The 2023 WNBA regular season has one week remaining, but we've hit the finish line for the ESPN Power Rankings.
Five teams have already qualified for the playoffs, with four vying for the last three spots. The final three have already been eliminated, and are left to try to finish strong and possibly play spoiler to others' chances.
Who will be the overall No. 1 seed? We don't know that yet, but the hottest team right now in the WNBA is the New York Liberty, who have three games remaining. They have won six in a row and remain atop the Power Rankings for the third straight week.
Still, the defending champion Las Vegas Aces, which was No. 1 in the Power Rankings the rest of the season, have a one-game lead for the top seed with just two games left -- both against the last-place Phoenix Mercury.
It's been a challenging season for the Mercury, which got to celebrate Brittney Griner's return to the WNBA and Diana Taurasi hitting the 10,000-point plateau, but not much else. They have lost eight in a row, and unless they win one of their three remaining games, they will finish a season with single-digit victories for just the third time in franchise history (1997-present).
After the two previous times -- in 2003 and 2012 -- Phoenix ended up with the No. 1 pick in the following year's draft, and brought in Taurasi and Griner.
The best odds for getting No. 1 in 2024, though, will be with the Indiana Fever. They were eliminated from playoff contention Friday, their seventh consecutive year of missing the postseason.
However, they enter this final week of the regular season looking more upbeat than the Mercury: Indiana has won four of its last five games. And next year, it will add another draft lottery selection to a lineup that already has 2023 No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston and 2022 No. 2 pick NaLyssa Smith.
The Minnesota Lynx missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2010. Their postseason absence was brief, though; after an 0-6 start to this season, they came back to clinch a playoff berth with their victory Sunday over Phoenix.
"I just told the group they deserve this," said coach Cheryl Reeve, who has guided the Lynx since 2010. "It's just a step. We wanted to get back into the playoffs. A lot of hard work went into that, to do what this franchise is accustomed to doing, which is competing in the postseason."
The Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics, Los Angeles Sparks and Chicago Sky have this week to try to join the Aces, Liberty, Connecticut Sun, Dallas Wings and Lynx in the postseason. Here is how they all stand in the final Power Rankings.
1. New York Liberty
Previous ranking: 1
This week: at Dallas (Tuesday), vs. Los Angeles (Thursday), vs. Washington (Sunday)
After leading the Liberty with 25 points in a victory over Las Vegas last Monday, Sabrina Ionescu (calf) sat out against Connecticut and Chicago. That didn't affect New York, which cruised in both games. Right now, her sitting out appears more cautionary, as the Liberty want to be sure Ionescu is at her best for the playoffs. How scary can the Liberty be? Sunday's 22-0 run in beating the Sky is one example.
2. Las Vegas Aces
Previous ranking: 2
This week: at Phoenix (Friday), vs. Phoenix (Sunday)
The Aces fell to the Liberty last Monday, evening the teams' regular-season series at 2-2. But then Las Vegas came back with wins at home against Washington and Seattle. Now, the Aces can take a minute to breathe. After playing 11 games in 23 days, they have a five-day break before their next matchup. Coach Becky Hammon and the players talked about how helpful this time to recharge can be, as they try to close out with the No. 1 seed for the second season in a row.
3. Connecticut Sun
Previous ranking: 3
This week: vs. Los Angeles (Tuesday), vs. Indiana (Friday), vs. Chicago (Sunday)
The Sun went 1-1 last week, beating Phoenix and losing to New York in their lowest-scoring game (58 points) of the season. But this week really means nothing to the Sun's postseason status: They are the No. 3 seed no matter how their three remaining games go. They can, however, potentially affect the Sparks' and Sky's playoff hopes.
All things considered -- especially the losses of Jonquel Jones to an offseason trade and Brionna Jones to an early-season Achilles injury -- this has been a very good season for Connecticut and first-year coach Stephanie White.
4. Dallas Wings
Previous ranking: 4
This week: vs. New York (Tuesday), vs. Seattle (Friday), at Atlanta (Sunday)
Dallas clinched its playoff berth with a victory at Indiana on Friday, in which Satou Sabally joined the WNBA's much-expanded 40-point club. It was the 12th time this season a player has scored at least 40 points in a game; the previous record was three in a season (2015, 2008, 2006). But the Wings missed a chance to claim the No. 4 seed -- and home-court advantage for the first round -- when the Fever came back for an overtime victory Sunday at Dallas. Now the Wings have another chance to nail that down this week.
