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2024 WNBA Preseason Power Rankings: Caitlin Clark arrives, Aces chase three-peat

One of the most anticipated WNBA seasons has arrived and there are too many storylines to count. Caitlin Clark will be making her WNBA regular season debut with the Indiana Fever tonight, but it’s A’ja Wilson and the two-time champion Las Vegas Aces who reign supreme.

Here’s a breakdown of some key storylines and power rankings across the WNBA before the season kicks off tonight.

A’ja Wilson and the Aces are on a Quest to Three-Peat

The Aces start the 2024 season on a quest to become the second team in WNBA history to three-peat and solidify that they are a dynasty. The now defunct Houston Comets accomplished this feat in the 1999 WNBA Finals. Unlike last year, when the reigning champs began their season clouded in controversy, the Aces begin this season in spectacular fashion. Ahead of their only preseason game last Saturday, Wilson and Nike announced that a signature shoe for A’ja Wilson, the A’One, will be released in 2025.

Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese among Rookies in High Demand

Caitlin Clark, Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso, Rickea Jackson, Jacy Sheldon, Aaliyah Edwards, Angel Reese, Alissa Pili, Nika Mühl, Dyaisha Fair and Kate Martin highlight this star-studded class of rookies beginning their WNBA careers. The excitement around them is palpable, so much so that the WNBA reversed its decision not to stream Angel Reese’s second preseason game with the Chicago Sky after public outcry. The Indiana Fever had to open up the third deck of their home arena to accommodate the demand for Caitlin Clark’s preseason debut. And the Los Angeles Sparks, who drafted both Brink and Jackson, moved multiple of their home games from The Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State University to the larger Crypto.com Arena.

Charter Flight Changes Leads to Turbulent Rollout

It was just a week ago that WNBA Commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, announced plans to phase-in full-time charter flights for all of the league’s teams at the start of the 2024 WNBA season. The news came as a surprise to many in the WNBA community and while the decision was celebrated, the optics of the timing of the decision was questioned by some fans and media members. However, on the eve of the start of the WNBA season, hiccups arose with the rollout. Reports began surfacing yesterday that the New York Liberty and Chicago Sky would not be flying charter to start the season but, the Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx would be traveling on charters for their first games. It’s unclear how the league determined which teams would initially be granted charter flights, but a town hall was scheduled Monday afternoon between the commissioner and players to provide more clarity.

WNBA Expansion in Full Swing

With growth comes expansion. According to CBC Sports, Toronto has been awarded the WBNA’s next expansion team. A formal announcement is expected May 23 in Toronto, with the team slated to begin play at the start of the 2026 WNBA season. This news came on the heels of Golden State’s WNBA expansion team naming Ohemaa Nyanin the franchise’s first general manager. The newly named Golden State Valkyries will begin playing games in May 2025. Before the team’s official name was announced today, ticket deposits had already surpassed 7,000 for the new expansion team.

WNBA Preseason Power Rankings

These Power Rankings are an outlook of where each WNBA team stands heading into the 2024 season. The teams are ranked 1-12 and are grouped by tiers.

Tier 1 – (Crème de la Crème)

  1. Las Vegas Aces – The Aces stand alone at the top of the league. They are the reigning back-to-back champions. Their top Ace, A’ja Wilson, is a two-time MVP, 2023 Finals MVP and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The team also returns the 2022 Finals MVP, Chelsea Gray, All-Stars Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum, and Alysha Clark, the 2023 Sixth Player of the Year. The Aces have set themselves apart as the team the others are chasing. They boasted a league best 34-6 record last season and went 8-1 in the 2023 playoffs. They also bolstered their bench by signing Megan Gustafson in Free Agency and drafting rookies Dyaisha Fair, the third all-time leading scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history and Kate Martin from the University of Iowa. They head into the 2024 WNBA Season as favorites for a reason.

