WNBA playoff picture, standings, projections: Aces set regular season wins record; Lynx move up into fifth

We have officially reached the stretch run of the 2023 WNBA regular season, which will conclude on Sept. 10. As expected the defending champion Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty, the league’s two superteams, have created some separation at the top of the standings. With their comeback win over the Chicago Sky on Thursday, the Aces have set a new regular season wins record with 30. 

Just below them, the Connecticut Sun have carved out a big gap on either side of the No. 3 seed, and have also clinched a playoff spot. After that, though, it’s all to play for. There’s a crowded middle of the pack, with 2.5 games separating the No. 4 Dallas Wings from the No. 7 Washington Mystics, and a serious duel going on between the Los Angeles Sparks and Chicago Sky for the No. 8 and final spot. 

The Seattle Storm, Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever, meanwhile, appear destined for the lottery. 

As the action continues, here’s a closer look at how things stand:

Current standings

  1. Las Vegas Aces (30-4) — Playoff spot clinched
  2. New York Liberty (26-7) — Playoff spot clinched
  3. Connecticut Sun (23-11) — Playoff spot clinched
  4. Dallas Wings (18-16)
  5. Minnesota Lynx (17-17)
  6. Atlanta Dream (16-17)
  7. Washington Mystics (15-18)
  8. Los Angeles Sparks (14-18)
  9. Chicago Sky (13-21)
  10. Indiana Fever (10-24)
  11. Seattle Storm (10-24)
  12. Phoenix Mercury (9-24)

Note: Two-team ties are decided first by head-to-head record and then, if necessary, better record against .500+ teams. 

Aces and Liberty clear at the top

1. Las Vegas Aces (30-4)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Liberty: leading season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Sparks
  • Key remaining games: at Liberty (Aug. 28)

The Aces were in serious trouble in the first half against the Sky8 on Thursday, but stormed back after the break to come away with a comfortable victory, their 30th of the season. With that result they set the new regular season wins record, and clinched at least a top-two seed. 

2. New York Liberty (26-7)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Aces: losing season series 1-2; vs. Sun: won season series 3-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 7 Washington Mystics
  • Key remaining games: vs. Aces (Aug. 28), vs. Sun (Sept. 1)

The Liberty pulled off an incredible 20-point comeback on Thursday to beat the Sun in overtime in a crucial game for both teams. With the win, the Liberty clinched the season series between the two teams and essentially locked up at least a top-two seed. They’re now 3.5 games ahead of the Sun with seven games to play and own the tiebreaker. 

Sun all alone in third

3. Connecticut Sun (23-11)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Liberty: lost season series 0-3
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 6 Atlanta Dream
  • Key remaining games: at Liberty (Sept. 1)

No one expected the Sun to be this good this season without Jonquel Jones, but they’ve clearly established themselves as the “best of the rest” behind the Aces and Liberty. They have clinched a playoff spot, and are now almost certain to finish with the No. 3 seed after their overtime loss to the Liberty. 

A crowded middle of the pack

4. Dallas Wings (18-16)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Dream: won season series 2-0; vs. Lynx: season series tied 2-2; vs. Mystics: won season series 3-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 5 Minnesota Lynx
  • Key remaining games: at Dream (Sept. 10)

The Wings appeared to be closing in on the No. 4 seed, but their position is now tenuous after two consecutive defeats to the Lynx, who have moved to within a game and evened the season series (the tiebreaker will be decided by record against +.500 teams at the end of the season). The good news for the Wings is they have a very easy stretch coming up and should be able to get back to winning ways. 

5. Minnesota Lynx (17-17)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: season series tied 2-2; vs. Dream: lost season series 0-2; vs. Mystics: won season series 2-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 3 Connecticut Sun
  • Key remaining games: at Mystics (Aug. 29), vs. Dream (Sept. 1)

After a brutal 0-6 start, the Lynx have gone 17-11, which is the fourth-best record in the league in that time. As a result they’ve flown up the standings and are now in fifth place after back-to-back wins over the Wings. Their short absence from the playoffs is going to last just one season. 

6. Atlanta Dream (16-17)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: lost season series 0-2; vs. Lynx: won season series 2-0; vs. Mystics: winning season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 3 Connecticut Sun
  • Key remaining games: at Lynx (Sept. 1), at Mystics (Sept. 8), vs. Wings (Sept. 10)

This has been a roller coaster season for the Dream. When they’re good, they’re really good, but when they’re bad, they’re really bad. They’ve had winning streaks of seven and three games, but also three different three-game losing streaks. Through it all, they are going to snap their franchise-record four-season playoff drought. 

7. Washington Mystics (15-18)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: lost season series 1-3; vs. Dream: losing season series 1-2; vs. Lynx: lost season series 0-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 2 New York Liberty
  • Key remaining games: vs. Lynx (Aug. 29), vs. Dream (Sept. 8)

The Mystics got off to a terrific start, but have been decimated by injuries in the last few months, which resulted in a free-fall down the standings. They are finally starting to get healthy, though, with Elena Delle Donne, Shakira Austin and Ariel Atkins all featuring in recent games. It’s going to take some time for that trio to get back up to speed, however, and the Mystics will hope it can happen before the playoffs start. 

Two teams for one spot

8. Los Angeles Sparks (14-18)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sky: losing season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 1 Las Vegas Aces
  • Key remaining games: vs. Sky (Aug. 29)

This season has not gone to plan for the Sparks, who have been dealing with injuries and illnesses all season long. They might be peaking at the right time, however. They’ve won five games in a row, including a stunning upset over the Aces on Saturday, and have pulled 1.5 games clear of the Sky. 

9. Chicago Sky (13-21)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sparks: winning season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: N/A
  • Key remaining games: at Sparks (Aug. 29)

Perhaps no team in the league is as desperate to make the playoffs as the Sky, who do not have a first-round pick in the 2024 draft as a result of former head coach and GM James Wade’s short-sighted offseason. A 1-6 skid has left them with a lot of work to do to catch the Sparks. 

Likely lottery bound

10. Indiana Fever (10-24)

This has been an extremely frustrating season for the Fever, who have made some real improvements but don’t have the wins to show for it. They are five games out of the playoff picture and will soon be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season — the longest drought in the league. 

10. Seattle Storm (10-24)

The Storm had a nice little run after their franchise-worst 10-game losing streak, but they’ve fallen off again in the last week and are going to be officially eliminated from the playoffs soon. It’s much better for them long-term to miss out on the playoffs this season anyway. 

12. Phoenix Mercury (9-24)

The Mercury had a bit of an upswing around Diana Taurasi’s chase for 10,000 career points, but have not been able to keep that momentum going. They’ve now lost four games in a row and will soon be eliminated from playoff contention for the first time since 2012. This group needs a reset and a fresh infusion of talent, though, so heading to the lottery is for the best. 

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