Aman Ali, WNBA.com
Every team has gotten a chance to hit the floor for WNBA action now making it a little bit clearer which players are making waves in the league. But this early in the season, it truly remains a wide open race to crown the league's Most Valuable Player.
Last week we boldly ranked Maya Moore at No. 1 even though she hadn't played a game yet this season, based on her overall career trajectory and offseason activity. You the fans weren't shy to weigh in on our rankings last week sharing all sorts of valid arguments such as:
"Not only has Minnesota not played a single game, Maya Moore isn't even arguably the best player on her team and her ranking was based on a Chinese League performance that is nowhere near as competitive as the traditional off-season choice of Euro league."
-Rogelio from Union City, NJ.
Many of you also took issue with Brittney Griner being in the rankings:
"I also have a BIG problem with Brittney Griner being in the No. 5 position an MVP is supposed to be a leader and make everyone on their team play better I personally did not see that happenThe dunks were impressive don't get me wrong but Dunks+Hype do not equal playoffs championships or MVP."
- Tabatha from Covina, CA
Two of the most popular omissions you thought were missing from last week's rankings were Tulsa Shock's Glory Johnson, a sophomore breaking through as a clutch rebounder, and the Los Angeles Sparks' Kristi Toliver, probably one of the most lethal 3-point shooters in the league.
How do they and everyone else rank this week?
It's hard to argue who is hungrier to win a WNBA championship than Candace Parker right now considering it's one of the only accolades missing from this former WNBA Rookie of the Year, MVP and two-time Olympic gold medalist. After last year's painful playoffs exit during her first fully-healthy season since her rookie year, Parker has a fire to win that is hard to compete with. This past weekend she showed just that. Despite the fact her team lost to the San Antonio Silver Stars, Parker put up monster numbers on both ends of the floor finishing with 27 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks.
Maya Moore came out of the gate swinging in her season debut putting up shut-em-down numbers against the tenacious Connecticut Sun. Moore led her team by finishing the game with 26 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. But the problem for Moore's MVP prospects this season has less to do with her talents and more to breaking ahead of her teammates. In the same game, the Lynx's Seimone Augustus put up clutch numbers of 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. In order for Maya to get bumped up to the top of the list, she'll need to prove that she is the franchise player that can carry a team on her back. And if you look at the meteoric trajectory of her career, there is little to suggest that she can't do that.
The 2012 WNBA Scoring Champion continues to tear it up leading her team to a pristine 3-0 record this season. McCoughtry, also hungry for a chance to win an WNBA title, went off against the Indiana Fever over the weekend for 29 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals. Her performances for the past week earned her the WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week Award for the eighth time in her career. Her season average of 20 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists is a solid way to start a season. But she is still having difficulty shedding her reputation for clumsy turnovers. In order for her to move higher into the MVP discussion, she'll need to curb the 5.3 turnovers per game she's averaging this season.
The ability to come up big during crunch-time moments is one of the key components to evaluating an MVP prospect. And Pondexter did just that in a thrilling game against the Tulsa Shock on Friday. With five-tenths of a second left in overtime, Pondexter sank a jumper over a double-team giving the Liberty their first win this season. This may very well be the year for Pondexter to break out thanks to new coach Bill Laimbeer who has helped create some offensive flow the team has been lacking in recent years.
Elena Delle Donne continues to dazzle in her rookie season averaging 19 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. If her consistency wasn't enough to make her case, it's the fact that the Chicago Sky have been straight up dominating their opponents at 3-0 this season by winning games by at least 10 points and as many as 19. Even if her inexperience in the league will make it tough to compete with seasoned MVP candidates, Delle Donne is at the minimum making a strong case for the WNBA Rookie of the Year honors.
Although she'll need some consistency to be a true MVP contender, Sylvia Fowles has been tearing it up in the paint for the Chicago Sky with back-to-back double doubles, including a juggernaut stat line against the Connecticut Sun of 24 points, 22 rebounds and 3 blocks. At 3-0, the triple threat of Sylvia Fowles, Epiphanny Prince and Elena Delle Donne may very well be one of the toughest teams to stop this season. But in a crowded field of MVP candidates that are double-double machines, Fowles will need to keep the pace up if she wants to pick up the MVP hardware this season.
The reigning WNBA MVP has been a double-double factory for the Connecticut Sun averaging 19 points and 12.7 rebounds a game this season. But after losing back-to-back games this past weekend on the road, her stats haven't been enough to lead her team to victory. With a new coach this season, the Connecticut Sun have been struggling to find their collective voice, having lost back-to-back games in large margins to teams with rock-solid cores like the Minnesota Lynx and Chicago Sky. But give the Sun some breathing room to work out their kinks and Charles will likely rise in the rankings sooner rather than later.
With a decorated career as one of the most tenacious players in the WNBA, Catchings by default is an annual contender for the MVP title. Catchings is averaging 19.5 points and 6 rebounds this season. Considering this is her 11th year in the league, stats like that are even more impressive. But with so many tough opponents in the league that are worthy of MVP honors, Catchings will need a little more "oomph" in her gameplay to make her a more viable candidate.
Griner continues to live up to her monster hype putting up another impressive stat-line of 17 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. But it's hard to ignore the fact the Phoenix Mercury, boasting one of the most stacked rosters in the league, over the weekend lost to the Seattle Storm, a team with a roster depleted by injuries. While it's spectacular to watch her dunk and swat down shots, if Griner isn't able to step up as a leader for the team that makes players around her better, it will be difficult to maintain her current slot in the rankings moving forward.
With Epiphanny Prince back into the Sky's rotation from an injury-laden season last year, she has dazzled as a prolific scorer out of the gate this season. She's averaging 20.7 points and 3.3 assists per game this season and has been playing some of the best basketball of her career. If she can stay healthy this season, expect her stock in the rankings to shoot up as the Chicago Sky continue to dominate with one of the strongest rosters in the league right now.