Tier 2 – (Contenders)

  1. New York Liberty – The Liberty concluded last year with a 32-8 regular season record and made it all the way to the WNBA Finals before falling to the Las Vegas Aces who won the series 3-1. The reigning MVP, Breanna Stewart, averaged just 16.3 points in last year’s Finals and shot 36.2% from the field. While the team does return its other star-studded core pieces in Jonquel Jones, Sabrina Ionescu, Courtney Vandersloot and Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, they didn’t do much to strengthen some of their defensive weaknesses in the backcourt. With that level of talent, the Liberty are still expected to be one of the top teams in the league, but between their struggles in the 2023 WNBA Finals and a 101-53 blowout loss to the Chicago Sky in the preseason, it appears the Liberty superteam is still a notch below the Las Vegas Aces.
  2. Connecticut Sun – The often-overlooked Connecticut Sun return this season with a revamped roster that will provide their leader and triple-double threat Alyssa Thomas with some much-needed support that she was missing last season. After finishing as the runner-up in the 2023 MVP race, Alyssa Thomas will begin another season of trying to lead the Sun to the promised land. She will have the help of veteran All-Star DeWanna Bonner. The team will also get a boost from the return of the 2022 Sixth Player of the Year, Brionna Jones, who was unavailable to the Sun most of last year due to a season-ending Achilles injury in June 2023. Dijonai Carrington, who finished second in Sixth Player of the Year voting last year, will likely have a bigger role this season as a starter. The Sun undoubtably will be looking to Tyasha Harris to continue her postseason prowess that was on display in the 2023 playoffs, where she shot 54.2% from the three-point line. The Sun also added to its supporting cast by trading for Moriah Jefferson and Queen Egbo. With Alyssa Thomas at the helm, the Sun are a team built to contend this season.

  1. Seattle Storm - Superteams were a prevailing storyline of the 2023 WNBA season and that continues into this upcoming season with the new-look Seattle Storm. WNBA fan-favorite, Skylar Diggins-Smith and eight-time All-Star Nneka Ogwumike team up with the Gold Mamba, Jewell Loyd, to form a new “Big Three” in the league. The imagination runs wild thinking about how formidable this trio can be. Jewell Loyd won the WNBA scoring title last season. Both Loyd and the former league MVP, Nneka Ogwumike, earned All-WNBA Second Team honors last season, and four-time All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith is making her return to play after being out on maternity leave last season. This is a team with big aspirations of winning a championship. Until we see how it all comes together, fourth seems like the proper ranking for the Storm.

Tier 3 – (Good to Very Good)

  1. Minnesota Lynx – The Lynx started 0-6 last year before turning it around to go 19-15 the remainder of the season. This ranking may seem a little high for a team who finished one game below .500 last season and got eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, but with more stability heading into this season and franchise cornerstone, Napheesa Collier, coming off her best season averaging 21.5 points per game, the placement is appropriate. In addition to returning three-time All Star, Kayla McBride, the Lynx signed veteran guard and midrange assassin Courtney Williams to the team and shored up their point guard position by trading for Natisha Hiedeman. Their defense also gets a boost with the addition of forward Alanna Smith. Time will tell whether the Lynx will be able to contend for a title this season, but they should be a much better team than they were last year.

  1. Dallas Wings – This ranking might seem a little low for the Wings after finishing fourth last year in the standings with a record of 22-18, but the Wings will be without the 2023 Most Improved Player Satou Sabally who appeared in her second All-Star Game last season as a first-time starter. The Wings still boast a talented roster, which includes three-time All-Star Arike Ogunbowale, three-time champion and former Defensive Player of the Year, Natasha Howard, and centers, Kalani Brown and Teaira McCowan. They will likely have enough to still be competitive until Sabally returns, but her extended absence rehabbing from shoulder surgery cannot be understated. Sabally is not expected to return this season until after the Olympic break in late August, which means she would miss the first 25 games of the season. She was key to the team’s success last year and over time, the team will be more likely to feel the ramifications of her absence. It’s hard to know what this team’s ceiling will be until Satou Sabally returns, but they should have the ability to make a strong playoff push in the latter part of the season once she is back.

