SECAUCUS, N.J., June 23, 2010 -- It's with great regret that I have to remove Candace Parker from the 2010 Race to the MVP rankings. You never want to see a player's season end due to injury. There's no denying the fact that Parker was having an incredible season up until she dislocated her shoulder on June 13 against the Lynx. She was on pace to set an all-new career high in points per game (20.6) and rebounds (10.1), but more importantly she showed that she was more than willing to step up in a big way for the Sparks in the wake of Lisa Leslie's retirement. Even if the Sparks' record does not indicate the true dominance of Parker's game this season, you don't need to look any further than her individual numbers.
A few new faces to note on this week's rankings. Rebekkah Brunson cracks the Top 10 for the first time this season after the Lynx put together a solid three-game win streak. Also representing the Lynx is Seimone Augustus, whose incredible return from two offseason surgeries to win Player of the Week honors in just her first week back is an accomplishment beyond description (but I try below anyway). Atlanta's Sancho Lyttle also makes a huge jump after posting some crazy numbers against the Fever late last week in a game that, unfortunately for the Dream, resulted in a loss.
Outside of those additions there has also been a ton of shuffling, with the exceptions of Angel McCoughtry at the No. 4 and Lauren Jackson, who once again retains the No. 1 spot. Something that's also worth noting is that these rankings do not reflect Wednesday's matinee game between the Shock and Dream.
Last ranking: 1
Storm head coach Brian Agler had this to say about Lauren Jackson last week when the team was in New York to take on the Liberty: "Lauren Jackson, if she can stay on the floor this year, she’s going to have a great chance to be MVP." There's no denying, based on Jackson's numbers this season, that she's definitely on track for strong MVP considerations. You can see for yourself on her player profile page. But has there ever been a concern about Jackson's production on both sides of the court? Nay. Remaining injury-free, as coach Agler mentioned, is the focus. Should she stay healthy for the remainder of the season and consistent as always in her production, then it's going to be hard to lobby against her. The fact the Storm keeps winning also helps.
Last ranking: 3
Let's start with the good. Diana Taurasi dropped 39 points against the Silver Stars on Friday and added seven assists, seven boards and three steals to the mix for good measure. Sunday against the Sun, Taurasi scored 24 points, hauled in six rebounds and dished three assists. Not too shabby, huh? Now, for the bad. Both games ended in a loss for the Mercury. Case in point, Taurasi is doing everything that is expected of her and then some. Her 39 points is a single-game high so far this year for any player and yet it didn't register as a 'W' for the Merc. Tough break, but her MVP candidacy and the Mercury's playoff contentions are still very much intact.
Last ranking: 2
Cappie had a rough go against the Lynx Tuesday night, hitting just two of her 12 shots from the field. However, Minnesota sent Cappie to the line for a season-high 14 free throw attempts, 12 of which she drained. All part of the strategy to take her off her game? Perhaps. She still finished the night with 16 points and five assists, but the bigger issue resides with the Liberty as a whole. New York has dropped three straight and possesses a 2-5 record for the month of June.
Last ranking: 4
Things may have simmered down a bit for the Dream since winning six straight to start the season, but Angel McCoughtry's push for MVP consideration is still going strong. Saturday against the Fever, McCoughtry racked up 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, nine of which came from behind the arc. May was an impressive month for McCoughtry, as she not only received two Player of the Week nods but also topped the 25 point mark on three separate occasions (32, 28 and 32). So far in June, McCoughtry has yet to score more than 23 points in a single game. As noted in last week's rankings, McCoughtry is shooting less but remains equally accurate. With that said, one shouldn't overlook the five assists and three boards she tallied on Saturday as well. And let's not forget the Dream is still a formidable contender for first in the East.
Last ranking: 10
There's a reason why I was hesitant to drop Tina Charles off the rankings last week after her season-low two-points against the Fever on June 13. You just won't see games like that every night from Charles, just like you won't see 26-points, 19-rebound games either. Although I'm sure, if given the choice, the Connecticut Sun and its fan would certainly opt for the latter. Not only was that single outing against the Sparks a career-high for Charles, but the 19 boards also set a franchise record. Not too shabby for a rookie, huh?
Last ranking: 15
I'm sold. Sancho Lyttle means business. Last week Lyttle cracked the Race to the MVP rankings for the first time this season at the No. 15 spot. Obviously she took notice and posted a monster 20-point, 20-rebound night against the Fever on Saturday in response to the nomination (not to mention 10-of-10 from the line). Kidding aside, Lyttle justifiably moves up in this week's installment and may very well become a regular given the fact that a) Candace Parker is done for the year and b) Erika de Souza is routinely moving up and down so frequently that any inconsistent performance could push her out of the Top 10 (spoiler alert: it happened this week). Lyttle could be that consistent player and the Dream are much better because of it.
Last ranking: 6
It's a roller coaster year for the Chicago Sky, who since the start of the season have lost four, won four, lost four and, as of Tuesday night, won one. In the two games Chicago has played since the Week 5 Race to the MVP rankings, Fowles has finished one rebound short of a double-double in each. Her point production was limited Tuesday against the Sun, as she scored just 12 points, but the more impressive part is that she scored that on just 5-for-8 shooting. Plus, a game against the Sun pinned her against Tina Charles in a battle of the East's bigs. To credit Fowles' defensive game, she did hold Charles to 7-of-18. While rookie Epiphanny Prince may have led all scorers in points, Fowles' ability to contain Charles was a significant factor in the win.
Last ranking: 9
Indiana has won six of its last seven games and is currently riding a three-game win streak to the top of the East. To say Tamika Catchings is a part of that run would be an understatement. Catchings is getting it done on both sides of the court. You may not see a dominant 30 point performance anytime soon, but what you will see is a balanced display across the board. Saturday against the Dream, Catchings dropped 17 points and added seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. It should also come as no surprise at this point that Catchings also leads the league in steals (34) and steals per game (2.83).
Last ranking: 11
Rebekkah Brunson was on the fringe last week at the No. 11 spot but after two-straight double-doubles of 14 points and 11 boards and 21 points and 13 boards, I think it's about time she cracks the Top 10. Here's a player who put in a ton of work while the Lynx were trying to recover from the injury bug and unfortunately had a lot of strong performances buried in the wake of a loss. Take for example June 4th - 13th, where Brunson recorded four consecutive double-doubles but the Lynx went 0-4 in that span. A healthy Lynx team is now looking to make a run in the West, and with Brunson holding down the paint and putting up points, it's only going to be more feasible.
Last ranking: N/R
What a story for Seimone Augustus, who after playing only her third game since returning from surgery was awarded the Western Conference Player of the Week Award. It's no coincidence either that Augustus has played only five games since returning to the 2010 season and, in that span, Minnesota has gone 3-2. The hole's not too deep, nor is it entirely impossible to climb out of, but Augustus' on-court success will ultimately translate to success for the Lynx as a team. That much was evident Tuesday night against the Liberty when Augustus scored eight straight points within the last four minutes of the game to help the Lynx stay in it long enough to seal the deal. The No. 10 spot seems like a good place for Augustus to make her debut. Where she goes from here is up to her.
Last week, Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joseph University courageously took the floor for her first college game, refusing to let an inoperable brain tumor keep her from achieving her dream – and WNBA stars Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings were on hand to lend their support.