SECAUCUS, N.J., August 10, 2010 -- At long last we have a tie. Both Tamika Catchings and Angel McCoughtry are making a strong push for MVP considerations as the season continues to wind down. In that respect, I found it difficult to put just one of them in the second place slot (they are listed alphabetically below). On one hand, Catchings is playing out of her mind lately, registering a double-double against the Mercury on Sunday and single-handedly winning Friday's game against the Dream with two clutch free throws. However, McCoughtry is putting up some impressive numbers lately as well. The only downside of these performances, and obviously this plays a huge factor in why she wasn't the solid pick for No. 2, is based on the fact that the Dream has lost two straight and ultimately flipped places with Indiana after this weekend's slate of games.
But the No. 1 spot is still a lock for Seattle's Lauren Jackson. As you'll see below, she's at a point in the season where the team can afford to let her catch a breath and rest up a bit before the postseason hits. Again, this shouldn't be perceived as a weakness in LJ's MVP considerations. After all, if she hadn't put together such a strong first half she likely wouldn't have the time to sit right now. If anything, it's a credit to her MVP-worthy season.
Last ranking: 1
Lauren Jackson only played 21 minutes against the Tulsa Shock Saturday night, but that's because she didn't have to play any more than that. Despite logging 11 minutes less than her season average of 32 per, LJ still recorded a 12-10 double-double before taking a break on the bench as the Storm routed the Shock 111-65. This sort of thing shouldn't come as a surprise at this stage of the season. Sore thumb or not, Coach Agler can afford to sit LJ and a few other starters if it means they'll be well rested heading into the playoffs.
Last ranking: 4
Tamika Catchings is having an explosive second half. That much is evident in Indiana's race back to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. While the team may have experienced a three-game slump just over a week ago, Catchings was consistent as ever, posting 16-4, 24-6 and 19-6 outings. And really that's the prime reason why Catchings is a strong contender for the MVP Trophy: Consistency. If a team comes to rely on that quality throughout the course of an entire season, makes it to the playoffs and, potentially, a championship title, you know that player will not be overlooked.
Last ranking: 2
Here's Angel's point totals over the last three games: 31, 30, 20. The end result (in this order): Loss, loss, win. As I said above, I just couldn't decide whether to keep Angel in sole possession of second or to demote her to third. In a face-to-face game against the Fever, Atlanta fell just short, no fault of McCoughtry's. Friday's game marked the last regular season meeting between the two teams, concluding the series 3-2 in favor of the Fever. Before we get into the likelihood of Indy and Atlanta meeting in the playoffs, let's first see how McCoughtry plays over the last five games, particularly the next one against Seattle and Friday's meeting against the Liberty.
Last ranking: 3
Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury are gaining plenty of ground in the Western Conference standings. The highly coveted second seed would guarantee home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and there's no denying that Phoenix wants to capitalize on that home crowd at US Airways Center. On August 1 Taurasi registered her first double-double of the season, a 35-point, 11-assist outing that resulted in a 97-96 Phoenix win of Chicago. Two nights later she picked up her second of the season, tallying 21 points and 10 assists in a 103-92 win over the Silver Stars. Whatever the Mercury asks of her - be it a 30-plus point night, setting up teammates or disrupting the other team's flow - Taurasi is going to bring it.
Last ranking: 5
Cappie Pondexter and the New York Liberty are currently riding a league-best six-game win streak. While New York's second-half record of 10-2 is impressive in its own right, the real test awaits the Liberty in the form of playoff-worthy matchups on schedule later this week. Cappie knows her role is to lead by example, and there's no question she'd willingly exchange a few points off her game total if it meant securing the win (she made that evident on the night she dropped 40 against the Fever). Cappie's assist average of 4.8 is just a hair under last season's average of five per game, and we all know how last season turned out for Cappie in Phoenix. Point is, when Cappie shares the ball it only increases the threat of her own game. That's the kind of weapon that is worthy of MVP consideration.
Last ranking: 6
Tina Charles has already set a new rookie record for most double-doubles in a season (18) and still has six games left to try and raise the bar along with giving chase to the record for the league records most double-doubles in a season (she has 18, record is 19) and rebounds in a season (currently has 335, record is 363). But when looking at the big picture, it's the playoffs that most entices Charles' interests. As of right now the Sun needs to gain ground in the East and they need to do it quickly. Behind Charles' record-breaking play, you can't rule them out just yet. For the latest milestone updates, check out WNBA.com's Milestone Tracker.
Last ranking: 8
Crystal Langhorne takes a bit of a dip in this week's rankings, similar to how the Mystics have also dropped off a bit in the East. While still in the playoff picture, Washington's 4-7 record since returning from the break is certainly an area of concern if they want to guarantee a postseason berth. Langhorne is doing just about everything she can to keep the Mystics contender, minus the August 6 game against the Liberty in which she posted a season-low four points on 2-of-6 shooting. The key for Langhorne is to let it slide right off her shoulders, which she did with 14 points and seven rebounds the following game, and stay focused on helping Washington crack the playoffs. With Connecticut just two games behind in fifth place, Tuesday's match against the Sun should be perceived as a must-win for the Mystics.
Last ranking: 7
Sylvia Fowles takes yet another drop in the MVP Rankings this week after the Chicago Sky posted its fifth straight loss and more or less placed itself out of postseason contention. But you have to look at the positives: Fowles has, up until this point (and hopefully not jinxing anything) stayed entirely healthy for the season, proven herself in the paint on both sides of the ball and received All-Star honors. It's also not far fetched to think that Fowles could potentially be a candidate for Most Improved Player. If you take a look over her player profile career stats, there's no question that she's having a career year. The only thing to factor in is that she's never had a full, healthy season to compare this one to.
Last ranking: 9
Candice Dupree might not be the top candidate for MVP honors coming out of Phoenix but that doesn't necessarily mean her game should be overlooked. Her 68% field goal percentage is the best in the league and will no doubt stand as a crucial piece to the Phoenix puzzle in the postseason. For Dupree, who spent four years in Chicago, this will stand as her first ever WNBA playoff appearance. As long as she keeps knocking them down at a ridiculously high percentage, her performance shouldn't be any less flattering in the extended season.
Last ranking: 10
Seimone Augustus holds down the last spot in the rankings for the second week in a row. Minnesota is currently clinging to a half-game lead over Los Angeles for the fourth and final spot and Augustus will be the deciding factor on whether or not Minny claims a seat in the postseason or dips to fifth, right outside the playoff bubble. It's been a trying year for Augustus but if she's going to hit her groove this season, why not now? Prior to Sunday's loss to the Liberty, the Lynx won three straight. Augustus registered 20 or more points in each of those games, including a few clutch shots (like the three-pointer she nailed Saturday against the Sky) to keep the Lynx alive. That's what many fans have come to expect from Augustus, and that's what she's primed to do to help Minnesota make a postseason push.