Folks, the Courtney Vandersloot MVP train has officially left the station.
After she put up a 15 point-15 assist performance and orchestrated the game-winning play to beat Chicago’s newfound rival in the Las Vegas Aces, calls for Vandersloot garnering MVP honors amplified throughout the Wubblesphere.
As the rest of the W is catching up to Sloot’s greatness, those who have witnessed her subtle domination for years question whether this momentum will translate into the ultimate accolade in pro sports. Vandersloot isn’t doing anything she hasn’t done before and, despite leading the league in assists per game four years in a row, is criminally only a two-time All-Star.
Maybe voters are looking for Vandersloot to better protect her plants from flower pot annihilator Allie Quigley?
Relax everyone…I did this flower pot a favor, trust me…😳😜
— Alexandria Quigley (@alliequigley) August 7, 2019
Whatever bizarre reasons they concoct for not including her in the conversation, there’s not much more Chicago’s star point guard can do to prove that she belongs in the MVP race–and she is beyond qualified for the league’s top prize.
Like she has in each of the past four seasons, Vandersloot has distanced herself from the WNBA’s best facilitators. She leads the league in assists per game (8.7) while Julie Allemand is second in the W with 5.4 (yes, you did indeed read that correctly). In terms of total assists, Vandersloot’s 113 assists (a league-best) peer down at second-ranked Jordin Canada’s “mere” 69.
Despite playing over 30 minutes a game, she also boasts a league-best assist to turnover ratio (3.94) which would be the third-best mark in league history, according to Across the Timeline’s database.
However, stats aren’t enough to fully grasp what Vandersloot does to open up the Sky’s offense.
In this clip, Quigley is freed up by an off-ball screen from Dolson and gets behind the Aces’ Carolyn Swords. A’ja Wilson has to leave her assignment on Azurá Stevens to stop Quigley from making an easy layup. Quigley then kicks back out to find Stevens for a wide open midrange shot.
This play does not end in the Sky’s favor without Vandersloot’s impeccable court vision.
As seen in this picture, Sloot is releasing the ball before Quigley has any daylight down low. She simply sees things that other guards in the league don’t. This play won’t end up on Vandersloot’s stat sheet but it displays how she is the engine to the team’s offense.
Vandersloot’s steadiness as a facilitator has overshadowed her ability as an efficient scorer. According to Across the Timeline’s database, if Sloot’s season were to end today she would only be the 13th player in WNBA history to record a 50-40-90 season (LA Sparks’ Sydney Weise is also on pace to pull off this feat this season as well).
Vandersloot has also improved this season as a spot-up shooter, connecting on 59.3 percent of her spot-up attempts (for context she made 35.4 percent of those shots in 2019). She is a vastly underrated scorer since she picks her spots for when she needs to ignite the Sky’s offense. Vandersloot has never had a season where she averaged over ten shot attempts per game but that’s due to her value coming in the form of keeping all of her teammates involved any time she is on the floor.
When coaches talk about their best players, the first point they bring up is how player X gets the most out of her/their teammates. Vandersloot is the epitome of this.
“Coaching her 12 out of 12 months of the year, I am able to see the small things that go undervalued,” said Chicago’s head coach and general manager James Wade, who is also an assistant coach for Vandersloot’s UMMC Ekaterinburg team. “She makes players better. It’s probably a shock to people that we’re playing at a high level without two or three of our starters from last year. Sloot is making our offense go and this is only her second year running this offense.”
Injuries Making Sloot Indispensable
This season, no one has carried a heavier burden than Vandersloot due to the litany of injuries Chicago has stacked up.
Heading into Bradenton, the Sky planned on relying more heavily on impending superstar Diamond DeShields. However, the 2019 All-Star hasn’t been able to get back to 100 percent health, limiting her to 17.2 minutes a game due to a lower body injury. Stef Dolson (ankle), Cheyenne Parker (ankle), and Sydney Colson (complications related to COVID-19) have also missed time this year.
With players inconsistently coming in and out of the lineup, the Sky have relied on Vandersloot to the point where the team’s wheels come off when she is off the floor. She has played the sixth-most minutes in 2020 and boasts the fifth-best net rating (13.2) from players playing more than 25 minutes a game.
When she is off the floor, the team has floundered to a -21.1 net rating, making it difficult to give Vandersloot time to receive in-game rest. If the Most Valuable Player award is supposed to reward, you know, the most valuable player to her/their respective team, it would be difficult to pass on Vandersloot.
The MVP voting system across all professional sports leagues is flawed due to there being a certain level of subjectivity. Statistics can only levy the conversation so much before narratives take the wheel and drive the MVP race into uncharted territory.
Vandersloot isn’t going to have games where she puts up 30 plus points or have scoring bursts that catch the eyes of House of Highlights’ social media team. That isn’t her style and she shouldn’t be penalized for affecting the game in ways that only her peers and those who watch her day in and day out appreciate.
However, Chicago’s point guard’s case boasts a few narratives that work in her favor. She passed Becky Hammon for fifth place on the all-time list for career assists and recorded her 33rd career double-double, the most points-assists double-doubles in WNBA history.
Not enough for you? She also will have the second-best four-year span of total assists in WNBA history by the season’s end.
Best Four Year Periods of Total Assists in WNBA History
- Courtney Vandersloot: 1,115 (2015-2019)
- Ticha Penicheiro: 1051 (1998-2002)
- Ticha Penicheiro: 1045 (1999-2003)
- Courtney Vandersloot: 1,039 (2016-2020-9 games left)
- Ticha Penicheiro: 948 (2000-2004)
- Lindsay Whalen: 947 (2010-2014)
The question should be posed to the voters: what more does Courtney Vandersloot need to do to get your MVP vote?