An entertaining and somewhat surprising WNBA season is in the books, and it’s time to take another look at the top contenders for the MVP award. There’s no shortage of nominees as Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles have led a group of players who’ve performed at a high level throughout the season and positioned their teams for postseason success.
Elena Delle Donne – Chicago Sky
Delle Donne bounced back in a big way in 2015, turning in the best overall season of her career while helping the Sky to 21 wins and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Delle Donne led the WNBA in scoring at 23.4 points per game to go along with 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Her three-point percentage dipped to 31 percent this season, but she made up for it by posting a career-best 46 percent mark from the field overall. And it was at the free throw line that she really shined, converting 95 percent of her attempts by going 207-for-218 on the season.
2015 was a significant bounce-back season for Delle Donne, who battled injury and a reoccurrence of Lyme disease in 2014. While suffering through bouts of fatigue, she still returned in time to lead the Sky to the WNBA Finals. She spent all summer training for this season, and her hard work has paid big dividends. The Sky made some significant additions this season by adding veteran All-Star Cappie Pondexter along with Erica de Souza, but they simply aren’t a championship contender without Delle Donne.
Delle Donne has been the frontrunner for the MVP award since the first week of the season. It’d be shocking to see anyone else’s name called when the award is handed out.
Tina Charles – New York Liberty
For much of the season, it’s looked like a two-player race for the MVP award between Delle Donne and Minnesota’s Maya Moore. However, the season Tina Charles had along with the success of the New York Liberty elevates her past Moore on our final list.
The Liberty set a franchise record with 23 wins while capturing the No. 1 overall seed heading into the playoffs. Charles has been the backbone of New York’s team all season long, putting up solid numbers of 17.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the field. She’s renowned as one of the best post players in the league, and she’s added a solid mid-range jump shot to her arsenal as well.
New York’s strength is defensively, and while Charles may not block a lot of shots, she’s a good interior defender who positions herself well. The Liberty finished as the league leader in defensive rating and opponents scoring. Once one of those contested shot attempts goes up, they have Charles there waiting to clean the glass.
Maya Moore – Minnesota Lynx
Moore being third on this list shouldn’t be considered a slight to her, but rather an acknowledgment of what Delle Donne and Charles have accomplished this season. Moore turned in another spectacular campaign, leading the Lynx to 22 wins and the top seed in the Western Conference.
Moore finished second in the league in scoring this season at 20.6 points per game. Her shooting percentage dipped a bit from last season but was still a very respectable 42 percent. She knocked down 36 percent of her three-point attempts and was again an excellent free throw shooter at 85 percent. Moore averaged 6.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists, showing that she isn’t just a scorer for Minnesota.
Those numbers in any other season might be enough to earn Moore another MVP honor. This season, however, Delle Donne and Charles were just a little bit better.
Brittney Griner – Phoenix Mercury
The Phoenix Mercury began the 2015 season with a bit of uncertainty. Diana Taurasi opted to take a season off and Brittney Griner was facing a seven-game suspension to start the season. Once Griner hit the floor, however, everything seemed to fall in place for the Mercury, who finished with 20 wins and were just two games back of Minnesota for the top seed in the Western Conference.
Griner had herself another spectacular season, averaging 15.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and a league-best 4.0 blocks. She converted on 57 percent of her field goal attempts and remains the biggest defensive factor in the league. Griner’s presence will once again make the Mercury a tough matchup for any team in the playoffs.
Candace Parker – L.A. Sparks
Parker may be the most controversial name on this list given that she played in just 16 games this season due to injury. However, she was so good in those 16 games that she absolutely must be on this list. Parker averaged 19.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists while shooting 49 percent from the field. She helped carry the Sparks down the stretch into the playoffs despite finishing with a sub .500 record. Her presence alone will cause headaches for the Lynx in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs.
Parker’s run this season was phenomenal, but a bit too short to rank any higher on this list.
Best of the Rest
The case could probably be made that DeWanna Bonner was the most important player to the Phoenix Mercury this season, averaging 15.8 points while providing solid defense on the wing. Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry once again put up gaudy numbers, coming in third in scoring at 20.1 points per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. However, this season those numbers didn’t lead to a lot of wins for the Dream, who missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.