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.
As mentioned last week, the disparity between Sylvia Fowles and other MVP candidates is not what it was a month ago. After losing to the Sparks on Sunday, Minnesota (24-7) has now dropped five of its last nine games and is tied with L.A. (24-8) in the win column. Of course, the Lynx boasting the league’s best record is a crucial part of Fowles’ case for MVP.
What’s more, her individual stats have slightly dipped from the unprecedented numbers she was putting up through July. But with five days to go in the regular season, Fowles remains the frontrunner here. This will be her 15th straight week as the No. 1 player on this list.
Making her return to the MVP rankings is Elena Delle Donne, who was back on the court this past week as Washington played a back-to-back against New York and Dallas. Delle Donne has played in just 22 of her team’s 32 games – not including the one in which she left injured after three minutes – and has no shot at winning MVP. Nevertheless, she made an obvious impact in her first season with the Mystics. They own the fifth-best record in the league after finishing 13-21 last season.
Delle Donne rounds out the final MVP rankings before we pick a winner next week.
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1. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Stats: 19.4 points, 65% FG, 10.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.3 steals
If the season ended today, Fowles would probably earn almost every single first-place vote. Despite her team’s recent troubles, she has posted one of the greatest seasons by a center in league history. She has three more chances to erase any doubt: Minnesota faces Indiana on the road Wednesday night (7 PM ET, Twitter) before hosting Chicago and Washington. The Lynx’s loss to L.A. over the weekend certainly didn’t help. That night, the Sparks clinched the season series against Minnesota and Fowles missed a couple inside shots that had been going down all season.
2. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Stats: 19.9 points, 45% FG, 9.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists
While Fowles has three more chances to prove herself, Charles and the Liberty only have two games remaining. They host last-place San Antonio on Friday and close out the regular season at Dallas. If New York (20-12) wins those two games and extends its win streak to 10, Charles might have a chance to surpass Fowles and earn her second career MVP. One reason she’s climbed into this race is her outside shooting. Charles, who started taking three-pointers just a year ago, is a combined 6-of-9 in the last four games and shooting 36 percent for the season.
3. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Stats: 17.1 points, 48% FG, 8.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.7 blocks, 1.5 steals
The Sparks have won five games in a row, challenging Minnesota for the No. 1 seed and keeping both Parker and Nneka Ogwumike near the top of this list. Parker led the way against the Lynx on Sunday, finishing with team highs of 24 points and 10 rebounds. She also threw some nifty passes en route to her fourth Western Conference Player of the Week honor this season, second to only Fowles. Parker also has the second-best defensive rating in the league (Fowles). For the second straight year, she is the only player in the top 15 in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
4. Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
Stats: 15.8 points, 54% FG, 45% 3FG, 12.0 rebounds, 1.6 blocks
In Connecticut’s loss to Chicago last Friday, Jones had no field goals and a season-low six points. But the second-year center bounced back in style, posting career highs in rebounds (22) and assists (six) to go with 14 points as the Sun defeated Washington on the road Tuesday. Jones joined Charles as the only players in WNBA history with three 20-rebound games in a season, and she’s also close to Charles’ record for single-season rebounds (398). Jones needs 15 rebounds in her final two games against Phoenix and L.A. to break that record.
5. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Stats: 18.9 points, 55% FG, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals
During Ogwumike’s MVP season in 2016, the Sparks finished with their best record in 15 years (26-8). This year, L.A. has a chance to match that record with Ogwumike having another dominant season. She was quiet against Minnesota on Sunday, however, scoring just eight points on 4-of-9 shooting. In the previous matchup with the Lynx, Ogwumike finished with three points on 1-of-8 shooting. Although the Sparks won both of those games, they will likely need the MVP version of Ogwumike to come out victorious if there is a Finals rematch.