WNBA Power Rankings: Sky, Storm and Sun lead list of contenders after 2022 free agency

WNBA Power Rankings: Sky, Storm and Sun lead list of contenders after 2022 free agency

Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement that was introduced a few years ago, free agency has become a much bigger deal in the WNBA, and this was by far the most talented class in league history. There were five former MVPs and seven of the 10 All-WNBA players from last season hitting the market.

But for all the potential fireworks, this winter wasn’t all that exciting. In the end, nearly every big-name free agent re-signed with their former team. The only notable exceptions being Liz Cambage, who signed with the Los Angeles Sparks, and Tina Charles, who went West to join the Phoenix Mercury.

There are still some players left unsigned, but for the most part all the important business is done. That makes this a perfect time to take stock of the league ahead of the 2022 WNBA Draft and the start of training camps in April. As of now, there appears to be a rather large group of potential contenders at the top of the league, with potentially very little to separate them.

Here are CBS Sports’ first WNBA Power Rankings of 2022:

1. Chicago Sky (Last season: Champions)

  • Notable additions: Emma Meeseeman, Julie German
  • Notable losses: Stefanie Dolson, Diamond DeShields

There were a lot of questions facing the Sky this offseason, but after bringing back their entire starting lineup and adding the Belgian duo of Emma Meesseman and Julie Allemand, they are well positioned to defend their title. Health could be a concern considering the age of their core, but they have all the requisite talent and experience, and showed last season they can flip the switch in the playoffs.

2. Seattle Storm (Last season: Eliminated in second round)

  • Notable additions: Briann January, Gabby Williams
  • Notable losses: Katie Lou Samuelson, Jordin Canada

No team had a more anxious offseason than the Storm, but now that Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird are back – at least for this season – the Storm are set to contend once again. They couldn’t repeat last season due to Stewart’s season-ending Achilles injury, but if they stay healthy this time around it will be hard to bet against them winning a third title in five years.

3. Connecticut Sun (Last season: Eliminated in semifinals)

  • Notable additions: Courtney Williams
  • Notable losses: Briann January

The Sun were the best team in the league for most of last season, but once again came up short in the playoffs. At this point it’s fair to start wondering if this group will ever get over the hump, but they should be right back in the mix to win it all. Re-signing reigning MVP Jonquel Jones was the most important move, but they also brought back Courtney Williams to help juice their offense, and will have a full season of Alyssa Thomas.

4. Las Vegas Aces (Last season: Eliminated in semifinals)

  • Notable additions: None
  • Notable losses: Liz Cambage, Angel McCoughtry (injured last season)

Last season was all too familiar for the Aces, as they cruised through the regular season only to fall short in the playoffs. This time, it led to massive changes. Becky Hammon took over for Bill Laimbeer as head coach, and Liz Cambage left in free agency. Major overhauls such as this always create some question marks, but Hammon implementing a more modern style around former MVP A’ja Wilson — re-signed this offseason — and a dynamic backcourt led by Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum is a future to believe in.

5. Phoenix Mercury (Last season: Runner-up)

  • Notable additions: Tina Charles, Diamond DeShields
  • Notable losses: Bria Hartley

After a heartbreaking Finals loss to the Sky, Diana Taurasi is back for at least one more season, and the Mercury, to their credit, are doing everything they can to get another ring before she retires. This winter, that meant signing reigning scoring champ and forming MVP Tina Charles and trading for Diamond DeShields. It may take a bit for everyone to settle in and adjust, especially with a new head coach (Vanessa Nygaard), but there is a lot of talent on this team.

6. Washington Mystics (Last season: Missed playoffs)

  • Notable additions: Elizabeth Williams, Tianna Hawkins
  • Notable losses: Tina Charles, Emma Meesseman (sat out last season)

The Mystics re-signed Myisha Hines-Allen, added Elizabeth Williams and will get Alysha Clark back after she missed all of last season, but their outlook really comes down to one thing: Elena Delle Donne’s health. The former MVP has played just three games in the past two seasons combined, and has undergone multiple back surgeries in that time. She said recently that she will be ready for the season and is feeling “phenomenal.” If she can get back to her best and stay on the floor all season, the Mystics will be a problem. If not, they’ll struggle.

7. Minnesota Lynx (Last season: Eliminated in second round)

  • Notable additions: Angel McCoughtry
  • Notable losses: None

There were two major pieces of news for the Lynx this winter. One, legendary center Sylvia Fowles agreed to come back for a final season, and two, Napheesa Collier announced she is pregnant with her first child and due in May. They also signed Angel McCoughtry (coming off a torn ACL) and re-signed Layshia Clarendon. This is a tough, veteran group that will be hard to play against, but they need Collier in order to truly compete with the contenders, and it’s unclear if or when she’ll play this season.

8. Los Angeles Sparks (Last season: Missed playoffs)

  • Notable additions: Liz Cambage, Chennedy Carter, Katie Lou Samuelson, Jordin Canada
  • Notable losses: Erica Wheeler, Nia Coffey, Gabby Williams (suspended last season)

Missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade was clearly a source of motivation for the Sparks, who went out and made the type of high-profile additions you would expect of a team from Los Angeles. They signed Liz Cambage, traded for Chennedy Carter and also added Katie Lou Samuelson and Jordin Canada. The high-upside offseason was well worth the risk for the Sparks, who are now much more talented than they were last season. But how much success they’ll have in a top-heavy league remains to be seen.

9. New York Liberty (Last season: Eliminated in first round)

  • Notable additions: Stefanie Dolson
  • Notable losses: None

The Liberty had a rather uneventful offseason, but the few moves they did make were meaningful. New head coach Sandy Brondello will bring plenty of experience, while key free-agent signing Stefanie Dolson will be a major boost to what was one of the thinnest frontcourts in the league. There are good players on this team, and with a new coach and better health, they could return to the playoffs. It’s hard to see them competing with the top teams, however.

10. Dallas Wings (Last season: Eliminated in first round)

  • Notable additions: None
  • Notable losses: None

The young Wings – who still have no 30-year-olds on the roster – made it back to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2018, but aren’t trying to get ahead of themselves. Signing Arike Ogunbowale to a supermax extension was their only notable move, which made sense given their roster situation and the status of their rebuild. This team has a ton of potential, and loaded with lottery picks, but it’s going to be a few years before they make any real noise.

11. Atlanta Dream (Last season: Missed playoffs)

  • Notable additions: Erica Wheeler, Nia Coffey
  • Notable losses: Chennedy Carter, Courtney Williams, Elizabeth Williams

Simply put, last season was a disaster for the Dream, both on and off the court. They responded by hiring a new head coach (Tanisha Wright), new GM (Dan Padover) and overhauling the roster. Most notably, they traded Chennedy Carter, who was suspended for most of last season, to the Sparks for Erica Wheeler and draft picks. There won’t be many expectations for the Dream this season, but at least it feels like they’re finally heading in the right direction.

12. Indiana Fever (Last season: Missed playoffs)

  • Notable additions: Bria Hartley
  • Notable losses: Julie German

Tamika Catchings stepping down as general manager and VP of basketball operations near the tail-end of free agency, and shortly after the team waived yet another lottery pick, was a perfect encapsulation of her tenure. The Fever haven’t made the playoffs since 2016, and it’s hard to see that drought ending after a very forgetful winter. At least they have the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft.

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