Who's Your MVP?

With the playoffs set to start on Thursday and regular season awards about to roll in, WNBA.com's final Race to the MVP of the 2011 season hit the presses (or something like that) on Tuesday. But with a race this tight, we thought we'd loop in some other voices around the WNBA to see if we can get any more clarity on who the real winner will be when the award's unveiled.

Who's your choice for MVP? Tweet at us at @WNBA and just fill in the blanks: "_________ is my MVP because ____________."

Happy reading. We'll see you in the playoffs.

Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun | Our Ranking: # 1
"Let’s forget the stats for a second (well, after a quick glance at her final line: 17.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.9 assists per game). Tina Charles took a team comprised almost entirely of rookies, sophomores or third-year WNBA players (seven of 11 Sun players have been in the league three or fewer years; six are either rooks or second-year players) and became its unquestioned leader."
"Charles, last year's Rookie of the Year, has the Sun in second place in the East heading to the final weekend of the season. The former UConn star is sixth in the league in scoring (17.6 ppg - 2.0 better than last year) and tops in rebounding (11.0). She's a big reason why Connecticut - the Sun have just four players with more than three years' experience - is headed back to the playoffs after missing out the previous two years. "
Nate Parham, Swish Appeal: 2011 WNBA Awards (Part 1): MVP
"Why is [Charles] behind Fowles, other than not averaging 20 & 10?

While she's not outside the top 10 in my estimation as Pelton's WARP standings last indicated, the reason why WARP looks unfavorably upon her numbers as a MVP candidate is the same reason I do: having a true shooting percentage around 50% as someone who shoots the ball so often puts her significantly behind Fowles and anyone else under consideration in the top 10. It's especially damaging for someone who gets a lot of her shots right around the basket."
John Altavilla, Hartford Courant: Sun's Tina Charles Finds Her Rhythm
"There is a skip in the step of Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles these days, whether she's dancing to the music during introductions or working her way through traffic for another basket.

The WNBA rookie of the year last season and former UConn national player of the year is having a monster season for the Sun. And she's showing it, from the smile on her face to the confidence in her power move."

** Note: Tina Charles' triple-double referenced in this story was changed due to statistical errors. She finished the Sept. 2 game with 10 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.

Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever | Our Ranking: # 2
"Sue Bird called the Fever the 'Steady Eddies' of the East for a reason – and that reason, year in and year out, is Tamika Catchings. At 15.5 points, 7.l rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.03 steals per game, she drove the Fever every step of the way this year. She may very well win the MVP award this season, and is certainly deserving, but in 2011, Charles had the upper hand by the tip of her fingers."
"It is really tough not to go with Connecticut's Tina Charles here, but Indiana is the team that weathered the loss of its point guard when Briann January went down with an ACL injury and still scrambled to finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference. And that simply doesn't happen without the extraordinary Catchings, who has been the MVP runner-up three times in her career. "
Clay Kallam, SLAM ONLINE: What The Numbers Say About the WNBA MVP
"There are a lot of candidates of MVP, but for the sake of discussion—OK, maybe even an argument—a look at the latest Player Efficiency Rankings list can add some actual data to the conversation.

"Overall ... the numbers suggest pretty strongly that Catchings is the logical choice for the MVP, especially considering that she’s one of the best defenders in the world, and is under-served by the PER formula."
Nate Parham, Swish Appeal: 2011 WNBA Awards (Part 1): MVP
"Punishing a MVP candidate for not scoring more because they are a low percentage scorer is one thing; punishing an efficient top 10 scorer in MVP voting because they're busy doing other things - literally everything else, while accounting for the second largest percentage of her team's production and having the biggest impact on the floor by plus/minus - is indefensible. There are legitimate arguments for other players to win the MVP, but that's not it."
"Catchings is having her typical type of season, leading the Fever in scoring (15.6), rebounding (7.0), assists (3.7) and steals (2.1), while helping them reach at least 21 victories for the sixth time in seven years. Her numbers put her in the top in scoring, rebounding and steals, and 13th in assists. "

Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream | Our Ranking: # 3
"If her second-half numbers translated to a red-hot Dream team, her last two weeks may translate, yet again, into a deep playoff run for Atlanta. "
Nate Parham, Swish Appeal: 2011 WNBA Awards (Part 1): MVP
"McCoughtry's second half scoring performance will garner her MVP votes and she's the last remaining forward [on the Swish Appeal First & Second Teams] who has clearly been the MVP of her team."

Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota Lynx | Our Ranking: # 4
"Controlling teams stacked with scorers is no easy task – and this year, Whalen was up for the challenge. She set the pace, and the Lynx followed, all the way to the best record in team history. "
Nate Parham, Swish Appeal: 2011 WNBA Awards (Part 1): MVP
"But in what has become an annual debate about best point guard in the WNBA for me, Whalen wins in 2011 despite Bird's outstanding season pretty much for what she demonstrated in scoring 20 points and 11 assists the other day - nobody runs an offense more smoothly than Whalen.

...What that adds up to is Whalen being arguably the best playmaker in the league at the guard position - she is responsible for getting the ball to the right place while recognizing the opportunities to score herself."
Roman Augustoviz, Star Tribune: An MVP Kind of Night
"There was little at stake Thursday night. The Lynx already had clinched the top seed and home-court advantage throughout the WNBA playoffs.

Yet point guard Lindsay Whalen approached the second-to-last game of the regular season as if the Lynx were desperate. She kept driving for layups while getting knocked to the Target Center floor.

Whalen finished with 20 points, 10 assists and ZERO turnovers -- a stats line unprecedented in league history -- as the Lynx defeated Chicago 78-69 before an announced crowd of 8,781."
"During her six years with the Connecticut Sun, Lindsay Whalen was frequently discussed as a possible MVP candidate. She was that good. But being mentioned and being selected are totally different accolades, and Whalen never won the honor.

She is back in the MVP race again this season with the Minnesota Lynx."
Marc Allard, The Norwich Bulletin: Lindsay Whalen having MVP-worthy season for Lynx
"The joke that circulated after Minnesota had taken Maya Moore with the first pick of the WNBA draft was that there wouldn’t be enough basketballs to keep everybody happy. With players such as Moore, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and two first-round picks who don’t even start, Monica Wright and Candice Wiggins, the Lynx are loaded with talent as their WNBA-best 18-6 record attests.

But it’s Whalen who may be having the best year of all."

Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury | Our Ranking: # 5
"She can still fly – and finish – as well as she ever could, and her team once again leads the league in scoring because of it. And although she may not garner MVP honors this year, the fact that we’ve come to expect her to set the league-wide pace is a testament not only to her ability, but to the fact that fans are witnessing a moment in history every time Taurasi steps on the floor. "

Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky | Our Ranking: # 6
"Had the Sky made the playoffs for the first time in team history, she’d be on the shortest of short lists for the MVP award, because, well, few people really did anything that rivaled what she did this year. In WNBA history."
"And while the Sky will have to wait at least another year before finishing with a winning record for the first time, Fowles is third in the league in scoring (19.8), second in rebounding (10.2), and tops in blocks (2.1) and shooting from the field (nearly 60 percent). The scoring and rebounding numbers are career highs for the fourth-year center."
Nate Parham, Swish Appeal: 2011 WNBA Awards (Part 1): MVP
"There wouldn't be a whole lot more to say about Fowles except that no player contributed more to their team's success than she did - she accounted for just under 30% of her team's overall statistical production. Fowles has been dominant on both ends of the floor this year. The only thing holding her back from a MVP award - she actually does score with the third-best scoring average in the league - is that she couldn't take her team to the playoffs. Catchings' combination of efficiency, versatility and production on a playoff team in a close MVP race led me to give her the edge. But Fowles is a perfectly logical MVP selection on multiple levels, not the least of which is a simple question: where on earth would the Sky have been without her?"

Sue Bird, Seattle Storm | Our Ranking: # 7
"Without perennial MVP Lauren Jackson for most of the season, the defending champs could have had an excuse for missing the playoffs altogether. Instead, they had Sue Bird. And now, thanks to her ability to change back, in the 10th year of her career, to the brown-haired roman candle she was in her very first season, the Storm go into the playoffs tied for the second-best record in the WNBA."
"With Lauren Jackson hurt for over half the season, did anyone expect the Seattle Storm to potentially win 20 games? Or, finish second place in a hugely competitive Western Conference?

"Bird does so much more for the Storm than simply facilitate their offense. She’s someone the team looks to in clutch situations, someone who generates offense both for herself and her teammates, and a player that they can rally around. Intangibles like these (including a unified belief in Bird as the Storm’s leader) goes an incredibly long way towards a team’s success.

"The Storm averages about 70 points a game in 2011. That means that Sue Bird’s 15 ppg and 5 apg can account for 40-50 percent of the team’s offensive output on any given night.

