Friday, August 17, 2007

The Rest of the MVP Ballot

Hopefully, by now you've seen our Lauren Jackson for MVP page, which makes the case for Jackson to win the WNBA's highest individual honor for the second time in her career. You might accurately guess that Jackson is at the top of my (strictly mythical) MVP ballot. How about the rest?

Tamika Catchings has key numbers - PER and net plus-minus, notably - that are not far behind LJ's. Had Catchings stayed healthy, it would have been hard to begrudge MVP voters for rewarding Catchings for her years of excellence. As it is, she ends up second on my ballot.

The other player who comes out looking very good in the stat table that anchors the LJ for MVP page is Penny Taylor. The Phoenix forward has been as good on offense as anyone in the WNBA this season, and it's translated into the Mercury's success with her on and off the court in a way Diana Taurasi's play has not. Taylor carried Phoenix during the middle of the year, including dominating performances in the two games Taurasi missed due to league suspension. She gets my third-place vote.

My fourth-place vote goes to Becky Hammon. Hammon might be getting more credit for San Antonio's turnaround than her performance would justify - especially keeping in mind the Silver Stars going 4-1 without her and a relatively low net plus-minus rating - but she has still had a brilliant season, one of the best for a point guard in league history.

To round out my (again, mythical) ballot, I'm going with something of an oddball pick: Lindsay Whalen. The Sun is campaigning for Whalen's backcourt-mate, Katie Douglas, for MVP, but it's Whalen who has keyed the team's run in the second half of the season. I broke Whalen's performance down into her first 16 games of the season and her second 16 and her PER skyrocketed from 17.0 to 27.3 over those two spans. Whalen was rebounding and passing the ball well, but she's been on fire with her shooting since the end of June, shooting 55.4% from the field over the last 16 games. Add it up and Whalen has been as valuable as anyone in the league over the last month and a half.

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