WNBA

WNBA 2021 MVP Ladder: Former league MVP Breanna Stewart rises back to the top

The historic 25th season of the WNBA continues rolling on.

There are still four teams that hold a winning record, although one of them is a new one. The Chicago Sky, who rebounded with the return of Candace Parker, are fourth with a 9-8 record.

Ahead of the Sky are the Connecticut Sun at third with a 10-5 record, followed by the Las Vegas Aces (11-4) and the Seattle Storm (12-4), respectively. The Indiana Fever, at 1-15, already seem to be out of any realistic contention for the playoffs, but the remaining 11 teams are still in the race.

As for the first edition of the Commissioner's Cup, the Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun are currently the two teams that would classify for the final, which will take place on August 12 before the resumption of the regular season after the Olympic break.

Considering individual performances and contributions to the team at the halfway mark of the season, here are the five players on NBA.com's third edition of the WNBA MVP Ladder.

5. Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx)

Team record: 7-7

2021 averages: 17.6 points (46 percent from the field), 6.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks in 34.5 minutes

It's time to give some attention to what Napheesa Collier is doing in Minnesota. The Lynx have won seven of the 11 games they have played with her in the line-up after an 0-3 start. The 24-year-old had a big game in their most recent win, an overtime contest against the Las Vegas Aces, as she finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Her level of play has not yet reached the high point from the 2020 season but she should certainly make the All-Star Team once again and justify her selection for the Olympics.

Shooting over 50 percent near the rim, Collier, along with Sylvia Fowles, gives Minnesota a lot of offence in the paint and from the post (1.04 points per possession in 3.2 possessions per game).

4. Liz Cambage (Las Vegas Aces)

Team record: 11-4

2021 averages: 14.8 points (58 percent from the field), 9.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.8 blocks in 25.1 minutes

The Australian's presence in the paint remains the key for the Las Vegas Aces. Also a contender for the league's Defensive Player of the Year through the first part of the season, she leads the league in defensive rating with 90.7 while collecting 30.7 percent of rebounds and ranking second for the highest percentage of blocks (5.8 percent).

In addition, she seems to be finding her touch of offence, similar to what she had in her time with the Wings in Dallas. It was only in her last game against the Storm when she failed to score in double-digits with Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum taking more responsibility for the Aces. The game snapped her 14-game streak with 10 or more points.

In the previous five meetings, Cambage averaged 16.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game as she topped it all with 18 points and 20 rebounds against Minnesota Lynx in a game in which she knocked down two 3-pointers for the third time in the WNBA.

3. A'ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces)

Team record: 11-4

2021 averages: 19.4 points (45.7 percent from the field), 8.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.2 blocks and 3 assists in 32.9 minutes

If anybody had any doubts about the impact of Wilson on the Aces' superteam, her performance this weekend against Seattle and Washington put those doubts to rest. Yes, she wasn't entirely accurate (9-24 on the field in one game and 7-24 in the other) but she is the key to everything that runs in that team.

On the most difficult of possessions, she scores easily because of her skill to go the free throw line. Against the Lynx, she finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds and four steals while against Seattle, she had 22 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two assists. Earlier in the week, she finished with 17 points against the Liberty in an easy win for the Aces.

Wilson is scoring 1.67 points per game on transition possessions, something that could scare opponents given the Aces strength on defence as they have conceded 90 or more points in just four of the 15 contests so far.

2. Jonquel Jones (Connecticut Sun)

Team record: 10-5

2021 averages: 21.6 points (56.8 percent from the field), 10.4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks in 33 minutes

Jonquel Jones has not played in the last two weeks, with her last appearance coming on June 5 before her departure to Europe to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina. Given how much Connecticut misses her on offence, it's enough for her to keep her place on the MVP Ladder. In the five games that she has missed, the Sun have gone 2-3 after having an 8-2 record prior to that.

Her numbers in Europe don't count but it's worth mentioning. She was the top scorer in Eurobasket 2021, averaging 24.3 points per game (49.5 percent accuracy in field shots) while also leading the way in rebounds by pulling down 16.8 per game. Thus, almost on her own, she led the country to a fifth-place finish with a chance to qualify for the 2022 FIBA World Cup.

She was named tournament MVP and to the All-Star Five.

1. Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)

Team record: 12-4

2021 averages: 21.8 points (46 percent from the field), 10.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.8 blocks in 33.7 minutes

Despite the 90-89 loss to the Las Vegas Aces, Stewart had one of the best performances of the season in that game. She finished with 35 points (53.8 percent from the field with 4-9 on triples), 11 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals against a great team like the Aces, showing that Las Vegas still doesn't have the formula to stop her even though they have won two of the three games against Seattle.

Stewart ranks second in the league in points per game (21.8) and blocks per game (1.8). Her win shares (3.4 - 2.1 on offence and 1.3 in defence - both of which rank in the top of the league) are another parameter to try to keep track of her dominance.

A key reason for having the Storm at the top of the standings, Stewart is on track to win the second MVP award of her career.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

Stephen Curry and Bradley Beal
Our predictions for this season's scoring leader
NBA.com Staff
James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets
Is health the only thing that can slow Nets down?
Kane Pitman
#Nets
Nets depth chart for 2021-22 season
Kane Pitman
#HardenKDKyrie
Sky's the limit for Brooklyn's Big Three
Scott Rafferty
LeBron James, Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
Lakers, Nets stacking All-Star talent at historic level
Benyam Kidane
Jock Landale, Keldon Johnson, Josh Primo
Get to know Spurs' young core
Kyle Irving
More News