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Race to MVP (Week 2): Storm Duo Making Noise

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 | Week 1

It was a busy and important week for one of the WNBA’s up-and-coming teams, and its stars responded in impressive fashion. Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart led Seattle to a 3-0 week, with victories over Chicago, Las Vegas and Washington. The duo of No. 1 draft picks is rewarded with higher spots on this list, as they both have a chance to earn some individual hardware this season.

Here are the Week 2 rankings in the Race to the MVP:

1. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 3
Stats: 20.3 points, 64% FG, 57% 3FG, 7.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals

The 2016 MVP gets the nod here after her stellar start for the 3-1 Sparks. Ogwumike is attempting and making three-pointers on a consistent basis so far, a scary proposition for defenders preparing for one of the league’s best post players. She has shot better than 50 percent in every game this season. Next up is another matchup with Sylvia Fowles and the defending champion Lynx on Sunday (5 PM ET, League Pass).

2. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 1
Stats: 20.8 points, 57% FG, 6.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks

On Wednesday, Griner took advantage of the short-handed Mystics with 27 points on 13-of-16 shooting. However it wasn’t enough to lead Phoenix to victory, and the Mercury have now lost three straight after a promising start. Griner has led the league in blocks every year of her career, but she appears to have some competition for the honor this year with Liz Cambage back in the WNBA.

3. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 2
Stats: 16.6 points, 63% FG, 12.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.4 blocks

After posting the historic 20-20 game against Liz Cambage and the Wings, Fowles has been held in check over the past few contests. She did score 17 points on 8-for-8 from the field against the Mystics, but the Lynx ultimately lost and have now dropped to 2-3 on the season. If not for clutch buckets in New York, the defending champions could be 1-4 right now. Fowles will be counted on as they look to turn things around quickly.

4. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 9
Stats: 21.4 points, 46% FG, 9.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.6 blocks

After dropping a close one to Phoenix on opening night, Stewart and the Storm have rattled off four straight wins. Heading into Wednesday’s action, Stewart led the league in total minutes and field goal attempts, carrying a heavy load once again in her third season. But she has enjoyed plenty of help from Jewell Loyd, who ranks just ahead of her with 23 points per game. Seattle will look to make it five straight when it hosts A’ja Wilson and the Aces on Thursday.

5. Chelsea Gray, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 5
Stats: 18.5 points, 48% FG, 7.3 assists, 2.0 steals

Gray stole the show in the season opener against Minnesota, and she hasn’t slowed down since. She leads the WNBA in assists and ranks just outside the top 10 in scoring. With Candace Parker back in the lineup, she is unlikely to stay in contention for this award and become the third different MVP on her roster. But Gray, the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, looks on her way to a special year.

6. Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 23.0 points, 47% FG, 6.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists

It’s early, but Loyd is averaging career highs across the board, just the improvement Seattle was hoping to see from the fourth-year guard. One reason for Loyd’s efficient start is her elite free throw shooting. After going 1-for-2 on opening night, Loyd has drained all 27 of her attempts from the line in the last four games. In 2017, she had a similar start in the scoring column before cooling off a bit. Will Loyd maintain this level and earn her first All-Star selection?

7. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Last Week: 6
Stats: 23.7 points, 49% FG, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals

If not for a dramatic comeback win over the Wings on Tuesday, the Liberty would be at the bottom of the standings at 0-3. But Charles led the comeback with a dominant 34 points (two short of her career high), plus 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals. She leads the league with 23.7 points per contest so far, and the Liberty will likely need that type of production from their star to stay afloat.

8. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Last Week: 4
Stats: 16.5 points, 42% FG, 7.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists

Delle Donne has missed most of the last three games due to illness. Nevertheless, Washington sits near the top of the standings at 5-1 and is getting plenty of help from its rookies. With the supporting cast thriving – including Kristi Toliver draining three-pointers – the Mystics could have a special season and Delle Donne could contend for another MVP.

9. Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 16.3 points, 63% FG, 10.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks

She might not be a household name like most on this list, but Thomas has undoubtedly been one of the league’s elite players over the past two years. In 2017, she led the entire WNBA in plus-minus. Now, in guiding a 3-0 Sun team, she’s doing a bit of everything again. Thomas earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 16.3 points (62.5 percent shooting), 10.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks through three games.

10. Liz Cambage, Dallas Wings
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 19.0 points, 58% FG, 12.0 rebounds, 2.8 blocks

Her Wings are just 2-3, but the impact of Cambage can’t be denied. In her first WNBA season since 2013, the Australian center is proving to be a dominant presence on both ends of the court. According to WNBA.com Advanced Stats, Cambage has had the biggest impact of anyone playing significant minutes so far this season. The Wings play three of their next four games at home after a difficult schedule to begin the season.