WNBA playoff picture, standings, projections: Sky secure final playoff spot, Sparks heading to lottery

WNBA playoff picture, standings, projections: Sky secure final playoff spot, Sparks heading to lottery

Just one day of games remains in the thrilling and historic 2023 WNBA regular season. On Sunday, all 12 teams will be in action, though there won’t be anything to play for besides seeding after the Chicago Sky secured the eighth and final playoff spot on Friday night with a win over the Minnesota Lynx. 

At the top of the standings, the Aces have a one-game lead over the Liberty in the race for the No. 1 seed, and will wrap up the top spot if they beat the last-place Mercury at home. If they lose and the Liberty win their finale, the teams will be tied and first place will go to a tiebreaker. Because the Aces and Liberty went 2-2 against each other this season, it will move to the second tiebreaker, which is best record against teams with a .500 record or better. Sunday’s action will be needed to determine which team will have the edge, should the tiebreaker be needed.

Below them, the Connecticut Sun are now locked into the No. 3 seed, while the Dallas Wings have secured the fourth spot and the Sky are locked into eighth place. Still up for grabs are spots 5-7, which will come down to the Atlanta Dream, Minnesota Lynx and Washington Mystics.  

The lottery will feature the Indiana Fever, Seattle Storm, Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks, who have all been eliminated. By virtue of having the worst combined record in the 2022 and 2023 seasons, the Fever have the best odds to win the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft

Here’s a closer look at how things stand:

Current standings

  1. Las Vegas Aces (33-6) — Playoff spot clinched
  2. New York Liberty (32-7) — Playoff spot clinched
  3. Connecticut Sun (27-12) — Clinched No. 3 seed
  4. Dallas Wings (21-18) — Clinched No. 4 seed
  5. Atlanta Dream (19-20) — Playoff spot clinched
  6. Minnesota Lynx (19-20) — Playoff spot clinched
  7. Washington Mystics (18-21) — Playoff spot clinched
  8. Chicago Sky (17-22) — Clinched No. 8 seed
  9. Los Angeles Sparks (16-23) — Eliminated
  10. Indiana Fever (12-27) — Eliminated
  11. Seattle Storm (11-28) — Eliminated 
  12. Phoenix Mercury (9-30) — 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 (33-6)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Liberty: season series tied 2-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 8 Chicago Sky
  • Remaining game: vs. Mercury (Sept.10)

After their first slump of the season in late August, the Aces have bounced back with three consecutive wins to close in on the No. 1 overall seed. All they need is a win over the last-place Mercury at home on Sunday, and they will clinch first place and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. 

2. New York Liberty (32-7)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Aces: season series tied 2-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 7 Washington Mystics
  • Remaining game: vs. Mystics (Sept.10)

The Liberty pulled off a big second-half comeback on Thursday to extend their winning streak to eight games and give themselves a chance to catch the Aces for the top spot. However, they will need some unlikely help from the lowly Mercury to even have a chance, and are most likely looking at the No. 2 seed. 

Sun locked into third

3. Connecticut Sun (27-12)

  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 6 Minnesota Lynx
  • Remaining game: vs. Sky (Sept. 10)

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 are now using the final week to work themselves into a rhythm. 

Wings secure fourth

4. Dallas Wings (21-18)

  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 5 Minnesota Lynx
  • Remaining game: 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 haven’t been super consistent over the past month, but when they’re at their best they can beat anyone, and that gives them a chance in short series. 

Let the seeding battles begin

5. Atlanta Dream (19-20)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: lost season series 0-2; vs. Lynx: won season series 2-1; vs. Sparks: season series tied 2-2; vs. Mystics: won season series 3-1; vs. Sky: won season series 4-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 3 Dallas Wings
  • Remaining game: 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. Through it all, they have officially clinched their first playoff berth since 2018 after their win over the Storm on Sept. 6. With a win on Sunday they’ll clinch the No. 5 seed and a .500 record. 

6. Minnesota Lynx (19-20)

  • 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: lost season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 3 Connecticut Sun
  • Remaining game: at Fever (Sept. 10)

The Lynx are just the second team in WNBA history to make the playoffs after starting the season 0-6, joining the 2015 Sparks, but their seed is still to be determined. If they win their final game on Sunday they will have at worst the No. 6 seed, and if that happens along with a Dream defeat they will have the No. 5 seed. 

7. Washington Mystics (18-21)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: lost season series 1-3; vs. Lynx: lost season series 1-2; vs. Dream: lost season series 1-3; vs. Sparks: lost season series 1-2; vs. Sky: won season series 4-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 2 New York Liberty
  • Remaining game: at Liberty (Sept. 10)

The Mystics just have not been able to catch a break in regards to injuries. Kristi Toliver, who went down with a torn ACL, was the latest major casualty. They have clinched a playoff spot, but their seed is still to be determined based on the result of Sunday’s game in New York, plus the outcomes of the Wings-Dream and Lynx-Fever contests. 

8. Chicago Sky (17-22)

  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 1 Las Vegas Aces
  • Remaining game: at Sun (Sept. 10)

Perhaps no team in the league was 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. It was looking grim on that front a few weeks ago, but with a 92-87 win over the Lynx on Friday they can at least say they’re heading to the postseason. 


9. Los Angeles Sparks (16-23)

The Sparks were officially eliminated from the playoffs on Friday with the Sky’s win over the Lynx. As a result, they will miss out for the third consecutive season, which is a new franchise-worst playoff drought. Despite a late-season surge, the Sparks were simply unable to overcome all the injuries they faced this season, which left them playing shorthanded nearly every single night. 

10. Indiana Fever (12-27)

The Fever were knocked out of the playoffs on Sept. 1 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 more games this summer than they did in 2021 and 2022 combined, and they have a talented young core in Aliyah Boston, NaLyssa Smith and Kelsey Mitchell. 

11. Seattle Storm (11-28)

The Storm were officially eliminated from the playoffs after their loss to the Sky on Sept. 3, 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 (9-30)

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 Sept 3. This group needs a fresh infusion of talent, though, so heading to the lottery is for the best. 

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