Race to the MVP: Week 8

SECAUCUS, N.J., July 31, 2009 -- What makes the Most Valuable Player race so intriguing and so debatable is that there is no universal set of guidelines for what constitutes an MVP. Even if we had a checklist of ingredients that make up an MVP, we’d still have the issue as to how each item was weighed in each person’s mind.

Some people will give more weight to scoring than other categories like rebounding, defense and leadership. Some people believe that a player on a losing team is automatically out of the race, while others do not.

Since there is no single set of rules to simplify things, I have decided to look for some additional perspective to add to my own ideas of what makes an MVP from the players themselves.

Over the next three weeks I will share a player’s opinion on the definition of a Most Valuable Player and get their thoughts on this year’s race. First up is Washington’s Alana Beard, who has been a fixture in these rankings since week one.

Q. What is your definition of a Most Valuable Player?
Beard: “A lot of people when they choose a Most Valuable Player they look at scoring, but I think a Most Valuable Player is someone that does everything for their team – from rebounding to playing great defense, to getting scores and doing it in the big times. And then, most importantly, you can do all of those things but if your team isn’t winning, you’re not really that top player.”

Q. So just how is important is team success in winning MVP?
Beard: “Team success is very important because as an MVP you make everyone around you better and if you’re making everyone around you better then that means your team is winning. If you’re not doing that then it’s very hard to be the Most Valuable Player of the league because there are so many great players out here.”

Q. Who would be at the top of your list right now?
Beard: “Anybody on the Mystics. (Laughs.)”

Q. Would it be someone wearing No. 20?
Beard: “(Laughs.) You know there are a lot of great players out there. I think Indiana has a great team and you have Tamika Catchings, you have Katie Douglas. In the West you have Lauren Jackson, you have Cappie Pondexter, Diana Taurasi; you have all of those players that have already been up there. If your team is winning, then you’ve have a great look, and right now our team is winning.”

Now here are the player rankings for the season through July 30.

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  • Race to the MVP - Overall Player Rankings

    1. Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever (14-4)
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    14.0 6.4 3.3 2.9 0.6 .347 .368 .874 + 17.11
  • Last ranking: 3
    This was a tough call between Catchings and her teammate Katie Douglas as each has been so important to the success of the league-leading Fever. I give the edge to Catchings because I agree with Beard and believe an MVP needs to do a bit of everything for their team. As important as scoring is, Catchings makes her impact felt in every phase of the game. She is the best all-around player on the best team in the league.

  • 2. Cappie Pondexter, Phoenix Mercury (14-6)
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    19.7 4.5 5.4 1.0 0.2 .443 .333 .884 + 18.85
  • Last ranking: 1
    Bad night, great night, bad night ... that has been the last three games for Cappie Pondexter, the final one a two-point performance in a blowout road loss to the Dream. While it has knocked her out of the top spot, I can't let the last impression blind me from what she has done all year. Pondexter is still third in the league in scoring and second in assists.

  • 3. Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm (11-7)
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    18.9 6.4 0.6 1.4 1.9 .507 .478 .763 + 19.81
  • Last ranking: 2
    After missing a pair of games in mid-July with an Achilles' tendon strain, Jackson is back and playing at a high level for the Storm, who currently sit in second place in the West. Jackson currently ranks fourth in the league in scoring, ninth in rebounding, first in blocks and third in 3-point percentage. She is another player with an all-around game that makes her presence felt all over the floor.

  • 4. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury (14-6)
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    20.7 6.3 3.3 1.3 1.7 .472 .431 .882 + 22.67
  • Last ranking: 4
    Taurasi and Pondexter continue to be incredibly tough to pick between when examining who is more valuable. In the two games that Taurasi missed due to suspension, the Mercury went 1-1. In the three games since her return the Mercury has gone 2-1, with Taurasi and Pondexter each taking the lead in one of the wins and both struggling during the loss.

  • 5. Katie Douglas, Indiana Fever (14-4)
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    17.2 3.7 2.7 1.6 0.3 .427 .343 .851 + 14.72
  • Last ranking: 7
    After starting off the season on fire, Douglas cooled off a bit, but has started the second half of the season ablaze once again. After scoring a career-high 34 points against Washington on Tuesday, Douglas posted 32 points Thursday against Connecticut, leading the Fever to a pair of wins over the teams directly beneath them in the East standings.

  • 6. Becky Hammon, San Antonio Silver Stars (8-9)
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    21.0 3.2 4.9 2.1 0.5 .452 .343 .961 + 20.07
  • Last ranking: 8
    With Hammon scoring a career-high 38 points and Pondexter and Taurasi both struggling on Thursday, Hammon surged past the Mercury duo and now sits atop league leaders in scoring at 21 points per game. She also ranks fifth in the league in assists and sixth in steals. However, her career day did not produce a win for the Silver Stars, who lost to Sacramento in overtime to fall to 8-9 on the season.

  • 7. Alana Beard, Washington Mystics (10-8)
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    17.6 4.1 2.4 2.6 0.5 .462 .333 .725 + 15.11
  • Last ranking: 6
    As she mentioned above, a great player on a struggling team does not receive much MVP consideration. Beard has been in that position for years in Washington; an All-Star player on a team that was not winning. However, with new faces on the floor, on the sidelines and in the front office, the Mystics have surrounded Beard with an improved squad, which she has led to a 10-8 record through 18 games after winning 10 total games in 2008.

  • 8. Asjha Jones, Connecticut Sun (9-8)
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    17.4 6.2 2.6 0.9 0.5 .458 .267 .761 + 16.12
  • Last ranking: 10
    Now in her eighth season in the WNBA, Asjha Jones continues to get better and better. She is currently on pace to once again set career-high averages in points, rebounds, assists and steals. However, Jones and the Sun have dropped their first two games of the second half against conference leaders Phoenix and Indiana.

  • 9. Nicky Anosike, Minnesota Lynx (10-8)
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    13.9 7.3 2.9 3.1 1.0 .538 .000 .629 + 19.67
  • Last ranking: 5
    The first-time All-Star scored only six points in Minnesota's loss to the Sparks coming out of the break. But Anosike continues to rank among the league leaders per game in scoring (18th), rebounding (4th), field-goal percentage (5th), steals (1st), blocks (12th) and assists (16th).

  • 10. Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky (9-10)
    PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT% EFF
    11.7 8.4 0.8 0.9 1.6 .577 .000 .590 + 14.64
  • Last ranking: NR
    With Wednesday's win over Los Angeles, the Sky improved to 9-5 with Sylvia Fowles and 0-5 without her. One of the best ways to measure a player's value is to see how the team peforms when they are not playing. Fowles, who missed five games with a sore knee, ranks second in the WNBA in rebounding and field-goal percentage and ranks sixth in blocks per game.

  • On the Outside Looking In (season averages)
    11. Sophia Young (San Antonio): 17.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, +15.59 EFF
    12. Sue Bird (Seattle): 11.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, +11.67 EFF
    13. Sancho Lyttle (Atlanta): 13.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 2.1 SPG, +16.84 EFF
    14. Lindsey Harding (Washington): 13.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, +14.17 EFF
    15. Shameka Christon (New York): 18.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, +18.00 EFF
  • Dropped out: Candice Wiggins, Jia Perkins
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