WNBA Early Season Shootaround

by Sean Murphy

We're one week into the 2021 WNBA season and we've already seen plenty of surprises across the league. Here's a quick look at some key situations to keep an eye on heading into the second weekend of the season.

Minny-slump

The Minnesota Lynx are off to an improbable 0-3 start after a complete fourth quarter collapse against the Seattle Storm on Thursday. While the schedule-makers haven't been overly kind to the Lynx in the early going with two of their three games coming against title contenders in the Mercury and Storm, both of those games came at home and they also had a winnable road game against the Liberty which they lost 86-75. The good news is, reinforcements are on their way with two-way star in the making Napheesa Collier set to return from Covid quarantine. Note that the Lynx are in for an extended layoff as they won't take the court again until next Friday when they head to Seattle for a rematch with the Storm.

Aces are wild

While the Las Vegas Aces only managed to earn a split in a two-game season-opening set in Seattle, they still managed to put on quite a show, scoring 179 points led by 42 points from A'ja Wilson. Going back to the brief preseason, the Aces rank second in the WNBA in pace rating but they've been anything but careless, also checking in second in the league in fewest turnovers per game. Off Tuesday's blowout win over the Storm, the Aces have the opportunity to go on a run with four of their next five games coming at home, beginning with a date with the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night. It's early but the Aces certainly look the part of a title contender - this time with a big chip on their shoulder after last year's Finals disappointment.

Unpleasant Dream?

The Atlanta Dream started the season completely out of sorts after head coach Nicki Collen surprisingly bolted for Baylor just weeks before the 2021 campaign began. They're off to a winless start through two games, checking in 10th in the league in defensive rating and 11th in offensive rating. Things don't figure to get a whole lot easier as they'll play their next two games on the road. The good news is Friday's opponent, the Indiana Fever, are in complete disarray having dropped their first three games this season. Dream first round draft pick Aari McDonald has yet to find her way, contributing just a single point in 27 minutes of action so far. Atlanta does have high hopes for a potential backcourt duo of McDonald and Chennedy Carter. For her part, Carter has accounted for nearly a quarter of the Dream's scoring output through two games.

Mercury rising

Phoenix is going to be a problem for many opponents this season with an explosive starting five that has seen all five players score in double-figures in two of three games so far (with four reaching the mark in the other). Having Brittney Griner back in the fold is obviously a major plus and she already appears to be in midseason form, contributing 47 points while grabbing 26 rebounds through three games. Along with Sue Bird of the Storm, Diana Taurasi is an ageless wonder, pouring in 50 points in her first three contests this season. Phoenix's tough early season schedule continues with consecutive home games against the undefeated Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces up next.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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