WNBA power rankings: Have the Las Vegas Aces stumbled from No. 1? (2024)

Read The Athletic’s latest edition of WNBA Power Rankings.

The 2023 WNBA season crowned a wire-to-wire No. 1 team. The Las Vegas Aces entered the year as defending champions and maintained the top spot in the league standings — and these power rankings — the entire year pretty comfortably, even with a brief swoon in August.

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Thus far, 2024 hasn’t been the same story of dominance for Las Vegas. The Aces, despite beginning the season with four home games against opponents that failed to make last season’s playoffs, haven’t consistently looked the part of title favorites. Their defense is below league average, and even their wins against the Phoenix Mercury and the Los Angeles Sparks have been nervier than expected.

Perhaps that trend will change when Chelsea Gray returns to the lineup, but for now, the league is experiencing more parity relative to any point last season. Projected lottery teams are taking down title contenders. The battle for the top spot in these rankings was neck-and-neck, essentially coming down to one foul call in the final 10 seconds of an overtime game.

The promise of unpredictability on any given night and the threat of a real playoff race have helped deliver on the hype of the most anticipated WNBA season to date. Enjoy the unpredictability while it lasts.

Three standout performances

Kayla McBride’s near-perfect game

Entering this season, McBride’s 3-point percentage had dropped for three consecutive years with the Minnesota Lynx. It was fair to wonder whether the soon-to-be 32-year-old who consistently plays year-round (she was the Final Four MVP as she captured yet another EuroLeague title this offseason with Fenerbahçe) was experiencing age-related slippage.

The start of this campaign has put those concerns to rest. Stats through five games are prone to some exaggeration, but McBride is averaging 17.2 points and a career-best 3.8 assists per game. Her effective field-goal percentage is a shocking 70.4 — for context, her previous best over a full season is 52.6. The Lynx are scoring 40.6 points more per 100 possessions with her on the court en route to a 4-1 start. Perhaps her only blemish was a missed fadeaway at the buzzer against the Connecticut Sun that would have made that record 5-0.

One word… EFFICIENT 🎯

Kayla McBride went off in the Lynx win over the Dream:

31 PTS | 10-12 FG | 6-7 3PT | 5-5 FT

All in 31 minutes.#WelcometotheW pic.twitter.com/NUEASe6WvM

— WNBA (@WNBA) May 27, 2024

How did McBride respond to that miss? She dropped 14 points and added 5 assists against the New York Liberty while defending Betnijah Laney-Hamilton and limiting her to 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting. The next day, on the second game of a back-to-back, McBride was perfect from the field for 37 minutes, making all nine of her field goals and five free throws while guarding All-Stars Rhyne Howard and Allisha Gray. The magic wore off at the end of the game, but even then, one of her misses could have charitably been considered a turnover instead.

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McBride has to be defended as if she’s a five-alarm fire from long range. She ranks 13th for the most 3s in WNBA history, and cracking the top 10 is well within reach this season, even as she presumably cools from her 51.4 percent shooting clip.

Monique Billings’ revenge tour

Billings had spent the entirety of her pro career with the Atlanta Dream before her offseason departure. She chose to sign with the Sparks, her hometown team, but was ultimately the last cut in training camp.

Her absence from the WNBA didn’t last too long as the Dallas Wings came calling once Natasha Howard and Jaelyn Brown went down on opening night, and Billings has been “the missing piece” for the Wings, in the words of coach Latricia Trammell. A career reserve, Billings entered the starting lineup for Dallas in her second game and averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Wings went 2-1 this week.

In a fun twist of fate, two of the games were against Atlanta and Los Angeles. Billings had 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Dream, a stat line she managed only once in six years in Atlanta. She individually bested her replacement Tina Charles on the night, but Dallas came up short in the final result.

Billings would not be denied in her second opportunity for revenge. Against the players whom she battled in training camp two weeks prior, Billings was dominant on the glass. In the second half, despite being on a back-to-back, she had three offensive rebounds of her own compared with zero for the Sparks. Her driving layup past Cameron Brink with 2 1/2 minutes to go gave the Wings a lead they would not relinquish. On the ensuing possession, she made two free throws and shushed the crowd — the home fans she once had hoped to represent — as she ran back down the floor.

