Week Two Rankings

We’re only two weeks into the season and we already have our first major in-season injury, and our first casualty in the Race to the MVP. Diana Taurasi, who missed Phoenix’s season opener and only played 10 minutes in the team’s second game before scoring 18 points in 26 minutes of action on May 26, is out indefinitely with a strained left hip flexor. So, the 2009 MVP that was third in our preseason rankings is all but eliminated from the MVP discussion, and we are only just now turning our calendars to June. Taurasi, who will be evaluated daily, will likely come back and make an impact at some point later in the season -- with her health for the Olympics also likely being a priority -- but she could miss substantial time.

This injury goes to show you how difficult it is to win an MVP. It takes skill, luck, team success and health to climb this ladder. And, while you can’t project injuries, you can count on them to undoubtedly shake up this list throughout the year.

As for the healthy players, the top three remain the same this week. Candace Parker, Tina Charles and Tamika Catchings have shined the brightest thus far and they are the three strongest candidates early on. Based on their similar individual resumes and team records, it will not be easy -- barring injury -- to knock these three out of their current posts, although they could trade places with one another.

Here are this week’s rankings.

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  • #1. CANDACE PARKER, LOS ANGELES SPARKS (4-1)
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    Candace Parker stays in the top spot…for now. Tina Charles and Tamika Catchings are hot on her trail, but how can you knock Parker, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week this week, off her perch? You can’t. She has scored 21 or more points in three of her five games and the Sparks have surged to a 4-1 start, their only loss coming to the undefeated Lynx. The 6-foot-4 former league MVP is also leading the league in blocks, has had three games of 10 or more rebounds and is shooting 50 percent from the floor.

    Parker’s all-around game -- the ability to make her presence felt in all facets -- is what makes her such a unique talent. Her performance so far this year has been MVP-worthy, but some other top contenders have been as well.

    Previous Ranking: 1 || 2012 Stats: Pts: 18.4 | Rebs: 8.2 | Blocks: 2.8 | Asts: 2.2


    #2. TINA CHARLES, CONNECTICUT SUN (3-0)
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    Though she failed to register her third double-double of the year in Connecticut’s win over San Antonio on May 25, Charles continued her hot start by scoring 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots. Charles and Sylvia Fowles (No. 4 on this list) are the two premier bigs in the game, and she is showing why early on.

    Connecticut is off to a promising start, and Charles may have this team as the one to beat in the East. If the Sun are able to win the conference, and they look to be battling it out with Tamika Catchings’ Indiana Fever for that distinction, then Charles would likely be hard to ignore as the East’s top MVP candidate.

    Previous Ranking: 2 || 2012 Stats: Pts: 20.7 | Rebs: 10.7 | FG%: 56.0 | Blocks: 1.0


    #3. TAMIKA CATCHINGS, INDIANA FEVER (3-0)
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    Sure, Tamika Catchings clocks in at No. 3, but she’s really just 2A. Her and Charles’ merits are nearly identical. Statistically they are equally impressive and both of their teams are currently undefeated. In her last two games, Catchings has displayed her versatility. On May 25 against the Sky, she was active on the perimeter with five assists and four steals. On May 27 versus the Dream, she grabbed 12 boards. In both games she scored over 20 points and she is currently second in the league in scoring.

    It may take until Catchings and Charles meet on June 8 (and two other times in June) before we see some separation between these two stars. For now, Catchings is in the No. 3 spot. Barely.

    Previous Ranking: 3 || 2012 Stats: Pts: 21.0 | Rebs: 7.3 | Asts: 3.0 | Stls: 2.7


    #4. SYLVIA FOWLES, CHICAGO SKY (2-1)
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    If Chicago keeps playing this well, Sylvia Fowles could very well be a challenge to the top three. She has three straight double-doubles to start the season and has scored at least 21 points in every game. The 6-foot-6 center is also shooting an astonishing 71.1 percent from the floor as she currently leads the league in scoring.

    Fowles’ stat line is as impressive as any player in the league, and if the much improved Sky -- with the impressive Epiphany Prince (No. 13 on this list), and the arrivals of veterans Swin Cash and Ruth Riley -- keeps winning, Fowles could end up as second to none.

    Previous Ranking: 8 || 2012 Stats: Pts: 22.3 | Rebs: 11.3 | Blocks: 1.0 | FG%: 71.1


    #5. SEIMONE AUGUSTUS, MINNESOTA LYNX (5-0)
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    The Lynx are so good it is unclear who their better MVP candidate is. Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore do so much for their team that they are hard to hard not to mention in the same sentence. Whatever they are doing is working because the Lynx are undefeated. Augustus’ shooting slipped a bit in the last two games as she shot 8-for-21 from the floor, but she still finished with a combined 25 points in those two contests.

