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Initial Impressions From the First Weekend of the 2022 WNBA Season

All 12 teams have at least one game under their belts, and while some boast productive rookies, others may have to power through growing pains.

The 2022 WNBA season is officially underway with each of the league’s 12 teams having played at least one game. Here is one early impression about every team as the league turns to its first full week:

Indiana Fever (0–2)

Rookies combined for nearly 50% of Indiana’s total on-court minutes in the team’s loss to the Mystics on Friday night, and they were again relied upon heavily against the Sparks on Sunday, accounting for 52% of the team’s on-court total. Such will be the norm all season, and with such youth, it appears the franchise will have to go through a lot of growing pains. Still, No. 2 pick NaLyssa Smith put up an impressive double-double in her debut. No. 4 pick Emily Engstler also looked relatively comfortable in the season-opener; she was active on both ends and recorded nine rebounds, and added two steals and two blocks against the Mystics. On Sunday against the Sparks, it was Destanni Henderson’s turn to flourish as she scored 19 points and added three rebounds and three assists.

Atlanta Dream (1–0)

Atlanta, winners of only eight games last year, picked up a 66–59 win over Dallas to open the ’22 season. In it, no player was more impactful than No. 1 pick Rhyne Howard, who played a team-high 36 minutes and recorded team-highs in points (16), assists (four) blocks (four) and steals (two). As notable was the effectiveness of the Dream’s defense. They were active throughout the night, allowing only 11 points in the first quarter, and they eventually held the Wings to 24.9% shooting from the field, the lowest shooting percentage Atlanta has ever held an opponent to.

New York Liberty (1–0)

The Liberty notched what was perhaps the most impressive victory of the WNBA’s opening weekend. Playing the Sun, who finished with the league’s best record last year, New York trailed 8–0 to start and 12–2 midway through the first quarter. And yet, the Liberty didn’t quit. There was obviously a lot to like from the team’s 81–79 win. Guard Sabrina Ionescu, having said in the preseason that she felt healthy for the first time in two seasons, scored 25 points. Forward Natasha Howard was impressive on both ends, finishing with 16 points and matching the physicality of Sun star Jonquel Jones. Wing Jocelyn Willoughby, playing in her first regular season game since 2020, was also highly impactful, recording 13 points on 50% shooting, while adding five rebounds, two steals and one block. As important for the Liberty, they picked up the victory without 2021 All-Star Betnijah Laney, who is nursing a right knee injury.

Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale tries to dribble past Atlanta's Rhyne Howard.

Dallas Wings (0–1)

Wings coach Vickie Johnson said after her team’s 66–59 loss to the Dream that Dallas allowed its offensive struggles to dictate its defensive production. The Wings shot only 24.3% from the field and 21.1% from three, with guard Marina Mabrey being the lone player to make more than three field goal attempts. Johnson said they often rushed up shots and settled for perimeter looks instead of driving to the paint. The Wings have plenty of young talent, and have been open about expectations being greater than merely making the playoffs. As Saturday showed, there is plenty of room for growth.

Los Angeles Sparks (2–0)

Los Angeles had the WNBA’s worst offense in 2021, scoring only 92.3 points per 100 possessions. But even in a small sample, its offense appears to be far more dynamic this season. Guard Jordin Canada, who joined the team in free agency, matched her career-high with 21 points in the Sparks’ win over Chicago on Friday and was especially aggressive attacking the basket. Her eight assists were also the most she’s recorded since 2020. On Sunday, center fellow newcomers Liz Cambage and Chennedy Carter acquainted themselves nicely, scoring 22 points in 22 minutes and 12 points in 21 minutes, respectively. How coach Derek Fisher will bring the best out of his team remains a point of intrigue, but it’s a good situation to be in.

Aces guard Jackie Young hits a driving layup during a game against the Mercury.

Las Vegas Aces (2–0)

The Aces played at the league’s fastest pace last season, but in first-year coach Becky Hammon’s debut contest, they upped that even further. The roster might have a thin bench, but the Aces’ starting lineup is incredibly potent, and their offense—now predicated on playing an even more up-tempo style and keeping the floor spaced—should only be more dangerous than it has been. Its entire starting lineup scored in double-figures in each of its two games. Guard Jackie Young has scored 19 and 20, points, respectively, and new starter Kelsey Plum scored 20 against Phoenix and 18 against the Storm, with 14 of her points coming in the fourth quarter to help Las Vegas pull away. Forward A’ja Wilson and guard Chelsea Gray have been impactful and both ends and forward Dearica Hamby flashed her versatility, scoring 24 points and adding seven rebounds in their opening-win, but finishing with 10 points and 19 rebounds vs. Seattle. Las Vegas looks dangerous, especially if it can stay healthy and avoid foul trouble on a nightly basis.

