Top 20: Penny Taylor, no. 9
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. 9 – Penny Taylor
Let me be as straightforward as possible: Penny Taylor has no weaknesses as a basketball player.
It’s a bold statement; but it’s the truth. The Phoenix Mercury has continually asked Taylor to modify her game based on the personnel they’ve had since her first year with the team in 2004. Each time, she’s added a new dimension to her game and been a key piece to the team’s collective success.
In 2007, the Mercury needed her to be more of a scorer. She responded by averaging 18 ppg en route to their first WNBA Championship. In 2009, the Mercury needed her to be that extra missing piece on their roster to combat any opposing team’s depth. Again, her play was integral toward their second championship run. Perhaps her best all-around season was in 2010 when Phoenix felt the loss of playmaker, Cappie Pondexter. Taylor posted career-highs in assists per game (5.0), field-goal percentage (51.0), and three-point field-goal percentage (44.2).
With Taylor, it’s more than just the numbers she puts up on the offensive end. A vastly underrated defensive player, Taylor is an excellent rebounder for her size and averages 1-2 steals per game. More importantly, she usually has to guard the opposing team’s best scorer and the majority of players at her position are bigger and stronger. However, Taylor’s toughness and grit more than make up for any lack of size. In fact, pound for pound, I’d argue Taylor is the toughest player in the game today.
I’ve thought for many years that Penny Taylor has never truly received the credit she deserves. It’s difficult to imagine the Phoenix Mercury winning the 2007 and 2009 WNBA Championships without her energy, enthusiasm, and playmaking ability. She seemed to always provide a needed basket, steal, or clutch play. Just her presence on the court put her teammates at ease knowing that Taylor would step up in times of need.
Taylor seems to find herself in the unsung hero role quite often. Honestly, it’s a testament to her character and integrity. She doesn’t need to be the center of attention and certainly doesn’t play the game for the accolades. Taylor is one of the few players who can have an amazing line statistically and it goes largely unnoticed due to her low-key demeanor and sweet personality off the court.
One of my favorite Penny Taylor stories begins with a friend of mine who had previously never watched (or been to) a WNBA game. Luckily for him, he accepted my invitation to come see game 1 of the 2009 WNBA Finals against the Indiana Fever (widely regarded as one of the greatest games in WNBA history). As I mentioned, my buddy hadn’t been to a WNBA game before so he was certainly surprised to see such a hype atmosphere. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the WNBA; he just focused more on the men’s game. He played college ball and generally spends more time following the NBA.
I was covering the game but he was nice enough to sit with a few of my other friends and family. The game actually went into overtime and became the highest scoring game in WNBA history at the time with the Mercury coming away with a 120-116 victory. Penny Taylor had a team-high 23 points (including a team-high +/- of +25) in the win.
After the game, my friend wasted no time gushing about about Taylor’s play.
“I got to tell you,” my buddy said, “Penny Taylor is ridiculously good. I get the feeling that a lot of the other players get more credit but there is no way they win that game without her. I mean, I’ve only seen one game but it’s enough to make me come back. She is someone I’d pay to watch play and I don’t say that about many NBA players.”
Couldn’t have said it any better.