WNBA 2022: Ranking the top 25 players in the league 2.0

ByESPN via ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The All-Star Game is in the books, and just five weeks remain of the 2022 WNBA regular season. And as the playoff race heats up, the best players will continue to have an impact around the league.

Before play resumes Tuesday, ESPN's Mechelle Voepel, Kevin Pelton and Alexa Philippou once again rank the top 25 players in the WNBA. Five former MVPs dominate the top of our update, although No. 1 is now unanimous. Six players who weren't on our preseason list break into the rankings, including Kelsey Plum, who climbed all the way into the top 10. Teammate Jackie Young also makes her debut, putting the entire Las Vegas Aces' starting five on the list.

The league-leading Chicago Sky, No. 1 in the WNBA standings and in Monday's WNBA Power Rankings, have four players featured. Rhyne Howard of the Atlanta Dream is the lone rookie on the list, landing at No. 25.

The New York Liberty's Sabrina Ionescu (No. 10), the Dallas Wings' Allisha Gray (No. 19) and the Indiana Fever's Kelsey Mitchell (No. 24) also break into the rankings.

1. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm

Forward | 6-foot-42022 stats: 21.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.9 SPG

Preseason rank: 1

Stewart also was No. 1 in the preseason, edging reigning MVP Jonquel Jones, who got one vote. But Stewart was a unanimous pick this time. Our midseason pick for MVP, Stewart is playing perhaps the best basketball of her career after winning the award in 2018 and Finals MVP twice. In addition to leading the WNBA in scoring, Stewart is also second in steals per game, a key reason she was also our midseason pick for Defensive Player of the Year. Despite Stewart's heroics, the Storm started slowly, but they've moved into third in the WNBA standings at the All-Star break and are just 1 games out of first place. -- Pelton

2. A'ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Forward | 6-foot-42022 stats: 18.5 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG

Preseason rank: 3

Wilson was the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game and is a perennial MVP candidate. Plum and Young have upped their offensive production this season, but it hasn't negatively impacted Wilson's stats. She is shooting 49% from the field and has an effective field goal percentage of 52.0, both career bests. She is also averaging career highs in rebounding and blocks while continuing to be a strong presence defensively. The Aces have cooled after a hot start but as long as they have Wilson, 25, they are a championship contender. -- Voepel

3. Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-62022 stats: 14.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG

Preseason rank: 2

Jones -- who went off in Sunday's All-Star Game with 29 points -- continues to cement her status as one of the league's best, even as she has assumed a slightly less prominent role on the Sun with Courtney Williams and Alyssa Thomas back into the fold. DeWanna Bonner and Williams are taking the most shots on the team -- Jones' 10.9 field goal attempts per game are her fewest in three seasons -- and Connecticut will need to work on getting her the ball, especially in late-game situations. But her value to the Sun, including on the glass and on the defensive end, cannot be disputed: Jones' plus-13.3 on/off court net rating is comfortably the best on the team. -- Philippou

4. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

Forward | 6-foot-22022 stats: 18.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG

Preseason rank: 14

Ogwumike has had a hell of a past two years on and off the court navigating the demands of leading the players' union, the disappointment of being left off the U.S. Olympic team for the Tokyo Games and difficulties stemming from a knee injury. Finally healthy and in a renewed mental space, Ogwumike has been the bright light in an otherwise tumultuous Sparks season. Los Angeles, which started the season with a brutal schedule and fired coach Derek Fisher midseason, wouldn't be in playoff contention -- the Sparks currently are seventh in the WNBA standings at 10-12, with the best eight teams making the postseason -- without Ogwumike's heroics. Her field goal percentage (.571) would be the second best of her career if the 2016 MVP can keep it up. -- Philippou

5. Candace Parker, Chicago Sky

Forward/center | 6-foot-42022 stats: 13.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 5.0 APG

