I'm going to abstain from making any further public comment about the MVP race until the season is complete.
That might seem silly given that there's only a day left, but how this final day shakes out might have an influence on how I think about that award. The fact is that by any reasonable notion of "value" the pool has expanded to four -- not contracted -- and Seattle Storm center Lauren Jackson is not necessarily the obvious choice that some people would like to believe she is. That's not a slight against Jackson but respecting the fact that a number of players have performed quite well and deserve consideration despite the fact that Jackson has had an outstanding season.
So while I continue to waffle on the MVP, here are the rest of the awards which are far more obvious at this point in the season.
All-WNBA First Team: The fifth spot is the only one in question
G- Sue Bird, Seattle Storm
G- Cappie Pondexter, New York Liberty
F- Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever
C - Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky
Too good to be confined by positionality - Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm
In my opinion, there's really only one spot up for grabs here and that is the one Bird occupies -- there are at least five players with a strong statistical argument for having that spot over Bird. However, where Bird gets the nod is that she is by far the best point guard in the game this year.
The other four are non-negotiable as far as I'm concerned.
Sixth Woman of the Year: DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury
A few weeks ago this seemed ridiculously obvious -- there really wasn't anyone close. Then a few things changed.
Epiphanny Prince got more productive as Bonner's production fell off a bit. And that Plenette Pierson has been both productive off the bench and managed to maintain a positive plus/minus is quite impressive.
However, without going into a deep analysis of why Bonner gets the award, a large part of it the versatility she brings off the bench. Against the Storm alone, she's able to put full court pressure on Sue Bird in their last game in Seattle, she had three blocks against the Storm last night, and as she continues to extend the range on her jumpshot she's becoming harder and harder to guard. What makes her the best bench player in the league is that she causes matchup problems rather than just filling a role as the other candidates do so productively.
Other candidates: Epiphanny Prince, Plenette Pierson, Charde Houston, Sandrine Gruda
Most Improved Player: Leilani Mitchell, New York Liberty
Loved LJRotter's piece on Monique Currie. But it's still Leilani Mitchell for MIP. The reason why Fowles absolutely has to be All-WNBA: she's a legitimate candidate for MIP and MVP. Nobody should penalize her for the fact that the Sky didn't make the playoffs.
Rookie of the Year: Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun
This is so clear that instead of making arguments for Charles, I invite you to present arguments against her.
Prince, Chicago Sky
Kelsey Griffin, Connecticut Sun
Kalana Greene, New York Liberty
Jana Vesela, Seattle Storm
Had Natasha Lacy stayed with the Shock, she'd have a strong argument for making this team over Greene and/or Vesela. In fact, statistically, as it stands she still does.
What will be interesting is if voters recognize just how good Vesela has been because she spent the beginning of the season on the bench behind one of the most productiive starting fives in WNBA history, not to mention two veterans coming off the bench. She is definitely a part of the rotation now and clearly more comfortable with the WNBA style of play.
So the only thing that makes this team obvious is that I'd say that this group of 5 (or 6) has remained pretty stable since mid-season.
- MVP: please see the statement above about there being four non-negotiable players for All-WNBA honors
- Coach of the Year: Possibly because I've been covering the Storm this year, I would lean strongly toward Storm coach Brian Agler. But if New York or Washington wins the Eastern Conference -- especially Washington -- I would certainly be open to changing my mind.
All-WNBA Second Team: After those four non-negotiables for the first team, I have a list of 10 players deserving of consideration for All-League honors. I would say that Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor are locks. Crystal Langhorne deserves a spot for Washington's success. Charles has simply been outstanding as a rookie. Then it gets really murky. Candice Dupree (outstanding July), Angel McCoughtry (among the league's most dynamic scorers), Sancho Lyttle (excellent interior player), and Lindsay Whalen (among the best at her position) could all make a claim to a spot on the team, perhaps over some of the aforementioned players.
- Defensive awards: All-Defensive team has three easy ones: Catchings, Fowles, Jackson. But defensive player of the year? That's a bit tougher. It could simply go to the MVP runner-up.