Top 20: Lindsay Whalen, no. 18
The definitive ranking of the WNBA’s best players.
By Ben York / @bjyork
Some of you won’t care, and we’re about 99 percent positive we’ll get a few of the traditional “what is the WNBA?” comments we usually do. But this is long overdue – SLAMonline’s first ever in-depth player rankings for the WNBA.
Why just the top 20 and not the top 50? Simple. There are 18 fewer teams in the WNBA than the NBA and roster sizes are limited to 11 players. Thus, the NBA has hundreds of more players than the WNBA does – and this list needs and deserves to be competitive.
This list is based solely on projected performance in the 2011 season. Traditional player statistics are taken into account but being a successful and effective player in The W is so much more than that. It’s what each player means to the team – in terms of responsibility, leadership, management and all-around game.
We know you’ll see players you think should be on the list but aren’t. Conversely, you’ll also see players on the list that you’ll vehemently disagree with. Maybe you agree with the entire top 20. Just be sure to let us know in the comment section. – Ed.
No. 18 – Lindsay Whalen
Labeling Lindsay Whalen as the best-known women’s basketball player in Minnesota history, in my opinion, sells her short. As good as Lindsay Whalen is, I still don’t think she truly gets the recognition she deserves as a basketball player.
Well, outside of the state of Minnesota that is…
I could sit here and talk about her court vision (she’s never averaged less than 4.6 apg in her seven years in the league) or her consistency (career averages of 12 ppg, 5 apg, 4.2 rpg, and 1.6 spg) but others have already done that ad nauseam.
For those who follow women’s basketball, there is little doubt she is one of the top three point guards in the game and you could make a solid case for her to be no.1. She led the Connecticut Sun to back-to-back trips to the WNBA Finals in 2004 and 2005, is 8th place in total assists all-time (1,148), and holds 5th place all-time in average assists per game (5.0).
But if you really watch what Whalen does on the basketball court closely, I personally guarantee you’ll gain a greater appreciation for her game. Fast.
It’s more than the assists, more than the clutch scoring, and more than all of the intangibles she brings to a team. It’s her stability, her leadership, and her drive that really begin to separate her from not just other point guards in the league but other players in general.
Teammates just feel better with her on the court. Like any good point guard should, she sees the game 2-3 plays ahead of time, lets the game come to her, and takes what the defense gives her.
But she does these things better than almost any other point guard in the league.
I remember watching her and the Minnesota Lynx play against the Connecticut Sun at home in early August of 2010. In the overtime win, Whalen exploded for 27 points, 12 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, and only 3 turnovers in 41 minutes. Now, what made this game even more unbelievable was that her brother-in-law was tragically found dead in a Minnesota lake only a couple days prior. On top of that, Minnesota had a 30-point lead early in the game but a ferocious comeback by the Sun would tie the score with just under a minute left. And who do you think stepped up for Lynx, both emotionally and physically, when the game was on the line?
Lindsay Whalen. She made six clutch free throws to seal the win down the stretch.
It was one of the greatest and most heartfelt performances I’ve ever seen at any level. I can only imagine the roller coaster of emotions Whalen must have felt during the game after losing a family member a mere hours before. In the end, she simply made a conscious decision to carry the Lynx on her back and wouldn’t let them lose.
Performances like this often get overlooked as just another “good” game from a “great” player. When she inevitably has another similar game, and it will happen, be thankful you were able to witness it.
Players with as much heart as Lindsay Whalen don’t come around very often.