Top 20: Candice Dupree, no. 14
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.
Also, check out Ben’s weekly podcast at WNBA.com.– Ed.
No. 14 – Candice Dupree
Candice Dupree makes everything look effortless on the basketball court.
You’ve heard the Wooden expression, “be quick but don’t hurry,” right? That’s essentially Dupree in a nutshell. Similar to Tim Duncan in the NBA, Dupree dominates the offensive end of the floor with footwork, a high basketball IQ, and the proper usage of angles on the floor.
I was fortunate enough to accompany the Phoenix Mercury on a road trip to Seattle and Los Angeles last summer for a SLAM Magazine article. In practice, I watched Dupree constantly work on catching the ball in the post not just in the right position to score with either hand, but also so she is able to spot multiple areas on the floor for open teammates. This might seem like elementary stuff but there are few players of her stature that focus on these details.
It should come as no surprise then that her efficiency rating, +20.97, was good for 6th in the league. In fact, Dupree has solidified herself as one of the most effective players in the history of women’s basketball. Don’t believe me? Last season, her first with the Mercury, Dupree averaged 16 ppg, 7 rpg, and shot 67 percent from the floor.
67 percent. Unheard of. And it isn’t like she only took 2-3 shots per game – it was actually closer to 13.
I draw the comparison to Tim Duncan for several reasons. One, because they have very similar games. They dribble and pass with a purpose rather than on a whim like many post players do. Two, they have an amazing grasp of the fundamentals of the game. This innate ability has allowed them to score on players they probably shouldn’t and defend players that are bigger and stronger. Three, their personalities nearly mirror each other. They remain stoic on the court but are genuine, funny, and kind off it.
Maybe the best part of Candice Dupree is how fun she is to watch on the court; she’ll make moves that few players in the NBA can. She can go to the basket with either hand and be just as successful with each. Her arsenal of moves in the paint conjure up visions of a mix of George Gervin and Hakeem Olajuwon (yes, she’s that good). She can take you one on one, knows how to split the double team, and is a much better passer than she gets credit for. Her ease of movement is remarkable and virtually unguardable. Again, she moves with a purpose and this smoothness allows her to draw fouls, create mismatches, and open up areas on the floor for her teammates.
Don’t mistake her chill personality with a lack of competitiveness; that couldn’t be further from the truth. Dupree is one of the first players to arrive to the arena on game days (think Ray Allen type commitment) and one of the last to leave the practice floor on off days. The scary part? She’ll continue to get better and better.
With a nucleus of Dupree, Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, Temeka Johnson, and DeWanna Bonner this Phoenix Mercury team will be a contender for many years.