WNBA Player Rankings:
Bird Soaring to New Offensive Heights

NEW YORK, September 5 -- When it was announced that reigning WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson would miss 4-6 weeks to undergo surgery on her ankle after the Olympics, many Seattle Storm fans likely kissed their championship hopes goodbye.

So how have the Storm done since? They've won three out of four games, moved into first place in the West (through Thursday's action) and clinched a playoff spot.

Wha???

Well, veterans Swin Cash and Yolanda Griffith have made their typically solid contributions. And youngsters Camille Little and Tanisha Wright have really stepped up their games with their increased playing time.

But the biggest reason for Seattle's recent success? Point guard Sue Bird.

Jackson's longtime supplier down low -- and the starting point guard on the star-laden, gold-medal-winning USA Olympic squad -- Bird is best known as a prototypical point guard, a pass-first, shoot-second provider. In fact, she leads the WNBA in assists per game.

But with LJ out, it's a different story.

"We want her making decisions," says Storm coach Brian Agler. "We want the ball in her hands."

And the ball hasn't just been in her hands. It's been flying out of her hands… usually in the direction of the basket.

If the season ended today, which player would you vote for as the WNBA's Most Valuable Player?
If the season ended today, which player would you vote for as the WNBA's Most Valuable Player?
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Not only has she attempted more shots with Jackson out of the lineup, 15.3 per game over the last four (her career average is 10.5 shots per game), she's made more, scoring at a 21.5 per game clip since returning from Beijing.

"I'll just take what comes my way," Bird said of her offensive upturn after a recent game. "I didn't play any different tonight than I have all season.

"When the shots are there you have to take them. I'll just try to stay aggressive."

There have been rumors floating around that Jackson could return late in the playoffs if Seattle is still alive. A player of LJ's caliber would never hurt, but Coach Agler seems content with what he has now.

And if Bird's aggressiveness at the offensive end continues to result in wins for the Storm, Seattle might just have another MVP on its hands

Of course, Bird is just one of the players being bandied about as possible MVPs. And thanks to T-Mobile, you, the fans get your chance to play a part in the MVP voting as well:

For the first time ever, fans will be asked to help decide the 2008 WNBA MVP by casting their votes on WNBA.com/mvpvote. WNBA MVP Voting presented by T-Mobile will continue through September 15. The recipient of the 2008 WNBA Most Valuable Player Award presented by T-Mobile will be announced during the WNBA Playoffs.

So take advantage of this unique opportunity and make your voice heard.

Now here are my player rankings for the season through September 4.

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  • Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 18.9
    • 9.8
    • 3.4
    • 1.3
    • 2.2
    • .521
    • .455
    • .721
    • +24.5
    • Previous Rank - 2
    There's something that doesn't feel quite right about having a rookie in this spot, but it's hard to argue with Candace's game or her stats. She's 5th in the league in ppg, 1st in rebounds, 6th in FG%, 2nd in blocks and 1st in double-doubles. And she's been huge down the stretch since the break.
    Lindsay Whalen, Connecticut Sun
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 14.4
    • 5.7
    • 5.4
    • 1.5
    • 0.0
    • .471
    • .356
    • .808
    • +19.0
    • Previous Rank - 1
    Whalen played sparingly in the Sun's first two games back and missed the third, but her team has gone on without her. She's expecting to return shortly, but if Connecticut is able to clinch homecourt advantage, Whalen could play just sparingly over the last few games, potentially hurting her stats.
    Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 19.6
    • 3.9
    • 2.8
    • 1.1
    • 0.4
    • .465
    • .300
    • .888
    • +16.9
    • Previous Rank - 5
    A dangerous scorer who impresses me more every time I see her, Augustus is the biggest reason the Lynx are just two games out of a playoff spot. She has even sacrificed her scoring a bit this season to do more on the boards and on defense.
    Tina Thompson, Houston Comets
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 17.3
    • 6.8
    • 2.1
    • 1.0
    • 0.5
    • .405
    • .439
    • .867
    • +14.8
    • Previous Rank - 7
    In my mind, the Comets were even less likely to make the playoffs than the Lynx, yet there they sit tied, just two games back of fourth-place Sacramento. The biggest reason? Tina. She had an inspired 34 points in Tuesday's OT loss to New York.
    Sophia Young, San Antonio Silver Stars
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 17.8
    • 5.8
    • 2.4
    • 1.6
    • 0.5
    • .489
    • .000
    • .771
    • +18.2
    • Previous Rank - 3
    It's hard to fault Young for the small statistical drop or for becoming slightly less "valuable." She's been the best player on her team all season long, but when you have Becky Hammon and Ann Wauters contributing, successful players are willing to sacrifice personal stats for the benefit of the team.
    Sue Bird, Seattle Storm
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 14.5
    • 2.6
    • 5.4
    • 1.3
    • 0.1
    • .443
    • .362
    • .863
    • +14.0
    • Previous Rank - 12
    For the same reason Young is falling in my book, Bird is on the rise. It pains me to take a player like Lauren Jackson off of this list, but since LJ's surgery, Sue has shown what she really means to this playoff-bound squad, averaging 21.5 points a game as the Storm have won three of four.
    Becky Hammon, San Antonio Silver Stars
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 17.2
    • 2.8
    • 4.8
    • 1.3
    • 0.2
    • .380
    • .351
    • .933
    • +14.6
    • Previous Rank - 10
    Hammon has heated up more and more as the year has gone on and she'll continue to play a major role over the final five regular season games. Despite a tough loss last weekend in a possible future playoff matchup at L.A., Becky lit up the Sparks backcourt for 17 points and seven assists.
    Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 15.9
    • 9.3
    • 2.3
    • 2.3
    • 3.3
    • .474
    • .235
    • .682
    • +20.4
    • Previous Rank - 8
    Leslie has served a valuable purpose for the Sparks, and not only that of tutoring Candace Parker. Though Lisa's offensive numbers are a bit down, she has been the league's top defensive player. And though Sylvia Fowles seems ready to take over, Leslie is still the league's best shot-blocker.
    Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 23.8
    • 5.0
    • 3.6
    • 1.2
    • 1.2
    • .447
    • .371
    • .862
    • +22.0
    • Previous Rank - 4
    Taurasi's stats are ridiculous and I could make a compelling argument that she's been the best all-around player in the WNBA this season. But the Mercury are mired in last place. So to make the playoffs, Dee's going to have to step it up a notch, win the rest of her games and hope for some help.
    Deanna Nolan, Detroit Shock
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 15.7
    • 3.6
    • 4.9
    • 1.2
    • 0.3
    • .446
    • .340
    • .868
    • +15.6
    • Previous Rank - 11
    Averaging 22.0 ppg since the Olympic hiatus, Nolan is clearly getting hot at the right time for the Shock. A potentially prolific scorer who can also be a shut-down defender, Tweety has been the rock as Detroit vies for a third straight Eastern Conference title.

    On the Outside Looking In (season averages - previous rank)

    11. Asjha Jones (Connecticut): 17.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.3 apg (14)
    12. Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix): 21.5 ppg, 4.3 apg, 4.0 rpg (9)
    13. Candice Dupree (Chicago): 16.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg (13)
    14. Katie Douglas (Indiana): 16.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.1 apg (15)
    15. Jia Perkins (Chicago): 17.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.1 apg (NR)

  • Dropped out: Lauren Jackson (Seattle).
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