Why I'm Voting for LJ
As color commentator for the Seattle Storm’s radio and television broadcasts, I’ve had the privilege of seeing Lauren Jackson from a courtside seat every game this season. Many WNBA fans – many of the voters for MVP as well – don’t have that same opportunity. If you haven’t seen her play, every night she’s been phenomenal. All year long, I have not seen another player as dynamic and dominant as Lauren is night in and night out. She is the best player on the floor every game – in all aspects of the game.
Jackson celebrates the Storm’s win over Connecticut, in which she scored the winning basket.
Since this is my third year broadcasting the Storm, I’ve had the chance to see Lauren’s development up close. She’s been an All-Star since the first time she took the court in the WNBA, but this year she’s taken it to another level. Superstar. MVP. To see her growth from her first year to now – physically and mentally - has been unbelievable. It’s amazing that she is still in only her third WNBA season and just 22 years old. Lauren has improved so much in the post this season, to the point where right now I’d say her best asset is her power and skill down low. Her ability to power through contact and finish three-point plays is tremendous. Of course, Lauren can still step out like a guard and handle the basketball and shoot the three. Her versatility, power and consistency – 27 straight games with 15 or more points, snapped last week – are all remarkable.
The biggest complement I think you can pay Lauren is that you expect her to be good every night. And every night she delivers what’s expected, if not more. She’s taken over games all by herself countless times this season. When the defense has clamped down on Lauren, she’s been able to make her teammates better by getting them scoring opportunities. Kamila Vodichkova, before her recent injury, fed off Lauren, getting numerous open looks down low. On the perimeter, she opens things up for fellow Australian Sandy Brondello, getting Sandy open looks from the three-point line.
In countless games this season, Lauren has been repeatedly double- and even triple-teamed by aggressive defenses to the point where she can hardly catch the ball. A lot of players would get frustrated in that situation and start forcing the action. Not Lauren. She’s been patient and unselfish, creating for her teammates and taking what the defense gives her. Eventually, teams have to adjust, and that’s when Lauren goes to work. Part of her ability to succeed despite the double-teams is that Lauren doesn’t care about putting up big numbers – though she does so anyway.
Stats are one of the most important factors to being MVP, and Lauren has them all. She ranks in the league’s top five in points, rebounds and blocks per game, and is the league’s leading scorer at 21.3 points per game. That’s just the beginning of Lauren’s impressive statistics, however. She’s also amongst the league leaders in field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, free throws attempted and she tops the league in its efficiency rankings.
What the stats can’t capture – even her blocks per game – is Lauren’s defensive ability. She is Seattle’s best defender, and in addition to the blocks she plays great position defense on some of the league’s best post players. She plays good fundamental defense, and she also has the athletic ability to defend on the perimeter. I was extremely impressed when Lauren held in check Los Angeles forward Mwadi Mabika, one of the most athletic players in the WNBA. Defense is one of the things you have to see to understand, and I’m not sure fans and the media around the nation really know how talented Lauren is on that end of the court. In my mind, she’s a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year as well as MVP (and Most Improved Player, too).
Lauren has put this year’s Storm team on her back as it tries for a return trip to the playoffs. Some of her biggest games have come over the last month in important wins. Lauren’s impact on the Storm was also evident in the one game she hasn’t played this season, at Indiana in June. Without her, the Storm only scored 27 points in the second-half of a loss.
The number one factor to me in determining the MVP is who is most dominant. That’s definitely Lauren, who has consistently dominated games all season long. But whatever criteria you use, Lauren comes out on top. Statistically, in the standings, in terms of what she does for her team – no one else comes close. That’s why I don’t think there’s any question she should be MVP.