WNBA preseason Power Rankings 2024: Las Vegas back on top

ByMichael Voepel ESPN logo
Monday, May 6, 2024

The Las Vegas Aces started the 2023 season No. 1 in ESPN's WNBA Power Rankings and then won their second consecutive championship. But the Aces weren't No. 1 in our final regular-season rankings last year; the New York Liberty were.

So it wasn't complete wire-to-wire domination for the Aces in 2023, even if the end result made it feel that way. Las Vegas split its four regular-season games against New York and lost the Commissioner's Cup final to the Liberty.

Yet when it came to the playoffs, the Aces took it to the next level when the stakes were the highest for the second season in a row. And as we head into 2024, the Aces are back on top of ESPN's preseason Power Rankings.

The league enters 2024 trying to build on the momentum of both the college game the past two seasons and last year's powerhouse WNBA Finals between the Aces and Liberty.

There has never been more interest in a rookie class, and the 2024 WNBA draft drew its highest-ever audience. No. 1 pick Caitlin Clark had a strong preseason debut Friday in the Indiana Fever's loss to the Dallas Wings. And when first-round picks Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese made their debut and the Minnesota Lynx-Chicago Sky game wasn't broadcast, a fan took the initiative to stream the game on social media, garnering more than 400,000 views.

On Saturday, the WNBA returned to Canada for the second year in a row, and the game helped showcase two of the biggest names in new places this season as Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith made their first appearances with the Seattle Storm.

As we launch the 2024 WNBA Power Rankings, we try to balance anticipating how some franchises have improved, while also relying on those that have been consistently good in the past few years and deserve the benefit of the doubt (if there is any). In the case of the Aces, there is no doubt. They are the team to beat again.

1. Las Vegas Aces

2023 record and result: 34-6 (first place); WNBA champion

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 2

Season opener: vs. PHO (May 14, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Last year, The Aces were the first WNBA team since the 2001-02 Sparks to win consecutive titles, and they start 2024 with the same core. Two-time MVP A'ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young look to run it back again. Candace Parker, who missed the second half of last season and the playoffs, retired earlier this month. But other key players such as Alysha Clark and Kiah Stokes also return.

The Aces proved by winning Game 4 of the WNBA Finals at New York without the injured Gray and Stokes that they have grit, not just a ton of talent. That's why they will be visiting the White House on Thursday: Even when faced with adversity and little time to adjust to it, the Aces dug deep for their second title. They will be just as hungry to get No. 3.

2. New York Liberty

2023 record and result: 32-8 (second); lost to Las Vegas in WNBA Finals

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 1

Season opener: @WAS (May 14, 7 p.m. ET)

Adding huge names such asBreanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot brought championship fever to Brooklyn last year, and the Liberty had a great season despite the loss in the Finals. New York won the Commissioner's Cup, giving the franchise some needed hardware. But two things stood out in the Finals: The Liberty had trouble containing the Aces' guards, and Stewart, after winning a closely contested MVP race, wasn't quite the same player offensively as she had been during the regular season.

The Liberty looked to the draft for help strengthening their perimeter defense, taking 6-foot Ole Miss guard Marquesha Davis in the first round. And Stewart, who turns 30 in August, is eager to have another shot at the WNBA title, which she won twice while in Seattle.

3. Connecticut Sun

2023 record and result: 27-13 (third); lost to New York in semifinals

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 3

Season opener: vs. IND (May 14, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Sun return DeWanna Bonner, back for her 15th WNBA season, and Alyssa Thomas, who was part of the three-way race for MVP last season along with Wilson and Stewart. They also get back Brionna Jones, who was sidelined last June by an Achilles tendon injury. Those three -- along with Sixth Player of the Year runner-up DiJonai Carrington -- are enough to keep the Sun in the same spot where they finished last season.

Connecticut has added players such as Tiffany Mitchell and Moriah Jefferson, along with fellow guard Rachel Banham, who started her WNBA career with the Sun. Connecticut would love to see a step forward from center Olivia Nelson-Ododa. The Sun have reached the WNBA Finals four times, most recently in 2022, but are still seeking their first title.

