With the WNBA’s regular season coming to a close, the race for the league’s MVP trophy is heating up.
Three players—A’ja Wilson, Alyssa Thomas, and Breanna Stewart—have put together historic seasons. Whether it’s Thomas dropping another triple-double, Stewart hitting us with multiple 40-point games, or Wilson popping for 53 points and tying the single-game scoring record, they’re making the award chase complex and tense for fans and voters alike.
Wilson, Thomas, and Stewie are each having record-breaking seasons—all are worthy of MVP votes. And all three have helped their teams to sit atop the league’s standings as we head into the postseason.
That begs the question: what sets each player apart in the chase for the WNBA’s most coveted individual award? Let’s present the case for the top-three MVP candidates through the numbers, as well as what each player means to the rosters of the W’s best teams.
It seems silly to even make the case for a two-time MVP, WNBA Champion, five-time All-Star, and last season’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. But, we’re going to do it anyway.
Wilson is the face of the modern WNBA. She’s the player you want on your team to set a culture that leads to winning basketball.
53 points. Case closed.
As MVP talks turned serious, Wilson tied the WNBA’s single game record with 53 points, showcasing one of only three 50-plus point performances in league history.
This season, Wilson is averaging 22.3 points per game (PPG) and 9.6 rebounds per game (RPG) to lead the way for the defending champs, debatably the league’s best team.
If that isn’t enough, she leads the WNBA in field goals made (FGM) per game with an extreme shot volume. Talk about efficiency.
Wilson is shooting at a career-best rate from the floor, converting on 54.6 percent of her shot attempts. She has a league-leading 31.6 player efficiency rating (PER), according to HerHoopStats.
In addition, Wilson is getting to the free-throw line more than any other player and is leading the W with 2.2 blocks per game (BPG).
“She’s just a handful,” said Becky Hammon, Las Vegas Aces head coach. “You kind of have to foul [Wilson] when she’s rolling; there’s just no other way to get her under control.”
Wilson is picking apart defenses and getting to the hoop no matter the coverage thrown at her. On the other side of the ball, she’s leading the WNBA in defensive rating, holding opponents to 91.6 points per one hundred possessions, according to HerHoopStats.
“She’s just different, man,” said Aces guard Kelsey Plum after Wilson’s 53-point scoring outburst. “I said this on the broadcast after the game, but I really feel like we’re watching generational talent, and I think that we have to stop comparing people and just let them be great. What we’re seeing right now is historic, it’s a historic run, and it’s just beginning. I get the privilege of seeing [Wilson] every day in practice and in the locker room. This is one of the greatest players of all time, and she’s just starting to play, which is crazy.”
AT does it all for the Connecticut Sun.
Thomas is the only player to lead the WNBA in total rebounds and total assists in the same season. She is also ranked top-three in the league in both total steals and steals per game (SPG).
Currently, she’s averaging 15.9 PPG, 9.9 RPG, and 8.0 assists per game (APG), just two assists per game away from averaging a triple-double.
Tasked to do even more after Jonquel Jones was traded to the New York Liberty and Brionna Jones suffered a season-ending injury early in Connecticut’s 2023 campaign, Thomas is still taking her game to new heights. She’s having a career year scoring, passing, rebounding, and blocking the basketball all on an increased workload, playing extreme minute volumes each night.
She has played 40 or more minutes 12 times this season. Connecticut simply can’t afford to have AT on the bench.
“She drives our team; she’s really the engine of our team,” said Natisha Hiedeman, starting point guard for the Sun. “It goes hand-in-hand, but at the end of the day, regardless of what happens, we know how good we are as a team, and we know AT is our MVP.”
Thomas is doing things that no other WNBA player has done before, holding both the single season and all-time triple-doubles records. What may be even more impressive is her role in keeping the Sun atop league standings in a year with organizational turnover and being written off before the season thanks to the brewing “superteams” in New York and Las Vegas.
AT has also set a single season record for double-doubles, currently sitting with 27 on the year. Thomas is a threat to pull down at least a double-double each time she steps on the court, thanks to her efficiency scoring near the rim, grabbing rebounds, and finding teammates for open looks.
“[Thomas] is the defensive anchor,” said Stephanie White, Connecticut Sun head coach. “She can guard one through five; her versatility is key. And if you take her [away], we are a completely different team. I think she’s earned the opportunity to be not just in the conversation, but to be a front runner for MVP.”
Stewie has willed the New York Liberty to play the team’s best basketball as we head towards the postseason.
After a Commissioner’s Cup victory over Las Vegas and another couple of regular season wins over the Aces, the Liberty look to be clicking at the right time as they get ready to make a run for the first title in franchise history.
This season, Stewart is averaging 23.3 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.6 BPG, and 1.5 SPG. She is the W’s second-leading scorer per game, behind only her former teammate in Seattle, Jewell Loyd. Stewie leads the league if you are looking at total points volume.
She is the first player in WNBA history to record three 40-point games in a single season. Then, she went and added another 40-point performance just this week. She set a franchise record for points in a single game with 45 during her home debut in a Liberty uniform, a proper beginning for the Stew York City era.
The superstar on a team of superstars, Stewart is putting up career-high scoring numbers on a roster where there are more mouths to feed than she may be used to. The scoring increase is coming on career-high volume from both the three-point line and inside the arc. As the shot volume has increased, Stewie’s efficiency hasn’t gone down.
The Liberty are a different team without Stewie on the floor. The 2018 WNBA MVP, two-time champion, and two-time Finals MVP will be the engine hoping to bring New York a championship.
WNBA fans are blessed with three leading candidates for the league’s MVP award, all generational players putting together historic seasons. As we head into the end of regular season play, who’s your favorite for WNBA MVP?
Stats as of 9/6. Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of WNBA.com