Each year, WNBA fans and analysts alike argue over who should be crowned the Most Valuable Player of the league. MVP can mean different things for different people, but one aspect is understood – the MVP is dominant. An MVP caliber player changes the game, not just on the stat sheet, but also with that intangible glue holding their team together.
There are plenty of names involved in the MVP conversation two weeks into the season. Players like Sabrina Ionescu, Jonquel Jones, Breanna Stewart, last year’s Most Improved Player Betnijah Laney, and even veteran Tina Charles have all had impressive seasons so far. Another player that deserves to be in this discourse is Seattle Storm shooting guard, Jewell Loyd.
Entering her prime
In her seventh year as a pro, Loyd is posting the best numbers of her career—including being the fifth leading scorer in the entire league. In 2021 Loyd has been averaging a career-best in nearly every statistical category: points, assists, blocks, steals and turnovers.
Jewell is also on the floor more than ever before, averaging 35.9 minutes for the Storm through five games. Even with this uptick in playing time, Loyd has still managed to keep her efficiency up—currently holding the best Assist to Turnover ratio of her career (3.4), as well as her best field goal shooting percentage (47%).
Loyd has been specifically interested in bolstering her defensive performance, and the effort put into training and studying film is clearly paying off on the court. Jewell has significantly improved her defensive rebounding efforts, averaging 4.8 rpg. Pair that with her team-leading 2.4 steals per game (good enough for second in the league), and it is evident that she’s getting the job done on both ends of the floor.
In games where her teammates have struggled, Loyd has picked up the slack. For instance, former MVP Breanna Stewart was successfully slowed down offensively by the Connecticut Sun and the defense led by Jonquel Jones in their matchup earlier this week, going scoreless for two and a half quarters. In that game, Jewell scored 19 points, corralled eight rebounds, and racked up five assists along with three steals, leading Seattle to an overtime win and handing Connecticut their first loss. In the third game of the season against the Minnesota Lynx, Jewell led the Storm to a comeback win, overcoming a 17-point deficit while pouring in 23 points, and nabbing three steals.
Even when Jewell herself seems to be struggling, a rare occasion so far this year, head coach Dan Hughes isn’t worried. After the first game of the season, a win over the Las Vegas Aces, he said, “She’s growing into a confidence that’s built on knowledge, even if they’re doing things to stop her, she’s at a point where she’s got some knowledge of how to deal with that.” In just her seventh year in the league, the former number one pick seems to be entering her prime.
Knocking Down the Three, Nailing the Pick & Roll
One of Jewell’s highlights through five games has been her ability to nail the three-ball. Loyd hit five threes in the Minnesota game alone and had another two in critical moments against the Connecticut Sun. Her confidence in the perimeter shot is at an all-time high too, as she’s attempting 9.4 three-pointers per every 100 possessions. Increased volume hasn’t taken away from her effectiveness, making 38.2 percent of her shots from behind the arc. She has been a big reason why Seattle is currently ranked third in the league in both three-point attempts per game and shot percentage.
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) May 21, 2021
Sharing the floor with stars like Stewie and veteran Sue Bird helps open space up for Loyd, with the defense focused on the other two stars, both inside and on the perimeter. Loyd plays to her strengths with this, especially when running the pick and roll. It’s the perfect scenario-in the highlight below, Stewie sets the pick on the wing. Jewell reads that both defenders get stuck on her, and hits Stewie perfectly on the roll to the basket. This combination is a one-two punch to knock out even the toughest defenders.
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) May 23, 2021
Loyd Doesn’t Need the Spotlight
Flying under the radar doesn’t seem to bother Jewell, though. In most press conferences since the start of the season, Loyd has pointed to the importance of team chemistry and finding team flow as the key to winning. After the comeback win against the Minnesota Lynx, Jewell noted, “It’s important, we’re still trying to figure it out and figure out our team chemistry and bonding. For us, that’s super important. We’re not where we want to be right now, we just want to make sure we peak at the right time.” Loyd doesn’t seem to care about who gets the accolades – just that the Storm gets the win.
Loyd’s presence on the court is more than just statistics, though – there’s a grittiness and intellect to her style. A calm of a two-time champion. Her moniker as the “Gold Mamba” is more fitting than ever. Jewell emulates her mentor, Kobe Bryant on the court, rarely emotional and intensely focused on one goal – victory. Loyd’s game might not always consist of the flashiest highlight-reel plays, but is strikingly effective. Jewell is consistent, relentless, and efficient. She’s almost like a silent assassin, sneaking around the court, dodging in and out of traffic. She is an integral, underappreciated piece of the Seattle Storm.
It is past time that Jewell Loyd gets some much-deserved recognition. It is obviously much too early in the season to decide who should receive the MVP award this year. So many things can happen over the course of 32 games. However, Jewell’s performance over the first two weeks has put the league on notice—if the Gold Mamba isn’t on your MVP watchlist, she should be.