Race to the MVP: Week 5

How do you evaluate players that have a fellow superstar playing side-by-side with them?
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

SECAUCUS, N.J., July 8, 2009 -- As I ponder this week’s rankings the question that has been on my mind is what to do with a team that has multiple superstars that are worthy of MVP recognition. When two great players are playing side-by-side each night, it is sometimes tough to determine which player is the most valuable to her own team, let alone where they stand among the league’s best.

Case in point is the Phoenix Mercury, which features Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter and currently sits atop the Western Conference standings with an 8-4 record. Which player is most valuable? Which player is more responsible for the Mercury’s success?

Let’s take a look at the stats.

Diana Taurasi

MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG TO PPG
32.5 .465 .429 .920 5.1 3.3 1.5 2.0 2.8 21.1

Cappie Pondexter

MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG TO PPG
32.7 .470 .333 .860 5.3 4.8 1.2 0.2 2.3 20.6

Taurasi has the edge in points, steals, blocks and 3-point percentage, while Pondexter has the edge in rebounds, assists, field-goal percentage and fewer turnovers. There’s not a lot of separation between them.

Fans of the Pick One Challenge are familiar with the PRA statistics, which is the total of points, rebounds and assists. In that category, Pondexter ranks No. 1 in the WNBA (30.7) with Taurasi right behind her at No. 2 at (29.4). The Mercury duo also ranks 1-2 in the league in scoring, this time with Taurasi getting top billing.

So how do we differentiate between these two? Or can we? When two players are this close it can come down to personal preference or the “what have you done for me lately” syndrome where whichever player left the best final impression gets the nod.

With that thinking, I would give the edge to Pondexter, who had one of the best single-game performances in the entire league this season when she posted 22 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists with only one turnover, and two steals in Phoenix’s win over Seattle on July 1. It was the second time this season that Pondexter flirted with a triple-double.

As she continues to average career highs in both rebounds and assists, it could just be a matter of time until Pondexter joins the exclusive group of players that have accomplished the triple-double feat. In the meantime, she gets rewarded with the top spot in this week’s Race to the MVP.

Before I post the link to submit feedback, let me explain Pondexter’s jump from No. 8 to No. 1 this week. It started with Lauren Jackson opening the door with her second subpar performance in the past three games. So who would rise to the top as Jackson slid down the scale?

Last week’s No. 2 Alana Beard? She averaged 15 points and 2.5 rebounds in a pair of Mystics losses.

Last week’s No. 3 Katie Douglas? She averaged just 12 points and 2.5 rebounds in a pair of Fever wins as teammate Tammy Sutton-Brown led the way.

Last week’s No. 4 was Taurasi, which brought me to today’s debate. With Pondexter taking over as my MVP choice from Phoenix, she rises all the way to No. 1.

Now here are the player rankings for the season through July 6.

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  • Race to the MVP - Overall Player Rankings

    1. Cappie Pondexter, Phoenix Mercury
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    20.6 5.3 4.8 1.2 0.2 .470 .333 .861 + 20.67
  • Last week's ranking: 8
    With a career average of 19.5 points per game, nobody doubts Pondexter's prowess as a scorer. However, this season she has elevated her game to another level as she is averaging career highs in both rebounds (5.3 rpg, up 1.6 from her best season) and assists (4.8, up 0.6 from her best season). Twice this season Pondexter has neared a triple-double, a sign of her more well-rounded game.

  • 2. Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    20.5 7.1 0.5 1.1 1.8 .527 .523 .800 + 21.82
  • Last week's ranking: 1
    After opening the season with eight straight 20-plus point games, Jackson has been unable to hit double figures in two of her last three games. On Tuesday, she scored just three points on 1-of-11 shooting. However, she did pull down a season-high 12 rebounds and blocked four shots to help the Storm capture a 66-53 win over San Antonio. Jackson found other ways to contribute to her team's success even when her normally reliable shot was off.

  • 3. Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    14.6 6.7 3.9 3.2 0.8 .324 .289 .863 + 18.30
  • Last week's ranking: 10
    Similar to what has happened with Phoenix, Catchings leaps her Fever teammate Katie Douglas in this week's rankings as she continually puts together impressive all around games, while Douglas has cooled off after her torrid start. Over the past four games Catchings is averaging 16.5 points, 9.25 rebounds, 4.25 assists and 4.0 steals as the Fever continue to crank out the wins with eight in a row and counting.