5. Minnesota Lynx
Previous ranking: 6
This week: at Chicago (Friday), at Indiana (Sunday)
This past week was kind of Minnesota's season in microcosm: a tough loss at Washington, followed by a gritty overtime win against Atlanta and a businesslike victory over Phoenix. Minnesota didn't get its first victory this season until June 3, losing seven of its first eight games. But led by Napheesa Collier and rookie Diamond Miller, the Lynx righted the ship and now hope to finish above .500 as they look toward the playoffs.
6. Los Angeles Sparks
Previous ranking: 5
This week: at Connecticut (Tuesday), at New York (Thursday), at Seattle (Sunday),
After very frustrating losses to Chicago and Seattle at home, the Sparks faced Washington on Sunday in front of a small crowd at USC's Galen Center, due to a scheduling conflict at Crypto.com Arena. And Nneka Ogwumike (knee) was a late scratch. It all looked like a recipe for another loss, but the Sparks got a much-needed victory to boost their playoff hopes. Finishing the regular season with three games on the road -- two on the East Coast and one on the West Coast -- plus the uncertainty about when Ogwumike will play, means the Sparks still have their work cut out for them.
7. Washington Mystics
Previous ranking: 7
This week: at Phoenix (Tuesday), vs. Atlanta (Friday), at New York (Sunday)
The Mystics beat Minnesota, then fell at Las Vegas and Los Angeles last week. An emotional blow came Sunday against the Sparks, as veteran guard Kristi Toliver suffered a serious-looking knee injury. She's been limited to 11 games for the Mystics this season due to plantar fasciitis, but they hoped to have her for a playoff run. Now, they have to regroup and secure their playoff spot, while also facing uncertainty about starters Shakira Austin (hip) and Ariel Atkins (nasal fracture), who missed Sunday's game.
8. Atlanta Dream
Previous ranking: 8
This week: vs. Seattle (Wednesday), at Washington (Friday), vs. Dallas (Sunday)
August was rough and September didn't start any better for the Dream, who have lost seven of their last nine games. They did get a victory over a downtrodden Phoenix last week, but then fell in overtime to Minnesota. The Dream have not made the playoffs since 2018, but are in position to do so this season. They need a strong last week, though.
9. Chicago Sky
Previous ranking: 9
This week: at Indiana (Tuesday), vs. Minnesota (Friday), at Connecticut (Sunday)
The Sky, led by Kahleah Copper, grabbed a 76-75 victory at Los Angeles last Tuesday that felt like a must-win game. Then they lost against New York on Sunday. The Sky have the worst record of any of the teams remaining in the playoff race, but they do still have a chance.
10. Indiana Fever
Previous ranking: 10
This week: vs. Chicago (Tuesday), at Connecticut (Friday), vs. Minnesota (Sunday)
Sunday's overtime victory at Dallas was an indication of how the Fever hope to close out this season. They had been eliminated from playoff contention by the Wings two days earlier, but vowed they still had a lot to play for. It looked that way as both Kelsey Mitchell and NaLyssa Smith scored 30 points in beating the Wings. The Fever want to finish strong as they look toward 2024.
11. Seattle Storm
Previous ranking: 11
This week: at Atlanta (Wednesday), at Dallas (Friday), vs. Los Angeles (Sunday)
Similarly, the Storm hope to prove they are not just playing out the string. That showed last week with a double-digit win at Los Angeles. Then, they were no match for Las Vegas in a 26-point loss. Still, the Storm could play spoiler this week, as guard Jewell Loyd (24.3 PPG) looks to wrap up the WNBA's season scoring title.
12. Phoenix Mercury
Previous ranking: 12
This week: vs. Washington (Tuesday), vs. Las Vegas (Friday), at Las Vegas (Sunday)
The best thing for the Mercury would be to not have any more injuries as they close out their first non-playoff season since 2012. They still have a chance to impact the playoff race for other teams, but their last victory was Aug. 10.