The Chicago Sky, Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics, and Minnesota Lynx have all been eliminated, and they head to the offseason with a chance to regroup and prepare for next year. Below is a snapshot of their season and what lies ahead.
The big development after the Sky’s loss against the Las Vegas Aces in the first round was the team announcing that Emre Vatansever won’t be the head coach and general manager next season. Vatansever served on an interim basis after James Wade left midseason to join the Toronto Raptors. Despite the massive change in the middle of the year, Chicago finished the season with an 18-22 record and made the postseason for the fifth consecutive time.
The question now is who will replace Vatansever at the top. The Sky still have plenty of talent to be playoff contenders next season spearheaded by Kahleah Copper. Copper is the last core member of the 2021 championship team and building around her will be critical for the team’s future success.
A co-star in the making for the Sky is five-year guard Marina Mabrey. In her first season in Chicago, she put up 15.0 points - her highest scoring average so far. She knocked down 2.3 triples per game with a 39 percent shooting clip. Mabrey was the sidekick to Arike Ogunbowale in Dallas and now she has a chance to flourish with another backcourt star in Copper.
Altanta has always known that it had a star in Rhyne Howard. She was drafted first overall in 2022 and had a successful first season, winning Rookie of the Year. She showed no jitters in her first postseason appearance as she set the record for most points with 36 and most 3-pointers with eight. Even though the Dream were eliminated by the Dallas Wings, there’s no denying the star power of Howard and the potential of the franchise moving forward.
Aside from the growth of Howard, the addition of Allisha Gray was a huge boost for Atlanta this season. The feisty guard had her best statistical year with the Dream as she enjoyed career-highs in points (17.1), field goal percentage (46.5), and assists (3.1).
Prior to this season, the Dream missed the playoffs for four straight years. Credit the direction of head coach Tanisha Wright ever since she took over last season. The Dream aren’t going away any time soon.
At the beginning of the season, the Mystics had all the tools to give the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty a run for their money as the top seed. But the biggest issue of Washington this season was injuries.
Shakira Austin, the third overall pick last year, was supposed to play a vital role for the squad in her sophomore season. As a 6-foot-5 big, she has splendid post play mixed with quickness and versatility. Unfortunately, she appeared in just 19 games this season because of a hip injury. After missing nearly two months, she returned for just six games before reaggravating her injury right before the playoffs.
Franchise player Elena Delle Donne missed time on the court because of her ankle and so did two-time All-Star Ariel Atkins due to an ankle injury and nasal fracture. Kristi Toliver, meanwhile, had a season-ending ACL injury.
Health has been a thorn in the side of the Mystics since their championship run in 2019. Their window for another title is certainly far from being closed but you do have to wonder if they can still put together a strong healthy run one more time as EDD slowly moves past her prime.
Considering they started the season 0-6, the Lynx can be proud of themselves for making the playoffs with a 19-21 record. As Napheesa Collier was the team’s North Star, they also had strong seasons from sharpshooter Kayla McBride and rookie Diamond Miller. Role players like Jessica Shepard, Tiffany Mitchell, and Dorka Juhász proved to be key contributors as the team navigated an up-and-down season. The injury to Lindsay Allen (left thumb) was definitely a huge blow as they needed her playmaking and ball-handling skills in the playoffs.
An interesting note in Minnesota’s offseason is the possible breakup with Aerial Powers. Last season, she was a mainstay in the lineup and had a couple of high-scoring games. This season was different as we saw a massive dip in her playing time, logging in just 20 games on an average of 9.7 minutes. Granted that she started the season with an ankle injury, but we just didn’t see much of her at all this year. She made headlines in August when she interacted with a fan on social media and hinted she might be headed elsewhere by season’s end. If both parties do indeed decide to move on, the Lynx will have to look for another scorer and playmaker to elevate the pieces they currently have.
At the end of the day, Minnesota will be about Napheesa Collier and her continued emergence as the face of the franchise. She just had her best year offensively with 21.5 points while also tallying 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks. She appeared in 37 games in her first full season following her pregnancy. This is the dawn of a new era for the Lynx after the retirement of Slyvia Fowles who was the last piece of the championship teams of the 2010s. The 26-year-old Collier is entering her prime and it shouldn’t be a surprise if she ends up with an MVP award soon.