"Elena has taken her team from never making the playoffs to first place in the Eastern Conference! Her game versus Minnesota was amazing."
- John in Illinois
With only a handful of games left, the Race to the MVP is getting more and more narrow, making it difficult for new entrants to climb into the mix. That was until Liz Cambage, after a few weeks of sluggish performances, began tearing it up this month.
With that, it's becoming very cloudy trying to predict who will win the MVP award this season with no clear frontrunner leading the pack.
"The East and West keep on getting tougher and tougher. With so many super athletes, it becomes harder and harder to call it fairly on a weekly basis. Without any doubt, the league is full of pure talent and determination... GO WNBA!"
At 22.2 points per game, Angel McCoughtry has surpassed Diana Taurasi as the league's scoring leader and could be very well be on her way to picking up her second consecutive scoring title this season. But it's her ability to influence the game in other ways that has elevated her to the top of this list. Against the Connecticut Sun recently, McCoughtry put up 30 points while also dishing out eight assists on 9-for-11 field goal shooting.
This all aside from the fact that she's leading the league in steals at 3.1 per game. Now that teammate Tiffany Hayes is back in the rotation, it takes the load off McCoughtry and helps her curb the number of inefficient shots she often is forced to take. Her case for being the current favorite for the MVP award rests on the fact that she's one of the league's strongest presences on both ends of the floor.
It becomes more and more possible each game that this rookie could also pick up the league's MVP title. If you needed any explanation why Chicago has gone from never making the playoffs in its history to the best record in the Eastern Conference, watch her 32-point game against Minnesota.
In the next game against the L.A. Sparks, Delle Donne was taken out early with an injury that got fans worried how long she'd be out considering she had undergone an concussion just a week or so before. But even in that game, she scored nine points in just 11 minutes of action.
Delle Donne returned to the Sky's rotation this week with little to no rust to her game - helping the Sky finish off the Washington Mystics with 24 points and eight rebounds.
In just a few months as a pro, Delle Donne is a full-blown superstar as one of the league's most efficient players and most reliable in the clutch. Start the MVP chants now.
For all the ups and down the Phoenix Mercury have had this season, the one consistent force has been Diana Taurasi. And after going on what seemed like autopilot for the past few weeks by putting up decent, but not stellar numbers, Taurasi is back in beast mode again. Against the defending champion Indiana Fever, Taurasi helped the Mercury blow them out, 75-58, by producing 12 points and 11 assists. She then kicked her game up another notch the next game finishing with 28 points and 10 assists.
Taurasi is one of the fiercest competitors in the league and a perennial favorite for the MVP award. But this season she hasn't been able to shed her reputation of being an alpha-dog player that is a little too trigger happy with her shooting (she was 8-18 in her last game). She has so much talent on her team, but how many of them are playing better as a result of Taurasi on the floor? McCoughtry suffered from the same reputation in years past and shed it this season - just ask her teammates Tiffany Hayes and All-Star Erika DeSouza who are playing some of the best basketball of their careers alongside her.
She may not get the spotlight treatment the way Candace Parker and Tina Charles command it, but Sylvia Fowles is quietly becoming one of the league's most consistent and dominant players in the paint. She leads the league in rebounding, averaging a double-double of 16.7 points and 11.9 boards a game. Against the Connecticut Sun recently she went toe-to-toe with Tina Charles and manhandled her with 20 points and 21 rebounds compared to Charles' 11 points and four rebounds. While it will be a hard sell to put Fowles over her superstar teammate Elena Delle Donne in these rankings, Fowles' dominance this season is one that deserves recognition.
Yes, it feels slightly weird putting her this low on the list. But Candace Parker, easily one of the world's most recognized female athletes, seems to have plateaud since the All-Star break. She had a few injuries that momentarily sidelined her and since she's been back she's putting up only average numbers compared to the meteoric run she had in the first half of the season.
As a matter of fact, her numbers are actually a hair worse this season than they were last season. Currently she is averaging 17.3 points and 8.7 boards a game. Compare that to last season when she was averaging 17.4 points and 9.7 boards a game. But she's got time to step it up and finish strong for the season. She knows how to make players around her better and she has some of the league's best role players as teammates in Kristi Toliver and Nneka Ogwumike.
Maya Moore has gone from having a solid but not great season prior to the All-Star game to a sensation one after. Ranking the eight games since the All-Star break, Moore ranks second in scoring on a nasty 56 percent field goal shooting. While her first half of the season will make it tough for her to compete against other MVP candidates that have been on top of their game during the entire year, Moore's resurection in the MVP rankings is worth noting.
Tina Charles won the league's MVP award last season and what's crazy is the fact that she's actually on par to put up even better numbers this season. She is currently averaging 17.9 points and 10.3 rebounds, not far from her line of 18.0 points and 10.5 rebounds last season.
But the elephant in the room is the fact that Connecticut is at the bottom of the league with a record of 7-17. It's hard to make a case for deserving the MVP award if a player's performance isn't helping usher in some more wins.
Tamika Catchings is one of the best embodiments of the WNBA, a superstar player on the court and a top-notch role-model of the court. As the Indiana Fever struggle with a slew of injuries to its roster this season, she has kept the team in the playoffs conversation and has put up at least 16 points in the last 11 consecutive games. Her ranking this low on the list has little to do with criticisms of her, but has more to do with the fact that other players in the league have been playing so much better.
Finally. After sitting out last season and getting off to a somewhat sluggish start for most of the first half of this season, the towering 6-foot-8 center is finally back to dominating the game again. She's coming off juggernaut performances against the Minesota Lynx (27 points, seven rebounds) and the Phoenix Mercury (21 points, 13 rebounds). She's missed too many games this season to be considered a serious contender for the MVP (especially with Tulsa's record at the moment), but if she stays committed to playing hard and gets in shape, next season fans could be in for a serious treat.
Toliver may very well be the best role player in the WNBA as the L.A. Sparks knock-down shooter. Against the Indiana Fever, she put up 28 points on 11-for-15 shooting. But she's struggled a little with consistency this season. She followed up the 28-point outing with only six points the next game. In order for her to move out of the lower tier of the rankings that she's been stuck in all season, she'll need to work on her reliability.
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.