It's the halfway point of the WNBA season and there are plenty of talking points as we head into the All-Star Game and the Olympic break.
Here are five takeaways that stuck out to me in the first half of the WNBA season.
Tina Charles is better than ever
Tina Charles is absolutely hooping right now. Charles is having a career year averaging 26.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 37.0 percent from three.
Charles decided to sit out the 2020 WNBA season due to health concerns around the coronavirus pandemic but in 2021 she's back and better than ever. Should Charles maintain her points per game average, she'll break Diana Taurasi's record of 25.3 points per game set in 2006. She's added the 3-point shot to her game and done it efficiently taking 5.4 per game. She's three 3-pointers shy from surpassing her career-high in attempts at 92 total threes taken this season. According to Basketball-Reference, 25.5 percent of her field goal attempts are now coming from three - which is by far a career-high.
Charles is a stud having an other-worldly season, but the modernization of her game has allowed her to be a bucket-getting machine in the early part of the season. It will also allow her to plug and play type player amongst all the talent Team USA is sending to the Olympics.
Charles is having an MVP season, if the Mystics can get healthy in the second half of the year, they'll help Charles get the MVP votes she deserves.
Jonquel Jones is the MVP
As a great a season as Tina Charles is having, Jonquel Jones is putting together one of the greatest seasons in league history. Jones is averaging 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists while shooting 54.0 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from three.
Should she finish the season with her 31.05 efficiency rating it would rank her 12th all-time in single-season efficiency marks. Should she finish the year with her 65.4 true shooting percentage it would be a top 20 all-time mark.
And as well as she's done offensively, she's bringing it defensively too. With Jones on the floor, the Sun have a defensive rating of 90.8 according to WNBA Stats. When she sits, that number goes up to 95.5. Opposing players are shooting just 50.0 percent with Jones guarding them in the restricted area this season. For comparison, the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert allowed opposing players to shoot 60.0 percent this season in the same area. Jones' defensive rebounding percentage of 32.14 would rank fifth all-time if she finishes the season at that mark.
Jonquel Jones has been special all year long and if the season ended today would get my vote for MVP. She's putting together an all-time great year that deserves our utmost attention.
The Aces are locking teams up
The Las Vegas Aces hit the break with the league's second-best record and it's in large part to their lockdown defensive.
The team has the best defensive rating in the league at 95.1. They lead the league in defensive rebounds per game at 31.8. No team allows fewer points off turnovers than the Aces at 13.2 per game. Teams have an effective field goal percentage of just 45.4 against the Aces according to Basketball-Reference and they don't foul either as opposing team's free throw rate is just 17.4 when they play Las Vegas.
Four of their players rank in the top ten in defensive win shares this season (A'ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, Dearica Hamby and Jackie Young).
Wilson, Cambage and Hamby all have an argument to be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. It will be a conversation we'll have to pick up on the other side of the break but one thing is for sure, the Aces have a defence that they can ride to a championship.
Chicago Sky gearing up for a strong second-half run
Canadice Parker missed eight games, Allie Quigley missed six games, Stefanie Dolson also missed six games, but now the Sky should have their lineup intact coming out of the Olympic break and primed for a strong second-half run.
It's clear that when Chicago has their bodies on the floor, they're one of the league's better teams. In the first nine games of the season where Parker, Quigley and Dolson all missed time, the Sky had a 2-7 record and a net rating of minus-2.5. Since then, with the return of all three aforementioned players, the Sky are 8-3 with a net rating of plus-7.8.
Sometimes sports are simple, if you're healthy you'll have the best chance to win. In Chicago's case, the Sky will be a contender with all their available bodies on the floor.
Chicago has five road games remaining this season, it comes in the form of a five-game road trip beginning at the end of August. We'll learn if this team is ready to compete with the Sun, Storm and Aces on that trip.
Dallas' future is ultra-bright
The Wings are the youngest team in the league with an average age of 24.8 but every time I watch them play I can see the potential jump off the screen.
There's so much talent there that's going to be around this league for a very long time. Arike Ogunbowale is a bucket - when she gets some consistency with her efficiency she'll be unstoppable. Satou Sabally just feels like she can fit in any system and be productive and Marina Mabrey looks comfortable coming off the bench in the instant offence role. Charli Collier has shown flashes and plays with the swagger that she'll be as good as promised down the line.
But as with any young team, you can see room for growth in a ton of areas, but specifically in close games. 12 of the 20 games the Wings have played to this point have been decided in clutch situations where the Wings are just 3-9. Offensively, they've been great scoring at a rate of 115.9 points per 100 possessions in clutch situations. Defensively, however, Dallas has been dreadful, allowing 124.8 points per 100 in the clutch - by far the worst mark in the league.
It's going to take time, but the Wings will figure it out and when they do look out because they're going to be good for a long time.
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