4. Seattle Storm

2023 record and result: 11-29 (11th); missed playoffs

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 11

Season opener: vs. MIN (10 p.m. ET)

Guard Jewell Loyd led the WNBA in scoring last season (24.7 PPG) as she carried the Storm following Sue Bird's retirement and Stewart's free agent departure to the Liberty. Seattle signed Loyd to a contract extension near the end of the season, with the hope of adding more talent. Then they brought in free agents Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Both players turn 34 this summer but still appear to be at an elite level and are eager to show their skills for their new franchise.

In her fourth year in the league, center Ezi Magbegor had her best season in 2023, averaging 13.8 points and 8.1 rebounds while making her first All-Star team. Center Mercedes Russell, who missed most of the 2022 season and had to work to regain her form last year, also returns. Last season was tough for Storm fans, but if things go well, this team will be right back in the playoffs again.

5. Dallas Wings

2023 record and result: 22-18 (fourth); lost to Las Vegas in semifinals

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 4

Season opener: vs. CHI (May 15, 8 p.m. ET)

The only thing keeping Dallas out of the top four is some concern about how the Wings will adjust without forward Satou Sabally for the first half of the season as she rehabs a shoulder injury. Sabally was the league's Most Improved Player last season and an all-WNBA first-team selection. If the Wings hold their own without her, it will make them particularly tough when she returns (which is expected to be after the Olympics; the WNBA schedule resumes Aug. 15).

Guard Arike Ogunbowale continues to be one of the most electric scorers in the league, but she also improved as a playmaker last season, averaging a career-high 4.5 assists. Returning post players Natasha Howard, Teaira McCowan and Kalani Brown combined to average more than 21 rebounds per game last season. It will be interesting to see how quickly the Wings' top draft pick, guard Jacy Sheldon, adjusts to the pro game.

6. Phoenix Mercury

2023 record and result: 9-31 (12th); missed playoffs

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 12

Season opener: @ LV (May 14, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Center Brittney Griner returned to Phoenix after being detained for 10 months in Russia in 2022, and guard Diana Taurasi became the first WNBA player to reach 10,000 points. That about wraps up the positives last season for the Mercury, who fired coach Vanessa Nygaard during the season. Phoenix missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and failed to reach double-digit wins for just the third time in franchise history.

This season really feels like a fresh start. The team has a new coach (Nate Tibbetts) and general manager (Nick U'Ren) and two big additions in guard Natasha Cloud and guard-forward Kahleah Copper, who both have won WNBA titles. Taurasi is back for her 20th WNBA season, and Griner for her 11th. The Mercury are a little thin and inexperienced at the power forward spot, but if they can develop that and their bench, plus stay healthy, they can put the disappointment of 2023 in the rearview mirror.

7. Atlanta Dream

2023 record and result: 19-21 (tied for fifth); lost to Dallas in first round

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 8

Season opener: @ LAS (May 15, 1 p.m. ET)

The Dream advanced to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2018, and guards Rhyne Howard and Allisha Gray and forward Cheyenne Parker-Tyus made All-Star appearances. They return, and Atlanta traded for guard Jordin Canada, who had her best season statistically last year for Los Angeles. Canada brings the experience of having won two WNBA titles while with Seattle.

The Dream also signed two players eager for a new home: center Tina Charles, the 2012 MVP who didn't play in the WNBA in 2023, and guard Aerial Powers, a 2019 WNBA champion while with Washington whose role diminished in Minnesota last season. Coach Tanisha Wright said she wants Charles and Powers to know she isn't concerned about last season and is focused on them feeling welcome in Atlanta. Both could be big assets to the Dream.

8. Indiana Fever

2023 record and result: 13-27 (10th); missed playoffs

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 10

Season opener: @ CON (May 14, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Will this be the season the Fever make it back to the playoffs? That's the primary goal for Indiana after adding Caitlin Clark to go along with last year's No. 1 pick, forward Aliyah Boston, and 2022's No. 2 selection, forward NaLyssa Smith. Clark had 21 points in the Fever's exhibition opener and looked comfortable in her first pro appearance. The developing chemistry between her and the young posts is something to watch, and there will be a lot of excitement around the Fever in general.

Kelsey Mitchell, who has played all seven of her WNBA seasons with the Fever, is back, as is veteran guard Erica Wheeler, who started every game last season along with Mitchell and Boston. Forward Katie Lou Samuelson, who didn't play last season after giving birth to her first child, will be with her fifth team in her fifth WNBA season and hopes this one really is the right fit.

