SECAUCUS, N.J., July 27, 2010 -- As promised, we'll kick off this week's Race to the MVP with your e-mails.
If you watch Seattle play, you would know that Sue Bird is the one hitting the big shots at the most important pivotal points. Sue is having her best year ever, and Lauren is only picking up stats from routine playing time while really missing most of the interior shots she used to make. Lauren is not Seattle's "go to" player this year. Sue Bird is the primary reason for Seattle's awsome year. - Jakob, Iowa
While I definitely can agree with your observation (after all, Sue did hit that clutch three against the Mercury in that triple-overtime game two weeks ago), I think if you look at the big picture this season and match Jackson and Bird up against one another, LJ would come out on top. Now before you send along some hate mail, let's look at the comparison:
You might not catch Jackson running the offense at the point, which ideally is Bird's forte (5.5 assists per game, 2nd overall), but LJ has the better field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and isn't far off from Bird's average from beyond the arc. You also have to consider Jackson's defensive play, where she ranks fifth overall in total blocks (30) and has hauled in 6.3 defensive rebounds per game (also fifth overall). Not to mention her five Player of the Week awards (a feat she matched in 2007 when she ultimately claimed the MVP) and two Player of the Month awards.
Again, I'm not diminishing the fact that Bird is a valuable piece of Seattle's success, but would she have the opportunity to nail a clutch shot if Jackson wasn't dropping an average of 21.8 points or snagging 9.2 boards per game? Besides, LJ can hit some clutch shots too. How about that three she nailed toward the end of the Lynx game a little over a week ago? Or the clutch free throws she made in that triple-overtime game against the Mercury? But let's be honest here: If we're going to sit and debate which member of the Storm is better than the other or more eligible for MVP consideration, we can at least both agree that Coach Agler is the one who wins in the end.
I think Angel should get it because she has scored over 20 points each game even though her team lost she has still done well in scoring, assists and some others.she is also hard working and never gives up when she has a bad night. Dionnedra, New Mexico
Last year's Rookie of the Year is looking even more impressive in her sophomore campaign, isn't she? I mean, she's playing with the grace and skill of a seasoned veteran and is more than willing to put the Dream on her back as they make a playoff run. While her scoring average is impressive, her efficiency takes a bit of a hit at times when she forces shots. Does this limit her chances as an MVP candidate? Absolutely not. As Angel continues to adapt to the WNBA and improve on her overall game, I think we'll start to see even bigger and better numbers down the line. Compared to last season, her three-point shot could use a little work, but you also have to consider she saw less court time last season - 21.6 mpg, compared to 31.3 this season. If not this season (which admittedly is not over yet), McCoughtry will likely be the one player the rest of the league is chasing in the future. Besides, all but one are giving chase this time around.
Last ranking: 1
I already got into the LJ argument above so there's not much more I can add that hasn't already been said. But if I have to find one thing, then let it be this: Over the past two seasons this time of the year has not favored Jackson, as injuries have sidelined her for the playoffs in two consecutive runs. Earlier in the season when LJ claimed her record-breaking 16th Player of the Week Award, she had this to say: "Who knows what will happen if we go in there 100 percent healthy into the playoffs? I think that would be scary for a lot of people if we were completely healthy going into the playoffs." A healthy Storm team has already gone 20-2. Yes, scary indeed.
Last ranking: 3
Angel McCoughtry makes the jump from three to two this week after helping the Dream snap a four-game losing streak. In what could only be described as a neck-and-neck battle with Tina Charles over the past few weeks has finally swayed in Angel's favor. For now at least. While Charles may have had a tough week (we'll get to that soon), the Dream's 1-4 record since returning from the break doesn't do Angel's numbers any justice. And while she'd probably be the first to tell you that she's not concerned about her personal achievements, it's hard to ignore the fact that she hasn't scored less than 20 points since she registered 10 back on July 1st against the Lynx. Since then Angel tied a season-high 32 and recorded two double-doubles.
Last ranking: 2
As I mentioned in the Week 11 Weekend Recap, Tina Charles has not posted up Tina Charles-esque numbers over the past few games. Against the Liberty, New York found ways to draw her out of the paint and into the perimeter, which in turn completely eliminated her rebounding options. She finished the game with 14 points and six boards and the Sun dropped a game to a Conference rival. Saturday against the Sparks was no better, as she finished the night with nine points and nine rebounds on 4-of-11 shooting, marking the first time in her young career that she's failed to register a double-double in two games. Mind you, that isn't so much a knock to her recent play as it is a credit to her overall ability. If she's good enough to warrant that sort of analysis than she's good enough to snap out of a slump. Rough weekend aside, Charles is still a top contender for the MVP trophy.