Preseason rank: 9

Parker's numbers are very similar to last year's, when she joined Chicago after 13 seasons in Los Angeles and helped the Sky win a championship. She turned 36 in April and has said she isn't sure how much longer she will play. But she doesn't look near retirement in regard to how good her game still is, and that has Chicago leading the league. Parker's versatility always has been a hallmark, and she has two triple-doubles this season. Her assist average this season is the highest it has been since 2015 (6.3). -- Voepel

6. Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 5-foot-82022 stats: 19.9 PPG, 5.7 APG, 42% 3FG

Preseason rank: NR

Unranked when the season began, Plum has played her way into the league's highest echelons after winning the sixth player of the year award a year ago. In a larger role, Plum has literally maintained her efficiency (her .579 true shooting percentage is identical to last year's mark) while pushing her scoring to second best in the WNBA. Plum leads the league in 3-pointers and has become a three-level threat, as she was at Washington, where she finished as the NCAA's all-time-leading scorer. Plum winning MVP in her All-Star debut Sunday only confirmed that she belongs among the league's best players. -- Pelton

7. Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx

Center | 6-foot-62022 stats: 14.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.2 BPG

Preseason rank: 4

Fowles will be 37 in October, and looks as if she easily could play a few more years. But she is ready to move on with her life and pursue other things, and will retire at the end of the season. Fowles is shooting almost 60% from the field for her career (59.9), and with every rebound she adds to her WNBA career record total (3,878). Fowles missed five games because of a knee injury but returned to help the Lynx climb back in the standings. They are 4-2 since her return to the lineup June 23. -- Voepel

8. Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago Sky

Guard | 5-foot-82022 stats: 11.3 PPG, 6.4 APG, 4.0 RPG

Preseason rank: 7

The Chicago Sky were on a roll heading into the All-Star break, surpassing the Aces as the top team in the league standings, and floor general Vandersloot has a lot to do with that. Vandersloot is No. 2 in the league in assists -- behind only Natasha Cloud -- while continuing to live up to her reputation as a go-to bucket when the Sky need one (see: her winning buzzer-beater 3 to lift Chicago over the Lynx a few weeks ago). The Sky's depth and balance are huge assets, but there's no question that if the Sky are to become the first franchise to repeat as WNBA champions since the Sparks in 2001-2002, Vandersloot's fingerprints will be all over such a run. -- Philippou

9. Skylar Diggins-Smith, Phoenix Mercury

Guard | 5-foot-92022 stats: 18.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 4.0 RPG

Preseason rank: 5

Little has gone well for Phoenix on or off the court this season -- that is, aside from the stellar play of Diggins-Smith. With Brittney Griner detained in Russia, the Tina Charles experiment having gone horribly wrong and an aging Diana Taurasi beside her, Diggins-Smith has had to shoulder even more of the offensive load, attempting the second-most shots of her career (15.1 per game) on one of her higher field goal percentages (44.1%) since being drafted into the WNBA. Her on/off court differential is plus-14.4 per 100 possessions, the best mark of any of the Mercury's regular rotation players this season. -- Philippou

10. Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty

Guard | 5-foot-112022 stats: 17.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 6.3 APG

Preseason rank: NR

As recently as the end of May, it wasn't clear this would be the season Ionescu delivered on the potential that made her the best player in college basketball at Oregon. Ionescu was held to 10 points or fewer in five or her first eight games as the Liberty started 1-7. Since June 1, Ionescu has been as good as anybody in the WNBA, averaging 20.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7.1 assists with a pair of triple-doubles -- matching Candace Parker as the first two players in league history to record two triple-doubles in the same season. If Ionescu can lift New York in the playoffs and continue producing at this level, there's a case for her to jump even higher on the list. -- Pelton

11. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

Forward/guard | 6-foot-52022 stats: 16.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.0 APG

Preseason rank: 12

Delle Donne has played 15 of the Mystics' 24 games, and she is coming off her top scoring performance of the season: 26 points in a July 6 victory over Atlanta. The two-time MVP is still one of the league's elite players -- even if she wasn't chosen as an All-Star -- and the most important thing for the Mystics will be getting her to the postseason in the best shape possible. -- Voepel

12. Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-32022 stats: 13.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG

Preseason rank: 19

Jones -- the only player named an All-Star despite coming off the bench for her WNBA team -- appears poised to take home the sixth player of the year award after winning most improved in 2021. She continues to be an efficient presence on the offensive end (shooting 56.1% from the field), is smart defensively, and her overall impact cannot be overstated: Jones' 4.1 win shares are second best in the WNBA, per Her Hoop Stats, and she ranks seventh in Pelton's WARP/G (.152). -- Philippou

13. Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 6-foot-02022 stats: 17.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.9 APG

Preseason rank: NR

Young is having the best season of her career, which reflects all the work she has done to improve her shooting mechanics. She is hitting 46.9% from 3-point range, with an effective field goal percentage of 55.9. She is taking nearly three shots more and averaging five points more per game than last season. Young has made 30 3-pointers in 2022, compared to 22 combined in her first three WNBA seasons. Add that to her getting to the foul line more, and you see why she has become a more dangerous offensive player. She has always had the skill. -- Voepel

14. Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm

Guard | 5-foot-102022 stats: 16.4 PPG, 3.9 APG, 38%, 3FG%

Preseason rank: 6

As compared to 2022, when she earned All-WNBA first-team honors, Loyd has taken a slight step back inside the arc. She's making a career-low 40% of her 2-point attempts, worse than you'd expect based on her shot profile and historical accuracy. Loyd remains a valuable scorer based on her high-volume 3-point shooting, and is a strong two-way contributor even though she no longer has to take the most difficult defensive assignments with the additions of Briann January and Gabby Williams. -- Pelton

15. Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-22022 stats: 13.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 5.6 APG

Preseason rank: 15

Thomas hit the ground running in her first (full) WNBA season back since tearing an Achilles prior to the 2021 campaign, earning WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month in May. With Jasmine Thomas out for the year (ACL tear), Alyssa Thomas has had to take on even more of a facilitator role, where she's averaging a career-high (and team-best) 5.6 assists per game. Her attacking ability and grit nonetheless remain important for the Sun, as her 23 points helped Connecticut overcome a 17-point, second-half deficit to defeat Washington last week. -- Philippou

16. Emma Meesseman, Chicago Sky

Forward | 6-foot-42022 stats: 12.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.0 APG

Preseason rank: 24

After spending her first seven WNBA seasons in Washington, which included winning the 2019 title and WNBA Finals MVP, Meesseman went to Chicago. She has been a really good fit for a Sky team that lost Diamond DeShields and Stefanie Dolson to free agency. Meesseman is valuable in part because she is so consistent and reliable. She isn't shooting as well from 3-point range as she has in the past but is still at 58.5% from 2-point range. -- Voepel

17. Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas Wings

Guard | 5-foot-82022 stats: 19.5 PPG, 3.6 APG

Preseason rank: 10

Arike Ogunbowale continues to do Arike Ogunbowale things, as she's top five in the league in scoring this summer -- as she has been in each of her previous three seasons with the Wings -- while also attempting the most 3-pointers of her pro career (8.2 per game). Dallas floundered a bit after its strong start, holding on to the eighth spot in the standings heading into the All-Star break. Ogunbowale will need to stay efficient offensively and hold up defensively for Dallas to build upon last year's first-round exit. -- Philippou

18. Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics

Guard | 5-foot-82022 stats: 15.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 38%, 3FG%

Preseason rank: 20

An All-Star for the second consecutive season, Atkins has established herself as one of the league's best all-around guards. Capable both of creating her own offense and posing a threat spotting up, Atkins is also sneaky good in terms of avoiding turnovers (bottom 10 in the WNBA in turnover rate, per Basketball-Reference.com). Having made the All-Defensive second team each of the past three seasons, Atkins is a key part of the Mystics' defensive rating, which ranks second in the league. -- Pelton

