Courtney Vandersloot makes convincing argument for MVP

The Sky guard is putting up career-best numbers.

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WNBA All-Star Game 2019

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Mention this year’s Most Valuable Player race to the Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot, and — after a brief moment of saying she’s humbled to be included in the conversation — she’ll politely prefer to change the subject. Go through the career-best stats she’s putting up, and she’ll bashfully roll her eyes.

Vandersloot would rather talk about winning as a team or her teammates’ accomplishments than make her own case for MVP. But there’s no doubt the 10-year veteran belongs on everyone’s MVP watch list.

She has elevated her game every year for the last nine seasons, and this year is no different.

For the fourth consecutive season, she leads the league in assists — and by a large margin.

Vandersloot has 131 assists in 15 games. The second-closest player is Storm guard Jordin Canada with 81. Vandersloot also boasts the league’s best assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.09.

If that wasn’t enough to win you over, Vandersloot has four double-doubles and six double-digit assist games. She’s averaging a career-high 13.5 points and, entering Tuesday’s game, was on pace to become only the second WNBA guard to have a 50-40-90 season, according to Across the Timeline’s database. (That’s among players who have played at least 15 games.) The only player close to Vandersloot is Sparks guard Sydney Wiese.

If Vandersloot isn’t willing to toot her own horn, her coach and teammates happily will.

“She’s MVP of the first 14 games because of the way she’s played,” coach James Wade said.

“She brings so much to us,” guard Kahleah Copper said. “Without Courtney, we wouldn’t be where we are. . . . Don’t let her have a game where she’s scoring and facilitating for us and leading us because it’s over. But I think she’s the most valuable player because she holds so much value for us, and what she’s doing, nobody else is doing.”

Sure, there are other deserving players in the chatter for this year’s MVP, including Storm star and 2018 league MVP Breanna Stewart, Aces forward A’ja Wilson and Sparks forward and two-time MVP Candace Parker.

But what makes Vandersloot stand out is that her value extends far beyond the box score, Copper said.

“It’s the little things, for me,” said Copper, who pointed to one instance in the Sky’s win over the Fever last Saturday when Vandersloot correctly told her how the Fever would defend her and adjusted the game plan. “She knows where everybody’s gonna be, and she’s got superpowers. She’s just a leader and she’s just so smart, so I think it really helps us.”

Vandersloot is a big reason why the injury-riddled Sky (10-5) are off to their best start since 2013 and are among the league’s top teams.

The Storm (12-3) sit atop the standings. The Aces and Sparks are a half-game back at 11-3, followed by the Lynx (10-4) and Sky.

“She’s carried this team even though the makeup of this team looks a lot different than what it was supposedly presumed to be,” Wade said. “We’ve actually played ahead of where we were last year, even though we’ve lost a lot of bodies. . . . She’s the head of our snake. I think that says a lot about her and how she’s elevated her play and helped others elevate their play, and so it’s big for us.”

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