Top 20: Cappie Pondexter, no. 4
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. 4 – Cappie Pondexter
If you could think of one word that best describes Cappie Pondexter, which one would you choose?
Remarkable? Amazing? Dominant? Versatile?
Personally, I’d pick “unstoppable.”
Cappie is a player that transcends gender; it doesn’t matter if you like men’s basketball or women’s basketball (or both) – she is someone all fans of the game of basketball would gladly pay to watch play.
And, for good reason.
Cappie Pondexter could easily be the toughest player to guard in the entire WNBA. I’ll go one step further – she is one of the most difficult players to guard the WNBA has ever seen.
She is, literally, (and I’m not exaggerating here) unguardable.
You can’t give her too much room along the perimeter or she’ll drill a jumper time after time right in your eye. You can’t guard her too close or she’ll easily beat you with a quick cross-over to the paint. If you’re too soft she’ll burn you. Too physical? Sorry, there are few players in the WNBA more resilient than CP. And we haven’t even started on the most indefensible move the WNBA has arguably ever seen – her jab-step, fade-away jumper.
Let’s face it; you know it’s coming, but you can’t guard it. Really, don’t even try.
Perhaps the best testament to Pondexter as a player is how she has evolved into so much more than just a scorer. Prior to the 2009 season as a member of the Phoenix Mercury, Pondexter worked extensively on her ball-handling, vision, and passing over her off-season in Russia. Not surprisingly, we saw Pondexter lead the team in assists that year (5.0 apg, 3rd in the league) en route to the Mercury’s second WNBA Championship.
I’ve said before that Cappie Pondexter is the Dwyane Wade of the WNBA (which, by the way, Dwayne Wade agreed with wholeheartedly) and she further proved that point with her phenomenal 2010 season with the New York Liberty. Pondexter carried the Liberty throughout the year in virtually every statistical category while leading the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. Cappie did it all; score, distribute the ball, rebound, go to the foul line, defend, and even increased her efficiency in the post-season.
The best (and most fun to watch) part of Cappie’s game is her ability to create her own shot in, seemingly, any way she wants. I’m not entirely certain that people truly understand how difficult this is and why it is such an important facet to her game. It’s more than just scoring the ball; it’s keeping the defense in check, keeping them honest, and opens the floor for her teammates.
Not everyone who is a professional basketball player can create their own shot in the way Cappie can. Sure, they might be able to shoot over an opponent but that is a far cry from what Cappie can do. Cappie is able to get a shot off in the midst of double-teams and stronger, more physical defenders guarding her. She has some of the best handles in the game and quickly understands what the defense is giving (or not giving) her. This type of court-awareness is invaluable to a team and Cappie continues to develop this in her young career.
I’ll wrap this up with a short story of one of the greatest plays I’ve ever personally seen. It occurred in the middle of the 2009 season. Before the game, the players just finished holding their usual chapel gathering in a back-room of the US Airways Center in Phoenix. I was on press row preparing my notes for the game.
“Here you go, B,” Cappie smiled and told me. “Check this out!”
She gave me a prayer-box that held a few pertinent quotations and verses for inspiration. I still have it to this day. And based on the performance she gave, I’m not sure inspired is the best way to describe her game that night. The closest term I can think of is “awe-inspiring.”
The Detroit Shock were the unfortunate victims that evening. In the Mercury’s 97-90 win, Pondexter had 26 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds for the Mercury in 40 minutes of play. On one of the possessions toward the end of the game, Pondexter dribbled toward the top of the key off a screen where two defenders tried to trap her (in typical Detroit Shock fashion) and prevent her from penetrating. She split the defense through the middle, performed a sick cross-over on a third defender, and went underneath the backside of the hoop for a left-handed reverse layup (over a fourth defender). Immediately, I couldn’t help picturing Isiah Thomas, Tiny Archibald, and Dwyane Wade’s fearless and patented drives to the hoop.
One word? Unstoppable.