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.
Despite being a former Rookie of the Year and multi-time All-Star, she was left off the U.S. Women’s National Team Olympic roster this spring. Instead of lamenting the move, she’s returned to the Sparks back at full strength and better than ever.
No, not Candace Parker.
While Parker made the offseason headlines and comes from the loftier pedigree, Nneka Ogwumike has quietly emerged as a co-superstar in L.A. Quietly, that is, until this past week, when she averaged 25.7 points and 10.7 rebounds over three games, making 31 of the 36 shots she attempted (86%). That included a stretch of 23 consecutive made field goal attempts, shattering the WNBA record.
So who’s the MVP for the 10-0 Sparks? Ogwumike steps forward in Race to the MVP this week, but the true answer is: Who cares when you’re undefeated?
1. Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 1
Stats: 19.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.5 steals
Moore still takes the cake as the leading MVP candidate one month into the season. Her competitive fire has fueled the three-time champs through their record 11-game winning streak, and she remains the team’s trump card should they ever encounter a close game — which has been rare this season.
Last week, we touted her improved playmaking. But she’s also brought defensive intensity on a nightly basis, springing for a handful of highlight-reel blocks.
2. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 6
Stats: 18.4 points, 70% FG, 9.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals
Like Durant and Westbrook, whether you view Ogwumike or Parker as the main catalyst behind L.A.’s perfect start depends on your preferred style of play. And much of their success is tied together — just check out Ogwumike’s highlights to see how many open shots she’s getting off of Parker dimes.
Nneka earns the spotlight this week thanks to her historically efficient stretch and hyperactive defense. Her 70% shooting would also be a record for a full season (currently 67% by Tamika Raymond in 2003).
3. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 2
Stats: 15.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.2 blocks
Parker’s brilliance has come in her ability to provide whatever her team needs on a given night. It’s been clearer than ever this season that she can do things that no other player in the game can do: Her passing skills make her the centerpiece for a league-best offense centered around ball movement, and on top of that she’s shooting a career-high 44% from three.
4. Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream
Last Week: 3
Stats: 20.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.9 steals
Atlanta sits atop the Eastern Conference because of the tremendous strides its young players have made, but don’t take McCoughtry’s play for granted. The Dream can count on McCoughtry’s effort every night — she’s scored at least 15 points in every game this season — which makes the game so much easier for her supporting cast.
5. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Last Week: 4
Stats: 20.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.1 steals
Charles was back to her stat sheet-stuffing ways this week with a 21-10-6 game one night and 28 points, including 3-of-4 from three, three nights later. Make it four 20-10 (points-rebounds) games for Charles this season as she carries perhaps the largest load of any player in the league.
6. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 10
Stats: 21.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists
Have the Mercury finally turned the corner? It appeared that way with two vintage Taurasi performances (31 points on June 9 and June 12) powering back-to-back wins. She’s the only player averaging at least three made 3-pointers per game this season.
7. Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky
Last Week: 5
Stats: 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 blocks
The Sky have yet to find their groove during an up-and-down season and Delle Donne has been more facilitator than dominant scorer. Or maybe she just spoiled us with her off-the-charts play last season.
8. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 7
Stats: 14.8 points, 58% FG, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks
Fowles has been Minnesota’s version of Ogwumike — the star who quietly impacts the game on both ends and has no problem sharing the spotlight with her All-Star teammates. She ranks third in the league in field goal percentage behind Ogwumike and Crystal Langhorne and sixth in rebounding.
9. Emma Meesseman, Washington Mystics
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 15.5 points, 54% FG, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists
Meesseman’s breakout may have officially arrived. The fourth-year forward has led the charge in digging the Mystics out of an 0-3 hole, earning her first Player of the Week award on Monday. Currently 12-of-21 (57%) from deep, she’s made twice as many threes this year as she had made in her first three seasons combined.
10. Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 8
Stats: 17.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists
“We see it in spurts, the kind of team we can be,” Loyd told WNBA.com’s Michelle Smith this week. “We just need to figure out how to be consistent with it.”
The same applies to Loyd individually, as the second-year guard has shown flashes of brilliance but has cooled off over her last four games.
Stats reflect games played through 6/15