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Could this year’s WNBA MVP make history by not leading their team in scoring?

MVP frontrunner A’ja Wilson is third on the Las Vegas Aces in scoring. Another candidate in Alyssa Thomas is fourth on the Connecticut Sun.

Las Vegas Aces v Dallas Wings
A’ja Wilson (jersey #22)
Photo by Jim Cowsert/NBAE via Getty Images

25 WNBA seasons. 25 MVPs. Every single one of them has led their team in scoring.

Even Tamika Catchings’ 15.5 points per game in 2011, the lowest ever for an MVP, led the Indiana Fever, 1.6 ahead of Katie Douglas. Nneka Ogwumike only outpaced Candace Parker in scoring average three times out of eight years together, but one of those was her 2016 MVP season. (It should be noted that Parker led the Los Angeles Sparks in four of the five other seasons; Kristi Toliver was the team’s leading scorer in Ogwumike’s rookie season of 2012). In four years together, Maya Moore outpaced Sylvia Fowles three times, including by margins of 5.3 and 5.4 in 2015 and 2016, respectively. But Fowles had the edge in her MVP season of 2017, amazingly outpacing one of the best all-around No. 1 scoring options of all-time.

16 MVPs have fallen short of being the league’s scoring champion and it wouldn't be shocking to see one of the players ahead of an MVP in scoring be on the same team as said MVP.

Scoring is a big part of the game, so you would think the MVP would be near the top of the league in scoring. And it's unlikely another player on the same team would get enough attention on offense to outscore the MVP. So it would be surprising. But not shocking.

It’s just never happened before.

Enter the 2022 season. Your MVP frontrunner, A’ja Wilson, is third on her team in scoring. Third! Her Las Vegas Aces teammates Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young are ahead of her with 20.1 and 18.3 points per game, respectively. Wilson is averaging 18.1.

The Aces are unique in that they get almost all their scoring from their starters and those starters are simply having a field day on the rest of the league.

Not counting Riquna Williams, who is averaging nine points per game through just two appearances, Vegas’ highest-scoring bench player, Theresa Plaisance, is averaging just 4.4 points per game.

Wilson is an elite scorer who led the Aces in scoring in each of her first four seasons in the league (with this being her fifth), including by a margin of 6.1 over second-place Angel McCoughtry in what was Wilson’s lone MVP season so far (2020). But Plum, who is the NCAAW Division I all-time leading scorer (3,527 points as a Washington Husky), has improved upon her previous career-best scoring average (set in 2021) by 5.3 so far in 2022. She has become what she was in college and is exhilarating fans with her deceptive moves, speed, finishing ability and 3.2 triples per game at a 42.9 percent clip. She’s on pace to make 115.7 threes, which would be second all-time next to Diana Taurasi’s 121 in 2006.

Young is going to be right there with Plum in the Most Improved Player discussion as she has raised her scoring average by 6.1. She, like Plum and Wilson, was a No. 1 overall pick, but wasn’t expected to be a scoring champion contender after her career-best average at Notre Dame was 14.7. In 2019, the Aces took her ahead of an available Fighting Irish teammate, scoring phenom Arike Ogunbowale, who has gone on to win one scoring title so far, because she was a better fit. And Young had been quietly playing her role since then, playing in every game of a 63-25 stretch from 2019 to 2021 for Vegas. Now, she’s broken out as a scorer and potential All-Star Game starter.

Wilson is of course still considered the top MVP candidate of the trio. She is second in the league with 9.6 rebounds per game and second with 2.5 blocks per game. We’ll see if she continues to excel in those other two categories and if, at the same time, Plum and Young stay ahead of her in the scoring column.

Las Vegas Aces v Dallas Wings
A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum receive instruction from Aces head coach Becky Hammon.
Photo by Jim Cowsert/NBAE via Getty Images

Another player who was in MVP conversations earlier in the season but has lost some steam in the scoring column recently is Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun. She excels in scoring, rebounding and distributing and opened the season with 48 points in her first two games combined. She’s averaging just 8.8 points over her last five contests, but if she picks that up she could be right back in the MVP discussion as she is averaging a phenomenal eight rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.4 steals.

The thing about Thomas is that she is actually fourth on her team in scoring. Fourth! DeWanna Bonner (15.1), reigning MVP Jonquel Jones (15.1) and Brionna Jones (14.7) all have higher averages. With Thomas joining Wilson in the MVP race, it increases the chances that, for the first time ever, the MVP will not lead their team in scoring.

