- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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Been off for a few weeks, watching this WNBA season purely as a fan and wondering what every fan must be: Where are all the winning teams?
As of Monday, three teams have winning records and one additional squad sits at .500. That leaves eight teams with losing records.
Is this mediocrity? Is it parity? Is it good for the league?
The postseason will hold the answers. Will we see blowouts and one or two teams dominating the playoffs? Or will someone other than Phoenix, Minnesota and Atlanta emerge?
In the meantime, here are the Week 11 power rankings. The Mercury and Lynx have clinched playoff berths already.
1. Phoenix (21-3; last week: No. 1)
There's just no argument here. The Mercury have won 15 in a row -- tying the second-longest winning streak in league history -- and already have home-court advantage nailed down for the first round of the playoffs. The Mercury, who have shot better than 50 percent from the floor in their last six games, need three more wins in a row to match the Los Angeles Sparks' all-time record in 2001. The end of the regular season won't be easy. Eight of their 10 games come against teams currently in playoff position.
2. Minnesota (20-6; No. 2)
The Lynx have their starting lineup back together just in time for the stretch run of the season with both Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus back on the floor. Minnesota has a huge barometer game coming on Thursday at home against the first-place Mercury, who have beaten them in both previous meetings already this season: 80-72 in Minnesota on June 15 and 92-79 in Phoenix on June 18.
3. Atlanta (15-9; No. 3)
The Dream are hanging on to first place in the East, but have lost four in a row -- including three straight since coach Michael Cooper revealed he was diagnosed with tongue cancer and left the team to receive treatment. With Indiana and Washington charging and the Mercury and the Lynx not giving an inch out West, Atlanta needs to find its groove again -- and it'll have to be on the road: Six of the Dream's next eight games are away from home, including contests at Washington, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
4. Washington (13-13; No. 5)
The Mystics are surging, with a season-best four-game win streak and six victories in seven games to move into second place in the Eastern Conference. Guard Ivory Latta is leading the way, averaging 20.6 points and shooting 50 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in the three games since the All-Star break. The Mystics play four of their next five games on the road, all against East foes.
5. San Antonio (12-14; No. 7)
The Stars got word last week that Becky Hammon will be retiring at the end of the season and it remains to be seen how that impacts this team, which is still seeking consistency as the regular-season winds down. They have lost back-to-back games to Minnesota and Indiana, and if they want to rally behind Hammon, the time has arrived. The Stars have an opportunity to improve their position with games in the next week against Chicago, Connecticut and Seattle -- three teams currently sitting outside of playoff position.
6. Indiana (12-13; No. 4)
The Fever are clearly a better team since Tamika Catchings returned. They have won six of their last 10, the kind of consistency that has been so infrequently displayed among most of the teams in the league this year. Indiana is in the middle of a four-game Western Conference road trip that includes stops at Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix, but it has won four of its last five on the road.
7. Los Angeles (11-14; No. 6)
The Sparks saw the difference between themselves and the top of the Western Conference earlier this week with a 93-73 loss to the Mercury, but will have a chance at redemption against the West's best team again on Tuesday in Phoenix (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET). Hard to tell yet (the Sparks are 1-2 under Penny Toler) if a coaching change is going to change much for an L.A. team that can't seem to bring its best self to the floor every night.
8. New York (10-14; No. 8)
The Liberty had won three in a row before falling in a physical game in Phoenix. But they have a chance to make great headway in the East and solidify their playoff position with their next six games against conference opponents.
9. Seattle (9-15; No. 11)
The Storm, who are guaranteed just a second losing season since Brian Agler took over in 2008, just seem tired and could use an infusion of energy, not to mention a win. Seattle, barely averaging more than 70 points a game, has lost five straight (the longest skid of the season) and is three games behind Los Angeles for the final playoff spot in the West. The Storm's WNBA-record 10 consecutive playoff appearances is in jeopardy.
10. Tulsa (9-17; No. 10)
Tulsa got a big win on Sunday against Chicago, just its second win in the last nine games. Rookie guard Odyssey Sims has been picking up the scoring pace, finishing with double digits in her box score in the last five games, but the Shock are still a team that plays well enough to "almost" win on too many days.
11. Chicago (10-15; No. 12)
Can Elena Delle Donne, who has missed 16 of the Sky's last 17 games, return soon enough to help the Sky from free-falling out of the playoff picture? Chicago has lost seven of nine, and falling Sunday to Tulsa -- the team with the second-to-worst record in the league -- can't do much for the confidence of a team that has been bashed by injuries/illness the entire season. Delle Donne could be back on the court by the end of the week, possibly in time for Thursday's game at New York.
12. Connecticut (10-16; No. 9)
The Sun have won just two of their last 12 games and are watching their foes in the East pick up the pace while they fall back. But they are just one game out of a playoff spot and need to figure out a way to win on the road -- with games this week at Atlanta, San Antonio and Los Angeles.
15dBonnie D. Ford