She’s Got Game

Oct 4, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker (3) dribbles in the third quarter against the Minnesota Lynx in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The WNBA season is approaching All-Star weekend and it is has been as predictable as picking the winning lottery numbers. From East to West, there have been some noteworthy performances as well as things to pay attention to off the court.

Here are the biggest headlines that have shaped the WNBA season thus far:

Overworked and Underpaid

Elena Delle Donne, Candace Parker, Maya Moore, and a slew of others are the stars that help the WNBA generate revenue as they are box office. You see these ladies give their all during the season and practice hard in the offseason to continue to help the WNBA evolve. However, it is disheartening to find out how little these ladies get paid. They truly get paid pennies on the dollar compared to the men in the NBA.

The average salary for NBA players this past season, per Gazette Review, was $5 million last season. For the WNBA, the median salary for players this season, per Forbes, is $71,635. Here is something even more disturbing: the NBA’s referees’ average salary is $150,000.

One might argue that the WNBA lacks TV viewers or the live audience needed to help generate revenue to pay the ladies what they deserve. That is kind of true, but the deeper issue is that the players, according to Forbes, receive only 20 percent of the shared revenue while the NBA players are seeing 50 percent of the pie. That is like paying for half of a pizza and only receiving a slice or two.

Furthermore, if you have ever noticed, athletes like Diana Taurasi and Kelsey Plum have played overseas almost immediately at the conclusion of the WNBA’s season. That is because overseas the starting salary is $100,000. One of the highest paid players in the WNBA is Parker at $113,500. They work hard and bust their tails just like the men, so they deserve the same percentage when it comes to shared revenue. Need I say anything else?

More Parity

On a lighter note, the association is seeing more competition than it has seen in the last three years as the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have dominated during that span. The two franchises have won the last three WNBA championships (two for the Lynx and one for the Sparks) and have quietly formed one of the best rivalries in sports. Unfortunately, part four of the rivalry is in jeopardy.

The Seattle Storm sit atop the WNBA with a 19-7 record. The Atlanta Dream have 16 wins while the Phoenix Mercury, Minnesota, and Los Angeles are in that next wave of title contenders with 15 wins. Not far behind them are the Washington Mystics, Dallas Wings, and the Connecticut Sun with 14 wins. Meanwhile the Las Vegas Aces continue to tread water as they hover around the .500 mark.

With less than a month after All-Star weekend, expect the playoff race to heat up.

Stars Shining Bright

Well, the WNBA’s All-Star weekend is upon us as Delle Donne and Parker are the captains for the two teams. Beyond the All-Stars, there is a bigger battle brewing among the superstars for the most prestigious honor, the MVP award.

Top Candidates for MVP Season Averages:

  • Breanna Stewart: 22.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, 1.7 3PM, 54 FG%
  • Sylvia Fowles: 17.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks, 60.5 FG%
  • Liz Cambage: 22.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 58.3 FG%
  • Candace Parker: 18.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 1.2 3PM, 49 FG%
  • Elena Delle Donne: 20.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.7 3PM, 39.3 3P%
  • Diana Taurasi: 20.3 points, 4.8 assists, 3.4 3PM, 39.8 3P%

Stewart is in her third season and has the Storm sitting nicely with the best record in the WNBA while leading the league in scoring. Fowles continues to be a threat down low on both ends of the floor. She is averaging a career-high in rebounds and is fourth in the league in field goal percentage. Cambage is enjoying a breakout season in Dallas averaging career-highs in points, assists, rebounds, and can even hit the three-ball now.

Parker is the only player, on this list, that is top 15 in points, rebounds, and assists as she is a triple double threat nightly. Delle Donne’s 4.3 free throw attempts per game are the lowest at any point in her career, but she is hitting 1.7 three-pointers nightly, a new milestone in her career. Lastly, Taurasi, or as Kobe Bryant dubbed her “The White Mamba”, is averaging 20 points per game for the first time since 2013. Her “Mamba Mentality” has Phoenix feeling good about their chances of winning a ring.

There is so much excitement in this year’s MVP race. However, Seattle’s Stewart seems poised to win the award, barring an uncommon run by one of the players above or a dark horse candidate. A’ja Wilson could throw her hat in the ring for MVP if the Aces can get on a hot streak. The rookie from South Carolina is averaging 20 points, 8.6 boards, and 1.8 swats per contest.

The WNBA season wraps up on August 19. The drama in both the championship as well as the MVP race will be something worth paying attention to as both races are wide open. While we praise the men for their unreal athleticism and dexterous skills, the WNBA’s athletes can shake-and-bake with the best of them as well.