Pass The Ball: Who has been the best (so far)?
With two weeks of the season in the books, it is a good time to weigh in on which players have established themselves as the cream of the crop.
1. Who has been the league’s best post player this season?
Rachel Galligan: Tina Charles leads the league in scoring and is a true dominant force inside. Her release is so high it makes it almost impossible to defend at times. She’s just dominant right now.
Dorothy Gentry: Liz Cambage and Sylvia Fowles (tie). They both make their teams better. Whether it's rebounding, scoring, blocking shots etc., these ladies know how to play inside, stop the other team from scoring and impose their presence and will on the other team and space the floor.
Brady Klopfer: Liz Cambage. Thus far, no big has looked as commanding in the post as Cambage. Her footwork is nothing short of elite, and is matched by her touch and finesse around the rim. When she gets deep position, it is game over. We've seen her piece up elite defenders like they're high schoolers. She’s scoring 20 points per game on 55.7% shooting. You can't argue with that kind of dominance in the paint.
Nicholas LeTourneau: That’s really tough because there have been so many talented players. For me it is a tie between Tina Charles and A’ja Wilson. Charles currently leads the league in point per game with 23.8 while Wilson is coming in at fifth with 20.9 ppg. If I had to choose one, I’d give the edge to Charles but only for the moment. When Wilson puts all of this together, she’s going to be unstoppable in the post.
Aryeh Schwartz: Nneka Ogwumike has snuck under the radar and had an MVP-type start to this season. With Candace Parker out early, the Sparks relied on her heavy and she carried her team on all levels.
2. Who has been the league’s best playmaker this season?
Galligan: Chelsea Gray, can do a number of different things really well. She can score it and when she’s not scoring, she’s getting her teammates involved.
Gentry: Alyssa Thomas has a wide range on her jump shot and can shoot with both hands. You can't be scared and she's not. She’s not a bad free-throw shooter either.
Klopfer: Sue Bird. I may have some bias from watching her pick apart an exceptional defensive backcourt on Thursday night in Los Angeles. Bird's timing is flawless, particularly when running the pick and roll. She brilliantly uses the threat of her jumper to pull her opponents towards her, then fires off a precision dime when her teammates roll. Watching her in transition is like a magician on the grandest stage; she plays with timing and misdirection, leaving her opponents clueless as to what she'll do while she calmly finds the open player.
LeTourneau: Skylar Diggins-Smith. Diggins-Smith is more than just a scorer and is extremely valuable to Dallas. She is third in points per game (21 ppg) but is also third in assists per game (6.0). She has done a good job of distributing the ball to the weapons in Dallas and has become a great 1-2 punch with Liz Cambage.
Schwartz: Tina Charles – points, rebounds, assists, she is checking each box. She is literally a playmaker. You need some points she will score it or set up a teammate. Then, on the other end, she makes exciting, momentum-driving plays that make her team rise.
3. Who has been the league’s best outside shooter this season?
Galligan: Kelsey Mitchell is averaging 3.3 makes a game, shooting it a good percentage as of late. Teams have to guard her off the dribble and she has no conscious when it comes to letting them fly as she has continued to gain confidence.
Gentry: Skylar Diggins-Smith can pull up and shoot from anywhere on the court. She is the female Steph Curry in my eyes.
Klopfer: In a league full of sharpshooters, Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith have stood the tallest. These two don't lead the league in shooting percentages, but that's largely because they're so good that the level of difficulty is higher on their attempts. They are deadly when given the time to spot up, but they're incredibly comfortable shooting off the dribble. Give either player a strong screen, and she'll come off it - right or left - and make the defense pay from deep.
LeTourneau: Easy. Jewell Loyd of the Seattle Storm. Loyd is second to only Diana Taurasi in three-pointers made with 20, but Loyd still has the edge for me. She’s got such a deadly stroke, an incredible natural feel for the space around her, and uses her shot from deep in transition that is second to none.
Schwartz: Jewell Loyd, She has been shooting lights out this season. She is shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc so far and has been a scoring machine.
4. Who has been the league’s best defender this season?
Galligan: Liz Cambage completely alters the game with her presence inside. Not to mention her shot blocking. Her size and presence forces teams to have to alter game plans and truly strategize against her.
Gentry: Their record and play recently don't show it, but I say Alana Beard of the Sparks. She's been in the league for what seems like 50 years and has battled back from numerous injuries but still has skills, and is a great defender. She's aware of spacing, knows how to get in the right stance, sets the tone, defends her player, etc.
Klopfer: Chelsea Gray. Gray has been locking down opposing guards all year long. She leads the league in steals, but unlike most pickpockets, Gray has tremendous discipline and focuses on staying in front of her opponent until she senses vulnerability, rather than on gambling. Despite being a guard, Gray is strong enough to hold her own against larger players, which has resulted in impressive interior defense from the help side.
LeTourneau: The best post defender is Liz Cambage because of how she can devour shot attempts and erase anyone in the post. The best perimeter defender has been Chelsea Gray because of how she is always in opposing player’s air space and forcing turnovers.
Schwartz: Breanna Stewart is doing everything right on both ends of the floor but her ability to cover larger posts at all points has really impressed me and been the reason defensively the Storm are rolling early.
5. Tie game, 10 seconds left to play, who do you want to have the ball and why?
Galligan: Chelsea Gray has proven it on the biggest stage on multiple occasions. She can get the ball to the rim, she can pull up and she’s a playmaker with ice in her veins.
Gentry: Diana Taurasi will make it or draw the foul to make free throws. Either way, some points are going on the board. The former league MVP, three-time champion, eight-time all-star and two-time Finals MVP just became the first player to reach 8,000 points. Oh yeah, she's getting the ball.
Klopfer: Maya Moore. The Lynx may be struggling, but Moore is still an elite player who excels in these situations. She's smart enough to make the right play and avoid the turnover, skilled enough to get to the rim or shoot from the perimeter, versatile enough to set up a teammate, and she embraces the big moments.
LeTourneau: I’m going with Skylar Diggins-Smith because she can bring the ball up the floor and decide what happens next. She isn’t in the post, dependent on someone to feed her the ball and she can truly do everything. You give her the lane, she’s driving. You sag off to take away the drive, she rises up and nails a jumper from deep. You somehow take away both, she can dish it to a teammate with a steady hand.
Schwartz: Maya Moore. This is not the best start to the season, but anytime you need a score and the clock is running down … well heck, that’s why she is Maya Moore.