This past week was one where nobody seemed to want the No. 1 ranking. Each member of the top three left something to be desired - Tina Charles’ Connecticut team didn’t even play. Nevertheless, it’s time for a change at the top. Sylvia Fowles, despite Chicago’s recent struggles, has arguably been the league’s most consistent player all year and she is rewarded for that this week by taking hold of the coveted top spot for the first time this season.
While the top three may have lost some ground on the rest of the field, a duo in San Antonio gained some. The Silver Stars, winners of four of their last five, get two players into the top 10 this week. Remember: Winning games is an extremely important ingredient to this rankings recipe, so as we get further and further into the season, players that find themselves on losing teams will be getting dropped from the ladder more and more.
With Epiphanny Prince out with an injury, the Chicago Sky lost three in a row. That is, however, by no fault of Sylvia Fowles. In fact, Fowles averaged 22.3 points and 9.7 rebounds in those three losses, and those games came against Indiana (twice) and Minnesota, so the setbacks have come against strong opposition. With Prince out for the forseeable future, the Chicago offense is going to have to run through Fowles even more, thus giving the 6-foot-6 center the opportunity to put up huge numbers, especially as the Sky’s strength of schedule eases up a bit in the coming weeks.
Despite the recent losses, Fowles’ stat lines cannot be denied this year. She’s recorded a double-double in all but one game this season and she leads the league in rebounds. As we said in the beginning of the year, if Chicago keeps winning, Fowles could be the MVP favorite.
Candace Parker falls to No. 2 as an inconsistent week by her and her team cost her some ground. Parker missed a game with a sore knee -- something to monitor as the year progresses -- and she also turned in a dismal two-point, three-rebound performance in a blowout loss to Tulsa, which only has two wins on the season. The Sparks have lost three in a row and Parker is going to have to be healthy and more consistent for them to keep their reputation as an elite team in this league.
Parker’s moments of brilliance, however, were also flashed this week, like in her 25-point, 13-rebound gem in a loss against San Antonio on June 28 or her 15-point, 15-rebound outing against San Antonio again June 24.
The Sparks stumbled this week, going 2-2 since the last rankings, but Parker’s otherworldly talent was still on display. She is averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds in June, and those are MVP caliber numbers on a team like the Sparks.
Tina Charles stays at No. 3 this week and that’s because the Sun did not play a game since the last rankings. Connecticut, aided by inactivity, gained a stronger hold of the Eastern Conference as a result of Chicago struggling. If that pattern continues, Charles could definitely supplant Sylvia Fowles in the No. 1 spot.
Charles’ last game, June 21 versus Indiana, was her worst of the season, so she will be well-rested and anxious to get back on the floor. Playing against Washington and Seattle this week, Connecticut has a chance to put more space between itself and the rest of the East.
In the last three games that Angel McCoughtry has played, the Atlanta Dream have won -- and that is going to be vitally important if she hopes to crack the top three. Her almost unmatched athleticism and skill took center stage during this three-game span as she averaged 25.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals in wins over Los Angeles, New York and Indiana.
McCoughtry is leading the league in scoring by almost three points -- if you exclude the injured Epiphanny Prince -- and she is as important to her team as anybody in the WNBA. The Dream are approaching .500 and if they continue to pile up wins, McCoughtry is another player that can ascend to No. 1 in the rankings.
Tamika Catchings falls one spot on this list despite the Fever winning three of their last four games. Catchings has been solid -- not spectacular -- during this run, but you cannot hold it against the 11-year veteran that Indiana has a lot of capable complementary parts. Sans a 31-point explosion on June 8, Catchings has not scored more than 20 points in June and she is shooting only 38.8 percent this month.
Catchings will face off against San Antonio and Sophia Young (No. 7 on this list) on July 5 and that will be a good opportunity for Indiana to prove itself against a surging team and for Catchings to square off against a worthy, yet younger, opponent.
Consistency. That is what it is all about for Seimone Augustus and the Minnesota Lynx. You may be hard pressed to find a more consistent player and team combo than what we have here at No. 6. Augustus has scored in double figures in every game this year, including over 15 seven times. The reigning WNBA Finals MVP is shooting 50.6 percent from the floor, but what is truly remarkable is how she is shooting from 3-point range. A 38.4 percent career shooter from behind the arc, Augustus has connected on 17 of her 33 attempts (51.5 percent) for the season. In fact, she is shooting 58.6 percent from deep in June.
Minnesota will be tested with three games coming up against San Antonio, Los Angeles and Connecticut. The Lynx sure have the look of the best team in the league, and they will have a chance to prove it in the next two weeks.
The Silver Stars have won four of their last five so Sophia Young takes a big leap in the rankings this week. In those five games, Young has averaged 19 points and 6.4 rebounds. She has also saved her best for strong competition. In three wins against Los Angeles -- a team with as strong a frontcourt in the league -- Young scored over 20 points in all three meetings.
Young’s place on this list, much like everyone else’s, will continue to hinge on her team’s success. The Silver Stars appear to be hitting their stride and the play of the Young is an instrumental reason for that. With tough games against Minnesota and Indiana on tap this week, Young and the Silver Stars will be put to the test.
Kristi Toliver’s inconsistency is holding her back in the rankings. In four games since the last rankings, Toliver has pulled a Jekyll and Hyde. On June 23 against Phoenix and June 26 against Tulsa, Toliver scored 29 and 21 points, respectively, on 18-for-32 shooting. On June 24 and June 28, both against San Antonio, Toliver combined to score only eight points, including not even taking a shot in only 17 minutes in the June 28th tilt.
Toliver came out of the gates scorching hot this season but she has cooled down a little bit, especially from 3-point range. This batch of inconsistency has also coincided with a slide by the Sparks. A showdown with Minnesota on July 5 awaits Toliver and the Sparks.
If it weren’t for DeWanna Bonner’s gaudy stat lines, she would not be in the top 10 by virtue of the Mercury’s poor record. But you cannot discredit that she has scored at least 17 points in every game she has played in June, including four 20-point games. She also leads Phoenix in rebounding with over seven per night.
If Bonner is to stay in the top 10, two things need to happen. First and foremost, she needs to guide the Mercury to more wins. The Mercury are currently 2.5 games out of a playoff spot and if they don’t turn it around soon, Bonner will vacate this list. Secondly, she will need to shoot better from the floor. Bonner is shooting only 39.1 percent as she is averaging a whopping 16.4 shots per game.
Becky Hammon deservedly cracks the top 10 this week. The 13-year veteran went relatively unnoticed because of San Antonio’s poor start, but the Silver Stars’ recent surge brings Hammon back into the MVP discussion. In her last three games, Hammon is averaging 16.7 points and 7.7 assists while flashing the ability to hit the deep ball.
Hammon is currently leading the league in assists with 5.8 per game. In fact, that total would match her career high, which she set last year. With the way she is playing as of late, it is clear this crafty vet still has some left in the tank.
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.