Race to the MVP: Week Thirteen

Aman Ali, WNBA.com

With only around half a dozen games left in the regular season, the Race to the MVP is in its final stretch. It's been one of the most exciting races in recent years with no clear-cut frontrunner to lead the pack. It literally feels like every game can shake up the rankings board and this week is no exception.

Maya Moore put up one of the best games of her career against the defending WNBA Champs the Indiana Fever, and Candace Parker has put up some monster games herself including a crunchtime win against the Tulsa Shock which literally drew blood.

Oh yeah, there's also Elena Delle Donne leading the Chicago Sky to the best run in the history of their franchise.

You the fans all make strong cases for your favorite candidates, too.

"Elena is the missing player the Sky needed to be a winning team. The Sky has talented players, but EDD was the catalyst for making the most of their talents. Her versatility has been so valuable to the team and I'm so glad to see them in the limelight."

- Phyllis in Delaware

"Just look at the teams and the players the other MVP candidates are surrounded by: Elena Delle Donne has Sylvia Fowles and Taurasi has Grinner. Who does Candace have? She is a one-man wrecking crew and deserves to be MVP. Candace is a shot-blocking, ball-handling, assist-making, point- scoring machine. In my book she wins it hands down."

- Thomas in Maryland

There are so many strong and valid arguments to make for any of the league's top players on this list. Honestly, any of the top candidates on this list winning the MVP honors wouldn't be an outrage because that's how good the talent is right now. But one of you presented an unprecedented idea that could make things interesting.

"I think it will come down to Candace Parker and Elena Delle Donne. Right now Candace Parker should be the slight favorite. But they could go co-MVPs and not be wrong in doing that."

- Richard in Arizona

Here are this week's rankings.

Note: All stats and records are as of games played on or before August 29, 2013.

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    #1. CANDACE PARKER, LOS ANGELES SPARKS (20-8)

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    After a teeny-tiny skid for her in the rankings after the All-Star game, Candace Parker came back with a vengeance this week. Her case for being the MVP can be boiled down to the team's double OT win against the Tulsa Shock this week. With 5.7 seconds left to go in the period, Parker drains the bucket to help the team pick up the win. Parker made the performance look like she was teaching a "Crunchtime 101" course. It was vintage Parker.

    Now it might be easy to write off the game considering it was against a team with one of the worse records in the league, but Tulsa since the All-Star break has been one tough cookie to beat - thanks to Liz Cambage's return to dominance as of late. And how does Parker follow up the 26 point outing against the Shock? She brings the ruckus to reigning MVP Tina Charles and the Connecticut Sun with 28 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists in two blocks.

    Most importantly, look at how well she makes players around her better. Teaming up with Nneka Ogwumike has made the Sparks one of the more formidable front courts in the league. In the Shock and Sun games, Ogwumike finished with 21 and 20 points, respectively.

    When Parker plays at this level, it will be a tough task for anyone else in the rankings to catch up with her.

    Previous Ranking: 5 || 2013 Stats: Pts: 18.1 | Rbs: 8.7 | Blks: 2.1


    #2. ELENA DELLE DONNE, CHICAGO SKY (20-8)
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    Is Elena Delle Donne's emergence not one of the most exciting stories in the history of the WNBA, let alone this season? She's helped secure the Chicago Sky's first playoff berth in the history of its franchise and is helping the team enjoy a five game winning streak.

    The Sky's 67-56 win against the Atlanta Dream - where Delle Donne put up 25 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks - solidified the fact that Chicago is clearly the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. To help a team go from never making the playoffs to the best in the conference makes it extremely difficult to dismiss Delle Donne's case for the MVP honors.

    What makes Delle Donne so potent is her ability to use her size to exploit mismatches around the perimeter. She ranks No. 3 in the league's top scorers (18.4 ppg) and is currently the league's top 3 point shooter knocking down 49 percent of her shots from downtown. Oh, and don't bother fouling her because she's also leading the league in free throws too at 91 percent.

    Previous Ranking: 2 || 2013 Stats: Pts: 18.4 | Rebs: 5.5 | Blks: 1.8


    #3. MAYA MOORE, MINNESOTA LYNX (21-7)

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    The Maya Moore we've all wanted to see all season has come into full swing this past weekend in a WNBA Finals rematch against the Indiana Fever. Moore finished the game with a career high 35 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks.

    Moore continues to blossom in this league as a player that doesn't need to limit herself in dominating the floor by scoring. THe following game against the New York Liberty, Moore locked in a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds to go with 2 steals. As a third year player in the league, she just continues to get better and better. Statistically she's improved in just about every category from last year including scoring (18.1 ppg), rebounding (6.4) steals (1.8 spg), blocks (1.0 bpg) and her field goal (50%) and three point (44 percent) shooting is up too.

    If she continues on this tear she's been on as a late, she could perhaps be the league's dark horse candidate for the MVP award.

    Previous Ranking: 6 || 2013 Stats: Pts: 18.1 | Rebs: 6.4 | Asts: 3.0


    #4. DIANA TAURASI, PHOENIX MERCURY (14-13)

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    Last week, Taurasi had a sick 28 point and 10 assists outing against the Tulsa Shock in one of her best games this season. But she lost momentum the next game during the team's loss to the Seattle Storm. Yes 16 points and 7 assists is nothing to shrug off, but when you're Diana Taurasi, it certainly is. Plus 16 points in 39 minutes of play against one of the lower ranked teams in the league isn't exactly clutch.

    But make no mistake about it, Diana Taurasi is definitely one of the league's best players and a case can be made for her MVP honors. With all the injuries and coaching woes they've had to deal with, the Phoenix Mercury have gone on a bumpy ride since being widely seen as being a championship contender to start the season. But it's Taurasi that has been the team's most reliable source of strength and helping them stay relevant in the playoffs mix.

