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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We have passed the midway point of the WNBA season, as nine of the league’s 12 teams are at least halfway through their 34-game schedule. Perhaps more than in years past, this MVP race could come down to the wire. Plenty of teams are bunched near the top of the standings and some have multiple candidates for the award.
Every year dating back to 2009, the WNBA MVP has led her team to a top-three finish in the standings.
1. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 1
Stats: 21.8 points, 55% FG, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.5 steals
The stat above is good news for Stewart, who has led the Storm to a tie with Phoenix in first place at 13-5. Seattle is on track to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2011. This past week, Stewart led the way in another impressive win over the Sparks, scoring 20 of her 27 points in the second half as Seattle improved to 2-0 against L.A. She dropped 21 with eight boards in New York on Tuesday to help the Storm win their third straight.
2. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 2
Stats: 19.9 points, 55% FG, 7.6 rebounds, 3.2 blocks
The biggest news out of Phoenix this week was Sancho Lyttle’s injury, as the starting forward will miss the rest of the season with an ACL tear. It may not seem like a huge factor in the MVP race, but the injury will likely impact Griner’s numbers and the Mercury’s record. If they can manage to keep winning without Lyttle, Griner will remain in strong position to capture her first MVP.
3. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 5
Stats: 20.1 points, 44% FG, 5.1 assists
Elena Delle Donne may be the WNBA’s best free throw shooter – see below for her ridiculous numbers – but Taurasi is having an insane season at the line. She’s made 92 of 96 attempts thus far (95.8 percent). It’s one of the reasons Taurasi was named Western Conference Player of the Month for June and is having her best season in many years. When she struggles with her shot, Taurasi can run the show with nine assists and zero turnovers, as she did in Phoenix’s win over Washington on Saturday.
4. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 3
Stats: 17.2 points, 58% FG, 12.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals
Fowles and the Lynx finally saw their winning streak end on Tuesday against Indiana. Fowles wasn’t quite the dominant scorer that Maya Moore was during the streak, but the reigning MVP has been Minnesota’s most consistent performer this year. The Lynx will look to bounce back in a Finals rematch against the Sparks on Thursday (8 PM ET, ESPN2).
5. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Last Week: 7
Stats: 20.5 points, 49% FG, 6.9 rebounds
Taurasi is besting her in overall percentage this year, but Delle Donne has now made all 34 of her free throw attempts in the last five games. She’s scored at least 20 points in four straight contests, and the Delaware product beat the Liberty with a buzzer-beating triple last Thursday. The Eastern Conference Player of the Month for June, Delle Donne has Washington creeping toward the top of the standings.
6. Liz Cambage, Dallas Wings
Last Week: 8
Stats: 20.8 points, 59% FG, 9.9 rebounds, 2.0 blocks
Cambage missed the second half of Dallas’ loss to Minnesota on Sunday due to an eye injury. Otherwise, the Wings may have gone 3-0 in the past week and be 9-7 instead of 8-8. Cambage had a career night on Tuesday, exploding for 37 points on 16-of-20 shooting as the Wings cruised past Chicago. The 6-8 center was draining jumpers – even one three-pointer – and got triple-teamed at one point. Cambage became the second player in WNBA history to score at least 35 points on at least 80 percent shooting (Nneka Ogwumike).
7. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 4
Stats: 16.5 points, 51% FG, 6.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists
The Sparks played four games in the past seven days and lost three of them. That includes a defeat at the hands of the Aces in which Parker tallied just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting. Still, the Sparks (12-6) are only one game back of first place in the standings. On Thursday, they will look to improve to 3-0 against Minnesota this season.
8. Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 19.8 points, 43% FG, 5.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals
Well, that escalated quickly. Absent from our MVP race since the preseason edition, Moore just scored 20-plus points in seven straight games, all victories for the Lynx. Moore struggled mightily for the first few weeks of the season – by her standards – as Minnesota tumbled to 3-6. Now, they look like the defending champs again and Moore has been unstoppable. After last weekend’s games, Moore surpassed Alyssa Thomas for the best plus-minus rating in the WNBA.
9. A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Last Week: 9
Stats: 20.1 points, 45% FG, 8.7 rebounds
Named the Rookie of the Month for June, Wilson continues to make history just about every week. Against the Wings last Wednesday, she became the first WNBA rookie to post at least 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists, despite the loss. Wilson then recorded 29 points, nine boards, four assists and three steals in the Aces’ impressive win over L.A.
10. Chiney Ogwumike, Connecticut Sun
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 15.6 points, 62% FG, 7.9 rebounds
Chiney takes her sister’s spot on this list after helping the Sun defeat Nneka and the Sparks in L.A. on Tuesday. Connecticut has struggled since Alyssa Thomas went down, but Ogwumike is reaping the benefits of her added touches. After missing last season due to injury, she is back to the form that saw her reach the All-Star Game as a rookie in 2014. At just under 62 percent, Ogwumike has the best field goal percentage in the league.