WNBA Player Rankings: Week 5

SECAUCUS, N.J., June 19 -- I might not be the first to point this out, but it's time to say it loud and clear.

Lisa Leslie is back.

From Opening Day, the three-time WNBA MVP has been eclipsed in many minds by her equally talented rookie teammate. I've jumped on the Candace Parker bandwagon, myself. (And, frankly, I don't see myself jumping off for the next 12-15 years.)

But it's time to recognize the WNBA's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. This member of the All-Decade team. This three-time Olympic gold medalist. This first (and only) player ever to dunk in a WNBA game. This former Inglewood, Calif., prep player who once scored 101 points in the first half of a high school game.

This mother.

Holy cow, it's easy to forget that Leslie is only 12 months removed from having beautiful little Lauren Jolie Lockwood. She didn't start playing seriously until the fall when she rejoined the USA Basketball squad.

Line of the Week
Tasha Humphrey (Shock)
June 14 win over Mercury
28 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists

But you'd never know looking at her so far in 2008. Leslie has six double-doubles in leading the Sparks to the league's best record at 8-2.

Despite all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding her much-heralded teammate, Leslie's numbers are better nearly across the board, making her the WNBA's MVP through the first month of the season.

In many ways, it's the mother of all starts.

Now here are the player rankings for the season through June 19.

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  • Race to the MVP - Overall Player Rankings

    1. Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    17.6 9.8 1.8 2.2 3.7 .493 .111 .784 +23.3
  • Last Week's Rank: 6
    Despite regularly getting overshadowed by a much-heralded rookie (see No. 4 below), Leslie is the most steady, reliable player on the league's best team. She's scoring regularly in double figures and leads the league in rebounds per game, blocks per game, double-doubles and efficiency.

  • 2. Lindsay Whalen, Connecticut Sun
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    15.3 5.8 5.5 1.2 0.0 .463 .361 .803 +19.1
  • Last Week's Rank: 2
    Whalen may be playing the most valuable role in the WNBA right now, quarterback for Mike Thibault's newest assembly of mish-mashed players. But she's coming to play every night and she's the leader on and off the court for the Eastern Conference's top team.

  • 3. Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    18.7 4.0 3.5 1.4 0.6 .478 .421 .893 +18.0
  • Last Week's Rank: 1
    Augustus and the Lynx have taken a bit of a dip of late, with the team losing four of its last five and... OK, Augustus hasn't really taken much of a dip. Her scoring is down from her career average, but the potential return of Lindsey Harding should only help Minnesota's offensive productivity.

  • 4. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    16.4 9.6 4.3 1.7 2.2 .459 .500 .686 +23.0
  • Last Week's Rank: 3
    Let's take nothing away from this superstar rookie. She is arguably among the top players in the league and a member of the U.S. Olympic team. And despite being a vital cog in the Sparks' title-targeting wagon train, her numbers have decreased a smidge over the last few weeks.

  • 5. Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    20.1 7.3 1.5 1.8 1.5 .447 .290 .934 +21.1
  • Last Week's Rank: 8
    Another week, another increase in scoring for the reigning MVP. The Storm have lost three straight, but the newly named captain of the Australian Olympic team has been tearing it up at both ends. Despite all of the preseason press surrounding the Storm, she's the one player who has consistently lived up to the hype.

  • 6. Katie Douglas, Indiana Fever
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    18.4 5.2 3.7 1.8 0.2 .392 .339 .810 +15.8
  • Last Week's Rank: 4
    Like Parker, Douglas' numbers have dipped a bit of late, but this rumored U.S. Olympic team possibility has continued to perform for the 6-4 Fever. Her shooting has been off all season long and the return of Tamika Catchings to the lineup could hurt her offensive numbers even further, but her defense -- she is arguably the league's finest perimeter defender -- means she'll remain a valuable commodity.

  • 7. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    24.4 4.2 3.2 1.7 0.8 .451 .338 .847 +21.1
  • Last Week's Rank: 5
    The holder of the league's all-time single-season per-game scoring mark with 25.3 (in 2006) has had two 30-point games this season and two with 29. But last week, she put up just nine against the Shock. Despite the Mercury's struggles so far in 2008, Dee has been big in the games they've won, which lends credence to her value.

  • 8. Cappie Pondexter, Phoenix Mercury
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    25.1 4.7 4.2 1.2 0.2 .404 .352 .833 +18.9
  • Last Week's Rank: 7
    If the Mercury can build off of Wednesday's win over Connecticut, both she and Taurasi could climb in the rankings. But this WNBA.com blogger is still the league's leading scorer, is deadly from the outside and off the dribble and is perhaps the WNBA's most dangerous player with the ball in her hands late in games.

  • 9. Sophia Young, San Antonio Silver Stars
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    17.3 4.9 2.0 1.6 0.3 .512 .000 .758 +16.3
  • Last Week's Rank: 9
    After tweaking her knee a week ago, Young has come back... and so have the Silver Stars, winning four straight to rise to second place in the West behind L.A. Becky Hammon had her best game of the season against Atlanta and Ann Wauters showing the form that brought her greatness in Europe, but Young has been Dan Hughes' most consistent player. It's another All-Star caliber season for the third-year forward.

  • 10. Katie Smith, Detroit Shock
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    16.8 3.0 3.1 1.0 0.1 .390 .346 .864 +12.8
  • Last Week's Rank: NR
    The Shock are 8-3 and one of the better teams in the league, so there needs to be some Motor City representation on this list, right? Katie Smith is the most obvious pick. Her shooting percentage is less than stellar, but the 34-year-old is leading the team in both minutes and scoring.

  • On the Outside Looking In (season averages - last week's rank)
    11. Alana Beard (Washington): 19.9 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.1 RPG (12)
    12. DeLisha Milton-Jones (Los Angeles): 14.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.2 APG (NR)
    13. Asjha Jones (Connecticut): 15.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.8 APG (NR)
    14. Tina Thompson (Houston): 17.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.6 APG (11)
    15. Candice Dupree (Chicago): 15.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG (10)

  • Dropped out: Swin Cash (Seattle), Candice Wiggins (Minnesota), Deanna Nolan (Detroit).
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