Tonight, a WNBA franchise will gather at center court to receive their first championship trophy. That team will revel, hug each other, chant each others names as they soak in the audience’s cheers, or boos. For one franchise, this will be the culmination of years of development; for the other, it will be yet another fruitless trip to the playoffs. Only one player on either team, the Mystics’ Kristi Toliver has won the WNBA championship before. Tonight, regardless of which team wins, there are going to be career-defining moments for every single player on the floor. The question remains: Which team will earn their first championship, and which player will cement their place in WNBA history as Finals MVP?
Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
It once seemed certain that Elena Delle Donne, 2019 WNBA MVP, would tack Finals MVP onto her historic 50/40/90 season, leading her Mystics to their first title with little resistance. This has been complicated by a herniated disc in Delle Donne’s back, which sidelined her for most of game 2 and limited her role in games 3 and 4. While Delle Donne’s playing through injury gave the Mystics the morale boost needed to win Game 3, the Sun’s defense was able to exploit Delle Donne’s limited game in Game 4 by pressuring surging teammates Emma Meesseman and Kristi Toliver, holding them to 12 and 7 points respectively. Delle Donne has been held to only 24 points between Games 3 and 4, but says that she’s feeling “as close [to 100%] as I can possibly be right now”, per espnw.com’s Mechelle Voepel. Delle Donne at 90% is better than 90% of the league at 100%. Delle Donne being able to play more minutes, and more physically (she thrives at the free throw line) would be a boon for her team. If the two-time MVP is as close to her full power as she claims to be, and can bust out a dominant Game 5 on her home court, she has a chance to right the course of destiny and help her Mystics win the championship, and claim the Finals MVP everyone thought she would take with ease entering the playoffs.
Elena Delle Donne in the 2019 WNBA Finals
|Game 1||Game 2||Game 3||Game 4|
Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
After earning 2018 Sixth Woman of the Year honors, Jonquel Jones has had a breakout 2019 that’s culminated in an excellent finals run, including an astonishing Game 2 where Jones scored 32 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, including a record breaking 9 offensive boards. While Jones has been unable to replicate that kind of dominance over the rest of the playoffs, she has consistently helped the Sun control the boards, and has contributed scoring and leadership. Jonquel Jones has done all this while being stretched outside her comfort zone defensively, helping her team’s defense limit the Mystics’ outside shooting. If the Sun are able to pull out the championship, a Finals MVP trophy would be the crowning achievement of what has been the best season of Jones’ career.
Jonquel Jones in the 2019 Finals, averages
17.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 blocks, 54% FG%, 86.7% FT%
Emma Meesseman, Washington Mystics
After her virtuoso performances in the semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces, Belgian player Emma Meesseman established that she is one of the best scorers on the Washington Mystics, and possibly in the WNBA. With the Mystics backs against the wall and Elena Delle Donne limited by injury, #PlayoffEmma stepped up again, dropping back to back 20+ point performances in games 2 and 3. Throughout the finals, Emma has shot efficiently and made few mistakes offensively. Meesseman fever has been sweeping the WNBA fandom as Meesseman has effortlessly poured in points, let’s see if she can take that energy and recover from an off game 3 to help the Mystics seal the deal, and remind them how happy they should be that she’s returned from the Belgian national team.
Emma Meesseman in the 2019 Finals, averages
16.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks, 54% FG%, 50% 3P%, 87.5% FT%
Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
Heading into Game 4 on Tuesday, the Sun were staring down the barrel of elimination as the Mystics looked ready to rally behind their injured megastar. Alyssa Thomas did not despair. She took control of the game, helping Connecticut quickly establish a lead over the Mystics, rounding out the first quarter with a 32-17 lead. While the Mystics miraculously caught up to the Sun in the third quarter, Thomas helped her teammates shut them out, ending the night with a win and a near triple-double: 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists. This statline reflects the excellent all-around game that Thomas has flashed in this Finals; scoring, rebounding, and distributing at a high level all while being tasked with defending the most efficient offense in WNBA history. Despite playing with two torn labrums, one in each shoulder, which prevent Thomas from even lifting her arms over her dang head, Alyssa Thomas has had the most consistent success of any player on either team in this highly competitive WNBA Finals. Alyssa Thomas has looked Candace Parker-like in this finals, flashing potential to be a do-it-all superstar. If the Sun are able to defy destiny and claim the title tonight, I would be shocked to see anyone but Alyssa Thomas hoisting the Finals MVP trophy.
Alyssa Thomas in the 2019 Finals, averages
17.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 2.3 steals, 53.1% FG%, 86.4% FT%
Honorable Mentions: Kristi Toliver (WAS), Courtney Williams (CON)
All stats taken from Basketball-Reference, or stats.wnba.com, unless otherwise noted.