WNBA Standings – Playoff Projections, Explanations

The new playoff format may confuse a lot of WNBA fans as crunch time approaches. This article will help you figure out how things will work.

The 2016 WNBA regular season is almost complete. Following play on Sunday only one team has been eliminated from playoff contention, the San Antonio Stars. Otherwise all teams are still in much need of victories with several important games approaching this week.

Here’s a look at the standings heading into Monday, which is an off-day for the women’s association (teams positioned to make the playoffs are bolded, strikethrough means mathematically eliminated, asterisk denotes guaranteed to make the playoffs):

  1. Los Angeles Sparks*, 24-5, 5 games remaining (DOUBLE bye into semis)
  2. Minnesota Lynx*, 24-5, 5 games remaining (DOUBLE bye into semis)
  3. New York Liberty*, 20-9, 5 games remaining (SINGLE bye into 2nd eound)
  4. Chicago Sky, 15-13, 6 games remaining (SINGLE bye into 2nd round)
  5. Atlanta Dream, 14-14, 6 games remaining
  6. Indiana Fever, 13-15, 6 games remaining
  7. Phoenix Mercury, 13-16, 5 games remaining
  8. Seattle Storm, 12-17, 5 games remaining
  9. Washington Mystics, 11-17, 6 games remaining
  10. Connecticut Sun, 11-18, 5 games remaining
  11. Dallas Wings, 9-21, 4 games remaining
  12. San Antonio Stars, 6-22, 6 games remaining

If the playoffs were to start on Monday, then this is what they would look like:

First round:

  • No. 8 Seattle @ No. 5 Atlanta in single elimination (ie. one-and-done, like NCAA)
  • No. 7 Phoenix @ No. 6 Indiana in single elimination
  • Teams seeded 1st to 4th get a bye and remain idle

2nd round

  • Lowest seed surviving the first round @ No. 3 New York Liberty in single elimination
  • Other team surviving the first round @ No. 4 Chicago Sky in single elimination
  • For example, if Indiana and Atlanta both won then Indiana, the lower seed of the two, would face the Liberty while Atlanta would face Chicago; however if, for example, Indiana and Seattle won then Seattle, the lower seed of the two, would face the Liberty while Indiana would face Chicago
  • The reseeding system might remind sports fans of how the NHL used to reseed the playoffs in the 2nd round, however the NHL didn’t use byes during that era
  • Teams seeded 1st and 2nd get a bye and remain idle in the 2nd round

3rd round

  • Lowest seed surviving 2nd round @ No. 1 Los Angeles Sparks in best-of-five series
  • Other team surviving second round @ No. 2 Minnesota Lynx in best-of-five series

WNBA Finals

  • Two winning teams in round 3 contest the finals

All best-of-five series will be played in the 2-2-1 format, meaning that the higher-seeded team hosts games one, two, and five (if needed).

The seeds certainly aren’t set, however Los Angeles and Minnesota certainly look highly probable for the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. Furthermore, New York are a likely three seed with little potential to move up or down.

However, the No. 4 seed is still very much up for grabs. Given the first-round bye and the 2nd-round hosting situation, numerous teams will want to make a play on catching the Chicago Sky.

Among the teams in the middle of the pack, I think the Storm are the ones to make an upward move behind the strong play of rookie sensation Breanna Stewart.

The final game of the regular season is on September 18th.

Shane Lambert