Ranking the Top 25 Players in the 2022 WNBA Playoffs

Jackie PowellAugust 17, 2022

Ranking the Top 25 Players in the 2022 WNBA Playoffs

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    Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky celebrates along with her teammates Courtney Vandersloot #22, Allie Quigely #14 and Kahleah Copper #2. Photo by: David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

    Beginning on Wednesday night, the top eight WNBA teams will duke it out to determine who moves on to this year's Finals.

    Here, we've ranked the top 25 playoff-bound players based on their 2022 regular-season performances, their value to their team, their versatility and their playoff experience.

    You will not find Skylar Diggins-Smith or Dearica Hamby featured here, though. Hayden Cilley of The Next reported that Diggins-Smith is expected to miss the playoffs. Meanwhile, Hamby will be out for the first round and most likely at least the second round. She was diagnosed with a knee contusion on August 10 and could be out from anywhere between two weeks and a month.

    This list also excludes Arike Ogunbowale and Diana Taurasi, both of whom will likely miss at least the first round because of a hip injury and quad strain, respectively.

25. Sue Bird

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    Photo by: David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images.

    In her final postseason, Sue Bird's value won't be as obvious or as stark as Seattle Storm teammates Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Tina Charles. She's had a down year in terms of both shooting (40.3 percent from the field, 38.9 percent from three) and scoring (7.8 points per game), posting numbers that may not indicate her value.

    But Bird remains the nervous system of the Storm, and her postseason experience could be invaluable at this time of year.

    When Bird was in health and safety protocols during the first month of the season, the Storm didn't function as smoothly. While they went 2-1 in her absence from May 27- June 3, they had fewer than 20 assists in two of those games.

24. Brianna Turner

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    Photo by: Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

    The matchup to watch in the first-round series between the Phoenix Mercury and Las Vegas Aces is Brianna Turner going up against 2022 MVP hopeful A'ja Wilson.

    Turner is one of the best one-on-one post defenders in the league. The only reason she didn't earn my votes on one of the All-Defensive teams is because of the poor defense her team around her played all season long.

    The Mercury's defensive rating was 104.48 with Turner on the floor this season, per PBP Stats. With her off the floor, it ballooned to 110.60.

23. Marina Mabrey

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    Photo by: Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images

    Arike Ogunbowale will miss at least the first round of the 2022 playoffs after undergoing abdomen surgery earlier this month. That means Marina Mabrey is headed for a bigger role against the Connecticut Sun.

    In the Dallas Wings' final four regular-season games without Ogunbowale, Mabrey averaged 21.8 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field and 48 percent from three-point range.

    While questions remain about Mabrey's defense, she went on an absolute tear to close out the regular season. The Wings will need her to put a lot of pressure on the Sun's perimeter defense to pull off an upset in the first round.

22. Allie Quigley

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    Photo by: M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Allie Quigley will go down as one of the greatest shooters the WNBA has ever seen. One day, the league's three-point contest should be named after her. (She won it four times.)

    Quigley's value to the Sky is more than just her shooting, though. She's also able to space the floor, move off the ball and keep opposing defenses on their toes. While her shooting splits in 2022 haven't been near her career best, she provides the Chicago Sky with enormous gravity on offense.

    When Quigley is on the floor, Chicago has an offensive rating of 110.16, per PBP Stats. When she's off, that dips down to 101.96.

21. Teaira McCowan

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    Photo by: Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Teaira McCowan has become the focus of the Dallas Wings offense ever since Arike Ogunbowale went down with her abdominal injury. Actually, she took over that role after Ogunbowale missed a few games with an ankle injury at the beginning of August.

    McCowan is among the strongest players in the league. She's also one of the most efficient. Per Her Hoop Stats, McCowan has the third-best field goal percentage in the league at 60.2.

    McCowan has also opened up the floor for shooters and wings like Marina Mabrey and Allisha Gray. Dallas' offense has never been more balanced.

