As is our annual tradition, we’re counting down the 30 best players in the WNBA. Nos. 30 through 21 was published Monday, and Nos. 20 through 11 was published Tuesday.
Each member of the Swish Appeal staff was asked to rank their top 30, including rookies, based on who will be the best in the WNBA for only the 2022 season. If a player was voted 1st on a list, they earned 30 points; second place earned 29, and so on, and the totals were summed together to make a collective staff determination. In the event of a tie, the player who was higher on the 2021 list stayed ahead.
Players who received votes but didn’t make our final list include Sami Whitcomb, Sue Bird, Rebecca Allen, Brianna Turner, Stefanie Dolson, Kayla McBride, Dearica Hamby, Brionna Jones, Sabrina Ionescu, Allie Quigley, Myisha Hines-Allen, and Gabby Williams.
10) Skylar Diggins-Smith (96 points)
Last year: No. 13
Apparently Diggins-Smith wasn’t content with No. 13 because she put her heart and soul into the Mercury last season with Diana Taurasi out at times. Twenty six-straight games in double figures (if you skip over a game in which she was injured in the second minute). Season averages of 17.7 points and 5.3 assists. All of it resulted in a seventh-place finish in MVP voting. She comes from a draft class that basically had three No. 1-level picks and has lived up to the hype. She put up even better assist numbers in 2017 and 2018 in Dallas and a scoring average as high as 20.1 in Tulsa. She is arguably the best point guard in the WNBA — she tied Courtney Vandersloot in our voting and certainly brings more as a scorer than Vandersloot. Diggins-Smith was a first-time Olympian and gold medalist in 2021.
9) Courtney Vandersloot (96 points)
Last year: No. 8
Last year, Vandersloot became the quickest player to reach 2,000 assists and recorded the second-ever playoff triple-double. In the triple-double game, she tied her own record of 18 assists in a single game. Her scoring average was down 3.1 to 10.5 and her assist average was down 1.4 to 8.6 from a season where she was in the MVP discussion (finished fourth in voting and received a first-place vote). But she was phenomenal again and led the league in assists per game for the fifth consecutive season. Sue Bird has the hardware to back up her claim to the greatest point guard of all-time distinction, but nobody has ever put up the assists numbers that Vandersloot has put up. She lands in our Top 10 for the second straight year, which is quite a feat considering the position she plays doesn’t get a lot of superstar recognition.
8) Candace Parker (99 points)
Last year: No. 7
Parker appeared on a couple MVP ballots last year, though I personally had her at No. 14 on my list. She averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and four assists per game. She wasn’t the main star of the postseason for the Sky, but played a key role in bringing a first WNBA title to her hometown, Chicago. She’s 1-for-1 winning a championship with her new team, which has to feel really good. Her monster stat score (career-best points, rebounds, assists times 1.5, steals and blocks averages added up) remains an incredibly high 44.4 without age factored in. That’s because she can fill out the entire stat sheet. She’s a 6-foot-4 power forward and in 2015 averaged 6.3 assists per game. She just turned 36 but is still one of the best players in the league as she pursues back-to-back championships.
7) Tina Charles (110 points)
Last year: No. 10
Charles’ monster stat score without age factored in was third among active players when the calculations were made last year. She has passed GOAT Diana Taurasi, who was second last year, as she now possesses a score of 43.9, just 0.5 behind Parker. Quite an accomplishment to pass Taurasi even though the formula favors taller players who get more rebounds than shorter players. The reason her monster stat score increased was because her career-best scoring average went up 1.9 to 23.4. She made a career-high 1.9 threes per game at a career-best clip of 36.5 percent. With that shot added her repertoire, expect another big scoring season from her. She was No. 10 on our list last year only to come out and have the best statistical season of anybody in the league.
6) Sylvia Fowles (115 points)
Last year: No. 17
Fowles proved us even more wrong than we were with Charles, finishing fourth in MVP voting at age 35. She was of course only ranked as low as No. 17 because of her age — she is the 10th best player in league history according to ESPN. She had four 25-point double-doubles last year, including games of 30 points and 14 rebounds, 29 and 20 and 26 and 19. Those monster performances are just part of what made her an MVP candidate. She also won her fourth defensive player of the year award with 1.8 blocks per game and a career-high 1.8 steals per game, the latter being incredible for a center. 2022 will be Fowles’ farewell tour and what a career it has been, both in Chicago and in Minnesota. She is a two-time WNBA champion with the Lynx.
