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2019 Race to the MVP: Second Edition

It’s been nearly a month since we rolled out our initial ‘Race to the MVP’ rankings. Now that teams have played between nine and 14 games this season, there is more on-court evidence to evaluate.

The Washington Mystics (9-3) sit atop the WNBA standings entering Sunday’s action, taking over the top spot from the Connecticut Sun (9-4) with a stunning 102-59 win on Saturday. The Mystics and Sun lead the WNBA with nine wins apiece and players from those teams occupy the top two spots in this latest edition of the ‘Race to the MVP.’ The rest of the field remains wide open, especially with just two games separating the third and eighth ranked teams in the standings.

As always, ‘Race to the MVP’ is the opinion of this writer and does not reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.

All stats and rankings are through games played on Saturday, June 29.

1. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
STATS: 17.2 PTS, 8.9 REB, 2.5 AST, 0.8 STL, 1.3 BLK, 46.0 FG%, 34.7 3P%, 96.0 FT%, 21.5 EFF, 18.8 PIE

During Washington’s five-game win streak (the longest active streak in the W), Delle Donne is averaging 20.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals while shooting 53.2% (41-77) from the field, 35.7% (10-28) from three and a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. The Mystics have outscored their opponents by 81 points in Delle Donne’s 151 minutes played during the streak.

2. Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
STATS: 16.3 PTS, 10.7 REB, 1.1 AST, 1.1 STL, 2.3 BLK, 48.7 FG%, 31.7 3P%, 78.0 FT%, 22.0 EFF, 17.1 PIE

Jones leads the WNBA in rebounds per game (10.7) and double-doubles (7), ranks second in blocks (2.3) and has led the Sun to a 9-4 record to open the season. The Sun have outscored their opponents by 71 points in the 387 minutes Jones has been on the court, and have been outscored by 54 points in the 133 minutes she’s been off of it.

3. Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm
STATS: 18.5 PTS, 9.2 REB, 1.8 AST, 1.8 STL, 1.6 BLK, 43.1 FG%, 18.2 3P%, 80.9 FT%, 20.1 EFF, 17.0 PIE

So far this season, there have been 15 instances during which a player has recorded at least 15 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks in a game. Howard has five of those 15 performances, with no other player having more than two such games. Last year’s Most Improved Player has stepped up her game yet again, and with Jewell Loyd set to miss at least two weeks with injury, she may need to do even more for the defending champs.

4. A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
STATS: 17.2 PTS, 7.7 REB, 2.4 AST, 0.6 STL, 1.5 BLK, 51.7 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 76.9 FT%, 19.3 EFF, 15.3 PIE

Wilson is coming off a monster game that saw her post a career-high 39 points to go with 11 rebounds and five assists in Las Vegas’ overtime win over Indiana. The only other player to ever reach those marks in a WNBA game is Candace Parker in 2008 (40 PTS, 16 REB, 6 AST, 5 STL). Wilson leads the Aces in points, rebounds and blocks so far this season and has been unstoppable at home. In seven games in Vegas, Wilson is averaging 21.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and shooting 61.5 percent from the field. If she can improve her performances on the road (10.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 34.5% shooting in five games), she’ll continue to climb the MVP rankings.

5. DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury
STATS: 20.2 PTS, 7.8 REB, 3.2 AST, 1.7 STL, 0.6 BLK, 42.1 FG%, 32.7 3P%, 95.5 FT%, 22.2 EFF, 20.3 PIE

Not only does Bonner continue to lead the WNBA in scoring at 20.2 points per game, she also ranks seventh in rebounds (7.9 per game), ninth in steals (1.7 per game) and 16th in assists (3.2 per game). The Mercury (4-5) have not had the start to the season that they would have liked, but they have won two straight and are tied with Atlanta for the fewest games played so far this season, giving them ample time to climb the standings, especially with the pending return of Diana Taurasi.

6. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
STATS: 14.0 PTS, 9.5 REB, 1.6 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.2 BLK, 45.4 FG%, 40.9 3P%, 79.3 FT%, 17.1 EFF, 13.2 PIE

Ogwumike’s scoring is at its lowest since her rookie season in 2012 (14.0 per game) and well below her MVP peak from 2016 (19.7 per game). However, she is rebounding at a career-best rate, is shooting 40.6% from three and has already matched her total of 3-pointers from all of last season. Among Sparks who have played at least 200 minutes this season, she is the only one with a positive plus/minus, with L.A.’s offense suffering greatly when Ogwumike is not on the court. The Sparks have a 97.1 offensive rating in Nneka’s 282 minutes on court, but it plummets to 83.3 in her 158 minutes off the court. As a point of comparison, the Wings have the lowest offensive rating in the WNBA at 91.0 this season.

7. Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago Sky
STATS: 10.5 PTS, 5.1 REB, 7.7 AST, 1.5 STL, 0.5 BLK, 40.7 FG%, 32.4 3P%, 80.0 FT%, 15.9 EFF, 12.0 PIE

Vandersloot is the only player in the WNBA this season to average at least 10 points, five boards and five assists per game. How rare is it for a player to put up those averages? It’s been done over the course of a full season just three times in WNBA history: Candace Parker in 2015, Lindsay Whalen in 2008, Nikki Teasley in 2003.

8. Odyssey Sims, Minnesota Lynx
STATS: 15.2 PTS, 4.1 REB, 4.9 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.2 BLK, 40.0 FG%, 28.6 3P%, 91.1 FT, 14.0 EFF, 12.6 PIE

Sims is the only player in the WNBA to average at least 15 points and four assists. She leads the Lynx in both categories. Her 15.2 points per game ranks 10th in the WNBA and her 4.9 assists per game ranks seventh, while her 91.1 free throw percentage ranks 11th. Sims’ move to Minnesota did not receive the same attention as Liz Cambage to Vegas and Chiney Ogwumike to Los Angeles, but her impact has been huge for the Lynx.

9. Erica Wheeler, Indiana Fever
STATS: 12.8 PTS, 2.4 REB, 5.7 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.3 BLK, 46.9 FG%, 41.8 3P%, 95.7 FT%, 13.4 EFF, 13.8 PIE

Among the six players in the WNBA that are averaging at least five assists per game, Wheeler leads the group in scoring at 12.8 points per game. Her 23 3-pointers made ranks fifth in the WNBA and her 41.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc ranks eighth among all players and second among high-volume 3-point shooters with at least 50 attempts so far this season. The Fever have been 13.6 points per 100 possessions better with Wheeler on the court (2.8 net rating) than when she’s off the court (minus-10.8 net rating) – the highest differential among Fever players that have played at least 100 minutes this season.

10. Liz Cambage, Las Vegas Aces
STATS: 14.8 PTS, 7.2 REB, 1.8 AST, 0.5 STL, 1.5 BLK, 50.0 FG%, 14.3 3P%, 78.4 FT%, 17.6 EFF, 17.6 PIE

It’s not often that a player lands in the Race to the MVP rankings when she doesn’t lead her own team in at least one major statistical category – A’ja Wilson leads the Aces in points, rebounds and blocks, Jackie Young leads in assists and Sydney Colson leads in steals. Cambage does lead the Aces in plus/minus, as Las Vegas outscores its opponents by 7.6 points per game with her on the court. That is the sixth-highest mark in all of the WNBA. Though Cambage continues to play limited minutes, (she is averaging 22.8 per game and has eclipsed 30 only twice in 11 games) she is still making a huge impact. In Saturday’s win over Indiana, Cambage scored 12 of Las Vegas’ 18 points in overtime, matching the WNBA record for most points scoring in an overtime period, to help the Aces secure the victory.