WNBA Player Rankings: Week 5

SECAUCUS, N.J., June 19, 2007 -- You would be hard-pressed to find many positives in the negative that was the Sky’s 2006 WNBA season.

The expansion franchise took more than its fair share of lumps, struggling to a 5-29 record.

You know how high school and college teams schedule easy opponents to make sure they have a good Homecoming? Games against Chicago had that kind of feel to them.

But all was not lost in their inaugural season. Candice Dupree, the team’s first pick out of Temple, emerged as an All-Star after averaging 13.7 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.

Fast forward one year. Not only are the Sky the biggest surprise of the season, but Dupree has continued her rise toward stardom and is now considered one of the league's elite players.

“Last season was tough,” Dupree told me in a recent phone interview. “It was very difficult. I came from a pretty successful program and I didn’t think we’d only win five games. We’d go on 11- and 12-game losing streaks but we stuck together.”

With a record of 6-5, the Sky already have more victories than a year ago. They are above .500 for the first time since opening day last season and have a chance for their first three-game winning streak when they take on the Monarchs tonight.

“We have new coaches and a lot of new talent so I knew we’d be pretty good,” Dupree said. “I’m very happy with how we’ve done and we’ve jelled quickly.”

New Sky head coach Bo Overton, who replaced Dave Cowens, deserves some of the credit for Chicago's success, just as the director is given his due when he puts out a great film. But the same way actors get most of the kudos for great movies, Dupree deserves an Oscar for her performance this season.

Line of the Week
Candice Dupree (Sky)
June 17 win vs. Sun
28 points, 10-14 FG, eight boards
The forward has been the team’s top scorer in eight out of 11 games. She leads the squad in points (19.0), rebounds (7.7) and blocked shots (1.73) per game.

“I did some different things in the offseason,” Dupree said. “People were telling me I had to step up my game because I’m not a rookie anymore. I worked on my outside shot a lot and I try not to let the pressure get to me.”

And the league is noticing Dupree’s play. She was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday.

“I was surprised when I found out I was the player of the week,” Dupree said. “There are so many great players in our league. I guess I received it because of the fact that we’re winning right now combined with me doing well.”

On Friday, she exploded for 24 points and 13 rebounds in a win over the Liberty and followed that up by dropping 28 and eight on the Sun. It was Chicago’s first-ever win over Connecticut.

“The Sun have been a great team the last few years,” Dupree said. “They beat us in OT earlier in the year. We took that loss kind of hard and didn’t want to lose to them again.”

Dupree pointed out that winning is contagious.

“The more we win, the more confident we’re all getting,” Dupree said. “We have a lot of rookies who are getting playing time and doing well. When you’re losing, it seems like nothing goes right.”

Dupree’s MVP ballot had the usual suspects on it.

“In no particular order, I have to say my top five would be Lauren Jackson, Diana Taurasi, Becky Hammon, Tamika Catchings and myself,” Dupree said.

If she keeps playing like she is, the official MVP ballot might read the same with one exception – she’ll be listed first.

Now here are the player rankings for the season through June 18.

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  • Race to the MVP - Overall Player Rankings

    1. Tamika Catchings, Indiana
    18.2 9.3 3.6 3.1 1.2 .425 .880
  • Last Week's Rank - 1
    In a battle between the two top teams in the league, Catchings was the best player on the floor as the Fever knocked off the Shock last week. The standout had 26 points and 14 rebounds as Indiana improved to 9-2.

  • 2. Lauren Jackson, Seattle
    23.3 8.6 1.0 0.8 2.3 .500 .911
  • Last Week's Rank - 4
    LJ is rolling right now and there isn't much that can be done to slow her down. For proof, look at what she did to Tina Thompson's Comets on Saturday. She fired in 21 of her game-high 30 points in the second half and tied her career high by nailing five 3-pointers.

  • 3. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix
    19.4 4.1 3.8 1.3 1.1 .442 .897
  • Last Week's Rank - 4
    While checking out Taurasi's website and MySpace page, I realized we have some things in common: Favorite movie (Bronx Tale), musical artists (2 Pac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas) and TV shows (The Wire, Oz). Also, we're both Gemini and exceptional basketball players, except I don't have the national titles, the WNBA scoring title, the Olympic gold medals ... you get the picture.

  • 4. Deanna Nolan, Detroit
    14.6 3.7 3.9 1.6 0.3 .449 .800
  • Last Week's Rank - 3
    The Shock lost to the Fever by 10 points Saturday, preventing them from tying the Sparks' league record of nine straight wins to open a season. Nolan had 15 points, four rebounds and four dimes two days later as Detroit started a new winning streak by beating Los Angeles.

  • 5. Becky Hammon, San Antonio
    18.6 2.7 5.6 1.0 0.1 .468 .909
  • Last Week's Rank - 6
    Last Saturday, in her first game against her former team, Hammon showed the Liberty what they were missing. She lit them up for 22 points and seven assists.

  • 6. Candice Dupree, Chicago
    19.0 7.7 1.4 0.6 1.6 .532 .759
  • Last Week's Rank - 9
    Dupree, who is currently ranked third in the league in blocked shots, received her first Player of the Week award after averaging 23.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 blocks in three games.

  • 7. Cappie Pondexter, Phoenix
    17.8 3.6 3.8 0.7 0.3 .423 .761
  • Last Week's Rank - 10
    Pondexter, who wears No. 23 because of Michael Jordan (doesn't everybody?), scored 22 points to help the Mercury upset the Fever on Friday.

  • 8. Rebekkah Brunson, Sacramento
    12.9 8.3 0.9 1.2 0.8 .557 .757
  • Last Week's Rank - 11
    Brunson is getting it done on both sides of the court for the Monarchs, who have won five of their past six games and own the best record in the Western Conference.

  • 9. Cheryl Ford, Detroit
    14.0 10.4 1.0 2.6 0.6 .493 .718
  • Last Week's Rank - 5
    Ford, who leads the league in rebounds, has missed two consecutive games because of a sprained left knee.

  • 10. Asjha Jones, Connecticut
    17.8 7.8 3.3 0.7 1.1 .471 .767
  • Last Week's Rank - 8
    Jones has scored at least 20 points in three of the past four games but that hasn't been enough to keep the Sun from going on a four-game losing streak, the team's longest since 2002.
  • On the Outside Looking In (season averages - last week's rank)
    11. Katie Douglas (Connecticut): 14.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.1 APG - (7)
    12. Seimone Augustus (Minnesota): 21.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.1 APG - (13)
    13. Taj McWilliams-Franklin (Los Angeles): 12.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.1 APG - (12)
    14. Sophia Young (San Antonio): 14.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.6 APG - (unranked)
    15. Shameka Christon (New York): 13.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.0 APG - (unranked)

  • Dropped out: Cathrine Kraayeveld (New York), Erin Thorn (New York).
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