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Race to MVP (Week 6): Wilson Joins List, Stewart Climbs to Top

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.

MORE: Race to MVP Archive

It’s time for our weekly dive into the MVP race, which is taking shape more and more as the season goes along. We are removing Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas from this list for now, as the star forward hasn’t played since June 13 due to a shoulder injury. It feels wrong to have zero Sun players on here, but Thomas was the anchor during their hot start.

Las Vegas rookie and No. 1 pick A’ja Wilson makes her debut on the list this week. The Aces are just 5-10, but they’ve won two of their last three and four out of seven with Wilson leading the way.

1. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 2
Stats: 22.3 points, 54% FG, 7.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.5 steals

After another dominant week – despite the loss to Minnesota on Tuesday – Stewart rises to the top among the MVP favorites. In Seattle’s lopsided win at Dallas, Stewart dropped 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting with 12 boards and two blocks. Through Tuesday’s games, she has the highest Player Efficiency Rating and the most Win Shares in the WNBA. Stewart faces Candace Parker and the Sparks on Thursday (9:30 PM ET, ESPN2) in a game that could help her continue to solidify her MVP case.

2. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 1
Stats: 19.6 points, 56% FG, 7.9 rebounds, 3.3 blocks

By her standards, it was a tough week for Griner. Phoenix saw its eight-game win streak come to an end against the Lynx, and then Griner was ejected from the game two days later as the Mercury lost in Chicago. She bounced back against New York, blocking six shots as Phoenix earned a comfortable win. With her team in second place, Griner remains one of the MVP favorites. Diana Taurasi’s brilliance could impact her chances, however.

3. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 8
Stats: 18.4 points, 62% FG, 12.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals

The defending champion Lynx have won five straight, and Fowles is posting a double-double virtually every night. She grabbed 17 rebounds on Tuesday against Seattle and is now averaging a career-high 12.3 per game. After Jonquel Jones set a new WNBA record with 11.9 boards per game last season, Fowles is on pace to break the single-season record again.

4. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 16.7 points, 54% FG, 6.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists

Parker appears on our list for the first time this season, as we now have a large enough sample size to analyze. The first-place Sparks are 9-2 with her in the lineup despite an ugly loss in Dallas on Friday that ended their win streak. Parker dropped 29 points with seven assists on Tuesday as L.A. got revenge against the Wings. At 54 percent from the field, she’s on pace for the most efficient shooting season of her career.

5. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 5
Stats: 20.6 points, 45% FG, 5.0 assists

The Mercury needed a win badly on Tuesday after dropping two straight, and Taurasi stepped up with a historic performance. She became the first WNBA player to start a game 7-for-7 from three-point range. Finishing with 27 points and seven assists, Taurasi now ranks second in the league in scoring and fifth in assists. She leads the WNBA in total three-pointers (55) by a wide margin.

6. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 3
Stats: 16.2 points, 58% FG, 44% 3FG, 7.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals

Ogwumike missed the Sparks’ game on Tuesday with a back injury, making it even more impressive that they were able to overcome Liz Cambage and the Wings. She is listed as day-to-day and will look to return for Thursday’s matchup with the third-place Storm. Earlier this month, the Storm dominated L.A. despite 19 points from Ogwumike.

7. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Last Week: 10
Stats: 19.7 points, 49% FG, 6.5 rebounds

It was a monster week for Delle Donne, who bested her former team in Chicago with 30 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. A career 94 percent free throw shooter – the best mark in WNBA history – Delle Donne has made all 22 attempts at the line in her last three games. She’s getting it done defensively with at least two blocks in three straight games, all victories for the Mystics.

8. Liz Cambage, Dallas Wings
Last Week: 9
20.4 points, 58% FG, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 blocks

In the Wings’ huge win over L.A. last Friday, Cambage became the first player in franchise history to shoot 90 percent or better with at least 10 field goal attempts. She finished with 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting in just 21 minutes of action. Cambage followed it up with two dominant outings later in the week, but Dallas lost both contests and now sits at 6-7.

9. A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 20.1 points, 45% FG, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks

Proving why she was the No. 1 draft pick, Wilson ranks in the league’s top five in both scoring and rebounding through 15 games. One reason for her success is an elite ability to get to the foul line. The South Carolina product leads the WNBA in free throws made (6.2) and attempted (8.1) per game. It may be a bit early to give her a realistic chance at winning MVP, but Wilson figures to be in the conversation for many years to come.

10. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Last Week: 7
Stats: 19.4 points, 44% FG, 6.9 rebounds

Charles ranked fifth on this list two weeks ago, but the Liberty have now lost three straight games and five of their last six. They are especially struggling on the offensive end, and Charles has been part of it. She shot a combined 36 percent in their losses to the Aces, Sparks and Mercury this past week. They will look to bounce back against Delle Donne and the Mystics on Thursday (7 PM ET, NBA TV).