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.
So, the debate was finally settled… for three days at least.
After a season-long see-saw between the Lynx and Sparks, Maya and Candace/Nneka, the league’s two undefeated teams met on the court on Tuesday. Minnesota emerged on top — barely — which keeps the team 13-0 and Moore as the MVP frontrunner deep into June.
But the race to the top could take another turn as soon as Friday, when they rematch in Minnesota.
1. Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 1
Stats: 18.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.3 steals
If Moore hadn’t been sidelined with a thigh injury, it likely would have been her taking the big shot rather than backup Renee Montgomery. Of course, Maya — the ultimate winner — will take a win any way she can get it, even after a subpar personal performance.
Despite the injury, take a second to appreciate a player who at 27 is the youngest player on the WNBA Top 20@20 list. Winning three titles, Rookie of the Year and an MVP in her first five seasons wasn’t enough — she’s now 13-0 in her sixth season.
2. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Last Week: 5
Stats: 22.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.2 steals
Many pointed to Charles as the missing piece on the 20@20, and she’s offering nightly reminders of just how good she is. The numbers do more talking than she ever could: Charles leads the league in both points and rebounds while dishing out a career-high 4.5 assists per game. She’s peaking as a player, but even before this season she finished Top 5 in scoring in each of the past five years and has led the league in rebounding three times.
The double-double machine moves above her Sparks counterparts after carrying the Liberty to five straight victories.
3. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 2
Stats: 16.9 points, 69% FG, 8.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steals
The Nneka train finally slowed down in a pair of showdowns against the Mercury and Lynx as Ogwumike put up a combined 19 points and 11 rebounds. Still, an 11-1 record and 69% shooting keeps her firmly in the Top 3.
4. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 3
Stats: 15.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.1 blocks
Give it up for the second-youngest player on the WNBA Top 20@20 team, who has surged back to prominence in her ninth season. Parker struggled against the Lynx, but delivered a vintage performance against Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi & Co. on Friday with 24 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
5. Angel McCoughtry
Last Week: 4
Stats: 19.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals
Joining Charles on the 20@20 “Next Up” list in many people’s minds was McCoughtry, a four-time All-Star and two-time scoring champion. And like Charles, she has only been adding to her resume, leading the rebuilt Dream into playoff contention — though they’ve lost four of six.
6. Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky
Last Week: 7
Stats: 18.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 blocks
EDD Takeover mode is starting to activate. She dropped 26 in a loss to the Dream, then refused to suffer a repeat result against the Stars, scoring 19 of 23 points. If you’re already looking ahead to the 25@25 team, look to Delle Donne as a strong bet.
7. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 8
Stats: 14.3 points, 59% FG, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks
With matchup nightmares Breanna Stewart and and Candace Parker on the schedule, the Lynx needed Fowles to play big to stay undefeated. She delivered with her usual effort, especially on Tuesday when Minnesota held Parker to 3-of-13 shooting to stop the league’s top offense.
8. Emma Meesseman, Washington Mystics
Last Week: 9
Stats: 15.4 points, 53% FG, 6.5 rebounds
The Mystics won for the fourth time in five games with a 30-point rout of the previously East-leading Dream. That’s a good way for Meesseman to climb up the league’s pecking order. Washington can count now on double-figure output from its fourth-year stud every night.
9. Odyssey Sims, Dallas Wings
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 16.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.6 steals
Back leading the Wings, Skylar Diggins will make a return to these rankings if she keeps providing such a spark. But Diggins’ resurgence has also benefitted Sims, who is averaging 17.3 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 44% from the floor during Dallas’ three-game winning streak.
10. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 6
Stats: 19.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.7 3PM/G
The Mercury’s mysterious season drags on, and Taurasi did not shoot the ball well during their three straight losses this week. She still ranks second in scoring and seventh in assists, but time is ticking to lead a Phoenix turnaround.