Race to MVP: Griner Continues Her Breakout Season

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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There’s not a ton of movement in this edition of the rankings, as the main candidates for MVP have all been consistently dominant in recent weeks. The top five is where you will find those truly in contention at this point. All five boast quality résumés with their teams in a playoff spot, and there is a sizeable gap between them and the rest.

Here are your Week 5 MVP rankings.

1. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 1
Stats: 21.9 points, 66% FG, 10.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 2.0 steals

Fowles now leads these rankings for the fourth straight week, and she’s showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. The veteran center guided Minnesota (9-0) to a pair of road wins with 21 points against Washington and a season-high 30 points against Dallas. She’s backing defenders down for easy buckets, sinking midrange jumpers and working the offensive glass, all while playing at an All-WNBA level on the defensive end.

2. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 2
Stats: 23.8 points, 58% FG, 8.4 rebounds, 2.7 blocks

If not for the Lynx’s 9-0 record, Griner might find herself at the top of this list. She continued her breakout season with a career-high 38 points on 15-of-19 shooting last Wednesday against Indiana. Griner followed that up with an all-around effort of 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists as Phoenix barely lost to the Sparks. The Mercury’s new point guards – Danielle Robinson and Leilani Mitchell – also deserve a bit of credit for Griner’s great start.

3. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Last Week: 3
Stats: 21.1 points, 50% FG, 95% FT, 7.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.3 steals

The impact of Delle Donne’s presence was never more evident than this past week, when the Mystics lost by 25 with her on the sidelines and won in convincing fashion in her return. Delle Donne missed their game against the Lynx with a minor groin injury. Two days later, she dropped 25 points on the Fever – shooting 4-of-6 from three-point range – to help Washington improve to 7-3.

4. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 4
Stats: 21.0 points, 57% FG, 41% 3FG, 6.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals

After a bit of a slow start, the Sparks (6-3) have now won four of their last five games with Ogwumike as their catalyst on the offensive end. The reigning MVP is putting up career-best numbers in points (21.0 per game), steals (2.0) and free throw shooting (89.7 percent) and ranks near the top of the league in all of those categories.

5. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Last Week: 5
Stats: 20.4 points, 46% FG, 9.3 rebounds

Like Ogwumike, Charles’ team has come alive in recent weeks, and the Liberty star is being recognized for it. She was named Player of the Week for the second straight time and the 23rd time in her career, which surpasses Tamika Catchings for the most in league history. The Liberty took full advantage of their homestand, winning four straight games as Charles averaged 22.3 points and 11.2 boards.

6. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 9
Stats: 16.4 points, 47% FG, 7.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 blocks

While Ogwumike is setting the tone in the scoring column, Parker’s all-around brilliance has also been vital to the defending champions’ success. From the three-point line, Parker connected on seven of her 14 attempts this past week, including a crucial trey in the final minute against Phoenix. The Sparks and Mercury will meet in another star-studded matchup this Sunday on NBATV.

7. Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 6
Stats: 19.8 points, 46% FG, 3.4 assists, 1.3 steals

Although the Storm have lost three straight, Loyd is hardly to blame. The third-year guard averaged 23.7 points – including 27-of-29 at the foul line – and four assists per game in that span. She’s shooting better than 90 percent on free throws for the second time in three years. Loyd’s Storm will look to get back on track this weekend against San Antonio after a much-needed break.

8. Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 10
Stats: 14.0 points, 42% 3FG, 5.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals

Now that’s the Maya Moore we know. She just put together her best week of the season, averaging 20 points and five assists in Minnesota’s pair of road victories. Moore also connected on eight of her 11 three-point attempts and is up to 42 percent on the season from deep, the second-highest percentage of her career.

9. Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta Dream
Last Week: 7
Stats: 17.7 points, 42% FG, 42% 3FG, 4.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals

After earning her first Player of the Week honor, Hayes had a relatively quiet stretch as the Dream continued their road trip. However, she contributed 13 points in Atlanta’s massive road win over the Storm on Tuesday, when the former UConn standout shot 3-of-4 from downtown. Hayes also helped run the show after point guard Layshia Clarendon fouled out late in the fourth quarter.

10. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 8
Stats: 16.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.6 blocks

Stewart was on her way to a third straight outstanding performance on Sunday until the fourth quarter, when she fouled out in the final minutes of a tight game at Madison Square Garden. The four-time national champion did not foul out a single time at UConn, and she hadn’t in her WNBA career until Sunday. Stewart still finished with a double-double of 23 points and 10 boards.