"Take that away and what would happen to the 2011 Seattle Storm?"
Nate Parham, Swish Appeal: 2011 WNBA Awards (Part 1): MVP
"In terms of what matches observation, the Storm's offense is +14.3 when Bird is on the court. In simpler terms, she has had a bigger impact on her team's offense than any player in the league.

There are guards in the league who have put up gaudier statistics and Bird has been more of a scorer than normal with a team-high 14.7 points per game, but arguably no guard has done more to win games for their team than Bird. That doesn't necessarily make her the frontrunner for the MVP, but it takes a special player to carry her team as a distributor and scorer as often as Bird has."

Becky Hammon, San Antonio Silver Stars | Our Ranking: # 8
"Danielle Adams’ return to the lineup certainly helped, but Hammon carried this team on her shoulders into the No. 4 seed in the West – not only over the past two weeks, but for the past three months."
Nate Parham, Swish Appeal: 2011 WNBA Awards (Part 1): MVP
"Similar to Whalen, what makes Hammon particularly impressive is that she can singlehandedly dismantle a defense in so many ways - driving to pass, score, or get free throw attempts, spreading the court with threes, and just flat out winning games."

Seimone Augustus, San Antonio Silver Stars | Our Ranking: # 9
"Whalen’s got the Lynx’ offense started all season long, and Augustus, over and over again, finished it. Coming back from a knee injury in 2009 and emergency surgery in 2010, she got herself back into world-class shape, just in time to lead Minnesota to one of just six 27-win seasons in WNBA history."
"Two long years of recovering from a torn knee ligament and abdominal surgery ended last winter, when she lost 30 pounds and returned to her team determined to shed the disappointment of the past.

Augustus has fully embraced the defensive side of the game, finding new thrills in locking down some of the league's best players. She has also maintained her scoring touch, leading the Lynx in points (16.2 per game), free-throw percentage (.865) and three-point percentage (.417) while playing a team-high 29 minutes per game. Her performance is exactly what Reeve envisioned last fall, and it is having exactly the effect she hoped for on a team enjoying the best season in franchise history."

Cappie Pondexter, New York Liberty | Our Ranking: # 10
"[Despite a late-season slump], she’s still found ways to contribute, such as consecutive seven-assist games against the Lynx and a nine-rebound effort against the Sun. And the Liberty should take comfort in the fact that Pondexter’s slumps rarely last long – and when she bursts out, she’s good for 20 a night. "
Nate Parham, Swish Appeal: 2011 WNBA Awards (Part 1): MVP
"Pondexter is similar in function to Hammon in that both are best when they're looking to score first as penetrators and creating opportunities for others off of their scoring ability. Pondexter is just looks to shoot more often thus making her a bit less efficient, and creates assists less often. But she is easily among the best one-on-one offensive players the league has ever seen and for a defensive-minded Liberty team that sometimes stagnates in the halfcourt, Pondexter's ability to make something out of nothing is impressive."

Penny Taylor, Phoenix Mercury | Our Ranking: # 11
Taylor was a hard one to leave out of our top 10 -- especially given her side-by-side comparison with Taurasi -- but her rank in no way detracts from an incredible year for the veteran out of Australia. She's proven to be a scorer nearly as capable as her all-everything teammate, and with 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists (up from her career average of 2.9), she's a crucial cog in the finely tuned machine that is the Phoenix offense.
Nate Parham, Swish Appeal: 2011 WNBA Awards (Part 1): MVP
"Taylor is one of those players who has a reasonable shot at the MVP. Of course, if it's scoring you're concerned about, she's "only" 8th in the league because like Catchings she's busy doing other things. But where she differs from Catchings is that she was ridiculously efficient with a true shooting percentage of 64.21%, matching her performance from 2010. In addition to being an even more efficient distributor (2.89 pure point rating) than Catchings, Taylor actually has an assist ratio (23.40%) that places her squarely in the range of an average point guard. It's not difficult to figure out the value of someone who can pass the ball that efficiently from the wing in a system that thrives on scoring in transition."
Mechelle Voepel, ESPN.com: Penny Taylor more than a sidekick
"Perhaps those who watch the WNBA only periodically view Taylor as merely a talented sidekick in the Taurasi Show. Those who follow the league regularly, though, don't think that way at all. It's as hard to picture the Mercury winning the 2011 WNBA championship without significant contributions from Taylor as it is imagining Phoenix doing it with a subpar postseason from Taurasi."