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Race to MVP: Sylvia Fowles Makes History

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

With less than a week of WNBA games in the books, these MVP rankings reflect a combination of current performance and predictions for the future. An exception is Candace Parker, who has missed the Sparks’ first two games due to a back injury. We are removing Parker from this list until she returns to the court.

Here are the first MVP rankings of the regular season.

1. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Preseason Ranking: 1
Stats: 20.0 points, 50% FG, 7.0 rebounds, 2.7 blocks

With the Mercury starting the season 2-1, Griner maintains her spot atop the rankings. She had a tough night in the season opener, battling foul trouble in a difficult matchup with Dallas Wings center Liz Cambage. But in the next two contests – both against Seattle – Griner scored 29 and 18 points on better than 50 percent shooting in both games. She had a stellar all-around performance in Phoenix’s win on Sunday, adding 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks to the 29 points (10-17 FG, 9-10 FT).

2. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Preseason Ranking: 2
Stats: 19.0 points, 59% FG, 16.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals, 2.5 blocks

After losing in heartbreaking fashion in their season opener, the Lynx needed a big response with Dallas coming to town on Wednesday. They turned to the reigning MVP, and Fowles delivered. Battling inside against the 6-foot-8 Cambage, she dominated with a historic stat line of 23 points, 20 rebounds, five steals and two blocks on 10-of-17 shooting. Fowles recorded the first 20-20 game in Lynx history and became the first-ever WNBA player with 20-plus points, 20-plus rebounds and five-plus steals.

3. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Preseason Ranking: 8
Stats: 22.0 points, 68% FG, 9.5 rebounds

No Parker, no problem. Ogwumike has the Sparks atop the standings at 2-0 heading into a matchup with her sister Chiney and the Sun on Thursday. After dropping 19 points with nine rebounds and two steals in the thrilling win over Minnesota, Nneka followed it up with an incredibly efficient night against Indiana that resembled her 2016 MVP season. She finished 11-of-13 from the floor (2-2 FT, 1-1 3PT) en route to 25 points in a comfortable Sparks win.

4. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Preseason Ranking: 5
Stats: 18.0 points, 36% FG, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists

The Mystics are 2-0 despite Delle Donne not playing at her best. She struggled mightily with her shot in the season opener, going 5-for-18 as Washington overcame Indiana for the win. She did, however, match her career high with seven assists that day and finished with just one turnover. Delle Donne then scored an efficient 23 points in a victory over Las Vegas on Tuesday. The Mystics look to improve to 3-0 when they face the Fever again Thursday.

5. Chelsea Gray, Los Angeles Sparks
Preseason Ranking: Unranked
Stats: 15.0 points, 42% FG, 8.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals

A first-time All-Star in 2017, Gray has picked up right where she left off. She scored the game-winning bucket to beat Minnesota and cap off an outstanding individual night (18 points, eight assists and a career-high six steals). It was Gray’s second game-winner against the Lynx in the last eight months. Through two games this season, she has 16 assists and just two turnovers. If she keeps it up, Gray could stake her claim as the best point guard in the league.

6. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Preseason Ranking: 6
Stats: 19.0 points, 40% FG, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals

The Liberty have played just one game, losing 80-76 in Chicago despite a solid night from Charles. One stat to keep an eye on: Charles attempted four 3-pointers on Sunday, which matches her season high from 2017. After attempting about two per game last year, the veteran center could be looking to launch from deep even more often. Next up, the Lynx come to town Friday night aiming to spoil New York’s home opener.

7. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Preseason Ranking: Unranked
Stats: 20.3 points, 46% FG, 52% 3FG, 3.0 rebounds

On opening night, Taurasi became the first WNBA player to make 1,000 career 3-pointers. Through three games this season, she has launched 21 triples and made 11 of them. We’ll see how long she can maintain this efficiency, but the Mercury need her to continue scoring to reach their potential as a team. Taurasi, who turns 36 next month, picked up the slack for Griner by dropping a game-high 26 points in the opener against Dallas.

8. Allie Quigley, Chicago Sky
Preseason Ranking: Unranked
Stats: 18.0 points, 59% FG, 50% 3FG, 3.0 assists

Like Gray, Quigley emerged as a breakout star in 2017 and earned her first All-Star selection. Now, despite the Sky missing veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot, Quigley has guided them to a 2-1 record to open the new season. She scored 19 and 22 points in their pair of victories before being limited to 13 in a loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.

9. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Preseason Ranking: 10
Stats: 15.5 points, 39% FG, 13.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks

Stewart couldn’t have had a more difficult schedule to begin the season. After two matchups with Griner and the Mercury, the Storm emerged 1-1 thanks to an impressive road victory Wednesday night. Stewart more than held her own with 22 points, 15 boards, three blocks and two steals on opening night. Next she faces former UConn teammate Stefanie Dolson and the Sky on Friday.

10. Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
Preseason Ranking: 4
Stats: 7.0 points, 43% FG, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals, 2.0 blocks

Fortunately for the Sun and all WNBA fans, Jones made it to Connecticut in time for the season opener on Sunday. The team feared she may miss time while attending to family matters in the Bahamas. Since she missed training camp, the Sun brought Jones off the bench Sunday, and she played just 19 minutes in a blowout victory. They will likely continue easing her into the rotation over the next few games.