How Alyssa Thomas and Other Early MVP Candidates Are Doing, Plus How-To Guide and WNBA Rankings

The Connecticut Sun keeps pace with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces for about a quarter of a season and a disproportionate reason for that is their high horsepower engine.

Alyssa Thomas continues to do a bit of everything for the Sun, including nearly triple-doubles in each of two games against the Aces last week. She had nine points (3 of 11), eight rebounds, 12 assists and three steals in a 90-84 loss Tuesday. In Sun’s 94-77 (8-2) win on Thursday, she had 17 points (7 of 14), 12 rebounds, eight assists and three steals, though it came with seven turnovers, a game-high the season. The loss was the first of the season for the Aces (8-1) and his line was the second such game in WNBA history, joining his own outing last July.

Could Thomas, a 10-year veteran, be in the running for the league’s first career MVP award? The odds are long since the honor often goes to a player who scores at a higher clip, but she’s easily in conversation.

Thomas is averaging 14.1 points per game, ranking 26th and more than a dozen per game behind leader Jewell Loyd (26 points per game). The last five MVP awards have gone to players who averaged just fifth in scoring and that was A’ja Wilson (19.5 points per game) last season. Moving up, in order, Jonquel Jones placed fourth (19.4 ppg), Wilson placed second (20.5), Elena Delle Donne placed second (19.5), and Breanna Stewart placed second (21.8).

Thomas is adding averages of 11.2 rebounds (tied for first with Satou Sabally), 7.3 assists (second to Courtney Vandersloot’s 9.3 apg) and 1.6 steals (14th). The aforementioned five previous MVPs have all ranked in the top 10 in rebounding and were often up in blocks and/or steals. None finished above 32nd in assists.

Everyone from voters to fans value different aspects of the game when judging MVPs and All-Stars. And that goes for any sport or league in the world. Often in basketball, MVP awards are won by forwards (almost exclusively in the WNBA) and high scoring players. That could mean another bottom line for Thomas, who finished fourth in MVP voting in 2022 and ninth in 2020. Both years were won by Wilson.

But the Sun’s place at the top of the standings could work in favor of Thomas, despite the low number of points. MVPs are almost always among the winningest teams, and the previous five were playing for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Three of the last five won championships the year they were named MVPs.

That approach would omit Loyd, who doesn’t have much offensive help from anyone but center Ezi Magbegor (14.0 ppg). The Storm are the worst in the league 1-6.

Sabally (21.2 ppg ranks sixth) is averaging a double-double, but the Wings (5-4) are fifth. Brittney Griner (22.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.7 bpg) and the Mercury sit in the lottery ranks, as does Napheesa Collier’s Lynx (202 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.9 apg , 1.8 spg). Nneka Ogwumike (21.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.6 spg) and the Sparks are sixth.

The biggest competition for Thomas, a 6-2 forward drafted No. 4 in 2014 by the New York Liberty and immediately traded to the Sun, is the league’s biggest stars and two-time MVPs in Wilson and Stewart. Stewart holds the advantage averaging a double-double of 24.9 points, 10.1 rebounds with 3.4 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.9 steals per game. She is second in points and second in rebounds. Wilson is averaging 20.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.6 steals.

A lot can happen and change in another 30 games.

Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas in action against the Indiana Fever on May 19, 2023 in Indianapolis.  (AP Photo/Mast AJ)
Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas in action against the Indiana Fever on May 19, 2023 in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Mast AJ)

Stats Corner

Atlanta Dream Guard Rhyne Howard hit 100 career 3-point goals in her 40th game, beating the previous fastest mark set by Cynthia Cooper in the league’s early years, according to through the timeline. She hit three 3-pointers in the loss to the Liberty on Friday, marking the 19th game of her career in which she scored at least three. It is also a record for the first 40 games.

The reigning rookie of the year is averaging 2.49-3 seconds per game, ranking second all-time behind Diana Taurasi (2.58) and ahead of Arike Ogunbowale (2.31), Kelsey Mitchell (2 ,28) and Sabrina Ionescu (2.22).

In a season of crazy comebacks, the Lynx rode the most statistically unlikely comeback everyone on Sunday to make Sylvia Fowles’ jersey retirement a fully celebratory affair. The claim is courtesy of Unforeseeable.

The Lynx trailed the Sparks, 83-72, with Minnesota 3:38 left after a 3-pointer from Lexie Brown. It was Los Angeles’ biggest margin of the game, and Minnesota’s chances of earning its second win fell to 0.9%.

Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve took a timeout and Tiffany Mitchell assisted Rachel Banham 3 to spark a 17-0 run at Minnesota that won them the game.

