Five weeks into the 2013 WNBA Season, it's becoming a lot more clear who are the likely candidates for this year's Most Valuable Player award. While the list itself is narrowing , where players rank on that list is still very much up for grabs.
Angel McCoughtry is at the top of this week's rankings and is very likely to stay there for a while considering how she's been dominating the floor every time she laces up for action this season. Many of you all weighed in to say she's a far better candidate than last week’s No. 1 - Minnesota Lynx's Maya Moore.
"I still think that Angel M should be headlining this MVP race. She has been PERFECT every game. Plus she fills the stat sheet with blocks, assist, and steals. Yes, Moore does it too BUT Angel does it even if she is having an off shooting night."
- Shalisha from New Jersey
The MVP candidate with the most bounce-back this season has been Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi. After a sluggish start for her team, Taurasi has been a straight up monster every time the ball touches her hands.
"She is the scoring leader in the WNBA with 24 ppg, player of last week, averaging 30 points in last 4 games. We Diana fans are waiting a little bit fair and respect please."
- Defne from Turkey
Meanwhile while both Moore and Candace Parker aren't playing poorly by any means, based on their performances, their MVP chances are getting a little lost in a list of crowded candidates. Both have solid stat sheets night after night, but when you watch them play it doesn't feel like they are taking over games the way an MVP should.
But to write off Moore, Parker or anyone really, when the season is still far from reaching its halfway point would be absurd. Here are this week's rankings.
Ignore the fact she's been the WNBA Player of the Week three out of the last four weeks, leading her team to a franchise-high 8-1 start and leading the league in steals. Just tune in to an Atlanta Dream game and watch Angel McCoughtry in action. It's hard to find anyone else in the league right now that plays with as much tenacity as she does. She wasn't kidding when she told WNBA.com back in January "Trust me and believe...I’m stronger than ever."
What's also worth noting is the growth in her game. After tearing it up with 34 points against the Connecticut Sun earlier this week, McCoughtry decided to dominate defensively during the Dream's midday romp against the Indiana Fever on Tuesday. It seemed like McCoughtry pushed the Fever to the point of exhaustion during the game as she finished with a career-high seven steals. If Angel continues to play at this level, it will be very hard to find anyone else worthy of the honors.
It took a few games for Diana Taurasi to get warmed up this season, but she's been on a juggernaut rampage since, leading the league in scoring at 23.9 points per game -- her highest average since 2006, the same year she put up 47 points in a game (a WNBA record that hasn't been broken since). Her scoring this season is hardly matched by anyone this including a six-game scoring streak she just finished where she put up at least 21 points each game. With her at the helm, the Phoenix Mercury have wiped away a sluggish start and are finally back on solid ground this season.
Every superstar has bad games from time to time, but it’s how you bounce back afterward to stay worthy of the moniker. The Minnesota Lynx got romped 87-59 by the Los Angeles Sparks last week when Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve benched Moore and the rest of her superstar starters for just about all of the second half. Moore would finish with a measly two points. Determined to put the loss behind her, Moore came back in the next game to shut down the Tulsa Shock with 22 points and 6 rebounds.
But Moore's challenge this season continues to be rising above her talented teammates. An MVP shuts down the competition in every category and it's extremely difficult for Moore to do that when you have scorers like Seimone Augustus, rebounders like Rebekkah Brunson and passers like Lindsay Whalen. In order for Moore to get back to the top of the MVP list, she'll need to demonstrate that she is the franchise player that can carry the squad on her back.
Candace Parker and Maya Moore's MVP prospects are becoming more and more similar in the sense that they're playing great this season, but not breaking free from their teammates. Parker has put up solid numbers but it seems like teammate Kristi Toliver is the most buzzed about player on the team this season. Parker needs to take over games and she has been doing less and less of that since the season began, averaging 15.3 points per game - her lowest since her 2009. Parker started off the season with a 27-points and 20-rebound outing against the San Antonio Silver Stars, and even though it’s absurd to expect those kinds of numbers night in and night out, it just feels like her game slowed since then.
But don't get it twisted. Candace Parker is still one of the biggest superstars to play in the league in quite some time. If anyone can turn around her MVP prospects, it will be her. But for now she stays here at the No. 4 spot.
When Epiphanny Prince returned to the Chicago Sky's roster, it seemed like Delle Donne's MVP stock would diminish with fewer opportunities to get her hands on the ball. But then on Wednesday she scored 26 points and helped close a 17-point deficit and led her team to victory against the New York Liberty. So the fact that she can still hold her own among a star-studded lineup deserves recognition.
Marty from Chicago, wrote to WNBA.com on his MVP thoughts for Delle Donne. He said he was at the Liberty vs. Sky game and even though he's a Skylar Diggins fan, he had to give Delle Donne the credit she deserves.
"Elena Delle Donne was flat out amazing, 26 points along with three blocks, six assists, and seven rebounds!" he said. "Even though I am a huge Diggins fan, I think Elena should be a unanimous rookie of the year. Also, I think Elena would make a great WNBA MVP out of everyone because she can nail the three, drive to the basket, and post up."
At 13.6 points and 13 rebounds, Fowles has put up some of the league's most consistent numbers this season averaging a double-double per game. She leads the league in rebounding and her lowest outing this season was seven boards. After missing a few games last year because of injuries, Fowles is having one heck of a season this year and emerging as one of the league's top bigs. She'd be higher on this list if she didn't have teammates like Elena Delle Donne and Epiphanny Prince taking up the spotlight.
It would be easy to rank Cappie Pondexter higher on this list for being one of the league's best crunch time players in the final moments of a game. But what she's been doing in all the minutes leading up to those final moments is where she gets docked. During the team's 77-78 loss to the San Antonio Silver Stars, Pondexter counted for seven of the team's 21 turnovers and shot 8-21 from the field. The game before she shot 8-22.
Sure she's averaging a solid 17 points per game this season, but she's doing it by jacking up so many shots and turning the ball over too much. Fortunately, she's being coached by Bill Laimbeer, a no-nonsense coach who knows plenty about winning championships, and if its anyone that can get her back in the groove, it's him.
During the Sun's recent 77-78 loss against the San Antonio Silver Stars, the reigning MVP finished strong with a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds. But she had seven of the team's 18 turnovers that game and shot 9-for-20 from the field. She's still a top notch player as one of the best bigs in the league, but she hasn't been playing at the level she was playing at last season. And at 2-6, her team hasn't been playing the same either.
Returning from a brief sidelining injury, Brittney Griner returns to the MVP rankings after a string of monster games. It took a few games for her to get started, but Griner is now living up to her No. 1 pick hype, leading the league in field goals and racking up nine blocks in the last two games, including the last game where she also put up 26 points. Go back and watch highlights from her last two games and it almost looks like she blocked a few of those shots with her forearms.
Griner will need a few more monster games to move up higher on the list, but for now, she gets an enthusiastic welcome back to the MVP rankings.
This might very well be the season that sophomore Glory Johnson becomes a WNBA superstar. She may still be an unknown name to many, but that won't be for long since she's outshining several of the big names on the Tulsa Shock night after night. Against the always ferocious Minnesota Lynx, she put up 24 points and eight rebounds.
But it's hard to ignore the fact that the Tulsa Shock is in last place in the Western Conference at 3-8. Yes Shock fans will be quick to point at the fact that the team is losing insanely close games, many in overtime, to some of the league's best teams. But losing is still losing and it’s hard to make a case for someone to be an MVP when they're not helping the team win games.
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.