20. Natasha Cloud

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    Photo by: Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Natasha Cloud led the WNBA in assists this season with exactly seven per game. She steadies the Washington Mystics and knows how key offensive cogs in Elena Delle Donne and Ariel Atkins move and function on the floor.

    Cloud's 6'0 frame also allows her to put a lot of pressure on the rim, especially when defenses are focused on her teammates.

    But what's most impressive about Cloud is her two-way play this season. She rightfully earned a spot on my All-Defensive first team, as she is one-third of the league's most potent perimeter defense alongside Atkins and Alysha Clark.

19. Jewell Loyd

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    Photo by: Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Jewell Loyd shot only 39.6 percent from the field during the regular season, but she got scorching hot over the Seattle Storm's final five regular-season games. During that stretch, she averaged 19.0 points per game while shooting 47.8 percent overall and 53.5 percent from deep.

    In Seattle's final regular-season game against the Las Vegas Aces, Loyd went off for a season-high 38 points on 13-of-23 shooting. She was the one who looked like the MVP candidate, not teammate Breanna Stewart or Aces forward A'ja Wilson.

    While all eyes will be on Stewart in the postseason, Seattle will be tough to eliminate if Loyd can keep her hot streak going.

18. Tina Charles

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    Photo by: Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Tina Charles, one of the most decorated post players in the WNBA, hasn't been to the playoffs since 2017. During the postgame press conference when she found out that the Seattle Storm clinched a postseason spot, she visibly teared up.

    While Charles' defense has drawn criticism at times since she arrived in Seattle at the end of June, she's given the Storm a major boost offensively.

    Before her arrival on June 29, the Storm had an offensive rating of 98.3, which ranked ninth leaguewide. Since that point, the Storm have had an offensive rating of 107.0, which was tied for the third-best mark over that span.

17. Ariel Atkins

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    Photo by: Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Ariel Atkins has been steady for the Washington Mystics on both sides of the ball this season.

    With Elena Delle Donne back in the fold, Atkins was able to focus on defending in addition to her sharpshooting. She shot 42 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from three this season, both of which were increases from the numbers she posted last year.

    Like Natasha Cloud, Atkins is another third of the Mystics' potent perimeter defense. As a result, she earned my vote for the All-Defensive first team.

    The Mystics' net rating when Atkins is on and off the floor speaks volumes. Washington has a plus-6.72 net rating with her on the floor versus a plus-0.80 net rating when she sits.

16. Chelsea Gray

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    Photo by: Mike Kirschbaum/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Earlier this season, Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon said starting point guard Chelsea Gray could "slice and dice a pick-and-roll." The proof is in the numbers.

    According to Synergy Sports, Gray scores 0.995 points per possession when she is the ball-handler on a pick-and-roll. Teammate Jackie Young is the only player with more than 100 possessions as a pick-and-roll ball-handler who scores more efficiently.

    Gray's decision-making is what powers the Aces. She might not have MVP-caliber scoring numbers like teammates A'ja Wilson or Kelsey Plum, but her value is in how she controls her team's tempo and poise.

15. Jackie Young

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    Photo by: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

    Jackie Young averages 1.048 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, according to Synergy Sports, which puts her in the 95th percentile leaguewide. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick has an excellent case for Most Improved Player.

    While Young isn't known for the flashiest style of play like Chelsea Gray or Kelsey Plum, Young anchors the Las Vegas Aces' defense alongside A'ja Wilson. She often takes on the opponents' best offensive threat on the perimeter.

    While opposing defenses will be glued to Wilson and Plum, Young might be given some more leeway. Her versatility on both sides of the floor and ability to play both on and off the ball will be critical for the Aces to reach the WNBA Finals.

14. Natasha Howard

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    Photo by: Steve Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Natasha Howard finally realized her destiny as the top pick-and-roll partner for Sabrina Ionescu this season.

    When outside shots aren't falling for the New York Liberty, Howard's aggressiveness and speed rolling to the basket balances their offense. She also functions as the Liberty's defensive anchor.