    Previous Ranking: 6 || 2013 Stats: Pts: 20.7 | Rbs: 4.1 | Asts: 6.1


    #5. ANGEL McCOUGHTRY, ATLANTA DREAM (14-12)

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    Angel McCoughtry could walk away with this award if you were just looking at her performances from earlier this month where she scored at least 30 points in four out of the first five games since the All-Star break. She hasn't been playing poorly by any means since then, but she has cooled down a little bit. The Atlanta Dream are currently on a three-game losing streak and now have the Washington Mystics knocking on their door in securing the East's No. 2 spot for the playoffs.

    The past few games it looks like Angel has gone back to her old ways. From the team's last three losses, McCoughtry scored 17 points on 6-20 field goal shooting (including 0-7 from three point range) the first game, 20 points on 6-26 field goal shooting the second game and 23 points the most recent game on 9-21 shooting. She also racked up 5 turnovers the first game and 7 turnovers for each of the second game. That poor efficiency is anything but MVP worthy.

    The scoring title is hers for the taking this season, but in order for her to win the MVP honors this season, she needs to return to the new Angel we've all enjoyed watching this season - the dominant player on both ends of the floor that makes players around her better.

    Previous Ranking: 1 || 2013 Stats: Pts: 22.0 | Rbs: 5.4| Stls: 3.0


    #6. SYLVIA FOWLES, CHICAGO SKY (20-8)
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    Sylvia Fowles has emerged this season as one of the league's premiere bigs. She can boast being one of the only players in the league averaging a double-double of 16.3 points and 11.7 rebounds this season.

    Not only is she the league's leading rebounder, she's one of the league's best off-the-glass scorers with the league's second highest field goal percentage at 58 percent. Pairing her with Elena Delle Donne gives the Chicago Sky two dominant towers inside the paint and around the perimeter that leaves opposing teams confused as to who they should double-team.

    However, it is hard to put Sylvia Fowles ahead of Elena Delle Donne on this list considering what the latter has done this season for the franchise. It's hard to make the case against how much more valuable Delle Donne has been to the team. All that being said though, make no mistake about it, Fowles' time to shine is here. Expect the Chicago big to steamroll her opponents come playoffs time. With Tina Charles and the Connecticut Sun struggling to make the playoffs this season, who in the East can stop Fowles, let alone guard her?

    Previous Ranking: 4 || 2013 Stats: Pts: 16.3 | Rebs: 11.7 | Blks: 2.4


    #7. LIZ CAMBAGE, TULSA SHOCK (9-19)
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    It's been a delight to see Cambage going back to her dominating ways after spending the past year or so in the spotlight mostly for the games she decided not to play in. She's slowly restoring her reputation of being an unstoppable force inside the paint. For the month of August she's averaged 19.8 points per game and is averaging a league high 3.5 blocks for the past 10 games. And get this, this week against the Los Angeles Sparks, Cambage blocked six shots!

    Considering all the games she's missed this season and where Tulsa is in the standings, it will be quite difficult to make a case for Cambage taking home the MVP honors this season (especially if you consider her current injury might make her sit out the rest of the season). But hey, if she gets into shape and stays focused next season, it could be hers. Regardless, it's exciting to watch her get back to form now and can only imagine how good the 22-year-old will be in the seasons to come.

    Previous Ranking:9 || 2013 Stats: Pts: 16.3 | Rbs: 8.3 | Blks: 2.4


    #8. TAMIKA CATCHINGS, INDIANA FEVER (12-15)

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    The 34-year-old continues to get better with age as keeping her reputation as one of the league's elite defenders intact. With all the injuries the Indiana Fever has had to deal with this season, Catchings' has been the driving force for keeping the Fever relevant they attempt to make the playoffs for the 9th consecutive year and try to defend their WNBA championship.

    She's also one the league's best role models off the court and there couldn't be a better ambassador to this league than her. The main reason she is even this low in the rankings has more to do with how crowded the list of talented candidates are.

    Previous Ranking: 8 || 2013 Stats: Pts: 17.7 | Rebs: 6.8 | Stls: 2.8


    #9. LINDSAY WHALEN, MINNESOTA LYNX (21-7)

    Always one of the league's best passers, Whalen showcasing her scoring skills this season has truly been one of the most entertaining things to watch in the WNBA. Against the New York Liberty this week, she put up 18 points on 9-11 field goal shooting as the Lynx blew the Liberty out 73-47.

    But like many players on the Minnesota Lynx, the stats don't do her justice. She's a nature born leader and a true extension of Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve's never-stop-hustling game play. And boasting the league's best record of 21-7, Whalen's leadership skills have been paying off well for the Lynx.

    Previous Ranking: N/A || 2013 Stats: Pts: 15.0 | Rebs: 4.4 | Asts: 5.7


    #10. TINA CHARLES, CONNECTICUT SUN (7-21)
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    Reigning MVP Tina Charles is putting up the same level of numbers this season as last year, but unfortunately for her and Sun fans, Connecticut has struggled as a team this year.18 points and 10 rebounds per game this season compared to 18 points and 10.5 rebounds per game last season is a testament to Charles' continued individual brilliance. But it is hard to make a case for someone deserving the MVP title when their team is 7-21.

    Previous Ranking: 7 || 2013 Stats: Pts: 18.0 | Rebs: 10 | Asts: 1.5


    KNOCKING ON THE DOOR
    11.) Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
    12.) Erika deSouza, Atlanta Dream
    13.) Ivory Latta, Washington Mystics
    14.) Tina Thompson, Seattle Storm
    15.) Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

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