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.
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The WNBA All-Star break is upon us, providing some time to reflect on what’s happened so far and make predictions for end-of-season awards. Looking at the standings, Seattle has a comfortable lead at the top with just eight games to go. And despite the recent surge by Liz Cambage, Breanna Stewart remains atop our Race to MVP rankings as the favorite to win.
If the Storm secure the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, Stewart will almost certainly win. But Cambage has emerged as a legitimate threat. By all metrics, including Estimated Impact and Win Shares, they have been the two most dominant players in the league this season. In what could be an epic finale, Seattle and Dallas happen to meet in the last regular-season game on Aug. 19.
1. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 1
Stats: 22.8 points, 54% FG, 8.2 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.5 steals
Stewart has rarely had an off night this season, and that continued in the past week. Despite Seattle’s loss to the second-place Dream, Stewart recorded 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting and eight rebounds. The Storm still lead Atlanta by 2.5 games and do not have any more head-to-head matchups. Let’s see if Stewart can hold off the rest of the field and capture her first MVP award.
2. Liz Cambage, Dallas Wings
Last Week: 2
Stats: 22.1 points, 58% FG, 9.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks
The Wings suffered a pair of tough losses in the past week, but Cambage continues to rack up the numbers in historic fashion. After dropping a league-record 53 points against New York, she followed it up with 35 two days later, becoming the first player in WNBA history to score at least 35 in consecutive games. With more and more attention on her from opposing defenses, Cambage has also posted a career-high five assists in back-to-back games.
3. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 3
Stats: 17.1 points, 61% FG, 11.7 rebounds
Fowles and the Lynx enter the All-Star break on a three-game win streak. As Maya Moore remains inconsistent with her shot, Fowles remains the most valuable player in Minnesota. She displayed her dominance in a tough battle with Tina Charles on Tuesday, finishing with 27 points and 11 boards in the victory. Fowles has scored 25-plus points for the Lynx 17 times in her career, and Minnesota is 17-0 in those games.
4. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 6
Stats: 18.0 points, 49% FG, 7.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists
The Sparks have been without Nneka Ogwumike and Alana Beard the past few games, and Parker is putting up absurd numbers to fill the void. She had 23 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and zero turnovers in a victory over her hometown’s Sky on Sunday. However, the Sparks enter the All-Star break just four games above .500 (15-11).
5. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 4
Stats: 19.8 points, 53% FG, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks
With Diana Taurasi out of the lineup, Griner had a couple of chances to assert her dominance as the lone go-to player in the past week. But she struggled against Fowles and the Lynx – finishing with 10 points and five rebounds – and then was ejected early in the third quarter of the loss to Chicago on Tuesday. The Mercury were unable to take advantage of their homestand, losing all three games.
6. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Last Week: 7
Stats: 20.5 points, 48% FG, 7.1 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
Washington has stumbled into the All-Star break, losing three of its last four games and five of its last seven. The advanced stats say Delle Donne is right behind Stewart and Cambage in terms of overall impact, however. This past week for Delle Donne was highlighted by a 30-point night on 12-of-16 shooting in the Mystics’ win over New York.
7. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 5
Stats: 20.3 points, 45% FG, 40% 3FG, 4.8 assists
Taurasi scored 33 points against the Aces and was on her way to another great game, but she was ejected in the second quarter against Minnesota. She was then suspended for Tuesday’s game for picking up a seventh technical foul this season. Phoenix has now lost six of its last seven games and is rapidly falling in the standings after a promising start.
8. Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta Dream
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 17.2 points, 46% FG, 3.5 rebounds
After recognizing Angel McCoughtry for Atlanta’s success last week, we give the slight edge to Hayes as the most important player on the red-hot Dream. She isn’t going to the All-Star Game like McCoughtry, but Hayes is the team’s leading scorer and has been ultra consistent during the current eight-game win streak. She also is responsible for the play of the season so far, a game-winner from beyond half court in Connecticut.
9. A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Last Week: 9
Stats: 20.0 points, 44% FG, 8.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks
After going through a mini shooting slump, Wilson bounced back with a pair of strong performances in the past week as Las Vegas went 2-0. Her Aces have climbed to 12-13 and sit just outside the playoff picture with nine games to go. In the single-elimination playoff format, nobody would want to face Wilson and the Aces in Round 1. The rookie will feature in Saturday’s All-Star Game among the best players in the league, a group Wilson absolutely belongs in.
10. Skylar Diggins-Smith, Dallas Wings
Last Week: 8
Stats: 18.1 points, 42% FG, 6.3 assists, 1.6 steals
It was a bit of a rough week for Diggins-Smith. The Wings beat Washington despite Diggins-Smith finishing 0-of-6 from the floor, and then Dallas lost consecutive games to Chicago and Connecticut. She’s still been running the point well for a Wings team with an outside chance at securing a top-two seed. But Cambage is the MVP candidate in Dallas.