It is the halfway mark of the WNBA season and there’s no better time to take a closer look at the players who have been at the top of their game so far.
The MVP discussion is always a hot topic and this year is no different. The best of the best have catapulted themselves into the conversation with a lot of familiar faces still in the mix.
Here are the players leading the MVP race:
Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
Season averages: 21.0 PPG, 54.0 FG%, 11.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.1 BPG
The biggest reason for the Connecticut Sun’s success so far (14-6) is frontwoman Jonquel Jones. The Sun are right in the thick of things, currently third in the standings right behind league leaders Seattle Storm and Las Vegas Aces.
Jones is having a career year in scoring with an average of 21.0 points, good for second overall. She’s hitting a personal-best 2.1 triples, and it’s no fluke that she came close to beating Chicago Sky’s Allie Quigley in the recent All-Star 3-point shooting contest.
What makes this season particularly special for the 27-year-old, however, is how consistent she’s been in all facets of her game. Her scoring, rebounding, and defense are all coming together. For instance, her 54.0 percent field goal shooting and 11.1 rebounds aren’t career-highs (although it’s close) but this is the season where she’s hitting both categories at extremely high levels.
Before the Olympic break, Jones missed five games because of EuroBasket. And even though she continued her stellar play competing in international basketball, she can’t afford to miss any more games this season if she wants to win MVP.
Tina Charles, Washington Mystics
Season averages: 26.3 PPG, 46.8 FG%, 10.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG
The Washington Mystics’ season has been marred by injuries and they are barely staying afloat with an 8-10 record. Missing key players such as two-time champion Alysha Clark and two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne have definitely impacted the team.
The Mystics, however, are not at the bottom of the standings and they still have a lot of firepower, largely thanks to Tina Charles. She’s leading the league in scoring with 26.3 points per game. Whenever she scores at least 30 points, the Mystics are 6-2.
Charles has always been a bucket-getter but this season has shown how much her game has expanded beyond the arc. She’s knocking down a personal-best 2.0 3-pointers on 37.0 percent shooting out of 5.4 shots, the most she has attempted in a season.
Charles ended the first half of the season with an MVP performance of 34 points and 17 rebounds in a win over the Sky.
Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Season averages: 20.6 PPG, 45.0 FG%, 9.6 RPG. 2.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.7 BPG
In pursuit of a second straight title with the Storm, Stewart is once again putting up MVP numbers. The defending champions pace the league with a 16-5 record and look as formidable as ever.
Stewart currently ranks third in scoring, fifth in rebounding, and tied for third in blocks. She’s doing a little bit of everything and remains the cornerstone of the team’s success. This isn’t to say that Jewell Lloyd (17.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.2 APG) and Sue Bird (10.9 PPG, 5.5 APG) aren’t holding their own but Stewart is the difference-maker.
There have been several games this season when the Storm seemed ready to lose before Stewart would swoop in and save the day. She has that “I-will-put-this-team-on-my-back” gear that she can tap into to help her team get the victory.
A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Season averages: 19.4 PPG, 45.3 FG%, 9.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.3 BPG
The reigning MVP is still churning out solid numbers, pushing the Aces to the second-best record at 15-6, a game behind the Storm. Her scoring and shooting may have dipped a bit from last season (20.5 points on 48.0 percent), but she’s improved her game in other areas.
Wilson is now shooting 91.3 percent from the free-throw line after being a sub-80 percent shooter in her first three seasons. She’s pulling down more rebounds (9.0) and dishing out more assists (3.1) than ever before.
Everything is clicking well for the Aces who are number one in offensive rating (107.0) and tied for first in defensive rating (95.1). Liz Cambage has been an absolute force in the paint and Kelsey Plum has proven to be a strong offensive weapon off the bench. Not to mention, the Aces have Chelsea Gray in the mix too. The three, who did not play in the Aces’ runner-up season last year, are complementing Wilson’s game to perfection.
Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Season averages: 15.9 PPG, 60.8 FG%, 9.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.9 BPG
The 35-year-old veteran is having a strong bounce-back year after a calf injury-plagued 2020 season where she only played seven games. With Fowles as an anchor on both ends, the Lynx have won seven straight before the Olympic break.
Fowles winning MVP may be a long shot, but she’s definitely in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. Her league-leading 2.0 steals are a career-high and her 1.9 blocks are second only to Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner this season.
Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas Wings
Season averages: 18.9 PPG, 38.9 FG%, 3.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 SPG
Of course, we need to give a huge shootout to Ogunbowale, who won the MVP honors versus Team USA in her first All-Star game. She is a scoring dynamo that continues to improve her offensive prowess in just her third year in the league.
After winning the scoring title last year and being included in the All-WNBA First Team, she’s on pace for another award by season’s end.
Betnijah Laney, New York Liberty
Season averages: 19.0 PPG, 48.5 FG%, 4.1 RPG, 5.0 APG, 0.5 SPG
The 2020 WNBA Most Improved Player is still improving. After putting up career numbers last season, she’s even better this year in putting the ball in the hoop.
She has upped her scoring and shooting (from 17.2 points and 48.1 percent), plus her career-high 5.0 assists shouldn’t be overlooked as well. After making a significant impact with the Atlanta Dream last year, she’s having the same effect with the New York Liberty this season.
From being cut by the Indiana Fever right before the bubble to being one of the faces of the league, Laney’s inspiring story continues.