This past Sunday, the final berth into the WNBA playoffs was claimed as losses from the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks paved the way for the New York Liberty to claim the eighth seed in this year’s postseason.
The trip to the playoffs for the Liberty is the first time New York has participated in postseason play since 2017. The Lib will open the postseason on the road at the Phoenix Mercury while the Dallas Wings will travel to Wintrust Arena to face the Chicago Sky in the first round of the playoffs.
Those four teams join the Minnesota Lynx, Seattle Storm (both single byes), Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun (both double byes) to complete this year’s playoff slate.
What about the teams that did not make playoffs? Here is what they are already looking ahead to.
When the Mystics are fully healthy, there is full reason to believe this is a team that can be WNBA Finals contenders. Only one problem – the Mystics were not a full strength and have not been since winning the 2019 WNBA championship over the Sun.
Elena Delle Donne did not play much of the season and her continued rehab will definitely be a story to follow over the offseason. The Mystics also were without 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman due to the Olympics.
And – of course – one wonders if coach Mike Thibault will or will not call it a career and hand the reins to his son Eric.
Los Angeles Sparks
The Sparks coach – Derek Fisher – has become as well liked in the City of Angels as the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Sparks will enter an offseason after failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Also, Los Angeles is the only of the non-playoff teams with no first-round draft picks for 2022.
Fisher got roundly criticized for having something to do with Candace Parker (Sky) and Chelsea Gray (Aces) leaving town despite reloading the team with veterans such as Erica Wheeler, Kristi Toliver and Amanda Zahui B. Injuries (such as to Nneka Ogwumike and Chiney Ogwumike) also hurt Los Angeles in 2021. Will Fisher return after his contract extension and promotion to general manager before last season?
For a good half of the season, it appeared as if the Dream would actually contend for a playoff berth before getting blown out at the Aces prior to the Olympic break.
Then the bottom dropped out. Mike Petersen left his post as coach midway through the season, clearing the way for Darius Taylor to take over as coach. The Dream also recently hired a new president and COO.
Atlanta still needs to hire a general manager and decide on the future of Chennedy Carter, their 2020 fourth overall pick. At least the Dream’s issues this offseason are all basketball related.
One wonders what the Fever’s front office is thinking on the subject of Marianne Stanley.
She was brought in prior to the 2020 season in the bubble after a 2019 season under Pokey Chatman where Indiana was only two games removed from the final playoff berth that season (one that went to the Lynx that year).
Instead, Indiana had the second-worst record in the bubble last season (to the Liberty’s 2-20) and the worst mark after this season. While the Fever are the odds-on-favorite to win the draft lottery, one has to think Stanley’s seat is getting hotter.