WNBA Player Rankings: Finally, Some Clarity?

NEW YORK, September 12 -- It's the last weekend of the regular season. And now that it's all over with except for crossing some t's and dotting some i's, the MVP vote should be pretty straightforward. Right?

Maybe not.

There are reasons both for and against proclaiming every top candidate the winner.

But much like each player's performance out on the court can lift one up while another falters, my own personal voting criteria (not that I actually have a vote) also change.

Is team success the overriding factor? Does it really come down to a statistical contest? Or is it that ambiguous notion of "value" that sets one player apart?

What does being the league's most valuable player mean to one of this year's leading candidates?

"Well, obviously it means that you're one of the most important players in the league," says this week's No. 1 option Sophia Young of the San Antonio Silver Stars, the top playoff seed in the West.

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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"It's scoring, it's being a leader, it's helping your team win, it's helping your teammates. And it's those little things, too… things that don't necessarily come up on the stat sheet."

And value can also be affected by the talent you have around you. In fact, I read earlier this week that no two players from the same team have ever finished in the top five in WNBA MVP voting during the same season.

This is one of the factors potentially working against Young, a third-year forward out of Baylor. Fellow Silver Star Becky Hammon, too, has had an MVP-caliber season. But Becky's backing her teammate:

"It's gonna depend on how it all shakes out," says the Olympic bronze medalist of the MVP race, "but I think you have to take a look at Sophia Young."

Whatever standard one uses to judge the WNBA's top talent, it can propel Diana Taurasi, for example, up a few notches one week while a Candace Parker drops for no apparent on-court reason.

Young and Hammon are just two 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. So take advantage of this unique opportunity and make your voice heard.

That may just be it. There's little consistent rhyme or reason to voting for MVP in 2008. In a year full of so much parity around the league, it would only make sense that 15 people have legitimate shots at the award.

"I don't really look at myself as an MVP kind of player," Young told me. "I really don't."

Perhaps she doesn't. But she just might be the most sensible pick.

Now here are my player rankings for the season through September 11.

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  • Sophia Young, San Antonio Silver Stars
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 17.8
    • 5.8
    • 2.3
    • 1.7
    • 0.5
    • .477
    • .000
    • .789
    • +17.9
    • Previous Rank - 5
    Is Young the league's best player? Probably not. But on the plus side, she's been the most consistently productive player all season long on the league's top team. It's possible that Becky Hammon could steal some of her votes, but Young may be the most logical pick right now.
    Lindsay Whalen, Connecticut Sun
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 14.0
    • 5.6
    • 5.4
    • 1.5
    • 0.0
    • .461
    • .338
    • .803
    • +18.3
    • Previous Rank - 2
    The Sun have lost three straight, the last of which Whalen sat out. Detroit also clinched the top spot in the East. As much as Whalen's been the driving force behind the Sun's overachievement this year, her injury struggles of late could leave the voters with a sour taste.
    Sue Bird, Seattle Storm
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 14.5
    • 2.6
    • 5.3
    • 1.2
    • 0.1
    • .442
    • .346
    • .871
    • +13.9
    • Previous Rank - 6
    Bird has been perhaps the MVP of the second half of the season, but her numbers aren't quite on par with Whalen's. If the Storm had finished first in the West, she would have had a more compelling MVP case. Still, this has been Bird's finest season. That's saying a lot.
    Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 18.8
    • 9.7
    • 3.5
    • 1.3
    • 2.3
    • .522
    • .440
    • .731
    • +24.6
    • Previous Rank - 1
    You know it's an impressive season when a rookie is the owner of the league's best all-around numbers. Such is the case with Parker. She's 4th in the league in scoring, 1st in rebounding and 2nd in blocks. L.A.'s relative underachievement hurts her chances, but CP is still an all-league player.
    Becky Hammon, San Antonio Silver Stars
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 17.6
    • 2.8
    • 4.9
    • 1.3
    • 0.2
    • .390
    • .350
    • .937
    • +15.2
    • Previous Rank - 7
    She and Young could split the San Antonio MVP vote, but Hammon has followed up her amazing 2007 season with another in 2008. Her scoring numbers are better than Whalen's and Bird's, and she too is a brilliant floor leader. But having Young on her side takes away a bit from her individual value.
    Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 24.1
    • 5.1
    • 3.7
    • 1.3
    • 1.4
    • .443
    • .366
    • .870
    • +22.6
    • Previous Rank - 9
    The league's leading scorer, Taurasi, too, has had one of her finest seasons. As the leader and most valuable player in Phoenix this season, Taurasi would be a far more compelling MVP pick if the Merc had made the playoffs. Finishing out of contention, though, may put her first MVP out of reach.
    Deanna Nolan, Detroit Shock
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 16.0
    • 3.8
    • 4.5
    • 1.2
    • 0.3
    • .461
    • .372
    • .863
    • +15.9
    • Previous Rank - 10
    Nolan has been growing on me more and more as a viable MVP pick. Part of that is the weekly hate mail I receive for giving Tweety no props. ;) Part of that is that she's been the most reliable player -- both offensively and defensively -- for the Eastern Conference's best team.
    Tina Thompson, Houston Comets
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 17.3
    • 6.9
    • 2.2
    • 1.0
    • 0.5
    • .400
    • .411
    • .862
    • +14.6
    • Previous Rank - 4
    Though the Comets will miss the postseason for the second straight year, this may be Tina Thompson's most valuable season as a pro. She has been the main force behind Houston's midseason run and, despite her veteran status, helped her team overachieve in a major way.
    Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 19.1
    • 3.9
    • 2.7
    • 1.0
    • 0.4
    • .470
    • .317
    • .890
    • +16.5
    • Previous Rank - 3
    Like Thompson, Augustus has been the most reliable player on an overachieving team. Her frightening injury this past week notwithstanding, the Olympic gold medalist has had another brilliant season. She's truly becoming one of the league's most dangerous scorers.
    Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks
    • PPG
    • RPG
    • APG
    • SPG
    • BPG
    • FG%
    • 3P%
    • FT%
    • EFF
    • 15.5
    • 9.1
    • 2.5
    • 1.5
    • 3.0
    • .464
    • .235
    • .669
    • +19.3
    • Previous Rank - 8
    Leslie's numbers don't jump out at you in the way her rookie teammate's do, but this season has to be considered a wonderfully impressive return for this legendary center. She's among the top candidates for the Defensive Player of the Year, and, thanks to her, the Sparks will be a tough out in the playoffs.

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

    11. Asjha Jones (Connecticut): 17.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.5 apg (11)
    12. Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix): 21.1 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.7 rpg (12)
    13. Candice Dupree (Chicago): 16.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg (13)
    14. Taj McWilliams-Franklin (Detroit): 13.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.5 spg (NR)
    15. Janel McCarville (New York): 14.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.2 apg (NR)

  • Dropped out: Katie Douglas (Indiana), Jia Perkins (Chicago).
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