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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For most of the 2017 season, both Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike hovered near the top of the WNBA MVP race, as both Sparks stars had strong cases for the league’s top individual honor. That may happen again this year, but there could be a similar situation in Phoenix if Diana Taurasi continues to light up the scoreboard.
At age 36, Taurasi is having arguably her best season in five years. She won her only MVP award in 2009 and finds herself still in the conversation nine years later. In this week’s edition, she joins teammate Brittney Griner in our top five.
On another note, Aces rookie A’ja Wilson is making enough noise to be considered here despite her team’s record (4-9). If she keeps posting 20-point double-doubles on a nightly basis, the No. 1 pick will appear on this list in the near future.
1. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 1
Stats: 20.4 points, 59% FG, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 blocks
The Mercury have won eight straight games, the second-longest win streak in franchise history. Griner capped off another dominant week with 24 points, eight rebounds and six blocks as Phoenix defeated Las Vegas on the road Sunday. Next for Griner is a matchup with reigning MVP Sylvia Fowles and the Lynx on Friday (10 PM ET, ESPN3) as part of a six-game slate of WNBA action.
2. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Last Week: 2
Stats: 22.0 points, 52% FG, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
The league’s leading scorer, Stewart continues to pile up the points for the 8-4 Storm. They suffered a disappointing home loss to Las Vegas on Tuesday, but Seattle was without starters Sue Bird and Alysha Clark. It doesn’t help that fellow No. 1 draft pick Jewell Loyd is in a shooting slump. Stewart, however, seems to be solidifying her case to be one of the MVP favorites at the end of the season.
3. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 4
Stats: 16.5 points, 57% FG, 46% 3FG, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals
While the Mercury’s win streak is capturing the most buzz, L.A. has won five straight and sits atop the standings at 9-2. Ogwumike continues to have yet another incredibly efficient season. She’s leading the Sparks in scoring, rebounding, steals, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. Ogwumike drained 16 of 26 triples during her MVP season, and the veteran forward is on track for another solid year from deep.
4. Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
Last Week: 3
Stats: 12.0 points, 49% FG, 9.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists
It’s been a brutal start to Connecticut’s five-game road trip. Thomas was sidelined against Seattle and Phoenix with a shoulder injury, and the Sun dropped both contests to fall to 7-4. Still, through Tuesday’s games, Thomas owns the best plus-minus rating in the entire WNBA for the second straight year.
5. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Last Week: 8
Stats: 20.2 points, 42% FG, 4.5 assists
Taurasi has scored at least 18 points in every game during the Mercury’s win streak. In Sunday’s contest against the Aces, every shot she attempted from the field was a three-pointer. She made just six of 15 attempts but went 10-for-10 at the foul line and added seven assists in a stellar all-around performance. It’s worth noting that Taurasi’s plus-minus rating is by far the best on the Mercury, including Griner. Phoenix’s offense struggles mightily when she’s off the court.
6. Chelsea Gray, Los Angeles Sparks
Last Week: 7
Stats: 15.5 points, 49% FG, 5.9 assists, 1.5 steals
Candace Parker will likely take Gray’s spot on this list soon, but Parker has missed enough games and the Sparks’ point guard continues to play at an extremely high level. This past week, she dished at least five assists and shot at least 50 percent from the floor in every contest as the Sparks went 3-0. A month into the season, Gray leads the WNBA in total assists (65).
7. Tina Charles, New York Liberty
Last Week: 5
Stats: 21.6 points, 47% FG, 7.0 rebounds
The Liberty came close to another loss Tuesday night – it would have dropped them to 3-7 – but Charles delivered with 29 points, eight rebounds and three assists to hold off Atlanta. Earlier in the week, she was held to five combined rebounds in losses to the Lynx and Aces. New York will need more consistent play from Charles to avoid missing the playoffs for just the second time in her stint with the Liberty (2014).
8. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Last Week: 10
Stats: 18.0 points, 60% FG, 12.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals
Here come the Lynx, now sitting at 5-6 after victories over New York and Dallas. A second straight MVP is likely out of reach for Fowles, but the veteran center is showing why she’s one of the league’s most dominant players. She had 19 points, 17 boards and five steals against the Wings, the second time she’s reached the 15-15-5 line with steals this season. No other player has done that once in the past five years.
9. Liz Cambage, Dallas Wings
Last Week: 9
Stats: 19.7 points, 55% FG, 10.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks
She was outshined by Fowles on Tuesday, but Cambage had a memorable week in her own right. The Australian center matched her career high in points (28) and set a new career high in rebounds (18) in a win over Las Vegas, as A’ja Wilson was limited to 14 points and three boards. Cambage then set a new career high in assists with five – while posting 16 points and nine rebounds – despite the loss to Minnesota.
10. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Last Week: Unranked
Stats: 17.8 points, 47% FG, 6.4 rebounds
Delle Donne has already missed four games this year, but she’s done enough in her eight appearances to earn a spot on this list. That includes a 36-point outing last Wednesday as the Mystics defeated the then-first place Sun on the road. Washington is 6-2 with Delle Donne in the lineup and 7-4 overall. After traveling to Chicago to face her former team on Friday, she and the Mystics will look to take advantage of a four-game homestand.