19. Allisha Gray, Dallas Wings

Guard | 6-foot-02022 stats: 14.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.3 APG

Preseason rank: 10

Gray is a quiet person, and she's quietly having the best of her six seasons thus far in the WNBA. She is averaging career highs in scoring and rebounding, and is shooting a career-best 41% from 3-point range. Often overshadowed by Ogunbowale's big-time scoring, Gray is third in the league in offensive rating and eighth in offensive win shares. -- Voepel

20. Chelsea Gray, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 5-foot-112021 stats: 12.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 6.0 APG

Preseason rank: 17

In her second season in Las Vegas, Gray remains one of the WNBA's most dependable point guards. She is fourth in the league in assist average this season, and she is averaging a career high in steals at 1.6. Like the other Aces starters, Gray has a lot on her shoulders and is expected to log many minutes. But she is the type of player who doesn't have many ups and downs. Her steadiness is one of her talents. -- Voepel

21. Dearica Hamby, Las Vegas Aces

Forward | 6-foot-32022 stats: 11.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG

Preseason rank: 21

Las Vegas' Wilson, Plum and Young might capture the majority of onlookers' awe, but Hamby continues to prove herself critical to the Aces' success, as indicated by her 2022 All-Star bid and her recently announced contract extension with the franchise. Her shooting percentage (50.3%) is the best of the Aces' core players, her rebounding numbers rank second (7.9 boards per game) and, finally in a starting role, she's playing the most minutes of her eight-year career. -- Philippou

22. Kahleah Copper, Chicago Sky

Guard/forward | 6-foot-12022 stats: 13.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG

Preseason rank: 22

The Sky kicked it into high gear once they had all their pieces back, including 2021 Finals MVP Copper, who arrived late due to overseas commitments. Across their past 15 games (around the time that Copper returned), the Sky boast a league-best 12-3 record and 7.7 net rating. Copper's length and quickness as a slasher -- not to mention her ability to hit from deep, where she's taking more shots than all but one other season of her career -- continue to solidify her as one of the most promising young stars of the league, further showcased by her earning her second consecutive All-Star bid this season. -- Philippou

23. Sue Bird, Seattle Storm

Guard | 5-foot-92021 stats: 8.3 PPG, 5.9 APG, 40% 3FG%

Preseason rank: 16

When Bird started the season slowly, including a 1-of-11 shooting performance against Phoenix, observers inevitably wondered whether she might no longer be as effective in what is now officially her final WNBA season. Bird bounced back and is now hitting 40% of her 3s to go along with the second-highest assist rate (8.1 per 36 minutes) of her 19-season career. At age 41, Bird's minutes (26.1 per game) have been limited, but make no mistake: She's still crucial to Seattle's success. -- Pelton

24. Kelsey Mitchell, Indiana Fever

Guard | 5-foot-82022 stats: 19.0 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 4.0 APG

Preseason rank: NR

Mitchell is having the best of her five seasons in the WNBA, with her scoring and assist averages being career highs, along with her 42.2 3-point shooting percentage. She is fourth in the league in scoring but didn't get selected to the All-Star Game. That suggests the Fever's struggles as a team can impact the way Mitchell is evaluated individually. But she seems committed to Indiana's attempt to reestablish the franchise, and she's doing her part. -- Voepel

25. Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream

Forward/guard | 6-foot-22022 stats: 15.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG

Preseason rank: NR

The WNBA's first rookie All-Star since Napheesa Collier (an injury replacement in 2019), Howard has delivered ahead of schedule as the No. 1 pick. Carrying a heavy offensive load on an Atlanta team that has played much of the season without veteran guards Tiffany Hayes and Erica Wheeler, Howard has compensated for low shooting percentages (38% from the field) with volume 3-point shooting and few turnovers. And Howard's activity on defense is a factor in the Dream's improvement from ninth to third in defensive rating. -- Pelton

Fell out: Tina Charles, Liz Cambage, DeWanna Bonner, Natasha Howard, Kayla McBride, Diana Taurasi

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