WNBA Future Energy Rankings: Predicting finest, worst franchises
Which WNBA groups have the most effective outlook over the following three seasons?
We have answered the NBA model of that query with our Future Energy Rankings, which consider groups on the premise of 5 classes — gamers, administration, cap house, market and draft picks — to foretell which groups are trending upward or downward within the not-so-distant future.
For the primary time, our WNBA writers have undertaken the identical train, with a slight tweak. In contrast to the NBA Future Energy Rankings, that are primarily based on a system that weights scores within the 5 classes, within the WNBA model they’re merely used as explanations of how we arrived at our total 1-12 rating.
WNBA groups have by no means needed to be extra conscientious of how they handle their wage cap and future draft picks, which makes this a becoming time to start Future Energy Rankings for the league. The present collective bargaining settlement signed in 2020 ushered in an period of elevated participant motion, however as outdated contracts have cycled off the books, cap house has turn out to be extra valuable than ever.
On the identical time, trades reshuffled the order of this yr’s WNBA draft, with two contenders (the Chicago Sky and Washington Mystics) including picks final offseason that landed within the prime 5.
With that in thoughts, let us take a look at the WNBA’s prime contenders throughout the 2023-25 timeframe.
Our unanimous No. 1 alternative, the Aces look poised to contend for extra championships after bringing dwelling the primary in franchise historical past. Las Vegas’ core gamers — Chelsea Grey, Dearica Hamby, Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Younger — are all beneath contract by way of subsequent season, with all 5 taking lower than they might have probably commanded as free brokers.
With 5 gamers making a minimum of $165,000 subsequent season, the Aces will proceed to should scrimp on their bench. Nonetheless, we belief our top-ranked administration group to seek out options, significantly with the potential of attracting gamers chasing rings to a market additionally ranked first. — Pelton
Admittedly, lots is dependent upon the well being of Elena Delle Donne. However she bought by way of the 2022 season efficiently sufficient with strategic relaxation. Now 33, she has stated she hopes to have a minimum of just a few extra years taking part in. It is unsure how lengthy Mike Thibault will keep as coach, however he is anticipated to get replaced by his son, longtime assistant Eric Thibault, whereas remaining as common supervisor. So the mind belief that has stored the Mystics aggressive needs to be in place some time longer.
Washington did properly in choosing middle/ahead Shakira Austin within the 2022 draft, and the Mystics have one other lottery decide (through commerce) within the 2023 draft. — Voepel
The Solar have made the playoffs in all however the first yr of coach/common supervisor Curt Miller’s tenure, which started in 2016. There is not any purpose to suppose they will not be one of many title contenders once more in 2023, with most of their core beneath contract. They could have a difficulty protecting Sixth Participant of the Yr Brionna Jones, although.
Star ahead Jonquel Jones turns into a free agent in 2024, and that is when the present window for the Solar could possibly be closing. Miller acknowledges that there’s all the time some battle carrying each the coach/GM hats relating to the “win now” vs. “plan for the longer term” mentalities. — Voepel
It has been 20 years and plenty of water beneath the bridge since New York was final within the WNBA Finals in 2002. Now the Liberty are beneath new possession, play in Brooklyn and have a younger guard in Sabrina Ionescu to construct round. However the Liberty do not but have the expertise to be a championship group.
That would change with trades and free company — may Syracuse native Breanna Stewart find yourself again in her dwelling state? — and there is each indication that Liberty administration desires the franchise to return to the place it was within the WNBA’s early years. — Voepel
The change in possession in 2021, the addition of latest coach Tanisha Wright and the arrival of common supervisor Dan Padover all have had a rejuvenating impression on Atlanta. The Dream are a younger group, led by 2022 Rookie of the Yr Rhyne Howard, with plenty of cap room to make strikes for 2023 and past.
The enlargement Dream reached the playoffs six of their first eight seasons, making three journeys to the WNBA Finals. However they’ve made the postseason simply twice up to now seven years, falling quick the previous 4 seasons in a row. This previous 14-22 season confirmed progress and a few stability, and that’s one thing to construct on. — Voepel
Essentially the most troublesome groups to rank in FPR are these with a marquee free agent whose choice will have an effect on the franchise’s fortunes for years to return. Seattle and Breanna Stewart match the invoice. If Stewart returns and the Storm can efficiently exchange now-retired Sue Fowl with some extent guard through free company, they will stay contenders behind the duo of Stewart and fellow All-Star Jewell Loyd.
