Why I'm Voting for LJ

Storm play-by-play announcer David Locke is one of the 42 media members who will decide the WNBA’s MVP award later this month. Exclusive to STORM.WNBA.COM, he shares why he will vote for Storm forward Lauren Jackson.

Why am I voting for Lauren Jackson for MVP? She’s provided the answer with her recent performances at KeyArena. In the Storm’s last three home games, all of them wins against playoff teams, Lauren has been absolutely dominant. More impressively, she’s shown the ability to dominate in different manners.

Jackson is having an MVP season, says David Locke.
Jeff Reinking/WNBAE/Getty
Against Charlotte, Lauren did it with power. Playing against a powerful Sting front line, she owned the paint. Lauren shot an amazing 15 free throws.. Not only did Lauren get herself easy points from the free-throw line, she also got the Sting into foul trouble, fouling out one player and drawing five fouls on two others. That doesn’t even mention Lauren’s phenomenal 20 rebounds, one of the highest totals in WNBA history. Moreover, her rebounding was a combination of pure power and will. Lauren simply wanted the ball more than any other player on the floor. This was exemplified on two of the biggest plays of the game. Late in the second half, Lauren came all the way from the top of the key to grab the rebound inside of three Charlotte defenders. Then, with the game on the line, she denied a Sting drive to the basket with a blocked shot and promptly grabbed the ball out of the air to obtain possession. 20 rebounds in a night is an insane total when you consider the two teams combined for 61 rebounds and Lauren grabbed 20 of them – almost one out of every three. Charlotte had only one more rebound as a team than Lauren did by herself.

One sign of greatness is taking advantage of an opponent’s weakness. The injury-riddled Los Angeles Sparks came to KeyArena without All-Stars Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton. Lauren still brought her whole game. With the Sparks attempting to play her physically with defenders Rhonda Mapp and Jenny Mowe, Lauren used her precision to dazzle the home crowd with an insane shooting performance. She was 17-for-17 shooting inside the paint and 17-for-23 overall, setting a new WNBA record for most made field goals in a game. Lauren was unstoppable in the first half, scoring 20 straight Storm points in one stretch and 22 of the team’s 24. She finished with 34 points, another career high and franchise record. The result was a Storm blowout that was the worst loss in the history of the Sparks franchise.

The Minnesota Lynx was determined to keep Lauren from beating them, sending double- and triple-teams at her all night. That just allowed her to show another way she can dominate the game – getting her teammates involved by passing from the post. Lauren also dominated defensively, blocking five Lynx shots and grabbing 11 rebounds for her sixth straight double-double as the Storm picked up its most important win of the season so far. Lauren showed the most outward emotion when she received a pass on the left block simultaneous to the arrival of the Lynx double team. Lauren found teammate Kamila Vodichkova cutting the lane for a layup and pumped her first into the air as if to say, “You can guard me anyway you please and we as a unit will find a way to beat you”.

The defensive pressure Lauren faced against Minnesota was typical of what she’s seen during the second half of the season. Every opponent the Storm faces enters the game planning to stop Lauren – but they always fail. Adjusting to the defense has required Lauren to give up a portion of her game for the good of the team. It would be easier for her to float to the three-point line and play on the perimeter, avoiding the pounding she takes down low. The greatest players, however, never take the easy way out, and that is true of Lauren. She hasn’t taken more than two three-pointers in her last five games, and shot ten or more free throws three times in the month of July. At 34%, Lauren is a good three-point shooter, but the team needs her in the post, and that’s where she has played.

Watching Lauren on a regular basis, I am constantly struck by her ability to help the team in so many different areas. Her ability to handle the ball, bringing it upcourt and helping break the press, is a valuable asset to the Storm. Lauren’s defense has long been underrated, and I’ve been pushing her for Defensive Player of the Year all season. She’s amongst the WNBA’s leaders in blocked shots, but that might not be her best attribute defensively. At 6-5, Lauren has the speed and athleticism to defend any position on the court when the Storm switches.

Against the Sparks, Coach Michael Cooper attempted to play the mismatch game and went with a small lineup. Cooper played versatile 5-11 first-team All-WNBA wing Mwadi Mabika at power forward, forcing Lauren to guard her. Instead Lauren demonstrated her defensive versatility against the Sparks, holding Mabika to two points in the second half.

Sometimes it’s difficult to gauge the magnitude of Lauren’s statistics and those of other WNBA players because they are generally lower than those of their NBA peers, both because of the differences in minutes and higher scores in the NBA. A closer look reveals just how awesome her numbers really are. The average WNBA team is scoring 68.1 points per game so far this season, while the average NBA team scored 95.1 points during the 2002-03 season – 39.6% more. Multiplying Lauren’s 21.2 ppg by 1.396 gives an equivalent scoring average of 29.6 ppg. Using the same method on Lauren’s blocks per game gives her an equivalent average of 2.5 bpg. Rebounds are slightly different. Lauren has grabbed 13.4% of the total rebounds boarded by the Storm and its opponents this season. Multiplying that percentage by the NBA average of 84.6 rebounds per game would give Lauren an equivalent rebounding average of 11.8 rpg. Nearly 30 points, 12 rebounds, and two and a half blocks per game? Those are numbers Tim Duncan would envy.

In the end, the MVP means two things to me – dominance on the court and carrying your team to victory. With her ability at both ends of the court, Lauren certainly meets the first criterion. And with the Storm currently third in the West and surging towards its second straight playoff berth, Lauren is two for two. That’s more than enough to make her my MVP.