The Los Angeles Sparks celebrate their 2016 WNBA championship in October. The Sparks open the 2017 season as the No. 1-ranked team in the The Associated Press WNBA poll. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The Los Angeles Sparks celebrate their 2016 WNBA championship in October. The Sparks open the 2017 season as the No. 1-ranked team in the The Associated Press WNBA poll. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

WNBA power poll: Sparks are No. 1; Storm ranked fifth

NEW YORK — The defending champion Los Angeles Sparks will start the 2017 season atop The Associated Press WNBA poll.

The Sparks received 11 first-place votes from the national media panel Tuesday.

“We appreciate the people giving us that kind of respect, although I know that there’s several really, really good teams in this league,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “We feel like we can be good. There are some teams that are really strong as well. People have improved through the offseason, improved through the draft.”

Los Angeles opens its season Saturday at home against Seattle. The Storm are ranked fifth among the 12 teams.

The Minnesota Lynx, who fell to the Sparks in a decisive Game 5 of the WNBA Finals last fall, garnered the other five first-place votes and came in second in the poll. The Lynx are led by Maya Moore, who was the 16-member panel’s choice as preseason player of the year.

“I appreciate the confidence expressed in me for this 2017 season, and I hope to bring everything needed for my team to be the best Lynx team yet,” Moore said.

Moore highlighted the AP preseason All-WNBA team. She was joined by New York’s Tina Charles, Washington’s Elena Delle Donne, reigning AP player of the year Nneka Ogwumike of the Sparks, and Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi.

New York is third in the poll, followed by Washington, Seattle, Phoenix and Indiana. Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Connecticut and San Antonio round out the poll.

San Antonio is led by top draft pick Kelsey Plum out of the University of Washington. Plum was the unanimous choice for preseason rookie of the year.

“I’m so excited to be a part of the Stars organization …,” Plum said. “I cannot wait to get on the court with my teammates and play ball.”

This is the second year the AP is doing a WNBA poll. The first regular-season poll will be released May 23.

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