Last ranking: 4
Sylvia Fowles will rise and fall with the Chicago Sky, just as the Chicago Sky will rise and fall with Sylvia Fowles. Last week Fowles took a jump to No. 4 from the No. 7 slot. This week it's hard to adjust Fowles in either direction after she posted 12 points and 16 boards against the Liberty on Friday and 23 points and 12 boards Saturday against the Silver Stars. Might I also add that Fowles nailed her first career three-pointer against San Antonio this weekend. With one second left on the shot clock early in the fourth quarter, Shay Murphy inbounded a pass to Fowles who let one go from beyond the arc, banked it high off the glass and sank the prayer. Luck? Nah. Chicago's secret weapon has been revealed.
Last ranking: 5
Indiana is really starting to look like it has all the pieces in place. Perhaps this is the sort of thing Catchings had in mind when she said the team had to reach its peak to be ready to go for the playoffs. Or maybe Indiana has yet to reach its peak. Describe it anyway you'd like. Indiana is on fire in the East since returning from the break, posting a 4-1 record and knocking Atlanta from the No.1 spot. Catchings isn't the reason per se, but she's certainly a huge factor on both sides of the ball.
Last ranking: 8
There's something in the water in Phoenix. Either that, or this team has found the right chemistry and just the right time. The Mercury has won three straight and five of its last six behind Diana Taurasi's MVP-caliber play. She dropped 31 points Saturday in Phoenix's double-overtime win against the Lynx, 26 Thursday against the Shock (side note: in only 23 minutes of play) and toyed with the idea of setting a new single-game record when she dropped 44 points in the Mercury's triple-overtime loss to Seattle two weeks ago. This is the sort of play the Mercury can get behind. Taurasi's not only assuming her usual role as a leader-by-example, but she's also raising the game of everyone around her and it's starting to show in the standings.
Last ranking: 7
Cappie Pondexter, much like Sylvia Fowles, stayed put in the same slot as last week's installment. Player of the Week honors aside, Cappie and Sylvia find themselves in a similar position. While Sylvia may be a bit higher in the rankings based on her points, rebounds and double-double streak, the one common element remains: if the dominate play of Cappie can translate to wins for New York, then she will move up the rankings as the Liberty moves up in the standings.
Last ranking: 6
Coach Julie Plank's "Perfect 10" (see also: last week's rankings) was near perfect Saturday against the Fever, hitting 5-of-6 shots from the field for 15 points and 13 boards. The feat may have marked her second straight double-double and 10th on the year, but the Mystics dropped a tough one to the Fever during a time when every game in the East is carrying serious playoff ramifications. No fault of hers though, as she continues to be the anchor of Washington's offense and a real factor in the team's playoff contention. This week she drops from sixth to eighth, but likely won't stay down for long if she can power the Mystics back into second place.
Last ranking: 12
Candice Dupree has spent the past 10 weeks in the "Outside Looking In" section of the Race to the MVP Rankings, varying from 11th place to 15th place along the way. But it's about time she cracks the Top 10, especially after her 32-point, 16-rebound night against the Lynx Saturday evening. But there are other elements to appreciate in Dupree's game. She is by far one of the most efficient scorers in the league, shooting a league-best .661. Only Washington's Crystal Langhorne comes close (.593). Dupree has also registered double figures in 20 of Phoenix's 22 games this season, her first with the team. Therein lies the rub: her first season in Phoenix. While she's certainly carrying her weight and Phoenix is starting to look more and more like a playoff contender with each passing game, there's no telling what Dupree is capable of as we head down the home stretch.
Last ranking: 9
The month of July started off well for Sancho Lyttle as she registered a 10-14 double-double to kick things off. She has exhibited the same degree of consistency that the Dream has come to rely on all season, but she's falling short by just a rebound or two here or there to round out a double-double. Is a dub-dub a requirement in Race to the MVP Rankings? No. But a player like Lyttle is expected to be a battering ram in the paint and a vacuum under the rim. She may still be getting it done for the Dream, but not to the same degree that previously placed her at a higher point in the standings.
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.