With the WNBA All-Star and Olympic breaks behind us, the league is now loading up for the stretch run. Three teams — the Connecticut Sun, Las Vegas Aces, and Seattle Storm — have established themselves at the top of the league. There is a strong group of contenders beneath them, led by the Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury, and Chicago Sky.
We’ve seen strong performances from many different players across the league this season. Whether it is Jonquel Jones showing us just how deadly a 6’6 forward could be around the rim and knocking it down from deep, or Tina Charles showing us how much work she put in during the offseason by how she’s scoring at will now, it has been fun to watch.
There is certainly no shortage of talent this season, so here is a look at the top five players I think are contenders to take home the title of 2021 WNBA MVP.
5. Tina Charles
Stats: 25.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 55.4 percent true shooting
Tina Charles is having one of her best seasons to date. She currently leads the league in scoring with 25.7 points per game. That is five points more than the second-leading scorer, Jonquel Jones. Tina’s road to MVP candidacy has been a long one. She was the WNBA MVP in 2012, but she missed all of last season on a medical exemption.
No one knew how she would return, and it’s safe to say that she has been a force for the Mystics, keeping them afloat amid injuries that have ripped through their roster. The thin roster has played a big part in Tina’s success this season as 2019 league MVP Elena Delle Donne heals from back surgery, but that does not take away from all that Charles has accomplished this season. She is currently on pace to break the WNBA’s all-time single-season scoring record.
To put this in perspective, Tina is shooting 46.6 percent from the field. That is her third-best shooting percentage since she entered the league in 2012, and it is only third to her 2010 and 2012 seasons, where she won Rookie of the Year and league MVP. She is also shooting her highest three point percentage at 38 percent on 5.2 attempts per game, the most averaged attempts per game in her career. Though she is at number five, Charles is well on her way to moving up the ranks and claiming league MVP.
4. Napheesa Collier
Stats: 17.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals, 54 percent true shooting
In her third year in the league, Collier is averaging a career-high 17.3 points per game for the Minnesota Lynx. She’s leading the league in minutes.
Collier arrived to the Lynx late after completing her overseas commitment and then having to produce six negative Covid-19 tests to join the team. Once she did, she helped the 1-4 Lynx make a quick turnaround with a three-game winning streak. With her on the floor, the Lynx have only lost four of their last 17 games. Without her, they lost four of their first five. She is a difference-maker for the Lynx.
In 2019, she was Rookie of the Year and was on the All-Rookie team. In 2020, she was named to the All-WNBA Second Team and the All-Defensive Second Team. If this trend continues, she might be this year’s WNBA MVP, and if not this year, definitely sometime in the future.
3. Breanna Stewart
Stats: 20.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 56.6 percent true shooting
Over the past 12 months, Stewart has continued to add accolades to her illustrious resume. She won the 2020 WNBA Finals and was named Finals MVP. She became a EuroLeague Champion and was the Final Four MVP. She also became the Russian Premier League champion, and won gold with Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics. Take a moment to let all of that success sink in.
It may be safe to say that she is playing her best basketball yet, and still, she continues to get better. Her first half of the WNBA season was stellar, and now in the second, we see no signs of drop-off.
Stewart is third in points per game, fifth in rebounds, and third in blocks across the league. She has led the Storm to a 16-6 season so far and third place in the league standings. With all the success she’s had and the stats to back up just how great she has been, it wouldn’t be surprising if she became the league MVP for the second time in her career.
2. A’ja Wilson
Stats: 19.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 3.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 55.1 percent true shooting
The Las Vegas Aces are a superteam with the best record across the league. Still, with all that talent, Wilson has continued to shine. A’ja is the reigning league MVP, and this year she is back with stats good enough to claim it again.
As the Aces race towards a title this year, it is evident that Wilson is the focal point of everything the team does. They finished with the best record in the WNBA last season and are on-trend to do the same this year, with A’ja leading the way with the most points and rebounds per game.
It’s not just her ability to score at will that makes her a great candidate but also how she’s a great rim protector. Could she repeat? Possibly. But I believe there is only one player ahead of her that could walk away with the title instead.
1. Jonquel Jones
Stats: 20.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals, 64.5 percent true shooting
Jonquel Jones is having the best season of her WNBA career. Though she missed five games playing Eurobasket, that has not stopped her from being my top-ranked MVP candidate for this season.
Along with DeWanna Bonner, she is the cornerstone of the Connecticut Sun, and her presence on the court cannot go unseen. This versatile 6’6 forward averages a double-double, shooting 53.9 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from the three. She also leads the league in rebounds and was named an All-Star for the third time in her five-year career.
Jones also leads the Sun in four of the five main stat categories, points, rebounds, steals, and blocks, making her the only player to lead her team in four of the five main categories. Simply put, she is the Sun’s most valuable player, and arguably the league’s as well.
Though we are still a ways away from the 2021 WNBA MVP announcement, it will be exciting to see how each of these players crank up their performance as we head quickly towards the end of the regular season.
How do you think will end up with the title?