  • 4. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    21.1 5.1 3.3 1.5 2.0 .465 .429 .915 + 22.00
  • Last week's ranking: 4
    As mentioned above, the race between Pondexter and Taurasi was super close and a case could definitely be made to have Taurasi at the top of this list. With Jackson's scoring down over the past week and a half, Taurasi now leads the league in scoring, something she has done in two of the past three years.

  • 5. Nicky Anosike, Minnesota Lynx
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    13.6 6.9 3.1 3.2 1.1 .535 .000 .611 + 19.00
  • Last week's ranking: 13
    The Minnesota Lynx sophomore enters the top 10 as she continues to post statistics that make you do a double-take when looking at a box score. While many centers lead their team in rebounding (which Anosike does at 6.9 per game, 8th in the WNBA), not many lead their teams in assists (3.1, 15th in league) and steals (3.17, 2nd in league by 0.03). On top of that she is also scoring 13.6 points a night, including a career-high 24-point performance Tuesday against Washington.

  • 6. Alana Beard, Washington Mystics
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    18.4 3.8 2.2 2.9 0.6 .455 .371 .804 + 15.80
  • Last week's ranking: 2
    While Beard has not played poorly in the past week and a half, she has not shined like she did earlier in the season when the Mystics jumped out to a quick start. The end result is that the Mystics have lost four of their last five games to fall to the middle of the pack in the East. You can say as Beard goes so go the Mystics and in this case as the Mystics go (down the standings), so goes Beard (down in our rankings).

  • 7. Katie Douglas, Indiana Fever
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    18.1 3.3 2.5 1.6 0.4 .458 .388 .824 + 16.12
  • Last week's ranking: 3
    Like Beard, Douglas has seen her production dip over the past week and a half after she got out to a blistering start. But unlike Beard, her team has not suffered because of it. Douglas and the Fever have the luxury of players such as Catchings and Tammy Sutton-Brown (the last two WNBA Eastern Conference Players of the Week) to pick up the slack for Douglas while she goes through a bit of a cold spell (11.6 ppg on .325 shooting over the past three games).

  • 8. Becky Hammon, San Antonio Silver Stars
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    18.0 3.3 5.9 2.0 0.9 .384 .267 .927 + 16.86
  • Last week's ranking: 6
    Hammon posted her first double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 assists in San Antonio's win over Chicago on Friday, but could only get 13 and five against Seattle two nights later as the Silver Stars fell to the Storm to remain winless on the road and .500 on the year. The Silver Stars will need more of the former and less of the latter if they are to climb the standings in the West, where they currently sit fourth.

  • 9. Jia Perkins, Chicago Sky
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    16.7 4.2 4.5 2.7 0.2 .451 .485 .792 + 18.18
  • Last week's ranking: 7
    Perkins had a subpar game in San Antonio this past week (7 pts, 1 reb, 2 ast, 4 stl), but followed it up with 21 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals in Sacramento. However, the Sky dropped both games to fall to 6-5 on the season (Sylvia Fowles missed both games). Still, Perkins currently ranks in the top 10 in four key categories: points per game (9th), assists per game (6th), steals per game (4th) and 3-point percentage (5th).

  • 10. Asjha Jones, Connecticut Sun
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    15.6 5.7 2.1 1.1 0.5 .427 .286 .788 + 13.40
  • Last week's ranking: 9
    The Sun roster may have changed over the past week with the additions of Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Sandrine Gruda, but Asjha Jones has continued to give Mike Thibault's squad her usual strong performances. In the Sun's last two games she is averaging 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, which is nearly spot on with her season averages. A lot can be said for consistency and that is what Jones brings night in and night out.

  • On the Outside Looking In (season averages)
    11. Shameka Christon (New York): 18.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, +18.62 EFF
    12. Sophia Young (San Antonio): 16.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, +14.33 EFF
    13. Candice Wiggins (Minnesota): 14.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, +11.58 EFF
    14. Sue Bird (Seattle): 12.3 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, +12.18 EFF
    15. Sancho Lyttle (Atlanta): 13.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, +17.15 EFF
  • Dropped out: Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles
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