  1. Atlanta Dream – The Atlanta Dream made some strides last season. They made the playoffs after a five-year drought and look to build upon that this season. The Dream have the potential to be a very good team this year. They added a decorated veteran in Tina Charles and Aerial Powers to an All-Star cast that already includes Allisha Gray, Rhyne Howard, and Cheyenne Parker-Tyus. They also traded for Jordin Canada, last year’s Most Improved Player runner-up, which solidifies their point guard position. Additionally, the Dream can look forward to further growth from Haley Jones, who will need to step up immediately while Jordin Canada is out due to a hand injury, and the return of Nia Coffey to start the season after losing her to a hand injury last August. Coffey shot a career-high 40.2% from three last season. The Dream did a lot to improve their roster heading into the 2024 WNBA season and are primed to take a leap this year.

Tier 4 – (Potentially Good)

  1. Indiana Fever – The Indiana Fever may be ranked slightly too high, but their 13-27 record last year doesn’t reflect how good of a team they were last season. The Fever had the talent to hang with many teams, but largely struggled to close out games. With the addition of Caitlin Clark, the number one pick in the WNBA Draft and generational talent, combined with last year’s number one pick and Rookie of the Year, Aliyah Boston (also a generational talent), the Fever’s record should improve substantially this year. When you factor in Kelsey Mitchell and NaLyssa Smith, that’s a frontcourt and backcourt that will be able to compete with many teams in the league.

  1. Los Angeles Sparks – The Sparks are another team that may be ranked a little high, but it’s hard not to when you consider their two draft picks: Cameron Brink (no. 2) and Rickea Jackson (no. 4). The Sparks technically are rebuilding, but they went 2-0 in the preseason and looked pretty good. Yes, they only played two preseason games so expectations should be tempered, but the Sparks also traded for All-Star guard Kia Nurse and are returning Lexie Brown and Dearica Hamby. Dearica Hamby looked like the All-Star version of herself in the preseason. If she’s going to play at a high-level all year, the Sparks will have to move up a tier.

  1. Phoenix Mercury – The Mercury probably should be ranked higher after adding Kahleah Copper and Natasha Cloud to their roster, but we didn’t get to see what the new pieces look like with both Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner, who will be out indefinitely with a toe fracture. Griner was spotted in a boot after the Mercury played the Sparks in the preseason. The Phoenix Mercury’s record last season was a dismal 9-31. Granted, they were missing Skylar Diggins-Smith all season, but still, their record is hard to overlook. Having to begin this season with new players on the team, down Brittney Griner, presents more questions than answers. For now, this ranking seems reasonable.

Tier 5 – (Rebuilders)

  1. Chicago Sky – The Sky drafted Kamilla Cardoso (no. 3 pick) and Angel Reese (no. 7 pick) to be the future faces of the franchise. Unfortunately, Cardoso will be sidelined 4-6 weeks due to a shoulder injury sustained in the preseason. However, Sky and WNBA fans can look forward to seeing Angel Reese on a rebuilding roster that includes, Dana Evans, Isabelle Harrison, Marina Mabrey, Kysre Gondrezick, Diamond DeShields, Brianna Turner and Chennedy Carter. Despite losing franchise star, Kahleah Copper, this team will be fun and will probably be competitive in a lot of games this season. They crushed the New York Liberty in a 48-point blowout during the preseason and the team appears to be developing good chemistry under the team’s new coach, Teresa Weatherspoon. The Chicago Sky may be a little better than expected heading into the season, but for now, this seems like the appropriate spot for them.
  2. Washington Mystics – The Mystics are in a similar situation to the Sky. With Elena Delle Donne sitting out the 2024 season due to a contract impasse, the Mystics appear to be in rebuild mode. All eyes will be on their budding young star, Shakira Austin, who has battled injuries early in her career. If Austin can remain healthy, lookout for a breakout season from her, as she will be expected to carry a larger load for the Mystics this year. Veterans Ariel Atkins and Brittney Sykes will be relied upon to guide the team. Stefanie Dolson’s return to the team that drafted her will also help to steady the team as they rebuild. Free agent signings, Karlie Samuelson and DiDi Richards, should both have rotation minutes on this roster. Samuelson’s three-point shooting fills a big need for the Mystics. And all eyes will also be on UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards, who the Mystics drafted with the sixth pick in the WNBA Draft. With so many new and moving parts on the Mystics, it’s hard to rank them. They have some pieces, but TBD on how they will all work together. Until we see more, this feels like a fair ranking.