Washington Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud is sitting out this season, but she's been keeping up with the league and took to Twitter last week to share her thoughts on the MVP race.
I'm just gonna say this here," Cloud tweeted. "Courtney Vandersloot's name needs to be at the top of the list for mvp candidates."
It's hard to argue with Cloud's assertion. While Breanna Stewart and A'ja Wilson are the leading candidates for the honor so far, Vandersloot is certainly right in the mix. On pace to lead the league in assists for the fourth straight season, and coming off her first All-WNBA First Team appearance last season, Vandersloot has established herself as the best point guard in the league.
Through the first 14 games, she's putting up a career-high 13.4 points and 8.7 assists per game, and is on pace to join the exclusive 50/40/90 club. If she continues shooting this well, she'll become just the second WNBA player ever to pull off that feat.
Her impact on the offensive end has never been a secret, but what she's doing this season is unlike anything she's done before. Chicago's offensive rating with her on the floor this season is 111.2. When she sits, it plummets to 80.4. In other words, the Sky have the best offense in the league when she's running the show, and are off-the-charts, unfathomably bad without her.
Having led the Sky to a 10-4 start, the only things going against Vandersloot are her defense, which has never been all that impressive, and the fact that Stewart and Wilson are also putting together dominant seasons.
1. Las Vegas Aces (10-3) -- last week No. 2
Vegas' only loss in August so far was by two points to the Sky on a last-second layup. Their ability to get to the free throw line has so far made up for their complete disinterest in shooting 3-pointers. Only nine teams in the past decade have averaged more than their 23.4 free throw attempts per game.
2. Seattle Storm (11-3) -- last week No. 1
The Storm aren't exactly facing adversity at this point, but they're on a losing streak for the first time all season after losses to the Fever and Aces, and their lead atop the league has dropped to half a game. They still have the best record and best net rating, but the last few games were a reminder that no one in the WNBA is unbeatable.
3. Los Angeles Sparks (10-3) -- last week No. 3
Long winning streaks have been the theme in the WNBA this season, and the Sparks are the latest team to join the party. They've rattled off seven in a row to move to 10-3, which has them tied for second place in the league. Their offense has been solid, but they're really getting things on the defensive end, where they're third in the league, holding teams to 95.5 points per 100 possessions.
4. Chicago Sky (10-4) -- last week No. 4
Four straight wins have Chicago all alone in fourth place at 10-4, which is the fastest they've gotten to 10 victories since 2013. Putting up a career-high 13.4 points per game, and once again leading the league in assists by a wide margin -- 8.7, and no one else has more than 5.5 -- Courtney Vandersloot is starting to get some fringe MVP buzz.
5. Minnesota Lynx (9-4) -- last week No. 5
Sylvia Fowles remains out indefinitely with a calf injury, but the Lynx aren't falling apart without her. Their defense remains strong, and Napheesa Collier is playing as well as anyone in the league. Over her last five games, she's averaging 20.6 points, 10 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks per game, on shooting splits of 53.0/57.1/78.1.
6. Connecticut Sun (6-8) -- last week No. 7
After their shocking 1-6 start, the Sun have continued to look much more like the team we all expected heading into the season. Which is to say, a solid, lower-tier playoff team. Starting in place of Jonquel Jones, fourth-year big Brionna Jones has quietly put together a really nice season. She's putting up career highs across the board, averaging 11.2 points on 57.3 percent from the field.
7. Phoenix Mercury (7-7) -- last week No. 6
The big news in the WNBA world this week was that Brittney Griner has left the bubble for personal reasons. It's not clear when or if she'll return, but hopefully everything is OK with her and her family. From a basketball perspective, the Mercury's hopes of contending are gone if she doesn't come back.
8. Indiana Fever (5-8) -- last week No. 8
It was a fitting week for the Fever, as they sandwiched double-digit losses to the Sun and Sky around a stunning upset win over the Storm. They truly cannot guard anyone -- only the Dream have a worse defense -- but their offense, led by budding star Kelsey Mitchell, is good enough that on some nights it won't matter.
9. Dallas Wings (5-9) -- last week No. 9
The good news on the injury front is that Satou Sabally returned after missing nearly two weeks with a back injury. The bad news is Moriah Jefferson (knee) and Isabelle Harrison (ankle) have both been ruled out for the rest of the season. But for all their youth and injuries, the Wings have been hanging in there, and are only half a game out of the final playoff spot.
10. Washington Mystics (4-9) -- last week No. 10
Aerial Powers has now officially been ruled out for the season due to a hamstring injury, which is a huge blow for any hope Washington had of turning things back around. Before she got injured, they were 3-3 and had the fourth-best offense (103.6 offensive rating) in the league. Since then, they're 1-6 and are 10th in offense (98).
11. Atlanta Dream (3-11) -- last week No. 11
The Dream finally snapped their 10-game losing streak on Sunday with a win over the Lynx, thanks in large part to another big game from Betnijah Laney. She's absolutely running away with Most Improved Player, having raised her scoring from 5.6 points per game last season with the Fever to 16.8 this season.
12. New York Liberty (1-12) -- last week No. 12
Seven straight losses now for the Liberty, and this season is getting really ugly for them. They lost by 41 to the Storm last week, and now have nine double-digit losses. One bit of good news is doctors have determined Sabrina Ionescu doesn't need surgery on her injured ankle, and her rehab is going well.