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|Tina Charles was strong from beginning to end, leading in Connecticut to an East-best 25-9 record and top seed in the Eastern Conference.|
The WNBA regular season wrapped up Sunday. As we head into the playoffs, who is the favorite for MVP?
By Mechelle Voepel
Some seasons, I cast my vote for the WNBA's MVP without much agonizing. Then there are seasons like this year, when I've set aside some time daily for the past two weeks to agonize over every possible type of statistical analysis in an attempt to split hairs between great players.
It's been extremely hard to choose. I made the case to myself for four players to win the award. Then I narrowed it to three. Then was sure I'd settled on one. Then I changed my mind to another. Then to another. Then back to the first one. Repeat process.
Connecticut's Tina Charles and Los Angeles' Candace Parker are the popular front-runners for the award, both for great reasons. Their impact on their teams is monumental. And in the multiple times I filled out my MVP ballot in my head, they each spent time as the No. 1 choice.
But when I finally pushed the "send" button on my ballot, there was another name in that spot: Minnesota's Maya Moore. Yes, she plays alongside another superstar in Seimone Augustus, has a masterful point guard in Lindsay Whalen, and the Lynx are a deep team. All that will work against Moore winning the MVP. It probably will go to Charles, and that is fine. She is totally deserving and was (an agonizing) No. 2 on my ballot.
But in the end, I was swayed by Moore's versatility, energy, efficiency and leadership -- despite being just in her second year as a pro -- for the defending champs, who again have the best record in the WNBA.
By Michelle Smith
After a stellar regular season, Tina Charles of the Connecticut Sun should be the favorite for the MVP.
In her third year out of Connecticut, Charles set league records for single-season rebounds and rebounding average. She averaged 18 points a game. The player who was once constantly challenged by her college coach Geno Auriemma for her desire has rounded into the league's premier post player and one of the top centers in the world.
Unlike some of her compatriots on the Olympic team, who returned from London tired or injured, Charles had no lull. She jumped right back in and continued to dominate. Her play inside led the Sun to the second-best record in the league and a legitimate shot at a WNBA title.
By Graham Hays
There was a time in Connecticut when it was almost blasphemous to suggest Tina Charles was the most valuable player on her own team. Well, she's still in the Nutmeg State, albeit with the team that plays about 30 miles down the road from UConn, but it's not that difficult to argue the third-year center for the Connecticut Sun is the most valuable player in the WNBA for the 2012 season.
Five teams won at least 20 games this season. In four cases, a team's leading scorer was separated from its second-leading scorer by fewer than two points per game (Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus for the Lynx; Kristi Toliver and Candace Parker for the Sparks; Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas for the Fever and Sophia Young and Becky Hammon for the Silver Stars). The lone exception was Connecticut, which was paced by Charles at 18 points per game, 2.9 points per game more than second-leading scorer Kara Lawson. For that matter, Asjha Jones, the Sun's third-leading scorer on a points-per-game basis, only played 19 games in the regular season.
The Sun are far from a one-woman team -- Lawson, in particular, had perhaps her best regular season in a career that isn't short on worthy options for that label -- but it's a statistically simple fact that none of the league's elite teams counted on one player to provide points as consistently as the Sun did with Charles. (Angel McCoughtry would have qualified on that count had she played more than 23 games for the Dream, but when it comes to MVP, that's kind of the point.) And that isn't even getting to the part where Charles leads the league in rebounding, finishes third in blocks or joins Young and Sylvia Fowles as the only players to average at least 15 points per game and shoot 50 percent or better from the field. She was good early in the season, best late in the season and never anything but reliable for a team that won the second-most games in the league. She was, in a word, valuable.
By Kate Fagan
Tina Charles will be this season's WNBA MVP.
Although Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks is the flashier choice, I think the voters will reward Charles for her consistent on-court production: She leads the league in rebounding and double-doubles, and she's fifth in scoring and second in blocks. On top of that, the Connecticut Sun is by far the best team in the Eastern Conference (they open the playoffs Thursday against the New York Liberty).
Basically, the MVP race is down to Charles and Parker. At the halfway mark, Parker was the clear-cut favorite, but her second half of the season hasn't been at quite that same level. Parker has recently posted some impressive numbers, but I still think Charles will win the first MVP award of her young career. (She won rookie of the year in 2010.)
What has been awesome about Charles the last few weeks is how well she has performed without frontcourt mate Asjha Jones. Even though Charles has been absorbing the full attention of opponents' interior defensive efforts, she has still produced.
By Adena Andrews
Numbers never lie, and right now Tina Charles' numbers are telling the story of the WNBA's next MVP. Averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, Charles is doing everything needed for her team and then some. She's effective on both ends of the floor, scoring in double figures for every game but two and grabbing at least eight rebounds in 29 games. Not only do her stats look good for her, they have also propelled the Sun to the No. 1 seed in the East.
To me a most valuable player award should go to the player the team would be lost without, and in this case, Charles is the fire that will keep the Sun burning into the playoffs.
By Sarah Spain
My money's on Tina Charles. She helped the Sun to an Eastern Conference-best 25-9 record during the regular season, leading the team in points, rebounds and blocks. In the Sun's regular-season finale against the Dream, Charles had 17 points and nine rebounds, giving her a WNBA-best 345 rebounds and a 10.5 average on the year. Charles also broke her own franchise scoring record with 18 points per game. The 6-4 center found a way to keep her team on top all year, picking up the slack when fellow Olympian Asjha Jones went down, preventing a letdown in her absence. Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings are putting up big numbers this season, but neither has been as consistent as Charles.