The six teams in the hunt for one of the final three WNBA playoff spots are separated by, at most, two games. The race is going to get spicy. But every team in that mix is also below .500 with little hope of climbing out of that hole. That begs the question: does it even matter who makes it?

With the WNBA season two weeks away from its regular season conclusion, five teams are ahead of the pack and already guaranteed a postseason spot. The Sky, Aces, Sun, Storm and Mystics, in that order, are the five favorites to varying degrees. Should any of them be worried by prospective first-round opponents?

Here’s the short answer

Listen, if you want to look at the numbers and talk about what’s likely to happen, then no, these teams probably won’t matter much. But if you’ve lived and breathed the WNBA before — and by before I mean literally 12 months ago — you know the reigning champs were a .500 team.

Beware of the Minnesota Lynx

That headline’s been relevant for a decade plus, but it’s especially true today. Don’t look at the Lynx’s 12-19 overall record (of which Sylvia Fowles missed six games of). Instead, notice they went 6-5 in July with an offense on par with the Sky’s and second only to the Aces’.

Aerial Powers kicked into All-Star mode, scoring 16.9 points per game, Moriah Jefferson scored 36 points combined in Minny’s last two wins, and Fowles is still Fowles. Even if Napheesa Collier doesn’t return this year, Minny won’t be an easy out. They out-scored opponents by 2.6 points per 100 possessions for the month, a line only the five aforementioned teams crossed.

Ranking the other five teams in the order they should be feared

1. Dallas Wings

Arike Ogunbowale can light up at any moment, Allisha Gray can lock down opposing wings, and Teaira McCowan is back to making an impact. Their 0.0 net rating for the month of July showed they are the definition of an average team. But hey, it’s only a best-of-3 first-round series. 

2. Phoenix Mercury

Are you getting the good, engaged Diana Taurasi or the other version who’s shown up too often this year?

3. New York Liberty

The offense can be dominant or heinous depending on the evening.  

4. Atlanta Dream

The season-ending injury to AD Durr is likely too much for the team to overcome. 

5. Los Angeles Sparks

Their head coach got fired and their All-Star center quit. This simply isn’t a playoff team.

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