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.
We’re about halfway through the season for most teams, and starters for the upcoming All-Star Game have been revealed. Some will surely question why players like Brittney Griner and Nneka Ogwumike were not selected. However, the Western Conference is so stacked that it’s not even much of a farce.
Of the 10 current players that were on last year’s USA Olympic team, eight play in the West, and that doesn’t even include Ogwumike or reigning Finals MVP Candace Parker. There are six worthy candidates for three frontcourt spots in the West. Parker, Sylvia Fowles and Maya Moore just happened to receive the most combined votes from fans, media and players.
Perhaps the snub will motivate Griner, who meets Fowles on Friday in a battle of our top two MVP candidates.
1. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 1
Stats: 20.1 points, 66% FG, 10.0 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.6 steals
Fowles is set to make her first All-Star appearance as a member of the Lynx. She’s not part of the crew that owns the most wins of any foursome in league history – Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus – but is playing like the best of the bunch this season. She didn’t have her greatest performance against the Sparks last week, yet still finished with 20 points, 13 boards and four blocks while limiting Candace Parker on the defensive end.
2. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 4
Stats: 22.4 points, 58% FG, 8.4 rebounds, 2.8 blocks
After dropping two spots on this list, Griner is back where she belongs thanks to a monster week. Phoenix earned wins over Washington, San Antonio and New York with Griner averaging 25.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.7 blocks (!!) per contest. She blocked four shots in the first half alone against the Stars, including two in one possession. On Friday, Griner will battle Fowles and the Lynx (10 p.m. ET, Twitter).
3. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 2
Stats: 19.9 points, 59% FG, 40% 3FG, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals
After eight consecutive wins, Ogwumike and the Sparks dropped road contests against the Lynx and Storm last week. Ogwumike was dominant in both games, however. Before producing 21 points and nine boards at Seattle, she single-handedly brought the Sparks back into the game after it got out of hand early at Minnesota. The reigning MVP was especially impressive on the glass with a season-high six offensive rebounds.
4. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 3
Stats: 15.6 points, 46% FG, 7.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.9 blocks
Simply put, this past week was not a strong one for Parker. In her biggest game of the season, she had her worst. The Sparks were minus-19 with Parker on the court at Minnesota – the lowest rating in the game – and she contributed many of the turnovers that ultimately cost them. After the down week, Parker ranks as the third-leading scorer on her own team (Ogwumike, Chelsea Gray).
5. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Last Week: 5
Stats: 19.8 points, 48% FG, 97% FT, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
Just as they did against the Sparks two weeks ago, Delle Donne’s Mystics had the upper hand in the first half before giving up a lead to the Sun on Saturday. Washington (10-8) is now behind Connecticut (10-7) in the standings after losing three straight games. Meanwhile, Delle Donne has made 58 straight free throws – eight shy of the WNBA record – in yet another amazing season at the charity stripe.
6. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Last Week: 7
Stats: 20.8 points, 46% FG, 9.1 rebounds
After her 3-for-15 performance against the Mystics, Charles went off for 21, 29 and 29 points in her next three games. She guided New York to a road win over the Storm with 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in addition to her 29 points. Charles became the Liberty’s all-time leading rebounder that night, an amazing accomplishment considering this is just her fourth season in New York.
7. Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 6
Stats: 15.4 points, 40% 3FG, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 steals
Moore cooled off this past week after a stretch of five straight 20-point games. Stout defender Alana Beard did her job in limiting Moore to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, though it wasn’t enough for L.A. to take down the Lynx. Then, in Minnesota’s loss at Chicago, Moore was held without a field goal and committed four turnovers.
8. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 8
Stats: 18.9 points, 46% FG, 8.9 rebounds, 1.6 blocks
The Storm suffered a home loss to the Liberty last Thursday, but Stewart helped them bounce back with an impressive win over the defending champs. Stewart scored a game-high 26 points against L.A. on 8-of-15 shooting and 8-for-8 at the foul line, marking her fourth straight game of 20-plus points. It’s hard to imagine her not being among the All-Star reserves in the West.
9. Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
Last Week: 9
Stats: 15.9 points, 54% FG, 48% 3FG, 11.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
Jones will start in the frontcourt for the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game, a well-deserved honor for the second-year center. She has helped Connecticut win nine of its last 11 games and jump to the top of the East. Against the Mystics last Saturday, Jones posted 22 points and nine rebounds as the Sun erased a 22-point deficit to complete the largest comeback in franchise history.
10. Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 14.2 points, 51% FG, 6.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.7 steals
The surging Sun have so many solid, young players that it’s hard to decide who is most important to the team. One thing we know: Thomas belongs in that conversation, and on this list. Connecticut scores 90.7 points per 40 minutes with her on the court – which would rank best in the league – compared to just 78.3 points per 40 minutes without her. Thomas has garnered two Eastern Conference Player of the Week awards in the last three weeks.