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Race to MVP: Ogwumike Picks Up Where She Left Off

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.

Archive: Preseason Edition

We’re just seven games into the WNBA season, much too early to make any drastic changes to our preseason edition of the MVP rankings. Still, there were a number of standout performances from the league’s stars on opening weekend, from Elena Delle Donne in D.C. to Jewell Loyd in Seattle.

Here are the first rankings of the regular season, led by the two most recent MVPs.

1. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Preseason Ranking: 1
Stats: 24.0 points, 73% FG, 5.0 rebounds

Delle Donne seemed right at home in her first game with the Mystics, scoring 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting as Washington earned an 89-74 win over San Antonio. She was limited to just 23 minutes due to foul trouble, but still managed to have the biggest impact of anyone on either team. The Mystics outscored the Stars by 18 with Delle Donne on the court, the highest plus-minus rating in Sunday’s contest.

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2. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Preseason Ranking: 3
Stats: 23.0 points, 50% FG, 50% 3FG, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.0 steals

The reigning MVP picked up right where she left off in October, leading the short-handed Sparks to a victory over Seattle on opening night. Ogwumike’s 23 points came on an efficient 10-of-20 shooting and 3-for-6 from three-point range. Her outside shooting is something to keep an eye on, as Ogwumike averaged less than one attempt from beyond the arc last season. The trio of three-pointers she hit on Saturday were a career high.

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3. Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
Preseason Ranking: 2
Stats: 11.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 3.0 steals

The Lynx handled Chicago on Sunday despite a subpar performance from Moore, by her standards. Her all-around stat line looks solid, but she finished 5-of-19 from the floor and made just one of 11 attempts from downtown. Moore had increased her assist totals two straight years heading into this season, and her game-high six dimes on Sunday indicate that trend could continue.

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4. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Preseason Ranking: 4
Stats: 12.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists

Like Minnesota, Charles’ team won its season opener despite an out-of-character game from its superstar. Charles shot just 6-for-19 and didn’t make a single trip to the free throw line against San Antonio. After the 73-64 win, New York coach Bill Laimbeer said, “I hope this is the worst game we play all year long.” Charles and the Liberty will look to bounce back when they host the Lynx on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

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5. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Preseason Ranking: 5
Stats: DNP

Parker missed the Sparks’ opener against Seattle due to an overseas commitment, as she is still finishing her season in Turkey. The two-time MVP is expected to be back with L.A. in the next week.

6. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Preseason Ranking: 6
Stats: 15.0 points, 46% FG, 50% 3FG, 7.0 rebounds

After missing the matchup with L.A. on Saturday, Stewart helped Seattle improve to 1-1 by holding off Indiana the next day. She’s still recovering from a minor knee injury suffered in the offseason, as evidenced by her 27 minutes of action on Sunday. Stewart led the league in minutes last year at almost 35 per game. The reigning Rookie of the Year made some clutch plays against Indiana, including the go-ahead three-pointer and the game-sealing block.

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7. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Preseason Ranking: 8
Stats: 26.0 points, 60% FG, 10.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals, 3.0 blocks

Fowles picked up the slack for Moore on Sunday, guiding the Lynx past Chicago with the best individual performance of the weekend. The veteran center shot 9-of-15 from the field and 8-of-10 at the foul line en route to a game-high 26 points. She grabbed 10 rebounds and made her presence felt defensively, recording four steals and three blocks. Fowles could be poised for a fourth Defensive Player of the Year award this year.

8. Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm
Preseason Ranking: Unranked
Stats: 26.0 points, 56% FG, 50% 3FG, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals

Loyd had an outstanding weekend to commence her third season, shouldering the scoring load for the short-handed Storm. She dropped 25 points against L.A. and 27 against the Fever, and the Notre Dame product shot an efficient 10-of-18 in both contests. If she keeps scoring like this and her team plays up to its potential this season, Loyd will surely remain in the MVP conversation.

9. Emma Meesseman, Washington Mystics
Preseason Ranking: 9
Stats: 13.0 points, 46% FG, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals

Judging by the first game, it won’t take long for Meesseman to get comfortable playing next to Delle Donne in the frontcourt. She’ll likely have to sacrifice a bit on the offensive end, but Meesseman took 11 shots on Sunday after averaging 11.6 attempts last year. The Belgian center had a great all-around game against San Antonio, pacing the Mystics with five assists without recording a turnover.

10. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Preseason Ranking: 7
Stats: 3.0 points

Similar to Moore and Charles, Taurasi had a night to forget in the Mercury’s season opener. Phoenix fell 68-58 to the visiting Wings as Taurasi tallied just three points on 1-of-11 shooting. She was absent from the assist column, while Danielle Robinson recorded nine assists in her Mercury debut. Expect things to improve for Taurasi – who just signed a new contract extension – when Phoenix battles Indiana on Wednesday.

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