Seattle Storm (1–1)

Seattle showed why it’s regarded as one of the league’s title favorites in its season-opening win over the Lynx. The Storm received incredible balance on offense—every player who saw the floor scored and seven players scored at least eight points—and held the Lynx to 39.2% shooting from the field and 19% shooting from three. Coach Noelle Quinn also showed confidence in the entirety of her roster, with nine players logging between 17 and 26 minutes in their victory. Against Las Vegas, they were the team that struggled from the field, shooting only 35.5%. Still, the Storm outscored the Aces by seven points in the third quarter to erase a halftime deficit and take a one-point lead into fourth. A shared key in both contests was Seattle’s ability to create turnovers, having recorded 17 vs. the Lynx and 16, which turned into 12 points, against the Aces.

Chicago Sky (0–1)

The Sky team that faced off against the Sparks on Friday night looked very different from the group that took home the championship in the final game of last season. The main reason—star wing Kahleah Copper is still overseas and guard Allie Quigley sat out with a knee injury. But one bright spot in the team’s season-opening loss to the Sparks came in the form of guard Dana Evans. Now in her second year, Evans took a career-high 17 shots and scored a career-high 24 points. When both Copper and Quigley return, Evans will presumably move back to the team’s bench and play a more limited role. Still, performances like the one she put on against Los Angeles make it seem likely average more than 8.6 minutes per game this season.

Connecticut Sun's Jonquel Jones (35) goes up for a shot against Chicago Sky's Courtney Vandersloot (22) during the second half of Game 4 of a WNBA basketball playoff semifinal, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Chicago.

Connecticut Sun (0–1)

The Sun opened the ’22 season with an underwhelming result. Despite jumping out to a stellar start, their offense stalled in the second quarter (when they scored only 11 points) and they squandered their five-point lead in the final 6:17 of the contest. Reigning league MVP Jonquel Jones made only six of her 17 field goal attempts, though, there’s little to be concerned about there. What is more eye-catching is the Sun’s continued lack of bench production. The return of Courtney Williams—she was suspended for the first two games this season due to an altercation with a then-Dream teammate last season—will no doubt be a boost. But it will be especially welcomed considering Connecticut’s bench scored only five points in the season-opener.

Minnesota Lynx (0–2)

A 16–2 run over a 3:34 stretch in the third quarter sunk the Lynx in their eventual season-opening loss to the Storm. And on Sunday, against the Mystics, Minnesota scored only 23 first-half points and trailed by 24 at the break. How the Lynx will match their opponents offensively was a question heading into the season and was one this weekend as well. While they showed off their balanced attack against the Storm—seven players scored at least seven points—they also lack the same offensive firepower as some other top teams.

Washington Mystics (2–0)

Star forward Elena Delle Donne’s 21-point nine-rebound performance vs. the Fever was certainly a positive sign for the Mystics. But guard Natasha Cloud looked like she was in midseason form too, scoring 17 points (15 of which were in the first half) against Indiana. Then, against the Lynx and with Delle Donne out, Cloud led the Mystics with 19 points on 53.8% shooting. Washington is a more veteran group, and if it can improve on its defense—it was No. 11 in defensive rating last year—it will be among the league’s top teams.

Phoenix Mercury (0–1)

Like Chicago, Phoenix was very different from the team that appeared in last year’s Finals. With star center Brittney Griner still detained in Russia—the team wore warm-up T-shirts to continue drawing awareness to her situation—and forward Brianna Turner overseas, the Mercury’s defense struggled to stop Las Vegas. First-year coach Vanessa Nygaard was candid after her team’s 106–88 loss that it was her “first rodeo” and that the team will have to sort out its rotations, and how its new pieces fit together. (Among them is star center Tina Charles, who shot only 31.% from the field and finished with a minus-21 differential.) Phoenix will likely have to go through some growing pains, though ’21 first-team All-WNBA guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, having scored 25 points in the season-opener, seems poised to have another productive year. 

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