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: Race to MVP, Preseason
Like the Week 1 Power Rankings, this week’s Race to the MVP comes with an obvious caveat: It’s not much of a race after just three days of game action. That said, WNBA Tip-Off 2016 presented by Verizon offered a brief glimpse of what’s to come in this 2016 season. In short: star power.
With Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker back in action from the jump this season, the Race to the MVP is shaping up to be highly competitive one. Here’s who jumped out of the gates in the opening games:
1. Maya Moore
Stats: 24.5 points, 57% FG, 8.0 assists
In case you were paying attention to Taurasi’s return, Elena Delle Donne’s encore or Candace Parker’s rousing start (more below), Moore provided an immediate reminder of who ended last season at the top of the game.
She followed her 27-point, 10-assist performance in the Opening Night ESPN showdown with the Mercury with a solid 22 points in a win over EDD’s Sky. Other stars might carry a larger load or put up gaudier numbers, but it’s not hard to imagine the Lynx staying atop the league and Moore taking home her second MVP on the strength of her leadership.
2. Elena Delle Donne
Stats: 28.0 points, 60% FG, 6.0 rebounds
After missing Chicago’s first game due to a stomach virus, Delle Donne returned in MVP form. But her Sky fell short in an early litmus test against the defending champs, vaulting Moore past EDD in these rankings.
Moore and Taurasi may be conference rivals, but the Maya vs. Elena debate could heat up even more this summer, especially when it comes to the MVP conversation.
3. Candace Parker
Stats: 34.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 3.0 steals
Parker became the talk of the opening weekend by picking up where she left off from last year’s historic statistical run. Can the 30-year-old keep it up for a full season? If she can, she will very much work her way back into the mix as the league’s alpha dog, but her team’s success will be key to her MVP campaign.
4. Diana Taurasi
Stats: 18.0 points, 6.0 assists
The MVP-like performance can wait; Phoenix is just happy to have Diana back on the court. Rebuilding chemistry with her Mercury teammates should be like riding a bike for Taurasi. Once she does that, she’s shown time and time again where she ranks in the game’s pecking order.
5. Tina Charles
24.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists
The 2016 regular season began much like the 2015 regular season ended: More wins for the Liberty, and more double-doubles for Charles. New York and its star forward are becoming machine-like in the way they bring it day in and day out. Charles already seems ready to shoulder an even bigger load in the absence of Epiphanny Prince.
6. Sylvia Fowles
Stats: 20.5 points, 63% FG, 13.5 rebounds
The 2015 Finals MVP has jumped out to a dominant start against two championship contenders. Just like the Fever in the championship series, the Mercury and the Sky — two other title contenders — had no answer for the 6-foot-6 center.
If Fowles maintains this level of play, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year deserves to be considered for bigger awards — even if Moore garners many of her votes.
7. Skylar Diggins
Coach Fred Williams and the Wings are wisely taking it slow with Diggins, who is still working her way back from a torn ACL. Perhaps consecutive games on the sideline to start the season serve to temper expectations for the early part of Diggins’ season.
Still, she remains on this list because once at full strength, Diggins and the new-look Dallas squad have a chance to be a force in the West.
8. Brittney Griner
Stats: 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks
Griner was outdueled by Fowles in the first Lynx-Mercury showdown of the season. Plenty of more matchups between the league’s preeminent centers lie ahead, however, and few players in the league can control a game like Griner when she gets going.
9. Angel McCoughtry
Stats: 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals
An overtime victory represented a good start for the Dream, even if it did come against the rebuilding Stars. McCoughtry’s focus will be keeping Atlanta afloat and improving on last season’s disappointing 15-19 campaign.
10. Tamika Catchings
Stats: 6.0 points, 4.0 rebounds
This was surely not the start to her final season that Catchings envisioned. Tamika shot just 2-for-9 in the Fever’s 90-79 loss to the Wings.