By Patrick Ralph
This past Saturday, Maya Moore won her third straight All-Star Game MVP on her home floor in Minnesota in front of the Lynx faithful.
While winning All-Star MVP honors might seem like an inconsequential achievement in the context of an entire season, it has brought about great omens for the Lynx the previous two times that Moore has earned the award.
Moore’s first All-Star Game MVP was in 2015 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Later that season, the Lynx captured their third WNBA title in five years behind Moore.
Then, after missing the All-Star festivities in 2016, Moore reclaimed her MVP honors at the All-Star Game last summer in Seattle. Later that fall, Minnesota firmly established itself as the greatest team and dynasty in league history with a fourth championship in seven years.
But All-Star Game MVPs for Moore have prompted more than just WNBA titles for the Lynx. In fact, it actually has led to Moore playing even better and having an even greater impact on the Lynx in the second half of the season after the All-Star break.
After the All-Star Game in 2015 and 2017, Moore was an even more effective player for the Lynx.
Moore averaged 20.6 points per game for Minnesota after the All-Star Game in 2015, and the Lynx never won a game after the All-Star break when Moore would shoot less than 50 percent from both the field and three-point range. Therefore, the more efficient scorer that Moore was, the better that Minnesota played.
Moore finished the 2015 season second in the league in scoring, three-point field goals made, offensive win shares and overall win shares. She finished third in the WNBA in field goals made and fourth in player efficiency rating. She also finished in the top 10 in the league in two-point field goals made.
But after winning MVP honors at the 2017 All-Star Game, Moore’s play made an even bigger leap in the second half of the season in comparison to what she did in 2015.
Before the All-Star Game in Seattle last summer, Moore was averaging 15.7 points per game for a Lynx team that was running through the WNBA with the best record in the league. After the All-Star Game, Moore averaged 19.1 points per game for Minnesota. Outside of one loss after the All-Star break, Moore once again shot less than 50 percent from the field and three-point land every time that the Lynx ended up on the wrong side of a score.
Moore finished the 2017 campaign in the top five in the league in three-point field goals made and win shares, as well as in the top 10 in field goals made, points, player efficiency rating, offensive rating and overall win shares.
Of course, there are those who will point out that Minnesota as a team struggled in the second half last season after Lindsay Whalen went down with an injury. Still, the formula remained the same: if Maya plays well, the team tends to play well.
Standing at 15-10 with the third-best record in the WNBA, the Lynx return from the All-Star break after what was a difficult first half of the season. Yet still, the Lynx find themselves only a half-game back of earning both home-court advantage and a bye into the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs. If the playoffs started today, the Lynx would at least have a bye and home-court advantage into the second round. Amid all of their early season struggles, the Lynx are in a great spot with nine games to play.
If Minnesota is going to repeat as WNBA champions this year, which is something that this franchise has never done before, it will come down to the play of Moore in the second half. Moore averaged a team-best 18.2 points per game in the first half of the season for Minnesota. In addition, Moore is in the top 10 in the league in points, field goals made and three-point field goals made.
Moore has also been an integral part of Minnesota’s defense this season, as she leads the team in steals (1.6 per game). As a result, Moore is third in the league in steals, fourth in defensive win shares and in the top 10 in defensive rating. Moore’s ability to contribute and make an impact at a high level on both ends of the floor is why the Lynx will be a tough out come the playoffs.
The Lynx have yet to capture a WNBA title in an even-numbered year. With Moore’s third straight All-Star Game MVP in stow and the potential for her to have an even better second half, Minnesota is hopeful that this was only the first trophy that Moore will hoist this season in front of the Lynx faithful.