Top 20: Candace Parker, no. 5
The definitive ranking of the WNBA’s best players.
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. 5 – Candace Parker
In an ironic way, the majority of us take Candace Parker for granted.
Admittedly, it does sound strange if you think about her immense popularity around the globe, but there is a lot of truth to that statement. Her consistently amazing play has become commonplace in spite of how transcendent she has become.
Because of this, we often overlook how brilliant she is on and off the court. Many people are aware of her illustrious name and status as a dominant figure in the sport, yet few truly realize how special she is.
Think of what Candace Parker has managed to accomplish in just 68 total career games in the WNBA. Not only is she arguably the world’s most popular player, she created an incredible sense of excitement and anticipation when she entered the league in 2008 and exploded onto the scene with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists in the greatest rookie debut in league history. Since then, she has already found herself ascending the WNBA record books ranking 9th all-time in points per game (16.8), 3rd all-time in rebounds per game (9.7), and 3rd all-time in blocks per game (2.2).
If you think about it, we really haven’t seen a player like Parker yet in the WNBA. She is virtually unguardable in the post and handles the rock like a point guard. Her left hand is just as good as her right and she has fantastic range for her size. One of her most overlooked qualities is her passing and court vision; Parker is consistently double teamed and, if she doesn’t break out of it (which she does frequently), she easily finds an open teammate for a bucket. Like Dwight Howard in the NBA, Parker is an invaluable force on the defensive end of the court with the way she forces the offense to alter their shots in the paint.
Parker is, perhaps, the most “hyped” women’s basketball player of all-time – and for good reason. More importantly, she is one of the few who have not just lived up to the hype, but surpassed it. She has shown an awe-inspiring ability to perform under adversity and has proven to be the go-to player in clutch situations at multiple levels. During her unbelievable run at Tennessee (where she won 101 games and lost just 10) she continually elevated her game to match the increasing pressure level en route to two straight National Championships. This innate (and unteachable) ability translated directly into the WNBA which earned her Rookie of the Year and WNBA MVP in the same season (the only player in league history to do so).
All this…and we still haven’t seen the best of Candace Parker. Crazy, huh?
Parker has missed the vast majority of the past two WNBA seasons due to the birth of her daughter in 2009 and a season-ending shoulder injury in 2010. During the ten games she played in 2010, Parker was having another MVP-type year. She averaged 20.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.2 bpg, and 2.2 apg while shooting 50 percent from the floor. Had she continued on that pace, it would have been one of the greatest individual seasons in WNBA history.
In fact, Parker had one of the best games I’ve ever seen by a WNBA player on May 28, 2010 against the Washington Mystics. She tallied 30 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals with just a single personal foul in 40 minutes of play (the Sparks won, 81-75). Obviously, the stat line speaks for itself but it was the way she was scoring and creating for her team that was the most breathtaking. She simply couldn’t be stopped. Washington, a terrific defensive team, threw everything but the kitchen sink at her and she still found a way to shoot 52 percent from the floor and actively involve her teammates in the game.
It was one of those performances that make you wish more people were watching (especially the naysayers) so they would gain an appreciation for how magnificent of a basketball player she is. I’ll even go one step further; it was a game that would make a detractor of the WNBA completely reverse their stance altogether.
She was that good.
Recently, I spoke to Parker about the upcoming 2011 season. She mentioned that she feels she has something to prove; not just to her fans, fellow players, and the general public but, most of all, to herself. Parker isn’t one to sit idly by and be content with just making the playoffs. If she doesn’t win a championship, it isn’t a good year.
You might say she is more motivated than ever.
And for the rest of the league, that has to be terrifying.