WNBA playoff picture, standings, projections: Aces closing in on No. 1 seed; four spots still up for grabs

The 2023 WNBA regular season is winding down, with just one week to go until the regular season wraps up on Sept. 10. As expected, the defending champion Las Vegas Aces and the New York Liberty have separated themselves from the pack, but there remains plenty to play for. 

At the top of the standings, the Aces have set a new regular-season wins record with 32, and are closing in on the No. 1 seed, as it looks like the New York Liberty are going to run out of time to catch them. Below them, the Connecticut Sun are now locked into the No. 3 seed, while the Dallas Wings have created some separation in fourth place and have also clinched a playoff berth. 

After that, the seeds are completely up for grabs. At the moment there are two main duels going on. One between the Minnesota Lynx, Washington Mystics and Atlanta Dream, who are separated by one game and continually changing spots in the Nos. 5, 6 and 7 slots. And another between the Chicago Sky and Los Angeles Sparks, who have identical 15-21 records, and trying to get the eighth and final spot. 

The lottery will feature the Indiana Fever, Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury, who have all been eliminated. The latest casualty was the Fever who hung on for much longer than anyone expected heading into the season, but were officially knocked out with their defeat to the Wings on Friday. 

Here’s a closer look at how things stand:

Current standings

  1. Las Vegas Aces (32-6) — Playoff spot clinched
  2. New York Liberty (29-7) — Playoff spot clinched
  3. Connecticut Sun (25-12) — Playoff spot clinched
  4. Dallas Wings (20-16) — Playoff spot clinched
  5. Minnesota Lynx (18-19)
  6. Washington Mystics (17-19)
  7. Atlanta Dream (17-20)
  8. Chicago Sky (15-21)
  9. Los Angeles Sparks (15-21)
  10. Indiana Fever (11-25) — Eliminated
  11. Seattle Storm (11-26) — Eliminated 
  12. Phoenix Mercury (9-27) — Eliminated

Note: Two-team ties are decided first by head-to-head record and then, if necessary, better record against .500+ teams. Ties between more than two teams are determined by combined head-to-head record against the other teams. 

Aces and Liberty clear at the top

1. Las Vegas Aces (32-6)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Liberty: season series tied 2-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 8 Chicago Sky
  • Key remaining games: None

After their first slump of the season in late August, the Aces have bounced back with big wins over the Mystics and Storm and are closing in on securing the No. 1 seed. They have a two-game lead over the Liberty and their last two games are both against the last-place Mercury who have essentially given up on the season. 

2. New York Liberty (29-7)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Aces: season series tied 2-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 7 Atlanta Dream
  • Key remaining games: None

The Liberty are rolling. They took down the Aces on Monday and crushed the Sun on Friday to extend their winning streak to five games and clinch at least a top-two seed. While this hot streak gave them a chance to catch the Aces, they’re starting to run out of time and would need some surprise help from the Mercury to have a chance at the top spot. 

Sun locked into third

3. Connecticut Sun (25-12)

  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 6 Washington Mystics

No one expected the Sun to be this good this season without Jonquel Jones, but they’ve clearly established themselves as the “best of the rest” behind the Aces and Liberty. They have clinched a playoff spot, and after their defeat to the Liberty on Friday are locked into the No. 3 seed. 

Let the seeding battles begin

4. Dallas Wings (20-16)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Dream: won season series 2-0; vs. Lynx: season series tied 2-2; vs. Sparks: lost season series 1-3; vs. Mystics: won season series 3-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 5 Minnesota Lynx
  • Key remaining games: at Dream (Sept. 10)

The Wings are going back to the playoffs for the third consecutive season, and have their first 20-win campaign since 2008, when they still played in Detroit. They clinched both on Friday with their win over the Fever, which came thanks to a career-high 40 points from Satou Sabally

5. Minnesota Lynx (18-19)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: season series tied 2-2; vs. Dream: lost season series 1-2; vs. Sparks: won season series 4-0; vs. Mystics: won season series 2-1; vs. Sky: season series tied 1-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 4 Dallas Wings
  • Key remaining games: at Sky (Sept. 8)

After a brutal 0-6 start, the Lynx have gone 18-13 to climb into a playoff spot. They got a huge win on Friday in overtime over the Dream, which has, for the moment, moved them up to fifth place and out of a dreaded first-round matchup against the Aces, Liberty or Sun. 

6. Washington Mystics (17-19)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: lost season series 1-3; vs. Lynx: lost season series 1-2; vs. Dream: losing season series 1-2; vs. Sparks: season series tied 1-1; vs. Sky: won season series 4-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 3 Connecticut Sun
  • Key remaining games: at Sparks (Sept. 3), vs. Dream (Sept. 8)

The Mystics got off to a terrific start, but have been decimated by injuries in the last few months, which resulted in a free-fall down the standings. They are finally starting to get healthy, though, with Elena Delle Donne, Shakira Austin and Ariel Atkins all featuring in recent games. 

7. Atlanta Dream (17-20)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: lost season series 0-2; vs. Lynx: won season series 2-1; vs. Sparks: season series tied 2-2; vs. Mystics: winning season series 2-1; vs. Sky: won season series 4-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 2 New York Liberty
  • Key remaining games: at Mystics (Sept. 8), vs. Wings (Sept. 10)

This has been a roller coaster season for the Dream. When they’re good, they’re really good, but when they’re bad, they’re really bad. They’ve had winning streaks of seven and three games, but also four different three-game losing streaks. They are likely going to snap their franchise-record four-season playoff drought, but their performances in recent weeks have been concerning. 

8. Chicago Sky (15-21)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sparks: won season series 3-1; vs. Mystics: lost season series 0-4; vs. Lynx: season series tied 1-1; vs. Dream: lost season series 0-4
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 1 Las Vegas Aces
  • Key remaining games: vs. Lynx (Sept. 8)

Perhaps no team in the league is as desperate to make the playoffs as the Sky, who do not have a first-round pick in the 2024 draft as a result of former head coach and GM James Wade’s short-sighted offseason. A late-season skid left them with a lot of work to do, but they’ve suddenly won three of their last four to jump back into eighth place via the tiebreaker over the Sparks. 

8. Los Angeles Sparks (15-21)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: won season series 3-1; vs. Lynx: lost season series 0-4; vs. Dream: season series tied 2-2; vs. Mystics: season series tied 1-1; vs. Sky: lost season series 1-3
  • Current first-round matchup: N/A
  • Key remaining games: vs. Mystics (Sept. 3)

After an incredible six-game winning streak to surge into the playoff picture, the Sparks have dropped their last three contests and are now on the outside looking in. Their defeat to the Storm on Thursday was especially rough, as it represented a real chance to get back on a track before a brual three-game stretch against the Mystics, Sun and Liberty.  


10. Indiana Fever (11-25)

The Fever were knocked out of the playoffs on Friday with their defeat to the Wings. But while they’ll be in the lottery for a seventh consecutive season, this isn’t the same old Fever. They’ve won as many games this summer as 2021 and 2022 combined, and there are some positive signs for the future. 

11. Seattle Storm (11-26)

The Storm were officially eliminated from the playoffs after their loss to the Sky on Sunday, ending a seven-year postseason streak. This was unfortunately to be expected given the departures of Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird in the offseason, and a trip to the lottery will help the Storm reset for the future. 

12. Phoenix Mercury (9-27)

The Mercury’s claim to the longest active postseason streak in the league is no more. For the first time since 2012, they were eliminated from the playoffs with their defeat against the Wings on Sunday. This group needs a fresh infusion of talent, though, so heading to the lottery is for the best. 

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