Seeing as I didn’t get to them before the season started, and we’ve got a spare day, time to throw out some wild guesses as to who might go home with the hardware at the end of the season. Before anyone makes like Diana and whines, I know that it’s cheating to predict this stuff after the first weekend of games. I apologise. But I don’t own a time machine and can’t wipe my memory, so there’s not a lot I can do about it. Assuming I’m still writing this thing in a year’s time, I’ll try to make sure that everything’s done before the opening tip next season. Meanwhile, you’ll just have to live with it. If you want to check out how I did last year, 2010 predictions can be found here
Most Valuable Player
Got this one right last season. A healthy Lauren Jackson coming into the season on one of the best teams in the league was too hard to ignore, which begs the question, why not go with her again? The thing is, I’m scared a little by the injury she got in Russia, and by simple voter fatigue – the journos tend not to like repeating themselves unless it’s overwhelmingly obvious that they should. The central issue picking who else to go for is working out which teams are going to be any good, because the voters tend to take winning heavily into account when they hand in their ballots. Taurasi, Parker and Fowles were on squads that were terrible last year; Pondexter and Langhorne are on teams that are expected by most to take a significant step back this year. That makes things complicated.
Angel McCoughtry might enter herself into the debate, but coming into the season injured – and that 41% floor shooting she put up last year – puts me off. Tamika Catchings, Indiana’s do-everything leader, was my MVP last year and will likely be in the discussion yet again this season. The problem is, she was so good last year, and her numbers so impressive, that I can’t help but think the voters will look at her stats at the end of this year and think “but she was better last year! How can I vote for someone who got worse?” Even though it should be a single-season decision.
So I’m going with Parker. Healthy for the first time in years, playing on a team where her stats will be through the roof because she’s got no rebounding help, publically known, and I think LA might just win enough games to make people feel okay about voting for her (but I’m far from sure on that last bit). I’d kind of love to see Catch finally get one, though.
MVP Pick: Candace Parker
Backup picks, if I were allowed: Pondexter, Catchings, Jackson
Dark horse outsiders theoretically worth a punt: Maya Moore, Tina Charles
Defensive Player of the Year
Three years running I’ve predicted this one right. It’s like I’m some kind of WNBA DPotY-predicting savant. That may be the single most useless special skill in the history of the world but anyway, I’ll mention it every year until I get one wrong. Tamika Catchings took home this trophy yet again last season, and it’s hard to look in another direction until she gets hurt or retires. The only other thing that might change the situation would be if Chicago could finally become a half-decent team, thereby making people pay more attention to Sylvia Fowles and the effect she has in the paint. But with a new coach, inexperienced key players and holes on their roster, that’s probably a long shot in 2011. So I’ll be boring a predict the three-peat. Does Catch get to keep the trophy if she wins it for a fifth time?
DPotY Pick: Tamika Catchings
Backup picks, if I were allowed: Fowles, Jackson, McCoughtry
Scary outside possibility, if silly voters are swayed by rebounding and block numbers: Candace Parker
Rookie of the Year
Yeah, when college greats enter the WNBA, the pick for RotY is pretty easy. We’ve already seen that Maya Moore’s going to get plenty of opportunities to put up strong numbers in Minnesota, even with the depth on that squad, which means this one’s close to a done deal unless she gets hurt. Liz Cambage is going to get buckets of minutes in Tulsa and there’s so little other talent on the roster that she may end up with better raw numbers than Moore. However, there would need to be a massive gap for an unknown Aussie on a dreadful team to beat out the UConn and Team USA darling on what should be a solid playoff squad. It’ll be a shock if anyone else even gets a mention in this conversation all season.
RotY Pick: Maya Moore
Backup pick, if I were allowed: Liz Cambage
Emergency pick if they both get hit by a bus: Slooooooooooot
Sixth Woman of the Year
This one’s a little more interesting. DeWanna Bonner’s taken it both the last two years, and given that she’s still improving and Phoenix have just as little help alongside her as ever, she’ll likely be right there again. Unless Coach Gaines decides he needs her in the starting lineup. Katie Smith, coming off the bench for the first time in her career with Seattle, could also enter the conversation. Svetlana Abrosimova was one of the contenders last year playing the same role for the Storm, but she didn’t have the years of goodwill and reputation that Smith has already built up (or the defensive ability).
A lot of the benches in the WNBA this season lack that one player that jumps out at you. Most of them are relying on at least two or three, which could prevent an individual from gathering the numbers to fight for this award. Candice Wiggins won it once before, but with Whalen/Augustus/Moore in front of her and Monica Wright alongside, will she get the minutes and shots to compete for the trophy this year? Will Tan White if Danielle McCray is going to start cutting into her time in Connecticut?
Couple of outsiders for you might be Leilani Mitchell in New York and Jia Perkins in San Antonio. Both are used to starting but appear to be bench players for their current coaches, and both can put up offensive numbers that might earn them some votes. Jessica Davenport is also going to get plenty of opportunities this year as practically the only post reserve in Indiana.
Just to be different, I’ll take Smith, who already looks like she’s fitting in nicely in a Storm jersey (not that that’s remotely surprising). But it’d hardly be a shock if this was another award that headed straight for a three-peat.
6WotY Pick: Katie Smith
Backup pick, if I were allowed: DeWanna Bonner
The Who the Hell Knows pick: Liz Cambage – Richardson’s just crazy enough to bench her 17 times this season and make her eligible
I think that’ll do it for today. All the other picks will be posted on Thursday, because the league has another night off on Wednesday so I’d have needed to come up with something to write about then anyway. Subjects will come a lot more easily once we’ve had more game action, trust me.
In other news… Atlanta picked up Kelly Mazzante, waiving Brittainey Raven to make room. I can see the thinking behind this – the Dream have always had trouble with their long-range shooting, so Mazz would be the designated zone-buster. However, Mazz isn’t really that great a shooter, and I can’t see Meadors actually playing her enough to make picking her up particularly meaningful. And Mazz does nothing else.
Just hope that this doesn’t mean they think McCoughtry’s going to be out longer than expected, and that Mazzante will be more help in her absence. Then Dream fans might have cause to start getting a little worried.
Tulsa @ Minnesota, 8pm ET