9. Minnesota Lynx

2023 record and result: 19-21 (tied for fifth); lost to Connecticut in first round

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 5

Season opener: @ SEA (May 14, 10 p.m. ET)

After missing the postseason in 2022, the Lynx made it back last year despite being ninth in the WNBA in scoring average and next to last in points allowed. They hope to improve on both in 2024. Minnesota returns its top three scorers: forward Napheesa Collier and guards Kayla McBride and Diamond Miller, who was on the all-rookie team along with forward Dorka Juhász. But only six players overall who were with Minnesota last season are currently on the roster as the franchise continues its evolution after center Sylvia Fowles' 2022 retirement.

The Lynx brought in three players who were with the Sky last season: guard Courtney Williams and forwards Alanna Smith and Ruthy Hebard. They also traded for guard Natisha Hiedeman. She was originally drafted by Minnesota but traded on draft day in 2019, spending her first five seasons in Connecticut. If everything comes together, the Lynx could make the playoffs again.

10. Los Angeles Sparks

2023 record and result: 17-23 (ninth); missed playoffs

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 6

Season opener: vs. ATL (May 15, 10 p.m. ET)

With Ogwumike going to Seattle, the last link to the Sparks' 2016 championship team is gone. They are in a rebuilding era under coach Curt Miller, who is in his second season in Los Angeles. Ogwumike and Canada (now in Atlanta) were the Sparks' top two scorers last season. Forward Dearica Hamby, the only player who played all 40 games in 2023 for the Sparks, returns along with three other players -- guards Layshia Clarendon and Lexie Brown and center Azurá Stevens -- who each started at least 10 games last season. Stevens is currently sidelined by an arm injury but is expected back in June.

Forwards Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson are lottery picks who could be big contributors as rookies. And players such as guards Aari McDonald and Kia Nurse and forward Monique Billings are new to the Sparks this season. It feels like Los Angeles is still a puzzle coming together, and it could mean a fourth consecutive year out of the playoffs.

11. Washington Mystics

2023 record and result: 19-21 (tied for fifth); lost to New York in first round

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 7

Season opener: vs. NYL (May 14, 7 p.m. ET)

Injuries pummeled the Mystics last season, and two of their three leading scorers from 2023 aren't back: Forward/guard Elena Delle Donne is sitting out this season and Natasha Cloud left for Phoenix in free agency. But guard Brittney Sykes returns after her best season when she was on the WNBA's all-defensive first team. Center/forward Shakira Austin and guard Ariel Atkins were both limited by injury last season, but are also among the players returning. Center Stefanie Dolson, who played her first three seasons with the Mystics, has come back to Washington after stops in Chicago and New York.

Dolson can help mentor another UConn grad, rookie forward Aaliyah Edwards, who was the Mystics' top draft pick. Five years have passed since Washington's 2019 championship season. There are still current links to that team -- Atkins, Myisha Hines-Allen and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough -- but Delle Donne might not play for the Mystics again, and they're in a new era.

12. Chicago Sky

2023 record and result: 18-22 (eighth); lost to Las Vegas in first round

Final 2023 regular-season ranking: 9

Season opener: @ DAL (May 15, 8 p.m. ET)

New coach Teresa Weatherspoon has a lot of enthusiasm, regardless of dire predictions for Chicago. Coach James Wade left the Sky after 16 games last season, then under interim coach Emre Vatansever, Chicago still made the playoffs. That isn't expected this year. One thing is for sure: Chicago will be a lot different from last season. Only three who played for the 2023 Sky are back: guards Marina Mabrey and Dana Evans and center/forward Elizabeth Williams. Forward Isabelle Harrison, who signed with Chicago last year but missed the season with injury, has returned, too. And guard Diamond DeShields, who was part of the Sky's 2021 WNBA championship team, is in Chicago again after spending 2022 in Phoenix and sitting out last season with injury after being traded to Dallas.

We'll watch how young stars Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese develop, and also how guard Chennedy Carter -- who previously played in Atlanta and Los Angeles -- responds to another chance after not playing in the WNBA last season. Also, forward Brianna Turner, who played the past five seasons in Phoenix, gets a fresh start in Chicago.

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