    Augustus is a threat to score 20 points every night, but if her shooting doesn’t pick back up as it was during Minnesota’s first three games, her teammate, Maya Moore, may very well take over the top spot in Minnesota’s own Race to the MVP.

    Previous Ranking: 5 || 2012 Stats: Pts: 18.2 | Rebs: 3.6 | Asts: 2.2 | Stls: 1.4


    #6. MAYA MOORE, MINNESOTA LYNX (5-0)
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    Maya Moore has scored 35 points in the past two games, leading the Lynx in scoring in both of those games. If that continues, Moore will likely overtake Seimone Augustus as the top-ranked Lynx player. Moore can attack the glass effectively. She had seven assists on May 24 versus Los Angeles and also set up her teammates, as seen by her seven assists on May 22 versus New York.

    This is supposed to be a breakout year for Moore and so far she has not disappointed. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick is playing on the league’s most dominant team and that is a considerable combo when it comes to this ladder.

    Previous Ranking: 6 || 2012 Stats: Pts: 14.8 | Rebs: 4.8 | Asts: 3.4 | Stls: 1.4


    #7. ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY, ATLANTA DREAM (2-2)
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    The Dream are back at .500 after blowing out the Mercury on Thursday night. The athletic 6-foot-1 wing is fifth in the league in scoring by averaging 20.0 points a game, scoring at least 21 points in Atlanta’s first three games this year. Despite a poor shooting night on Thursday night, McCoughtry has also been extremely efficient, hitting on 49.1 percent of her field goal attempts. McCoughtry’s career average is 43.2 percent.

    Given that she is Atlanta’s primary scoring option, and ably up to the task, McCoughtry could be ready to move up this list if the Dream start to approach Connecticut and Indiana, a team it lost to twice already this season, atop the East.

    Previous Ranking: 7 || 2012 Stats: Pts: 20.0 | Rebs: 4.5 | Asts: 3.3 | Stls: 3.0


    #8. SUE BIRD, SEATTLE STORM (0-3)

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    Sue Bird continues her rapid descent down the rankings this week. Not only has Seattle stumbled out to an 0-3 start, but after a solid performance in her season opener, Bird has scored just 12 points on 4-for-17 shooting in her last two games. She has still been able to create, averaging 6.7 assists on the year, but she will need to be a bonafide scoring threat for Seattle to win games and for her to move back up the list.

    While this kind of futility out of Bird is most likely an aberration, it could also have a lot to do with playing without Lauren Jackson and Swin Cash. Whether or not that is what is affecting her remains to be seen, but Bird has been one of the most consistent players in the league for the last decade, so things will likely turn around for the seven-time All-Star.

    Previous Ranking: 4 || 2012 Stats: Pts: 9.0 | Asts: 6.7 | Rebs: 4.0


    #9. BECKY HAMMON, SAN ANTONIO SILVER STARS (1-2)
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    Replacing teammate Sophia Young in the top 10, Hammon has been the Silver Stars’ most consistent player this season. She has at least five assists in every game and she has already hit seven 3-pointers. She runs the offense for San Antonio and she seems to be playing some of the best basketball of her 14-year career.

    With Phoenix ravaged by injuries and Tulsa being so inexperienced, San Antonio has the inside track at a playoff spot. If they are to make a serious run in the West, the six-time All-Star will need to be on the top of her game, as she has been so far.

    Previous Ranking: 11 || 2012 Stats: Pts: 16.3 | Asts: 7.3 | Rebs: 2.3 | Stls: 1.7


    #10. ASJHA JONES (3-0)
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    The 2012 Olympian is offering a great 1-2 punch in Connecticut with Tina Charles. After a slightly below average showing in Connecticut’s season opener, Jones has scored 20 and 16 points against New York and San Antonio, respectively, while hitting 15 of her 28 shot attempts in her last two games. The 6-foot-3 forward is active on the glass, having at least six rebounds in each of the Sun’s games.

    Connecticut is a strong contender in the East and that will make Jones’ impact even more visible this season. She is coming off winning the EuroLeague Women Final Eight MVP, so she could position herself to complete a rare double.

    Previous Ranking: 13 || 2012 Stats: Pts: 22.7 | Rebs: 6.0 | Asts: 2.0 | Blocks: 2.0


    OTHERS TO WATCH
    11. Kristi Toliver, Los Angeles Sparks
    12. Candice Dupree, Phoenix Mercury
    13. Epiphanny Prince, Chicago Sky
    14. Katie Douglas, Indiana Fever
    15. Cappie Pondexter, New York Liberty

    OUT: Diana Taurasi, Crystal Langhorne, Sophia Young
    IN: Kristi Toliver, Epiphanny Prince, Katie Douglas

    Note: All stats and records are as of June 1, 2012.