J. Jones will probably re-assert herself as the clear-cut No. 1 scoring option for Connecticut at some point this season and should score more than Thomas. Last year she led the Sun with 19.4 points per game, 4.2 ahead of second-place Bonner. However, she could run away with a repeat MVP bid if she starts scoring too much.

Another MVP candidate, who is standing in the way of history, is Breanna Stewart, who leads the Seattle Storm and the league in scoring. Other players having great seasons in Sabrina Ionescu, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Sylvia Fowles and Nneka Ogwumike are all leading their teams in scoring as well, but the weakness of their teams could prevent them from being in the MVP discussion.

Here’s a look at the 25 past MVPs and who on their teams immediately trailed them in scoring:

2021

MVP: Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun

Sun scoring leaders:

1) Jonquel Jones (19.4)

2) DeWanna Bonner (15.2)

2020

MVP: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Aces scoring leaders:

1) A’ja Wilson (20.5)

2) Angel McCoughtry (14.4)

2019

MVP: Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

Mystics scoring leaders:

1) Elena Delle Donne (19.5)

2) Emma Meesseman (13.1)

2018

MVP: Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm

Storm scoring leaders:

1) Breanna Stewart (21.8)

2) Jewell Loyd (15.5)

2017

MVP: Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx

Lynx scoring leaders:

1) Sylvia Fowles (18.9)

2) Maya Moore (17.3)

2016

MVP: Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

Sparks scoring leaders:

1) Nneka Ogwumike (19.7)

2) Candace Parker (15.3)

2015

MVP: Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky

Sky leading scorers:

1) Elena Delle Donne (23.4)

2) Cappie Pondexter (15)

2014

MVP: Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

Lynx leading scorers:

1) Maya Moore (23.9)

2) Seimone Augustus (16.5)

2013

MVP: Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks

Sparks leading scorers:

1) Candace Parker (17.9)

2) Nneka Ogwumike (14.6)

2012

MVP: Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun

Sun leading scorers:

1) Tina Charles (18)

2) Kara Lawson (15.1)

2011

MVP: Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

Fever leading scorers:

1) Tamika Catchings (15.5)

2) Katie Douglas (13.9)

2010

MVP: Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm

Storm leading scorers:

1) Lauren Jackson (20.5)

2) Swin Cash (13.8)

2009

MVP: Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

Mercury leading scorers:

1) Diana Taurasi (20.4)

2) Cappie Pondexter (19.1)

2008

MVP: Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks

Sparks leading scorers:

1) Candace Parker (18.5)

2) Lisa Leslie (15.1)

2007

MVP: Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm

Storm leading scorers:

1) Lauren Jackson (23.8)

2) Betty Lennox (13.4)

2006

MVP: Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks

Sparks leading scorers:

1) Lisa Leslie (20)

2) Chamique Holdsclaw (15)

2005

MVP: Sheryl Swoopes, Houston Comets

Comets leading scorers:

1) Sheryl Swoopes (18.6)

2) Michelle Snow (12)

2004

MVP: Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks

Sparks leading scorers:

1) Lisa Leslie (17.6)

2) Mwadi Mabika (14.4)

2003

MVP: Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm

Storm leading scorers:

1) Lauren Jackson (21.2)

2) Sue Bird (12.4)

2002

MVP: Sheryl Swoopes, Houston Comets

Comets leading scorers:

1) Sheryl Swoopes (18.5)

2) Tina Thompson (16.7)

2001

MVP: Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks

Sparks leading scorers:

1) Lisa Leslie (19.5)

2) Tamecka Dixon (11.7)

2000

MVP: Sheryl Swoopes, Houston Comets

Comets leading scorers:

1) Sheryl Swoopes (20.7)

2) Cynthia Cooper (17.7)

1999

MVP: Yolanda Griffith, Sacramento Monarchs

Monarchs leading scorers:

1) Yolanda Griffith (18.8)

2) Ruthie Bolton (13.6)

1998

MVP: Cynthia Cooper, Houston Comets

Comets leading scorers:

1) Cynthia Cooper (22.7)

2) Sheryl Swoopes (15.6)

1997

MVP: Cynthia Cooper, Houston Comets

Comets leading scorers:

1) Cynthia Cooper (22.2)

2) Tina Thompson (13.2)