    The way in which Howard plays her best defense, which is as a helper, is exactly how head coach Sandy Brondello designed New York's defense. Liberty guard DiDi Richards has remarked how Howard's ability to defend the league's best post players despite standing only 6'2" ought to be appreciated.

13. Allisha Gray

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    Photo by: Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray should have been an All-Star this year. She proved herself to be a competent two-way player.

    Gray earned my vote for All-Defensive second team for taking on the most challenging assignments. Her defense below on Kelsey Plum is impressive as she uses her agility and quickness to get to the exact spot on the floor that Plum likes the most.

    Owen Pence @OwenPence

    Lockdown defense from Allisha Gray on Kelsey Plum here <a href="https://t.co/BQ12ETIf0F">pic.twitter.com/BQ12ETIf0F</a>

    With Gray on the floor, the Wings have a plus-3.99 net rating this season, according to PBP Stats. Without her, Dallas' net rating plunges to minus-10.06.

12. Brionna Jones

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    Photo by: Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images.

    What a luxury it is for the Connecticut Sun to have Brionna Jones come off the bench this season.

    Jones is averaging 1.11 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports, which ranks in the 95th percentile leaguewide. Breanna Stewart is the only player with as many possessions to have a higher mark.

    As the front-runner for Sixth Player of the Year, Jones has proved that she is as dominant as anyone in this league as she has an overall field-goal percentage of 56.9, fifth in the league per Her Hoop Stats. While the Sun regard Alyssa Thomas as their engine, Jones has been the most consistent force for Connecticut.

11. Emma Meesseman

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    Photo by: Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Emma Meesseman has been the most impactful free-agency signing across the league. The Sky struck gold when they convinced her to leave the Washington Mystics for Chicago.

    Per Her Hoop Stats, Meesseman has 5.9 total win shares, fifth-most across the WNBA. While Meesseman has always been so efficient offensively (her 57.1 field-goal percentage is fourth-best), she's proven herself this season on the defensive end. Though her contributions aren't always picked up on a box score and her one-on-one defense has been rated as average by Synergy Sports, Meesseman has used her sharp anticipation skills to create more deflections and havoc in half-court sets.

10. Kahleah Copper

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    Photo by: Michael Reaves/Getty Images.

    Kahleah Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, is the player Chicago's identity is most built around. The Sky score predominantly in the paint, and her ability to slash and outrun anyone in transition is quite difficult to guard.

    While Copper's 2022 season took a little while to get into gear since she took some time to recuperate following her overseas season in Spain, her overall numbers resorted back to what's to be expected from a player of her ilk. Over the regular season, she averaged 15.7 points (career high), shot 48.1 percent from the field (second-highest) and averaged the most rebounds (5.7) and assists (2.3) in her career.

    But let's not forget about Copper defensively. While I've often lauded Candace Parker's trapping and hedging, Copper has held the fort down guarding the opponents' best perimeter player one-on-one. What's also impressive about how she defends is how quickly she recovers and switches, as her athleticism makes her dynamic on that end. According to PBP Stats, the Sky's defensive rating shifts from 99.83 with her on the floor to 102.52 with her off the floor.

9. Jonquel Jones

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    Photo by: Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images.

    The reining MVP Jonquel Jones has had a slightly down year from her breakout year in 2021 that cemented her as one of the best players in the world. But I don't think that is her fault. The Connecticut Sun changed their identity when they re-integrated Alyssa Thomas back into the starting lineup. Thomas has been excellent this season, and I'll dive into that a bit more later, but Jones should still be regarded as the Sun's MVP. The Sun's offensive rating, net rating and defensive rating are all better when Jones is on the floor and Thomas is off (compared to when Thomas is on the floor and Jones is off), per PBP Stats.

    Her Hoop Stats has Jones third leaguewide for offensive rebounds per game (2.6) and ninth for two-point field-goal percentage (58.2). A question I have moving forward is how will head coach and general manager Curt Miller maximize his most talented player in the postseason, something that Miller didn't always do in the regular season.

8. Elena Delle Donne

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    Photo by: Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images.

