I decided to rank the Top 4 players on each team who I think should have the best shot at Finals MVP if their team wins. Performances in losses for their team were not taken into consideration, not even a little. I believe regular season MVP should have less to do with team success and that you should be able to look back in history and learn who the most talented player was in a particular season, rather than see the best team’s best player. But for Finals MVP, I believe it should be who helped the champions win the series and only on rare occasions does a great performance in a loss provide momentum or tire the other team out. As a result of my philosophy, DeWanna Bonner is second in my MVP race for the Sun despite struggling mightily in Games 1 and 2. If she is really good in three games in this series, I’ll be able to forget about the other two.
1) A’ja Wilson
The Aces still lead the series and therefore their top player still has the best odds of winning Finals MVP. To me, that player has been Wilson. Chelsea Gray would win MVP of the playoffs as a whole if their was such a thing, but we have to remember that her two best games, which really had everyone talking, came against Seattle and not in the Finals.
Wilson had 24 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and four blocks in Game 1. In Game 2, she didn't stuff the stat sheet quite as well, but had another double-double and her 26 points came on an impressive 10-of-13 shooting from the field. I often question her ability to take over a game the way Breanna Stewart can, but she is versatile enough with her mid-range and inside games to do so. Plus, her defense is off the charts. If we were counting Game 3, I thought she kept up her ferociousness on offense and made a bigger impact than her 19 points indicate.
2) Chelsea Gray
We all keep expecting Gray to cool off at some point, but she has shot better than 50 percent from the field with at least four makes in every playoff game so far. In Game 1 of the Finals she shot 9-of-17 from the field and had 21 points. In Game two she was 9-of-16 with the same scoring total. She has shot 50 percent or better from three with at least three makes in six of nine playoff games, but Games 1 and 2 of the Finals (the Aces’ wins, which is all that I'm counting) were two of the three exceptions (2-of-7 and 2-of-6, respectively). She had three assists in Game 1 and eight in Game 2. She also had three steals in Game 2.
Game 2 was a blowout, so Gray wasn’t asked to be the closer in a pressure situation. But in Game 1, she made two clutch mid-range shots — both heavily contested — in the fourth quarter. Not quite enough clutchness to give her the edge over Wilson’s numbers though.
3) Kelsey Plum
Plum was 1-of-9 from the field with six points in Game 1. She had a very good Game 2 with 20 points and seven assists, but with just one strong game she is far behind Wilson and Gray in this race. But let’s give her credit for Game 2; she responded after Wilson demanded excellence of her.
4) Jackie Young
Young doesn’t really have a case for Finals MVP unless we count Game 3, which the Aces lost. But I came up with four candidates for the Sun, so I thought I’d mentioned the fourth-best for the Aces. Young joined Wilson and Gray in double figures in Game 1 with 11 points before totaling five points and six rebounds in Game 2. Game 1 was a two-woman show for the Aces and Game 3 was a three-woman show, leaving Young, an All-Star starter, out of the MVP mix.
1) Alyssa Thomas
Thomas was in the running for Finals MVP in 2019 as well and it would have been close between her and Jonquel Jones had the Sun won. In the 2022 Finals, Thomas had a phenomenal Game 1 that I can’t count toward her MVP resume and then recorded the first triple-double in Finals history in Game 3. She had 19 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks in Game 1 and 16 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists and two steals in Game 3. The Game 3 performance guided Connecticut to a 105-79 win and forced a Game 4. There’s no question she’s the Sun’s leading candidate for MVP right now as she has simply set the tone for everything positive that’s happened for the team in the series.
2) DeWanna Bonner
Here’s the controversial No. 2. Despite being a two-time champion, Bonner went 2-of-18 from the field and had just five points in Games 1 and 2 combined. But she had the Sun’s second-best stat line in their Game 3 win (18 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals) and played the defense on Gray that was necessary to ensure that her team’s offensive effort was not in vain.
3) Jonquel Jones
Somehow the 2021 regular-season MVP, who was ranked No. 1 on our 2022 Top 30 player list, is in third place. She would be second if we counted all three games of the Finals, as she has had performances of 15, 16 and 20 points and 9, 11 and five rebounds. Not dominant and not the 32 and 18 she had in Game 2 of the 2019 Finals, but very solid. It will be interesting to see if the Sun end up needing her to take over in Game 4 and/or Game 5, or if Thomas setting the tone will continue to benefit them the most.
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4) Natisha Hiedeman
I almost put Hiedeman ahead of Jones; she had 14 points and nine assists in Game 3 while shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 3-of-3 from distance. This after being held scoreless in just 14 minutes and 41 seconds of playing time in Game 2. Don’t be surprised if she has another big game in these Finals; the Sun might need it.