected with five straight games against the Storm and Aces that resulted in a 1-4 stretch. The good news is they’re through what was by far the toughest part of their schedule, and have won two straight over the Mercury and Sparks to get back to .500 on the season. Allisha Gray, who went for 20 points, 12 rebounds and six assists against the Sparks on Sunday, is quietly putting together the best season of her career and could be in line for a first All-Star appearance.

7. Atlanta Dream (7-8) — Last week No. 4

Through the first month of the season, the Dream caused nightmares for other teams with their defense, but couldn’t buy a bucket themselves either. Over the last few games, that’s completely flipped; they’re scoring at will but allowing other teams to do the same. As a result, they’ve now lost four games in a row and have dropped under .500 for the first time all season. One of the few positives for the Dream lately is that AD Durr, who the team acquired in a trade with the Liberty earlier this month, has hit the ground running. They are averaging 16 points and shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point land in their three games with the Dream.

8. Phoenix Mercury (6-10) — Last week No. 8

After winning three games in a row, the Mercury’s momentum stalled at the end of their road trip, as they defeated defeats to the Mystics and Wings. The Mercury have talent, but they’re top-heavy and don’t play defense, which means an off night from one of the stars usually results in defeat. We saw as much this week when Diana Taurasi had just nine points in each of the two losses. For the season, the Mercury are 0-8 when she scores under 15 points, and 6-2 when she has 15-plus points.

9. New York Liberty (6-10) — Last week No. 11th

After their hot streak to start the month, the Liberty have hit a plateau. Still, the difference between now and the beginning of the season is night and day. Marine Johannes has added a completely new element to their attack, Natasha Howard is operating at an All-Star level once again and they’ve generally solved their historically bad turnover problem. If the season ended today they would be in the playoffs, which is hard to imagine given how ugly things were over the first few weeks.

10. Indiana Fever (5-13) — Last week No. 12

The Fever picked up their most impressive victory of the season on Sunday, coming back from a 15-point deficit to stun the Sky. NaLyssa Smith, who had a career-high 26 points and 11 rebounds in that win, continues to look like a future star. Her athleticism stands out even against other elite athletes, and she’s now averaging 13.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game – the latter of which is good for fifth in the league.

11. Los Angeles Sparks (5-9) — Last week No. 9

Just one game for the Sparks this week, and it did not go well, as they trailed by double digits for nearly the entire second half in a loss to the Wings. The Sparks have now lost three games in a row to sink to 10th place, and their next four contests are against the Mystics, Sky, Storm and Aces. With the way they’re defending – a league-worst 106.9 defensive rating – there’s a real chance they don’t win another game this month.

12. Minnesota Lynx (3-13) — Last week No. 10

The Lynx were so close to taking down the Aces, which would have ended their own long losing streak and the Aces’ long winning streak. Instead, they blew a 14-point second-half lead, and lost in heartbreaking fashion when Jessica Shepard got confused about the score and went for a two when they were down three in the closing seconds. Now, they’ve lost five in a row to fall to 3-13 and solidify their hold on last place.

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