5) Jewell Loyd (116 points)
Last year: No. 15
Loyd’s monster stat score of 30.2 isn’t very high for someone at No. 5, but she is as good a scorer as anyone in the league. She averaged 20.7 points through the first nine games of last season, only to see her average fall to 17.9 for the year. Putting her at No. 5 is assuming the 20.7 (or higher) is the real her. Her numbers often get dragged down from playing alongside Breanna Stewart, who is the No. 1 offensive option for the Storm. As mentioned in the No. 20 through No. 11 portion of our list, Loyd is right there with Arike Ogunbowale when it comes to being the best of the best in the WNBA at both creating and finishing at the basket. Loyd also brings the Gold Mamba mystique and was repeatedly clutch last season, which contributed to her high ranking.
4) A’ja Wilson (137 points)
Las Vegas Aces
Last year: No. 3
Wilson has one of the best mid-range games in the league and can of course score inside and rebound as well as anybody too. She lacks a 3-point shot, which prevents her from being higher on this list, but she is still a dominant force. At last year’s Aces media day, Wilson got then-teammate Liz Cambage’s vote for best player in the league. However, she has been behind Breanna Stewart in the minds of most media members since her MVP season of 2020. With Cambage now in LA, Wilson becomes as important a single player to her team as anybody in the league. We’ll see if she can keep the Aces, who were the frontrunner entering 2021, in the contender mix. Wilson was phenomenal at the 2020 Olympics with averages of 16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds and a field goal percentage of 59.4.
3) Brittney Griner (140 points)
Last year: No. 5
Griner remains detained in Russia and she remains in our thoughts as we hope for her safe return to the United States. What we saw from her in last year’s playoffs was unlike anything we had ever seen from her before and that is saying something. Her mid-range game was automatic at times and she piled on the points to complement Diana Taurasi’s phenomenal guard play, making the Mercury look like an unstoppable offensive force. She came in second in MVP voting in the regular season after averaging 20.5 points, a career-high 9.5 boards and 1.9 blocks. She also threw down a career-high five dunks in the regular season. At the Olympics, she led Team USA with 30 points in the gold medal game. If she were to play the entire 2022 season, there’d be no reason not to expect an MVP-level campaign.
2) Breanna Stewart (140 points)
Last year: No. 1
Stewart is not only arguably the greatest player in the game today, she continues to chase GOAT status. She’s a former MVP and a two-time Finals MVP who was again in the MVP conversation in 2021. Her consistency competing for that award is simply amazing, as is her comeback from a torn Achilles that kept her out all of 2019. Her resume isn’t anywhere near as long as the greatest of the all-time greats, but her start to her career puts her on a pretty good path. She is already 12th on ESPN’s list of the Top 25 players of all-time. At 6-foot-4, she has the all-around offensive skills of Elena Delle Donne, except better. Her career 3-point percentage isn’t as high, but it’s still solid at 36.6 and her agility is unmatched among frontcourt players.
1) Jonquel Jones (143 points)
Last year: No. 6
When A’ja Wilson won the MVP award in 2020, it wasn’t enough for her to move ahead of Breanna Stewart on our Top 30 list the next year, though it was certainly considered. Jones, the 2021 MVP, has accomplished the incredible feat of moving ahead of the seemingly immovable object that has been Stewie and it is because she brings to the court the same versatility that Stewie possess. At 6-foot-6, Jones can shoot the three, even participating in last year’s 3-point contest. Her career 3-point shooting percentage is 37.9 and she recorded a career-high 1.6 makes per game last year. She averaged an impressive 19.4 points and 11.2 rebounds and was solid across the board with 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks. She beat out Stewie on our list despite Stewie receiving three of the five first-place votes.
Last year’s list:
Note: Alyssa Thomas was not included on last year’s list because she wasn’t expected to play at all during the season. This year, Brittney Griner and Napheesa Collier, who will both miss the beginning of the season, were included.