Race to MVP: Fowles Still on Top, Delle Donne Climbing the Ladder

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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Sylvia Fowles may have a comfortable lead at this point in the season, but each week brings more evidence that it will be an exciting MVP race in the WNBA with numerous worthy candidates. One of the stars chasing Fowles is former MVP Elena Delle Donne, who has her Mystics sitting second in the league standings behind only Fowles and the Lynx.

As those two teams prepare to face each other on Friday, let’s dive into the latest MVP rankings.

1. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 1
Stats: 20.9 points, 64% FG, 10.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 2.1 steals

The Lynx played just one game in the past week, but Fowles was dominant as ever in guiding her team to a blowout victory at Seattle. She started 7-of-7 from the field and dropped 26 points by halftime, when the game was already out of reach for the Storm. At 64.3 percent shooting, Fowles is on pace for one of the most efficient seasons in league history.

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2. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 2
Stats: 22.1 points, 55% FG, 8.3 rebounds, 3.0 blocks

Known more for her work on the defensive end, Griner has been unstoppable with the ball in her hands so far this season. She’s showing off post moves, draining midrange jumpers and getting to the foul line, where the fifth-year center is shooting a career-best 85 percent. Griner is entering her prime and seems to be the undisputed first option in Phoenix for the first time in her career.

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3. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Last Week: 4
Stats: 20.6 points, 48% FG, 95% FT, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.3 steals

Our preseason favorite to win the MVP, Delle Donne has been everything the Mystics hoped for when they acquired her in a blockbuster trade. A team that finished 13-21 last year is now 6-2 after winning its fifth straight contest on Tuesday. Delle Donne has scored 23 points in each of her last two games and snagged a career-high 15 rebounds in the win over Atlanta.

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4. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 3
Stats: 21.2 points, 53% FG, 43% 3FG, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals

Even on an off night – she finished just 5-of-17 from the field – Ogwumike made her presence felt in the Sparks’ victory over Chicago on Tuesday. Los Angeles was plus-14 with her on the court, and Ogwumike recorded a double-double of 20 points and 11 boards, plus four steals. The Sparks are now 4-2 with their only blemishes as one-possession losses on the road.

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5. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Last Week: 9
Stats: 20.4 points, 45% FG, 8.8 rebounds

So much for those early-season struggles for Charles and the Liberty. New York has won three straight games – all at Madison Square Garden – and Charles was perhaps the most dominant player in the league in that stretch. She dropped a career-high 36 points against Dallas, which helped Charles earn Player of the Week honors for a record-tying 22nd time (Tamika Catchings).

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6. Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 5
Stats: 18.1 points, 50% FG, 50% 3FG, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals

After Loyd put on a show for the first two weeks, Breanna Stewart has been the focal point of Seattle’s offense in the last couple of games. Loyd’s inconsistency is understandable: She’s still just 23 years old and learning to play with a talented group of veterans in addition to Stewart. The 5-2 Storm will be tested as they continue their road trip at Indiana and New York this week.

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7. Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta Dream
Last Week: 6
Stats: 19.6 points, 42% FG, 4.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals

Last week, Hayes was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for the first time in her career. Although the Dream then lost their next two games – they still sit above .500 at 4-3 – Hayes continued producing by averaging 19 points in those contests. One area that’s allowed Hayes to make this jump is three-point shooting: She’s at 38 percent from deep after shooting 27 percent each of the last two seasons.

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8. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 10
Stats: 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1.2 steals

Stewart was outplayed by Fowles in the Storm’s loss to Minnesota, but she bounced back with a strong performance against San Antonio on Tuesday. In a matchup with former UConn teammate Moriah Jefferson, Stewart recorded her second 20-point game of the season and finished 12-for-14 at the foul line. The Storm will need her to keep being aggressive as they continue this road trip.

9. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 8
Stats: 15.0 points, 44% FG, 8.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.4 steals

Parker had a fairly quiet night in the Sparks’ only game this past week, recording 12 points and five boards as her team used a balanced attack to overcome the Sky. Having played only one game in a span of nine days, she should be well-rested as the Sparks head into a back-to-back at Dallas and Phoenix this weekend.

10. Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 7
Stats: 12.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.6 steals

Moore’s individual struggles continued against Seattle last weekend, when she got in foul trouble and finished with just six points on 2-of-6 shooting. But the only number that really matters here is 7-0, as Moore’s stats would look much different if she played for any other team. Next up for the Lynx is a battle with the Mystics and another former MVP on Friday.