SECAUCUS, N.J., July 5, 2011 -- Over the five weeks of picking a No. 1 in Race to the MVP rankings, this week may have been the toughest yet. I knew coming in that it would have to be a close one between Connecticut's Tina Charles and Chicago's Sylvia Fowles. Both have been utterly dominating the paint with inside scoring and rebounds, benefiting off high-quality shots and strong positioning. While Fowles' 20.7 points per game is just slightly higher than Charles' 19.8, Tina's cleaning glass on a nightly basis with 10.9 boards per game compared to Big Syl's 8.8.
Outside of head-to-head comparisons, I felt it was only right to also account for team records. After all, a player can be valuable to her team on any given night, but isn't the most value distinguished by winning? In turn, I concluded that Tina on the 6-3 Connecticut Sun tops Syl on the 4-6 Chicago Sky. Given the difficulty of picking one over the other simply based on stats, consider team records a tie-breaker in this week's decision behind selecting a No. 1. I'm just happy we still have plenty of basketball to play. Otherwise I'd be forced to make my sure-fire No. 1.
Odds are you may find a number of these players on the court for the All-Star Game on July 23 in San Antonio. If you want to make sure they are, do your part by voting online, using your mobile phone by texting the player's last name to 6-9-6-2-2 or by visiting m.wnba.com on any wireless carrier. All balloting will conclude at midnight ET on July 10.
Last ranking: 3
The Connecticut Sun has posted a 4-2 record over the last six. It's no wonder, considering Tina Charles has picked up a double-double in six straight. Her 22 points and 23 boards against the Storm last Tuesday was Tina's second 20/20 game, the first coming last season against the Dream. When she scored 20 and pulled in 10 boards against the Sparks on Friday it got me thinking: "What if Tina played in the West?"
Last ranking: 1
Friday's loss to the Phoenix Mercury was only the second game this season where Sylvia Fowles didn't finish with 20 or more points. Her 20.7 ppg remains a league-best, but the team's 4-6 record has them barely hanging on to a fourth place spot in the East. Now is not the time for Chi-town to dig itself into a hole. Wins have to keep coming if they don't want Atlanta to leapfrog them.
Last ranking: 2
Diana shot a season-low eight shots Friday against the Sky, knocking down six of them, but also hit 11 free throws to close out the night with 24 points and the win. So what's the game plan for defending Taurasi? Watching her hit six of eight is solid enough evidence to make teams defend the shot, while draining 11 of 12 from the free throw line isn't exactly a good enough reason to foul her and take away her shot.
Last ranking: 6 In Friday's power rankings I said Cappie Pondexter was definitely playing MVP-caliber ball but the Liberty's record indicated she couldn't do it all by herself. On Friday against the Silver Stars Cappie dropped 19 points, her lowest total of the last six games, but also received double-figure scoring from three other teammates to beat the team with the league's best record. Something tells me she'll take that trade-off any day of the week.
Last ranking: 7
Becky Hammon is playing the Silver Stars into serious playoff contenders and herself into MVP considerations. She currently leads the team with 17.3 ppg and 6.7 apg, the latter of which is also tops among all players in the league.
Last ranking: 5
Tamika Catchings isn't scoring at an alarming rate, but she's never really been known for dropping 30 points or so on any given night. What's more exciting is how she spreads her game out across points, rebounding, assists and steals. Depending on how Shannon Bobbitt or Erin Phillips play at the point now that Briann January is out, fans will likely see Catchings' versatility amp'd up from now until the end of the season - one she hopes ends with a championship.
Last ranking: 4
Rebekkah Brunson drops again in this week's Race to the MVP rankings but not without reason. I remain convinced that the Lynx are prepared to call on a variety of weapons throughout the course of the season. Brunson was the go-to player in early June with her six straight double-doubles. Now it's hard to pinpoint exactly who the team is starting to rely on more in addition to Brunson. Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen are just a few options, but the fact remains that Minnesota is defining the phrase "team play."
Last ranking: 9 The Weekend Recap highlighted the play of the Seattle Storm and made mention of players stepping up while Lauren Jackson heals up. Bird remains a consistent force who has the distinct responsibility of creating the Storm's offense, one that currently ranks 12th in total points per game (70). Nevertheless, you wouldn't know it by looking at the standings, as Seattle also has the No. 1 ranked defense in the league (68.75 ppg). In other words, keep an eye on Sue's defense too.
Last ranking: 8
Although Tuesday's game against the Storm is Indiana's first game in seven days, one shouldn't overlook the fact that Katie Douglas is shooting the lights out again. After a bruised back sidelined her for most of the Phoenix game on June 19 and all of the Washington game two nights later, it took only one nine-point night against the Sun for her to cleanse the palate and get back in the 20-point range again. Let's see how she does against the league's best defense.
Last ranking: 14
Sophia Young has registered 12 points or more in every game this season and remains a consistent part of the San Antonio offense that currently ranks second overall in ppg with 90.22. She might be on the fringe of Top 10 voting now but as the season drags on consistency could be the one thing that gives her a boost up the list.
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.