Partway through the second week of WNBA ‘wubble’ games, we already find ourselves about a third (???????????????????????????) of the 2020 WNBA regular season. As such, fans and sports journalists alike have begun to discuss/speculate/argue about who will take home the honor of being the 2020 WNBA MVP.
Over the first seven or eight games of the season, a plethora of strong candidates have emerged: Breanna Stewart looks like she hasn’t missed a beat playing in her first WNBA games since her 2018 MVP campaign; A’ja Wilson is leading the league in scoring while shooting at a 50% clip from the floor; DeWanna Bonner is thriving in a larger role; while veterans Brittney Griner and Candace Parker have thrown their hats into the race with recent dominant performances. Even with some of the league’s biggest names sitting out this season, the field for the MVP race this year is well crowded.
If you want to talk about value to a team, about a player that a team’s success hinges on night in and night out, on the court and off; you cannot keep the name Courtney Vandersloot out of your mouth. Vandersloot, guard for the Chicago Sky, does not destroy opponents with physical dominance, or unstoppable scoring. Sloot leads her teams, and dismantles yours, using her precise passing and elite basketball IQ.
Courtney Vandersloot leads the league in assists per game by a significant margin, with 8.9 assists per game. Vandersloot’s been leading the league in this fashion, with at least 1.5 assists between her and the next playmaker, for the past four seasons; these four seasons hold the top four spots in the WNBA’s single-season assist per game leaderboard. As a playmaker, Courtney Vandersloot is statistically in a category of her own; not only when compared to her contemporaries, but compared to every other player in WNBA history.
Top 5 Single WNBA Season Leaders in Assist Per Game
Courtney Vandersloot is one of the greatest passers and ball handlers to ever pick up a basketball. This helps her set a tone for her Chicago Sky; serving as the lynchpin of an efficient, pass-first offensive scheme that leads the league in assists and field goal percentage.
“We have a group that is really unselfish, and they want to share the ball,” Vandersloot said after a recent win over the Connecticut Sun, “We’re willing to sacrifice for the better shot, and we’re hard to play against because of that.” What Courtney modestly doesn’t mention here is that this unselfishness starts with the tone and example she sets with her leadership and playstyle.
Even we got lost on ball movement here. pic.twitter.com/licJy86eWu— Chicago Sky (@chicagosky) August 11, 2020
While not traditionally known for her scoring, Vandersloot has been somewhat more of a threat in that dimension of offense as well this season, averaging 14.7 points per game on plus-50 field goal percentage during week two to grab Eastern Conference Player of the Week status. Sloot’s also been forcing defenses to respect her from deep this season, shooting 41.4% from three in the wubble (up from 29.0% in 2019) and giving her teammates more space to operate off the ball.
Off the court, Courtney Vandersloot serves a similarly unselfish leadership role, serving as an older sister figure on the close Chicago Sky roster. Her leadership, alongside that of her wife, fellow veteran Allie Quigley, helps set a family-like tone for the Sky off the court that contributes to the willingness to share the ball on the court that makes this team, as Sloot said herself, so hard to play against.
It’s tempting to call Courtney Vandersloot an offensive system unto herself, but that undercuts what makes her special: The offense may run through Courtney Vandersloot, but it flows through the entire team. Vandersloot averages record-breaking assist numbers without being a ball-hog. It is her selflessness on and off the court that makes Courtney Vandersloot an asset to the Chicago Sky and keeps them in contention for a title. Year in and year out, Sloot is one of the most valuable players in the league, and as such, a clear contender for the MVP award.
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All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
photo credit: (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)