    While Elena Delle Donne's minutes restriction in the first half of the season was what made me hesitant to vote her as an All-Star and was also why she was on my All-WNBA second team rather than my first, this was all a result of Washington's plan to save her best basketball for the postseason. And for the most part, things have gone according to plan. In her 25 games in 2022, she averaged 17.2 points per game, 6.3 rebounds and a career-high-tying 2.3 assists. While her shooting splits were down from her 2019 MVP season, let's remember she has had two back surgeries since winning the WNBA title three years ago.

    What gives Delle Donne so much value is how she changes how defenses guard the Mystics. When the defense doubles Delle Donne, someone else is open. It could be a shooter or a cutting Shakira Austin, who has thrived when the defense helps off her. While Delle Donne shot abysmally from deep in her final three regular-season games, apparently her own personal shot doctor has been helping her fine-tune what's been off prior to the playoffs.

    Kareem Copeland @kareemcopeland

    Apparently Elena Delle Donne's dad is at the practice facility. Cloud said Delle Donne's dad comes in whenever she feels like her shot needs to be tinkered with a bit. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WNBA?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WNBA</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Mystics25?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Mystics25</a> <a href="https://t.co/uPSf6zdldj">https://t.co/uPSf6zdldj</a>

7. Courtney Vandersloot

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    Photo by: Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images.

    While I noted earlier that Kahleah Copper was the player the Sky's identity is mostly shaped around, Courtney Vandersloot also shares that mantel. Chicago averages the most assists per game (24.3), and that's in part due to Vandersloot's passing. And while I noted that Copper is a lethal slasher, Vandersloot puts a ton of pressure on the rim as well. She's quick off the dribble and makes swift decisions, recognizing when she must put the ball on the floor rather than find a teammate.

    Vandersloot's game also represents the approach the Sky have to taking shots beyond the arc. The Sky are more comfortable looking for shots moving the ball north to south rather than east to west. But if the best look they can find is beyond the arc, they'll take it. Vandersloot shot 36.7 percent from three during the regular season, a number up from her 34.6 during Chicago's championship season a year ago.

    Similar to the other elite point guards in this league, Vandersloot's role is to organize her teammates and help them execute the style of play that won Chicago a championship.

6. Candace Parker

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    Photo by: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

    The second head of the central nervous system of the Chicago offense and the first head of its defense is Candace Parker. While Parker has proved that her game is the most versatile for someone of her size, her value and how she assists Vandersloot is mostly in her vocal leadership. Parker doesn't stop talking. If she's on the floor or on the bench, it's rare to find the two-time WNBA champion quiet during the ebbs and flows of a game.

    When the Sky signed her in the winter of 2021, it was clear that not only her leadership, but also her secondary ball-handling skills were going to take a ton of pressure off Vandersloot. At 36 years old, it is beyond impressive that Parker is playing at such a high level. She received my vote for the All-WNBA second team and All-Defensive second team.

    Why not first? There's just so much talent on the Sky, as they have the most players out of any W team on this list. While one of the major storylines this season has been the final seasons of Sylvia Fowles and Sue Bird, if the Sky run it back successfully for the first WNBA repeat in 20 years, Parker might walk away as well.

5. Sabrina Ionescu

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    Photo by: Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Sabrina Ionescu has had a triumphant season for the New York Liberty. When I mentioned her teammate Natasha Howard earlier, I noted that she had fulfilled part of her destiny, becoming the primary pick-and-roll roller for the Liberty. But for Ionescu, her destiny has been achieved this season in proving to the Liberty, the fans and herself that she is exactly the player New York drafted. The Liberty are her team.

    In her third season—although do we really count her three games played in 2020?—she won the Eastern Conference Player of the Week four times, became the first WNBA player to record 500-plus points, 200-plus rebounds and 200-plus assists in a single season and passed franchise legend Teresa Weatherspoon for the most assists in a season (228). She made my All-WNBA first team and was my pick for Most Improved Player.

    Similarly to Kahleah Copper and Courtney Vandersloot, the way in which Ionescu plays is what fuels the Liberty and their identity. New York is a three-point shooting team, it often plays in the pick-and-roll and it is most effective when it shares the basketball.