Monique Billings powers thru and the Wings take the lead 👏

📺 League Pass pic.twitter.com/jKplUBsSmr

— WNBA (@WNBA) May 27, 2024

“A lot of emotions,” she said. “All I can say is patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

Jordan Horston’s starting five audition

When the Seattle Storm brought together four All-Stars during the offseason, the question became who would play alongside them. Victoria Vivians has won the job for now, but it might be only a matter of time until Jordan Horston supplants her, at least in the closing five. Horston, who is in her second season, still hasn’t figured out how to score efficiently, but she does a little bit of everything else well, and that’s arguably more important when playing alongside so much other scoring talent.

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She boxes out bigger players and skies in for rebounds. She’s a smart passer, especially out of drives when she’s already compromised the defense, and is always looking for her bigs inside. Horston is also an active defensive playmaker; her 9 total stocks (steals plus blocks) this week were eclipsed by only Napheesa Collier and Brink.

That’s how you use your length to jump the passing lane 🫡

Jordan Horston with the steal and score in transition

📲 WNBA League Pass pic.twitter.com/WNq0xQLKSC

— WNBA (@WNBA) May 26, 2024

Horston makes winning plays. Over the past week, she ranked sixth in the league in plus-minus behind five members of the Lynx and Sun. That’s the kind of player the Storm will want on the court as they attempt to return to the playoffs.

Rookie of the week

Sevgi Uzun, Dallas Wings

With several years of professional experience in Turkey — including a EuroLeague championship with Fenerbahçe this past season — the 26-year-old is only a rookie in the WNBA. Nevertheless, she’s been asked to run the show for a team that’s a potential contender and had significant personnel turnover. That isn’t easy for any point guard, let alone one new to this style of play.

“She runs our team well and has confidence and keeps us poised,” teammate Arike Ogunbowale said.

Uzun’s ball control so far has been remarkable. She ranks in the top sixth of the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, and in the past week, trails only Jackie Young among starting point guards. Facing the ball pressure of Natasha Cloud and Kahleah Copper in Phoenix, Uzun had 3 turnovers and then followed that up with 8 assists to no turnovers against Los Angeles. It’s not as if Uzun is risk averse, as she demonstrated with an over-the-head pass to Teaira McCowan in the paint against the Sparks.

SEVGI UZUN NO LOOK, OVER THE HEAD PASS!!

HOW?!?!?#SCTop10 | #VoltUp pic.twitter.com/ClhmgOFV3d

— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) May 27, 2024

The Wings have placed a great deal of faith in Uzun by waiving Veronica Burton, trading Crystal Dangerfield and not re-signing Odyssey Sims. The point guard role is all hers, and she’s validating their belief thus far.

Game to circle

Los Angeles Sparks at Chicago Sky, 8 p.m. (ET) Thursday

Cameron Brink versus Angel Reese. The rookie bigs played each other twice as college sophom*ores, when Reese was at Maryland and Brink at Stanford, but they haven’t met since each developed into an All-American. They both have impressed already as WNBA starters, with Brink leading the league in blocks per game and Reese in offensive rebounds. When the Sparks and the Sky face off, these two will have to guard each other, resulting in what could be the best direct rookie showdown of the season.

(Photo of A’ja Wilson, Jackie Young and Kiah Stokes: Jeff Bottari / NBAE via Getty Images)

WNBA power rankings: Have the Las Vegas Aces stumbled from No. 1? (13)WNBA power rankings: Have the Las Vegas Aces stumbled from No. 1? (14)

Sabreena Merchant is a women's basketball Staff Writer for The Athletic. She previously covered the WNBA and NBA for SB Nation. Sabreena is an alum of Duke University, where she wrote for the independent student newspaper, The Chronicle. She is based in Los Angeles. Follow Sabreena on Twitter @sabreenajm

WNBA power rankings: Have the Las Vegas Aces stumbled from No. 1? (2024)

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