As is our annual tradition, we’re counting down the 30 best players in the WNBA.
We had our staff participate by each ranking their Top 30. If a player was voted 1st on a list, they earned 30 points; second place earned 29, and so on, and the totals were summed together to make a collective staff determination. In the event of a tie, the player who was higher on the 2022 list stayed ahead.
Players who received votes but didn’t make our final list include Natasha Cloud, Han Xu, Courtney Williams, Satou Sabally, Aerial Powers, Marina Mabrey, Azurá Stevens, Teaira McCowan, Cheyenne Parker and Aliyah Boston.
On our 2021 list, Alyssa Thomas was left off because she was expected to miss the entire season. On our 2022 and 2023 lists, we included players who were/are expected to miss the season but had/have yet to retire.
Here’s the Top 10:
10) Jewell Loyd (82 points)
2022: 5; 2021: 15
We’re splitting hairs putting Skylar Diggins-Smith ahead of Loyd, because both former Notre Dame guards are phenomenal. Loyd is the better scorer of the two and her numbers should skyrocket this year with Breanna Stewart no longer in Seattle. We put Loyd all the way up at No. 5 last year after her spectacular 2021. Her scoring average dropped by 1.6 to 16.3 in 2022 though and two other players in particular really improved. Loyd is no longer the Robin in Seattle; she is the clear-cut Batman, and we know she will want to prove that she is capable of being a best player on a WNBA team. By putting her at No. 10, we believe she is.
9) Skylar Diggins-Smith (85 points)
2022: 10; 2021: 13
Loyd is the more gifted scorer, but Diggins-Smith actually has the better career scoring average (Loyd’s is dragged down by playing with Stewart for so long). Diggins-Smith is also a much better distributor. She has averaged 16.7 points and five assists per game over nine seasons in the WNBA. There may be flashier scorers in the league like Loyd, and there’s a point guard who tends to accumulate far more assists in Courtney Vandersloot, but Diggins-Smith was amazing last year and we had to move her up to her highest position on our list yet at No. 9. She averaged 19.7 points for the second-highest scoring average of her career and even entered the MVP conversation.
8) Candace Parker (88 points)
Las Vegas Aces
2022: 8; 2021: 7
Parker’s 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game last year were similar to her numbers in 2021. She doesn’t try to put up as many points as she used to, opting to impact the game in different ways. That will remain the case in Vegas, where she knows it’s A’ja Wilson’s team. But Parker at age 37 is still the eighth-best player in the WNBA. She finished fifth in MVP voting last year and has been ageless like Diana Taurasi, Sylvia Fowles and Sue Bird. She is the fourth-highest Ace on this list. That’s right, there are three more to come, which is scary.
7) Kelsey Plum (91 points)
Las Vegas Aces
2022: 29; 2021: not ranked
Plum improved a lot from 2019 to 2021 (she missed 2020 with a torn Achilles) and then vaulted into superstardom in 2022. She was an All-Star Game starter and finished third in MVP voting. You know the two players she finished behind, so third place is very impressive. We refrained from putting Plum at No. 3 on this list, but she earned every bit of this No. 7 ranking. Last year she became the first player in WNBA history to have a higher scoring average than a teammate who won the MVP award. Expect her to again be near the top of her team’s scoring list in 2023, even though that team is the Aces.
6) Chelsea Gray (97 points)
Las Vegas Aces
2022: 21; 2021: 18
Midway through the 2022 regular season, Gray looked like she was headed for another No. 18 to No. 21 ranking. But her playoff heater put her in the Top 6. The five players ahead of her on this list are essentially Tier 1 so we couldn’t put Gray any higher. But as soon as we could include her, we did. Her 2022 playoff numbers speak for themselves: 21.7 points and seven assists per game, 54.4 percent shooting from three with 31 makes and 61.1 percent shooting from the field. The deadliness of her mid-range fade makes her the best closer in the game right now.
5) Jonquel Jones (98 points)
New York Liberty
2022: 1; 2021: 6
Jones was the best player in the league in 2021, winning the MVP award, but it’s hard to put her ahead of the four players ahead of her on this list when looking at the big picture of more than just one season. Her numbers dipped across the board in 2022, including a scoring average decrease of 4.8 to 14.6. Alyssa Thomas was the best player on the Sun, not Jones. Now Jones starts a new chapter in New York. She is the highest-ranked second-best player on this list, which shows just how dangerous the Liberty are. If they are to win the Finals this year, which may require defeating the Aces, they are going to need Jones to play like the fifth-best player in the league.
4) Brittney Griner (101 points)
2022: 3; 2021: 5
First of all, we are all extremely blessed to have BG home and playing in the WNBA. I used to think Elena Delle Donne would be a better pro than Griner even before that ended up happening. I’m a fan of 3-point shooting and versatility, so I’m biased. But Griner appeared ahead of Delle Donne on my ballot this year. I was just so impressed by what Griner did in the 2021 playoffs. Her mid-range shot became automatic. I think she has a chance to catch up to Delle Donne’s legacy with some great play in her 30s. She’s one of the best players to have never won an MVP award and you know so many people will be rooting for her to win it this year.
3) Elena Delle Donne (105 points)
2022: 12; 2021: 2
We did not include Delle Donne in our Top 10 last year because of her inability to stay on the court in 2021. We were worried her back issues might trigger a premature decline in her play and possibly an early retirement. However, she bounced back with 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in 2022 and has a chance to improve further in 2023. If we were just looking at scoring, she would likely be ahead of A’ja Wilson on this list, though don’t put it past Wilson to average 20-plus, which she already did in 2018 and 2020. Remember the days when the battle for No. 1 was all about EDD and Stewie? Those days are gone, but EDD still deserves this Top 3 ranking.
2) A’ja Wilson (116 points)
Las Vegas Aces
2022: 4; 2021: 3
Wilson is the unanimous No. 2 player in the league according to Swish Appeal staff, one of just two unanimous voting results. The other is Breanna Stewart at No. 1. Will we ever give Wilson respect as Stewart’s equal or perhaps even better than Stewart? Howard Megdal of The Next, posed an interesting question after Game 4 of the Finals last year: “is she on track to be the best player in the history of this league?” Right now it’s Diana Taurasi, and we tend to assume Stewart is the GOAT-in-waiting, but what if it’s really Wilson? She already has two MVP awards (one more than Taurasi and Stewart) at age 26. Just something to ponder. If she’s not No. 1, Wilson is No. 2 with an exclamation mark. Defensive Player of the Year with 7.6 defensive rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, while also averaging 19.5 points? Impressive.
1) Breanna Stewart (120 points)
New York Liberty
2022: 2; 2021: 1
Why are we so confident that it’s Stewart at No. 1? You know from watching her play. The agility, the shooting stroke, the confidence when the ball is in her hands. There may not be a more complete offensive player in the world, though Delle Donne certainly has a case. But then Stewart also gets it done on defense. In 2022, she made the All-Defensive First Team for the first time in her career after making the Second Team three times over her first five seasons. She finished with 23 first-place MVP votes compared to Wilson’s 31. She is consistently in the running for that award and it seems unfair that she’s only won it once (2018). She already has two championships (one more than Wilson) and two Finals MVPs (two more than Wilson) at age 28. She chose the bright lights of New York City, saying that wanting to be in the biggest media market factored into her decision. Storm fans may be disappointed in that decision, but basketball fans at large are salivating at what kind of legacy she will create in the Big Apple.