Race to MVP: Diggins-Smith Back in All-Star Form

Note: WNBA.com’s Race to the MVP, released every Wednesday during the season, is the opinion of this writer and does not reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.

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In this week’s edition of the MVP rankings, former All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith joins a list that features numerous worthy candidates. Diggins-Smith, now in her fifth year with the Dallas Wings, was just named Western Conference Player of the Week for the third time in her career. She guided her team to a 3-0 week with averages of 20.3 points and 6.7 assists on 54 percent shooting.

Diggins-Smith is posting career-best numbers in assists and field goal percentage. She’s almost a lock to make the All-Star Team, as are the rest of the players on this list.

1. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 1
Stats: 21.0 points, 67% FG, 10.3 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.9 steals

To rebound from the only loss of Minnesota’s season – and an uncharacteristic individual showing – Fowles put together an absolutely ridiculous week of basketball. She had 21 points and 15 boards against the Mystics, then 22 and 10 against San Antonio, combining to shoot 14-for-17 from the floor and 15-for-17 at the foul line. Fowles is on pace for just the third season in league history featuring averages of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

2. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 2
Stats: 23.1 points, 56% FG, 8.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks

In her only game of the week, Griner filled it up with 25 points (9-of-14 shooting, 7-of-8 at the free throw line) as part of a crucial win at Seattle that put Phoenix above the Storm in the standings. That game also featured the ninth regular-season dunk of Griner’s career, as she rolled down the lane for a one-handed flush during the fourth quarter of a tight contest.

3. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 3
Stats: 20.4 points, 60% FG, 6.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals

The ultra-consistent Ogwumike had another stellar week, posting 21 points in a pair of Sparks victories and shooting a combined 17-of-23 from the floor. She might not be dominating at quite the same level as her MVP season, but it’s darn close. On Tuesday, when she was matched up with rising star Jonquel Jones, Ogwumike dropped 17 points in the first half alone on an unbelievable 8-for-8 shooting.

4. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Last Week: 4
Stats: 19.8 points, 49% FG, 97% FT, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks

After another tough loss to the Lynx, Delle Donne helped the Mystics (9-5) win their next two games in emphatic fashion. She averaged 18 points per game as Washington beat both Chicago and Seattle by 30-plus points. On Tuesday, the Mystics avenged an earlier loss to the Storm as Delle Donne went 9-for-9 at the free throw line against Breanna Stewart and company.

5. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 5
Stats: 16.7 points, 47% FG, 7.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.1 blocks

Another week, another reminder that Parker is one of the most versatile players this league has seen. The veteran helped L.A. spoil Tamika Catchings’ jersey retirement on Saturday, posting a stat line of 18 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks. How many other players can do that? After blocking five shots against the Sun on Tuesday, the reigning Finals MVP now ranks second in the league in that department.

6. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Last Week: 6
Stats: 20.5 points, 47% FG, 9.2 rebounds

Charles and the Liberty played just one game in the past week. They nearly overcame a 21-point deficit against the Sun, but ultimately fell 94-89 to snap a four-game winning streak at home. Charles finished with 20 points, 11 boards and a season-high six assists against her former team. With Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn back in the fold after EuroBasket, Charles’ team should only improve going forward.

7. Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 8
Stats: 16.0 points, 43% 3FG, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals

The last two weeks were typical of Moore, who has now scored at least 22 points in four straight games. It’s safe to say the early-season slump is behind her. Moore is still arguably the best all-around player in the league, and she showed why in the final minutes against the Stars on Sunday. On consecutive plays, Moore drilled a three-pointer, blocked Kayla McBride and hit another trey to secure the victory.

8. Skylar Diggins-Smith
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 17.6 points, 44% FG, 5.8 assists, 1.2 steals

After a down year following her injury, Diggins-Smith is back in All-Star form for the Wings, who have won four straight to climb to 8-8. Dallas has played by far the most games of any team so far, but it’s worth noting that Diggins-Smith leads the entire league in total points and assists. In Dallas’ win at San Antonio on Friday, she dropped 30 points and hit a franchise-record seven three-pointers.

9. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 7
Stats: 17.1 points, 44% FG, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks

Stewart’s Storm continue to struggle, as they have now lost five of their last six. Having said that, Stewart is looking more and more like the player we saw earn All-WNBA honors as a rookie. Before Tuesday’s loss to the Mystics, she had scored 20-plus points in five of her last six games and averaged nine rebounds per game in that span.

10. Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
Last Week: 9
Stats: 15.3 points, 49% FG, 50% 3FG, 12.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks

Jones and the Sun played a jam-packed schedule this week, and they have now lost two straight after a five-game winning streak. Jones struggled a bit in her matchup with Ogwumike on Tuesday, but she still managed to pull down a game-high 17 rebounds. That’s the third time this season she has recorded at least 17 rebounds, while the rest of the league has one such game (Kiah Stokes).