Tamika Catchings is this writer's MVP
The teams are set for the WNBA playoffs, and while the seedings still have to be determined, we have a pretty clear view of the postseason field and the players that helped their teams get there.
Having been provided the opportunity to vote on WNBA postseason awards, here's a sneak preview of this voter's ballot with only a few days to go in the league's 15th regular-season.
Most Valuable Player: Tamika Catchings, Indiana. It is really tough not to go with Connecticut's Tina Charles here, but Indiana is the team that weathered the loss of its point guard when Briann January went down with an ACL injury and still scrambled to finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference. And that simply doesn't happen without the extraordinary Catchings, who has been the MVP runner-up three times in her career. Catchings is the only player in the WNBA to rank in the top 15 in all five major statistical categories -- points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
Rookie of the Year: Hey, it's Maya Moore! The Minnesota Lynx have had the best season in the league this year, and even on a team with such great balance, Moore sticks out. She ranks third on the team in scoring and rebounding, second in assists and first in steals. She hasn't needed to be the player who carries the load. She has been able to smoothly transition into her pro career while still showing that she has star quality.
Coach of the Year: Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota. A no-brainer here as well. In her second season, Reeve put the pieces together -- healthy veterans, a stellar rookie, a supportive bench -- and made the team the league's best through the regular season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Sylvia Fowles leads the league in blocked shots and had an all-around great season, but with Chicago out of the playoffs, she's likely out of the race for MVP. Nobody would argue with this award as a bit of a consolation prize.
Most Improved Player: Tiffany Jackson, Tulsa. The Shock have not been an easy team to play for, but Jackson has found her place, averaging a career-best 12.1 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. It is the first double-digit season of her career.
Sixth Woman of the Year: DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix. Ironically, it was Bonner's key performances in the starting lineup, replacing the injured Penny Taylor, that set such a big tone for Phoenix in the stretch run, but Bonner has been valuable off the bench for the Mercury her entire career.
All WNBA First Team:
G Diana Taurasi, Phoenix
G Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota
C Tina Charles, Connecticut
F Tamika Catchings, Indiana
F Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta
G Cappie Pondexter, New York
G Becky Hammon, San Antonio
C Sylvia Fowles, Chicago
F Seimone Augustus, Minnesota
F Crystal Langhorne, Washington
Games of the weekend: Phoenix at Seattle, Friday. One-half game separates the two teams for the No. 2 spot in the West, which would give the winner the home-court advantage in the first round. Phoenix is 1-2 vs. Seattle this season, three games decided by a total of 15 points.
New York at Connecticut, Sunday. More playoff seedings come down to the wire in the East, where only 1.5 games separate Connecticut, Atlanta and New York. The Sun lead the series 2-1.
Worthy of note: The last time the Indiana Fever finished with the top record in the East, in 2009, they went on to the WNBA Finals and played in perhaps the best Finals in league history against Phoenix. The Mercury won 3 games to 2.
The owner's box: The Atlanta Dream will have new owners pending approval of the WNBA Board of Governors. Kathy Betty, who rescued the team two years ago when initial owner Ron Terwillinger sold after one season, is turning the team over to Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler, who were added to the ownership group in January.