Final thoughts on 2014 WNBA season

The WNBA's 2014 season is in the books, and you can paint it purple and orange. The Phoenix Mercury moved into the favorite's position early in the summer, and stayed there right through the end. Here are our final 2014 WNBA power rankings as we evaluate the season and take a very quick look at what 2015 might entail.

1. Phoenix Mercury (29-5 in the regular season)

Prior to this season, the Mercury brought in a new coach and made bench moves to help with the team's versatility and chemistry. It all worked perfectly, as Sandy Brondello led Phoenix to the best regular-season record and then the WNBA title. Both Diana Taurasi and Brittany Griner were first-team All-WNBA performers. No team has repeated since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02, but the Mercury appear to have a good chance if everyone is able to stay healthy. Replicating the cohesion of this year's squad isn't necessarily automatic, but the Mercury really seem to be a tight-knit group that understands how to bring the best out in each other.

2. Minnesota Lynx (25-9)

During their three consecutive trips to the WNBA Finals, in 2011, '12 and '13, the Lynx stayed relatively injury free. Also, even though they didn't win all three titles -- they were upset by Indiana in 2012 -- the Lynx had the best team in the league each of those years. This season, neither of those things were the case. Minnesota had injuries to Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus that affected parts of the season, and Phoenix had a talent edge. That said, Minnesota had league MVP Maya Moore and pushed the Mercury to three games in the Western Conference finals. The Lynx might not need to make many moves to stay in the hunt next year, but might need to give some attention to the center position.

3. Chicago Sky (15-19)

The Sky get this lofty ranking based on how they finished the season, with thrilling playoff series wins against Atlanta and Indiana, before facing an immovable object in Phoenix in the WNBA Finals. But as their regular-season record shows, they were up and down all summer, in large part to Elena Delle Donne being out most of June and July as she battled the recurring effects of Lyme disease. Delle Donne will not play overseas this winter, opting to stay home in Delaware, work out and keep in close touch with her doctor there. As for the rest of the Sky, Sylvia Fowles and Courtney Vandersloot also missed time with injuries, and their health next season will be important, too.

4. Atlanta Dream (19-15)

The Dream were the only Eastern Conference team with a winning record, and they still have to be wondering how they let Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals get away from them. Angel McCoughtry again had an MVP-caliber season. And when the Dream defended the way they were capable, they were a pretty good team under new coach Michael Cooper. But they had a guard rotation that didn't always work and probably needs to be resolved for 2015. Will Shoni Schimmel improve her defense and claim a starting spot next year? Will Erika de Souza and Sancho Lyttle continue as the East's top post duo?

5. Indiana Fever (16-18)

Like the Dream, the Fever fell victim to the Game 3 "magic" of Chicago in the playoffs. It was a disappointing conclusion to the season for Indiana, but the Fever deserve praise for having made the playoffs 10 years in a row. Coach Lin Dunn retired, so there will be a changing of the guard as Stephanie White takes over next season as head coach. Her years as Dunn's assistant, though, should ensure it's a pretty smooth transition. But how much longer can Indiana rely on Tamika Catchings as its centerpiece player? When she returned from back problems this season, she played very well. However, she's out of the FIBA World Championship as she wants to let her body recover. Catchings will be 36 next July.

6. Los Angeles Sparks (16-18)

The Sparks' 2014 roller coaster finally came to a stop in the Western Conference semifinals, as they lost to Phoenix. Now Los Angeles needs to find a new coach and has to figure out what this team's identity really is. If the Sparks are indeed committed to building around Candace Parker, then they probably need to make some big moves with the rest of the roster. It has now been 11 years since the Sparks' most recent WNBA Finals appearance, and that's not because the franchise has lacked talent. L.A. should be one of the more interesting teams to watch in the offseason.

7. Washington Mystics (16-18)

The Mystics remained a pretty young team this season. And while they made the playoffs, they did not have an offense that could go very far in the postseason. Among other things, Washington needs Emma Meesseman to realize how good she can be. And for Tayler Hill -- who played just six games total this season after giving birth -- to live up to her potential as the No. 4 draft pick in 2013. Can Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson make big steps forward in their second season in the WNBA?

8. San Antonio Stars (16-18)

The Stars lose Becky Hammon to retirement (and her NBA coaching job), yet they seem to be in good shape at the guard position with the likes of Danielle Robinson, Jia Perkins and Kayla McBride. But what improvements will San Antonio make on the interior? Sophia Young-Malcolm seemed to be returning more to her old self as the season went on after she missed 2013 with a knee injury. But is that enough of an answer? And can the Stars get more offense from center Jayne Appel if she was utilized differently?

9. New York Liberty (15-19)

The Liberty don't have a pick in the 2015 draft, having traded it away, but that probably doesn't matter much because the talent available is expected to be so limited. So how will New York address some of its apparent deficiencies? Whom do the Liberty have as valuable trade bait to add pieces around center Tina Charles? Cappie Pondexter is still a very good player, but she did not appear 100 percent healthy this season and had the lowest scoring average of her WNBA career (13.2 ppg). It's hard to see how New York will be much better next year than it was this year. The silver lining in that would be a lottery pick in the far-better 2016 draft.

10. Seattle Storm (12-22)

Seattle had made 10 consecutive playoff appearances before this year, so the Storm were due for missing the postseason in 2014. The Storm have the top pick in the 2015 draft, which is the only spot any team would want for that. With Seattle's core group aging or absent in recent seasons -- there's no certainty that three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson will return to the league -- the Storm know that there have to be moves made toward reshaping this team for the future. To that end, Seattle might look to deal the No. 1 pick for a veteran player who can step in immediately and help, especially offensively.

11. Connecticut Sun (13-21)

The Sun were young this season, and they seemed to run out of gas down the stretch. But with WNBA Rookie of the Year Chiney Ogwumike to build around, there is optimism for the future. Katie Douglas did a pretty nice job as the veteran of the group, but she will be 36 in 2015. And you have to wonder if it's best for both parties if Renee Montgomery and the Sun part ways. Connecticut has the Nos. 3 and 4 picks in the 2015 draft, but as mentioned, that might not provide the Sun with much. Ultimately, if Connecticut's youngsters can improve the way many second- and third-year players do, the Sun could be a playoff team next year.

12. Tulsa Shock (12-22)

There were times this season when it looked like the Shock were going to finally get over the hump and grab a playoff spot for the first time since the franchise relocated from Detroit after the 2009 season. Instead, they finished well below .500 again in their fifth year in Oklahoma, although their 12 victories were the most since the move. The bright spots were guards Skylar Diggins, who won the WNBA's Most Improved Player award, and 2014 No. 2 pick Odyssey Sims. They were 1-2 in scoring for the team. Forward Glory Johnson continues to be a good interior presence, and center Courtney Paris had her best season thus far in the WNBA. But the Shock need to be a stronger defensive team. They might use their No. 2 draft pick in a trade if it proves worthwhile. Then, there's always this issue: Will Liz Cambage play for the Shock 2015, or will they trade her?