Miller said afterward that it was two missed defensive missions during that downtime and things “snowballed” from there for LA.

“Their physique. We couldn’t get a hold, we couldn’t get the actions we wanted on the stretch. They took us out of everything,” Miller said.

Collier made all four free throws and Bridget Carleton’s 3 straight points gave the Lynx the lead. They kept it with free throws from Mitchell. She hit two that made it 89-83 and two more after Ogwumike’s 3-pointer, which reduced it to three, were Sparks’ only points in the 3:38 final.

Weekly status report

The Sparks are a surprising 4-4 ​​a month into the season despite an often loaded State of the Game Report (formerly Injury Report) adding another name over the weekend. Layshia Clarendon, the team’s veteran offseason addition to guard, will miss four to six weeks with a partial right plantar fascia tear, the Sparks announced before the game on Sunday. Clarendon is averaging 7.8 points and 3.7 assists in 26.7 minutes per game.

dream guard Aari McDonald is expected to miss three to four weeks after sustaining a labral tear, the team announced early last week. The starter leads Atlanta with 3.8 assists per game. Beginner Diamond Miller, the No. 2 overall pick, remains out with an ankle injury.

Delle Donne missed his first game of the season on Sunday when the Mystics nearly lost a 28-point lead to the Storm. Head coach Eric Thibault had pulled the 2019 MVP out of their Friday meeting in Seattle when his neck tightened, according to The Washington Post. She participated in light practices on Saturday and the team decided it was not a good idea to risk further injury between a late Friday night game and a Sunday game that switched at noon local time.

Thomas took a heavy hit when he hit a screen by Dream’s Naz Hillmon on Sunday. She returned from the locker room to play all 10 minutes of the third quarter and all but 47 seconds of the fourth.

WNBA Ranking

The four best host playoffs – Aces (8-1), Sun (8-2), Liberty (6-2), Mystics (5-3)

There are no surprises at the top of the standings as all four teams were expected to be the best of the pack. The Liberty scored in three figures in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history this weekend with wins over Atlanta and Dallas. Of the combined eight losses of these teams, six are against each other.

Jackie Young, left, and Chelsea Gray of the Las Vegas Aces celebrate during a recent game at the Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas.  (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Make the playoffs – Wings (5-4), Sparks (4-4), Sky (5-5), Dream (2-5)

The Sparks are a surprise so high in the standings in Curt Miller’s first year as head coach. They have suffered constant injuries and illnesses which have kept star players out and in three games last week they suffered heavy losses to the Storm and Lynx. The Sky are also dealing with injuries and lost another streak of straight games by a combined 28 points to the Sparks and Aces.

Lottery – Mercury (2-5), Fever (2-6), Lynx (2-7), Storm (1-6)

The Mercury snapped their three-game losing streak Sunday by outscoring the Fever, 85-82. Indiana isn’t going easy this season with No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston looking more like an award-winning vet than a rookie. They rank eighth in runs scored (79.8) and runs allowed (84.3). In their 1-4 skid dating back to May 30, they lost by a combined 15 points with no loss above five.

What to watch this week

These are the highlights of the week. The complete program is available here.

Tuesday – CBS Sports Network Night

Three games on the schedule, including back-to-back contests on CBS Sports Network that begin at 8 p.m. ET with Dream at Liberty followed by Storm at Mercury. It’s a good night to watch everything as the Mystics and Fever board at 7 p.m. ET on Twitter.

Thursday — Prime Video Night

There are three games left and they’re well spread, starting with Dream at Sun at 7 p.m. ET on Prime. The Storm and Aces are the late-night offering at 10 p.m. ET. The Fever will face the Sky in Chicago at 8 p.m. ET on League Pass.

Friday — ION

Things are gearing up for the WNBA’s date with Mercury at Mystics (8 p.m. ET). Tip Lynx and Sparks at 10 p.m. ET.

Sunday — Full day of basketball

Brittney Griner and the Mercury make their first trip of the season to the Barclays Center for a whistleblower at noon ET on CBS. Stewart tweeted how long Griner was detained each day she was in Russia. Liberty Stewart’s teammates Vandersloot and Jones all played for UMMC Ekaterinburg, the team Griner was playing for when she was wrongfully detained at an airport near Moscow in February 2022.

  • Sky at Mystics, 3 p.m. ET on Twitter

  • Dream at Fever, 4 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network

  • Sunday at Sparks, 7:30 p.m. ET on League Pass

  • Lynx at Aces, 9 p.m. ET on League Pass

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner smiles after a timeout in a recent game.  The Mercurys travel to New York to take on the Liberty this week.  (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner smiles after a timeout in a recent game. The Mercurys travel to New York to take on the Liberty this week. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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