With just over half of the WNBA season complete, there is now a clear separation between the teams that are fighting for top playoff seeds and the teams that are likely lottery-bound. There is also a better idea of which players are in contention to win the 2018 WNBA Most Valuable Player Award.
If one forward fits the bill, it’s Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics. In fact, she’s the best forward in the WNBA this season.
Delle Donne is a consistent big-time performer
To be a WNBA MVP, a player must produce big numbers on the court. Delle Donne is averaging 20.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game through July 13. Furthermore, she has scored in double digits in all but two games in 2018.
This past June, Delle Donne was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month after averaging 22.5 points per game. She also scored 20 or more points in five consecutive games, including the last four in June. This includes a 36-point performance against the Connecticut Sun on June 13 and a 30-point performance against the Chicago Sky on June 22.
The @WashMystics' @De11eDonne has been named Player of the Month for the East, averaging 20.5 PPG and shooting almost 49% from the field! #WatchMeWork— WNBA (@WNBA) July 3, 2018
Check out some of her best #WNBA plays from this past month! ️ pic.twitter.com/07uAxMcoJG
Delle Donne improved her passing game
In her first five WNBA seasons, Delle Donne was a prolific scorer, but didn’t provide much support as a playmaker. During her time with the Chicago Sky, she had elite pass-first point guards like Courtney Vandersloot and other talented playmakers like Cappie Pondexter who could pass her the ball. In fact, Delle Donne never averaged close to two assists per game in any season in Chicago.
Last season in Washington, it appeared that Delle Donne would be the Mystics’ primary scorer and not have to do too much as a passer. After all, Washington signed Kristi Toliver as their starting point guard in free agency, while Emma Meesseman was their point power forward when she was not playing in EuroBasket Women 2017.
With Meesseman out this season and Krystal Thomas regressing, Delle Donne returned to the power forward position. She is averaging 2.6 assists per game and has an assist rate of 15.7 percent, a career high.
Delle Donne isn’t passing and assisting at the rates Meesseman did in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. However, it is evident that she has added Meesseman’s strengths to her game as well.
Delle Donne is still real clutch
Finally, all MVPs have to have highlight plays. Delle Donne’s top play was a game-winning three against the New York Liberty on June 28. It also extended Washington’s winning streak to four games.
Delle Donne with the game winner.— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) June 29, 2018
Mystics beat Liberty 80-77 but fail to cover as 9.5-point favorites.
59% of spread bettors were on Washington ☹️.pic.twitter.com/GOjPotWUsy
This is one of many great plays Delle Donne made all season long. But it’s her signature moment of 2018 so far!