Even when Stewart departs — or decides to not play within the WNBA subsequent season due to the league’s prioritization rule — Seattle is unlikely to tumble to the underside of the standings. The franchise acquired excessive marks for each market (rating third) and administration (fourth), testomony to a monitor report of success, albeit all of it with Fowl on the roster. — Pelton
Just like the Storm, the Lynx are hoping to increase a profitable run with out a future Corridor of Famer. Sylvia Fowles was the final hyperlink on the courtroom to Minnesota’s dynasty, leaving head coach and GM Cheryl Reeve (the first purpose for our second-highest administration rating) to retool the roster round budding star Napheesa Collier.
Though the Lynx remained a playoff group till this previous season, with Collier absent practically the whole manner after giving start, Minnesota must discover a long-term choice at level guard after biking by way of choices quickly the previous two years. If that occurs, the Lynx may rapidly return to rivalry. — Pelton
The Sky shocked themselves a bit in a great way by profitable the WNBA title in 2021, and in a foul manner by dropping their semifinal sequence this yr. Relying on free company and different strikes, the 2023 Sky may look fairly just like 2022 — or they might look actually totally different.
How for much longer will Candace Parker play? Will Courtney Vandersloot stick with the one WNBA franchise she has performed with? Sky coach and common supervisor James Wade faces among the identical questions different groups do in constructing for the longer term whereas additionally attempting to benefit from the potential present window to win. — Voepel
After amassing a treasure chest of first-round picks throughout their rebuild, the Wings now discover themselves at a key second as most of these rookie contracts start to run out. Dallas prolonged All-Star guard Arike Ogunbowale for the supermax, however really performed higher with out her when she was injured towards the top of the common season and starting of the playoffs.
Teaira McCowan‘s dominance within the paint largely fueled that late surge, and the middle is now one among key restricted free brokers for the Wings together with productive guard Marina Mabrey. Given probably raises for each gamers, Dallas now not scores as properly by way of future cap house. — Pelton
The Wings additionally should discover a new coach after deciding to not train an choice on the ultimate season of Vickie Johnson’s contract regardless of Johnson main the group to back-to-back playoff appearances.
Since Diana Taurasi sat out the 2012 season, giving Phoenix the No. 1 decide the next yr, the Mercury have been maybe the WNBA’s most constantly efficiently franchise. Phoenix managed to increase a 10-year playoff streak, however nonetheless left a turbulent season with extra questions than solutions. Will Taurasi return forward of a season during which she’ll flip 41? And have we seen the final of Skylar Diggins-Smith in a Mercury uniform?
Tragically, the most important query of all is when Brittney Griner is likely to be free of being detained in Russia. Griner’s absence loomed over a 2022 marketing campaign that did not go to plan in Phoenix. We’ll see whether or not the Mercury can get again on monitor with out the advantage of this yr’s first-round decide, which might have been No. 5 total. — Pelton
The Fever want a No. 1 decide within the worst manner, and the lottery odds for the 2023 draft favor them. However that alone will not be practically sufficient: They should make a good move on a brand new coach, after which work out how a lot of their younger core they wish to maintain.
The dangerous concerning the Fever is clear: They gained simply 5 video games this season and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2016. However there are some positives, just like the efficiency of rookie NaLyssa Smith this yr and the possibility for a reset by way of their teaching philosophy. — Voepel
As soon as the WNBA’s preeminent franchise, the Sparks are in an unsure state after two years within the lottery value Derek Fisher his twin roles as head coach and GM. Making issues worse, Los Angeles has needed to see stars Parker and Grey win titles the final two years after departing in free company. Worse but, the Sparks will not get a lottery decide for his or her misplaced season, having traded it for Chennedy Carter final offseason.
There’s nonetheless expertise readily available in L.A., beginning with Nneka Ogwumike, rightfully chosen to the All-WNBA second group. Ogwumike, who has performed her whole profession with the Sparks, pledged after the season to return alongside sister Chiney. However Los Angeles must nail the alternative (or replacements) for Fisher to improve our Eleventh-ranked administration group. — Pelton
Alexa Philippou contributed to this report.