The poor WBNA doesn’t get a lot of credit. The league has been around for 15 full seasons now (the 16th is in progress), but it’s still more likely to be the punchline of a joke than something people take seriously. Hell, I’ll admit that I’ve made one or two of these jokes myself in the past. But here’s the thing: the WNBA isn’t what it used to be. No, it’s still not as entertaining as the NBA, but it’s no joke. The talent level has gotten much higher over the years, most likely because the best female athletes gravitate to sports they won’t have to give up playing when they graduate college. Thus, today, every member of the USA Olympic Women’s Basketball Team is a WNBA player.
Anyway, I’m not saying you should be a huge WNBA fan. For the general public it’s still a niche league. But it’s worth knowing a little bit about the league. So to that end, here’s a list of the 11 best players in the WBNA right now. The rankings are based mostly on stats from the 2012 season, but in a few cases I factored past performance/potential into the equation.
Check it out.
(Note: all stats current through Tuesday, July 10, 2012.)
At the ripe old age of 31, Sue Bird (UConn) is the second-oldest player to make the list. This year her stats are just about what they've always been: 14.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists (4th in the league) per game. However, she didn't make the list on her stats alone. It also helped that 75% of the WNBA GMs think she's the best point guard in the league according to a pre-season poll. And that's good enough for me.
11. Sue Bird (PG, Seattle Storm)
A lot of people picked 28-year-old shooting guard Seimone Augustus (Louisiana State) to win league MVP this year after a dominating WNBA finals performance last year that won a championship for the Lynx and the Finals MVP award for her. Her numbers this season aren't quite that good (16.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 and assists per game), but they're still solid. And since we know what she's capable of, we still have to include Augustus on this list.
10. Seimone Augustus (SG/PF, Minnesota Lynx)
Becky Hammon, 35 (Colorado State), is the oldest player on the list, but she's still tearing it up. When it comes to scoring points herself, it seems that Hammon peaked a few years back, averaging 19.5 PPG in 2009. This year Hammon is averaging a respectable 16.8 PPG, but she's leading the league in assists with 5.7 per contest.
9. Becky Hammon (SG, San Antonio Silver Stars)
This 25-year-old will probably may take over the title of "best point guard" pretty soon. Kristi Toliver (Maryland) is averaging 17.4 points (9th), 3.5 rebound, 5 assists (5th), and 1.4 steals per game this season, and you get the feeling that she's just getting started. So keep an eye on Toliver and the Sparks during the next several years.
8. Kristi Toliver (PG, Los Angeles Sparks)
This 28-year-old Baylor alum was only ranked 5th in that pre-season GMs poll among power forwards, but this season she's showing them she might be a little better than that. This season Young has 17 points, 7.8 rebounds (6th), 2.1 assists, and 2.5 steals (2nd) per game—now that's some well-rounded ball.
7. Sophia Young (PF, San Antonio Silver Stars)
It doesn't seem that many people saw DeWanna Bonner (Auburn) coming this year season. But low and behold, the 24-year-old is kicking ass with 20.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. If she keeps this up and maybe adds a little more defense to her game, she'll be MVP material in the coming years.
6. DeWanna Bonner (PF, Phoenix Mercury)
This 32-year-old power forward (Tennessee) has been around a few years, which is why she's regarded as one of the league's best. This season she's only in the top 5 in one statistical category—steals, with 2.06 per game—but when you combine that with her 17.6 points (8th), 7.4 rebounds (9th), and 3.1 assists, that makes her one of the most well-rounded players in the league.
5. Tamika Catchings (PF, Indiana Fever)
Tina Charles (UConn) is only in her third season, but she's already one of the most dominant players in the WNBA. The 23-year-old center is averaging 18.4 points (7th), 11.4 rebounds (2nd), and 1.18 blocks (4th) per game. So she is definitely an MVP candidate this season.
4. Tina Charles (C, Connecticut Sun)
Another serious MVP candidate? The 25-year-old Angel McCoughtry (Louisville). She leads the league in points (22.6 PPG) and steals (3.15 SPG) to go along with her 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. No wonder 25% of league GMs said she was the best small forward in the WNBA.
3. Angel McCoughtry (G/F, Atlanta Dream)
At #2 we have the only WNBA player on this list who is a household name. Candace Parker, 26 (Tennesse), made history when she became the first woman to dunk in an NCAA Tournament game, and the first to dunk twice in a single regular season NCAA game. So there was already hype around her when she entered the WNBA in 2008. Then she lived up to the hype by winning the MVP award that year. Oh, yeah, and a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.
This year? Yep, she may win another MVP award. Parker is 5th in points (19.0 PPG), 3rd in rebounds (10.3 RPG), and 1st in blocked by a country mile (2.53 BPG, with the next best being a measly 1.53). So this is one power forward you want on your team.
2. Candace Parker (PF, Los Angeles Sparks)
That Sylvia Fowles (LSU) takes the top spot on our list isn't an upset. 16.7% of GMs said she would win the MVP award this season, and 41.67% said she was the best center in the league—the exact same percentage that said Tina Charles was the best center. However, you may not have even heard of this 26-year-old.
So what are her numbers this year? Fowles is averaging 19.3 points (4th), 12.9 rebounds (1st), and 1.13 blocks (5th) per game while paying a stout 34.5 minutes. Not bad, right?