We’re done counting down the 30 players most prepared to have the best seasons in 2021. Rookies and players like Sabrina Ionescu who have very little WNBA experience were not considered. Here’s the Top 10!
10) Tina Charles
Charles was last seen averaging 16.9 points and 7.5 rebounds for the New York Liberty in 2019. That’s the second-lowest scoring average and second-lowest rebounding average of her career. Now she’s 32 years old and has to dust off the rust after missing 2020 due to an opt out. However, Charles is one of the most talented players in the league and should still be a highly productive frontcourt player. It wouldn’t be surprising if the positive vibes of a fresh start in D.C. actually raise her numbers from 2019. She is a former MVP, a seven-time All-Star and an eight-time All-WNBA selection.
9) Nneka Ogwumike
Los Angeles Sparks
Ogwumike goes ahead of Charles on this list because she is 30 years old as opposed to 32 and is the more recent MVP, winning the award in 2016 (Charles won it in 2012).
Candace Parker started all 34 games and averaged 30.8 minutes per game in 2016 and Ogwumike still won the MVP award while playing on the same team, a team that went on to win the championship. However, in 2018 and 2020 Ogwumike took a backseat to Parker’s greatness. Now that the latter is a member of the Chicago Sky and Chelsea Gray is a member of the Las Vegas Aces, the Sparks will become unquestionably Ogwumike’s team. Can she improve on her 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in the bubble and return to being an MVP contender?
8) Courtney Vandersloot
I’m just gonna say this here…..
Courtney Vandersloot’s name needs to be at the top of the list for mvp candidates.
— Natasha Cloud (@T_Cloud4) August 21, 2020
Natasha Cloud, who opted out of the 2020 season, campaigned hard for her fellow point guard from afar, but Vandersloot did not win the MVP award. Nevertheless, Cloud brings up a good point: that we have been overlooking Vandersloot as one of the top players in the WNBA in recent years. She has led the league in assists per game four years in a row, owning that distinction by 1.5 assists in 2017, 1.5 assists in 2018, 3.1 assists in 2019 and 4.2 assists in 2020 when she became the first WNBA player to ever average 10 assists in a season. Vandersloot has averaged double-digit points in each of the last four seasons as well and shot better than 38 percent from distance in three times in that span, including 39.5 percent last year.
7) Candace Parker
Parker is one of the all-time greats, but is now past her prime. A hamstring injury delayed her start to the 2019 season, during which she averaged just 11.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. However, in 2020, at age 34, she bounced back with an All-WNBA First Team selection. She was phenomenal when playing as a point-forward and racked up 4.6 assists per game. She also averaged 14.7 points and 9.7 rebounds (eight defensive) and was named Defensive Player of the Year. Plus there’s all the intangibles that she brings to the table. You know Parker is going to want to have a big year debuting in her hometown of Chicago and if last year is any indication, she just might.
6) Jonquel Jones
Now we get into the Top 6, all of whom are MVP contenders. Jones has yet to average 16 or more points per game in a season, but is certainly capable of becoming one of the league’s best scorers with her ability to shoot the three, drive and post up at 6-foot-6. Look no further than her 32-point, 18-rebound performance in Game 2 of the 2019 Finals to understand just how gaudy her stats could be. And that display came when the lights were shining the brightest. This year, Jones will be the best player on the Sun, who will rely on her even more with Alyssa Thomas out. Look for the 27-year-old to have a monster season.
5) Brittney Griner
Griner missed the second half of last season and the playoffs for personal reasons, but averaged an impressive 17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, three assists (career high) and 1.8 blocks in her 12 games. The last time she played a full season (2019) she came in second in MVP voting to Elena Delle Donne. Her mid-range game continues to improve and she is still at the top of her game at age 30, so don’t count out another run at the MVP award. Griner came into the league with so much hype and while she has been overshadowed by Delle Donne (her draft mate), we often take for granted show how great a player she is.
4) Liz Cambage
Las Vegas Aces
Cambage has such a high ceiling with her ability to go off for monster scoring performances. She is one of the most exciting players to watch in the WNBA. Like Griner, she is in search of a first MVP award, but winning her first WNBA championship is higher on her list of priorities. Cambage came in second in MVP voting in 2018 with 23 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. She then averaged just 15.9 points and 8.2 rebounds in 2019, but scored a personal 2019 playoff-high 28 in the Aces’ one win over the Mystics in that year’s semifinals. That performance likely scared a lot of fans around the league about just how dangerous the Aces can be when Cambage and A’ja Wilson are at their best.
3) A’ja Wilson
Las Vegas Aces
Wilson is the reigning WNBA MVP and is just 24 years old. She is a phenomenal scorer and rebounder with elite back-to-the-basket moves, inside touch and mid-range shooting. She averaged 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals and two blocks in 2020. Expect her confidence to be sky-high after winning the MVP award, which is no easy task any time Breanna Stewart is in the league. Both she and Cambage may have to sacrifice individual accolades for the betterment of the Aces as a team, but Wilson definitely deserves to be at No. 3 on this list regardless of how much her numbers may dip.
2) Elena Delle Donne
Delle Donne has a better track record as a scorer than any other active player in the league who is still at the top of their game. She averaged 23.4 points per game as the MVP in 2015 and averaged 20-plus two other times. Her lowest scoring average in seven seasons is 17.9 and that came when she was battling a Lyme disease flare up in 2014. The last time she was on the court (2019), Delle Donne won her second MVP award and she should be in the running for that award again.
1) Breanna Stewart
Stewart won the MVP award in 2018 and came in second in MVP voting last year, which was impressive considering it was her first year back from a torn Achilles. With Jewell Loyd, Natasha Howard, Sue Bird and Alysha Clark surrounding her, there was little question that Stewart was going to lead her team to the WNBA championship once it got hot in the Finals. Of course, no player can win a title on their own, but Stewart was about as dominant as she could have been in the Finals, averaging 28.3 points over the three-game sweep and shooting 13-of-20 (65 percent) from beyond the arc. Because Delle Donne missed the 2020 season, many people seem to have forgotten that she was considered the best player in the world not too long ago. However, it seems fair to give the 26-year-old Stewart the edge on this list.