There is now less than a month to play in the 2023 WNBA regular season, and the playoff picture is heating up. As expected, the defending champion Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty, the two title favorites since February, have separated themselves at the top of the standings. 

Just below them, the Connecticut Sun have carved out a big gap on either side of the No. 3 seed. After that, though, it’s all to play for. There’s a crowded middle of the pack, with two games separating the No. 4 Dallas Wings from the No. 7 Washington Mystics, and two teams, the Chicago Sky and Los Angeles Sparks, tied for the No. 8 seed. 

The Seattle Storm, Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever, meanwhile, appear destined for the lottery. 

As the action continues, here’s a closer look at how things stand:

Current standings

  1. Las Vegas Aces (28-3) — Playoff spot clinched
  2. New York Liberty (24-7) — Playoff spot clinched
  3. Connecticut Sun (21-9)
  4. Dallas Wings (16-14)
  5. Atlanta Dream (15-16)
  6. Minnesota Lynx (14-16)
  7. Washington Mystics (14-16)
  8. Chicago Sky (12-18)
  9. Los Angeles Sparks (12-18)
  10. Seattle Storm (9-21)
  11. Phoenix Mercury (9-21)
  12. Indiana Fever (8-23)

Note: Two-team ties are decided first by head-to-head record and then, if necessary, better record against .500+ teams. 

Aces and Liberty clear at the top

1. Las Vegas Aces (28-3)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Liberty: leading season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 8 Chicago Sky
  • Key remaining games: at Liberty (Aug. 28)

The Aces have the best record in the league and have officially been in the playoffs since Aug. 2. They are well on their way to setting a new WNBA record for wins in a season, and after their big win over the Liberty on Thursday will almost certainly be the No. 1 seed. The Liberty were the only team that had a chance of catching them, but the Aces are now four games clear with nine games to play. 

2. New York Liberty (24-7)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Aces: losing season series 1-2; vs. Sun: lead season series 2-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 7 Washington Mystics
  • Key remaining games: at Sun (Aug. 24), vs. Aces (Aug. 28), vs. Sun (Sept. 1)

The Liberty had won six regular season games in a row heading into Thursday’s showdown with the Aces, and had also crushed their rivals in the Commissioner’s Cup championship. Their hot streak came to an end, however, and in all likelihood so too did their hopes of stealing the No. 1 seed. They’re now four games back with nine games to play, and it’s tough to see how they catch the Aces at this point. 

Sun all alone in third

3. Connecticut Sun (21-9)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Liberty: trail season series 0-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 6 Minnesota Lynx
  • Key remaining games: vs. Liberty (Aug. 24), at Liberty (Sept. 1)

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. In fact, until a recent swoon they were neck-and-neck with the Liberty for the No. 2 seed. Catching New York now looks unlikely, but with two games left against their East Coast rival, they are still in with a shout. Even if they fail in that quest, they have a five-game lead over the Wings, and won’t fall below third. 

A crowded middle of the pack

4. Dallas Wings (16-14)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Dream: won season series 2-0; vs. Lynx: winning season series 2-0; vs. Mystics: winning season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 5 Atlanta Dream
  • Key remaining games: at Mystics (Aug. 20), at Lynx (Aug. 22), vs. Lynx (Aug. 24), at Dream (Sept. 10)

The Wings are going to make the playoffs, but with which seed remains to be seen. They caught fire on either side of the All-Star break to surge into fourth place and create some separation, but have struggled a bit since then. The good news on the seeding front is they’ve either won or are winning all three key tiebreak situations. 

5. Atlanta Dream (15-16)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: lost season series 0-2; vs. Lynx: won season series 2-0; vs. Mystics: winning season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 4 Dallas Wings
  • Key remaining games: at Lynx (Sept. 1), 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 three different three-game losing streaks. Through it all, they are going to snap their franchise-record four-season playoff drought. 

6. Minnesota Lynx (14-16)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: losing season series 0-2; vs. Dream: lost season series 0-2; vs. Mystics: won season series 2-0
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 3 Connecticut Sun
  • Key remaining games: vs. Wings (Aug. 22), at Lynx (Aug. 24), at Mystics (Aug. 29), vs. Dream (Sept. 1)

After a brutal 0-6 start, the Lynx have gone 14-10 to climb into sixth place. Their odds of moving up into the top-five are hurt by their tiebreaker situation, but after missing the playoffs for the first time in over a decade last season, the Lynx appear to be on their way back.

7. Washington Mystics (14-16)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Wings: losing season series 1-2; vs. Dream: losing season series 1-2; vs. Lynx: lost season series 0-2
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 2 New York Liberty
  • Key remaining games: vs. Wings (Aug. 20), vs. Lynx (Aug. 29), vs. Dream (Sept. 8)

The Mystics got off to a terrific start, but have been decimated by injuries in the last few months. Elena Delle Donne, Shakira Austin, Ariel Atkins and Kristi Toliver have all missed significant time, and as a result they’ve lost 11 of their last 16 games. They’ll likely do enough to make the playoffs, though, and if they can finally get healthy they could be a tough out.  

Two teams for one spot

8. Chicago Sky (12-18)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sparks: winning season series 2-1
  • Current first-round matchup: vs. No. 1 Las Vegas Aces
  • Key remaining games: at Sparks (Aug. 29)

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. There’s no guarantee they will do so, however, as they’ve struggled mightily in the last six weeks and are locked in a duel with the Sparks for the final spot. 

9. Los Angeles Sparks (12-18)

  • Tiebreakers: vs. Sky: losing season series 1-2
  • Current first-round matchup: N/A
  • Key remaining games: vs. Sky (Aug. 29)

This season has not gone to plan for the Sparks, who have been dealing with injuries and illnesses all season long. They hired Curt Miller and signed a few veterans last winter with the expectation that they would make the playoffs, but are going to need a strong final month to do so. If they don’t, a lottery pick in next year’s draft would be for the best long-term anyway. 

Likely lottery bound

10. Seattle Storm (9-21)

Winners of five of their last seven, the Storm have actually been playing pretty well since their franchise-worst 10-game losing streak. It will likely be too little, too late, however, as they sit three games back of the eighth and final playoff spot with just 10 games to play. It’s much better for them long-term to miss out on the playoffs this season anyway. 

11. Phoenix Mercury (9-21)

The Mercury are another bottom feeder that has started to turn things around lately. But given their body of work this season, and how difficult their remaining schedule is, it’s hard to see them making up a three-game deficit. Much like the Storm, a trip to the lottery is for the best. 

12. Indiana Fever (8-23)

This has been an extremely frustrating season for the Fever, who have made some real improvements but don’t have the wins to show for it. They are 4.5 games out of the playoff picture and will soon be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season — the longest drought in the league. 

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