4. Kelsey Plum

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    Photo by: Lindsey Wasson/NBAE via Getty Images.

    If A'ja Wilson weren't on her team, would Kelsey Plum be more of a front-runner for MVP? It's worth considering. The 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick has taken a while to get to this point, but Plum has officially cemented herself as one of the best offensive guards in the league. In her first WNBA All-Star Game last month, she was crowned the MVP while tying the record for most points scored (30). In Plum's marquee year according to Her Hoop Stats, she recorded the most three-pointers per game with 3.1, she shot 42.0 percent from deep (seventh leaguewide) and finished second in the scoring title race, averaging 20.2 per game.

    Plum hasn't only been scoring; she's also been distributing. She set a career high with 5.1 assists per game, finishing ninth in the W. I'll be really curious to see how Plum handles this postseason being one of the top two names on the opponents' scouting report. It was the postseason of 2019 that put the league on notice about the type of player Plum could be, and she'll look to continue a career-defining season into the playoffs.

3. Alyssa Thomas

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    Photo by: Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images.

    The Connecticut Sun call Alyssa Thomas their engine, and that's who she's been all season. Once starting point guard Jasmine Thomas tore her ACL in May, Thomas became a full-fledged point forward who would go on to register two triple-doubles, becoming the fourth WNBA player to record a triple-double this year. I voted for Thomas on both my All-WNBA first team and my All-Defensive first team.

    Her ability to guard multiple positions and get in the face of both posts and guards has been impressive, and her play has transformed the Sun's play in transition. They score 14.7 percent of their points on the fast break, the highest percentage in the league.

    I still have some questions about her chemistry with reigning MVP Jonquel Jones. According to PBP Stats, the Sun offense has a higher rating when Jones is on the floor and Thomas is off than when they are both on. But looking at Thomas' season, she makes a case for both Defensive Player of the Year and MVP, two awards I expect her to get a considerable number of votes for.

2. A'ja Wilson

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    Photo by: Steph Chambers/Getty Images.

    The final two players on this list I consider 1A and 1B. But let's talk about why A'ja Wilson will be so valuable during the 2022 postseason. According to Her Hoop Stats, Wilson leads the league in two-pointers made (229), total rebounds (339) and blocks per game (1.9). She and teammate Kelsey Plum became the first duo to amass 700-plus points in a WNBA season.

    Oh, and how can we forget about how Wilson shot from deep this season? Before the 2022 season, Wilson shot only two threes during the regular season in her career. Under head coach Becky Hammon's more free-flowing offense, Wilson shot 83 threes and made 37.3 percent of them. Not too shabby!

    I'd be remise if I didn't discuss Wilson defensively, an All-Defensive second-team selection on my ballot. She has been the Aces' defensive anchor all season. What makes this quite impressive is that at times, she's willing her team defensively. The Aces have struggled all season staying on a string defensively. Their rotations aren't always in sync, and when that happens, Wilson often swoops in to make a stop. Without Wilson on the floor, the Aces pose a 110.90 net rating, per PBP Stats, and with her, that number decreases by around 10 points to 100.55.

1. Breanna Stewart

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    Photo by: KeShawn Ennis/NBAE via Getty Images.

    Breanna Stewart is 1A, and the reason is the same as why I voted her as my MVP rather than Wilson. Stewart has had less consistent offense working around her in 2022 than Wilson. The Storm do not have another MVP candidate on their roster this season, although they do have a past MVP in Tina Charles.

    Just like when Sue Bird was out in health and safety protocols this season, the Storm were a completely different team without Stewart. She missed two consecutive games against the Phoenix Mercury because she was in health and safety protocols, and Seattle lost both of them.

    Another reason I rank Stewart just a hair above Wilson is because of her playoff experience and success. Stewart has won two WNBA championships and was the Finals MVP in both of them. She and Wilson play very similar roles on their respective teams, but Stewart's experience in the postseason gives her a slight edge.

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