Before we take a look at the MVP race, here are the top players in the WNBA based on the formula of adding up points, rebounds, steals and blocks per game plus assists per game times 1.5. Team success and intangibles also matter, but the numbers provided the starting point for this list.
1) Jonquel Jones
2021 averages: 20.3 points, 11 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.1 blocks
Jones missed the 2020 season as a health precaution so the last time we saw her before this season was during her incredible 2019 Finals run. She averaged 19.2 points and 11 rebounds over the five-game series, which her Connecticut Sun lost to the Washington Mystics. We knew Jones had all the tools to be a WNBA superstar and they were on full display. She entered the 2021 season as an MVP candidate and at No. 6 in Swish Appeal’s Top 30 player list. She has been nothing short of spectacular this season and leads the first-place Sun (21-6) so she is considered to be the MVP frontrunner. In her most recent outing, on Tuesday, she posted 31 points and 14 rebounds in a win over the Mystics.
2) Breanna Stewart
2021 averages: 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.8 blocks
Stewart certainly helped her cause with 33 points on Thursday night, but could the best player in the world finish second in MVP voting for the second year in a row? She won the award for the first time in 2018, but missed 2019 with a torn Achilles and then A’ja Wilson took the prize in 2020. But greatness isn’t measured solely by MVP awards, as sustained success near the top is often the best indicator of it. Diana Taurasi is widely considered to be the GOAT and only has one MVP award. And it just may not be in the cards for Stewart this year. She has been phenomenal and has two 35-plus-point games to her credit, but her Seattle Storm have stumbled, losing five of eight since the Commissioner’s Cup championship game to fall three games behind the Sun.
3) Brittney Griner
2021 averages: 20.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 2 blocks
Griner is still chasing her first MVP award, but, like Stewart, she has consistently been near the top of the league. It has been refreshing to see Griner play so well this year after missing part of last season to focus on her mental health. She was second in the league in scoring until Stewart’s amazing performance Thursday night and is looking at breaking her career high in rebounds per game by 1.5. Phoenix’s seven-game winning streak has them at 16-10 — good enough for Griner to be in MVP consideration. And Griner has been such a huge part of that success with her incredible consistency. Some may argue that she is not as valuable because she has No. 7 player on this list in Skylar Diggins-Smith playing with her, while A’ja Wilson, whose Aces are 3.5 games better, doesn’t have anyone else in the Top 12. But I think Griner has been too good to put her behind Wilson, who may not have a single co-star as great as Diggins-Smith, but has a loaded roster backing her up.
4) A’ja Wilson
2021 averages: 18.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.4 blocks
The reigning MVP has scored in double digits in every game except for a contest on Aug. 24 where she shot 1-of-15 from the field. That performance hurt her MVP chances, but she bounced back with 21 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists last Thursday, giving her more 20/10/5 games in her first four years than any player ever. Wilson has dealt with the pressure of leading the favorites and been the best player on a team full of stars. It was thought before the season that she had no chance of winning the MVP award while playing alongside Liz Cambage, so for her to even be in this discussion is impressive. Wilson leads the WNBA in made free throws and is shooting 87.1 percent from the stripe. That level of reliability makes her so valuable.
A’ja Wilson got her 7th career game with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists last night. Per Elias, she passes Tamika Catchings for the most such games in a player’s first four seasons.
This season, Wilson is tied with Griner, Stewie and Jonquel for most double-doubles (13). pic.twitter.com/gYiMDWU93C
— ESPN Women’s Hoops (@ESPN_WomenHoop) August 27, 2021
5) Tina Charles
2021 averages: 25.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 0.9 blocks
Charles being on the 10-16 Mystics hurts her MVP chances, but if she was putting up her numbers for a team near the top she would be the frontrunner. Since her shot at winning MVP is now nearly gone, her shot at setting a new WNBA scoring average record becomes of sole interest. She is currently 0.1 ahead of Diana Taurasi’s record set in 2006 and has been out the past four games with a gluteal strain. If Charles plays in all six remaining Mystics games, she will be up to 27 games on the season. Taurasi played in 34 games in 2006, but it would still be an incredible accomplishment for Charles. Sylvia Fowles was in consideration for No. 5 on this list, but if it came down to her and Charles, I couldn’t go against a player who set or nearly set the scoring record, even though Fowles has had far more team success.
6) Sylvia Fowles
2021 averages: 16.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.8 blocks
Fowles has had a few monster performances, including 29 points and 20 rebounds on Aug, 24. However, her season scoring average lags behind the five players ahead of her on this list. Also, she has been neck and neck with Napheesa Collier all season long in terms of being the best player on the Lynx, so you can’t say she has single-handedly carried a team. Fowles was all the way down at No. 17 on my Top 30 list to begin the season, so she certainly put me on notice.
7) Skylar Diggins-Smith
2021 averages: 19.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks
Diggins-Smith has scored in double figures in every game she has played at least two minutes in this season. She, like Griner, has been so consistent and deserves a ton of credit for the Mercury’s success. She has been especially hot lately with four 20-point, five-assist games in a row and a 61.9 percent effort from distance over her last five. She has become exactly what Phoenix needs her to be in year two in the desert and is the best point guard in the WNBA this year.
8) Courtney Vandersloot
2021 averages: 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 9 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.4 blocks
Vandersloot may be the least-talked about MVP candidate on this list. She was certainly in the conversation for the award last year when she averaged 13.6 points and 10 assists per game. Her distributing has been as phenomenal as ever, though it hasn’t been getting the same attention because it’s hard to top what she in the wubble. However, she has 10 points-assists double-doubles, already one more than last year. Vandersloot isn’t a legitimate contender for the award, nor is anybody else below her on this list. However, she deserves to be ranked eighth for sheer assist volume.
9) Jewell Loyd
2021 averages: 17.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.2 blocks
Loyd gets the edge over some players with slightly better numbers than her because of all the clutch moments she has had this season. Breanna Stewart could not ask for a better Robin. Watch out for Loyd come playoff time.
10) DeWanna Bonner
2021 averages: 15.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.9 blocks
Bonner has been a great second-best player for the Sun. Instead of penalizing her for playing with Jonquel Jones, let’s celebrate her contributions to the best team in the league because she has helped them recover from the absence of Alyssa Thomas and been a great leader.
11) Napheesa Collier
2021 averages: 16 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks
Collier’s rebounding numbers took the biggest dip from 2020 as averaged nine boards per game in the wubble. The numbers aren’t there for her to win MVP this year, but she is a bright young star who will be back in this race in the years to come.
12) Candace Parker
2021 averages: 13.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.2 blocks
I’ll throw Parker on here after her performance Thursday night, but she lags behind in games played.