The most likely WNBA MVPs for the 2021 season, based on the most compelling stories

The most likely WNBA MVPs for the 2021 season, based on the most compelling stories
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sabrina ionescu
Sabrina Ionescu winning WNBA MVP after an injury robbed her of an injury would make for a great story. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
  • The 2021 WNBA season is finally upon us, and a deep pool of former MVPs, breakout stars, and up-and-comers are in the running for this year's MVP award.

  • The last three WNBA MVPs - A'ja Wilson, Elena Delle Donne, and Breanna Stewart, respectively - have the best odds of winning again this year, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

  • But Insider decided to rank the WNBA's potential MVPs based on whose story would be most compelling if they won the highest individual honor in the league.

  • From injury comebacks to revenge plots, check out our MVP rankings based on narrative:

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

10. Nneka Ogwumike

nneka ogwumike
Nneka Ogwumike. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Team: Los Angeles Sparks

2020 stats: 13.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.7 APG

Vegas MVP odds: 30/1

Why it's a good story: With Candace Parker's departure from Los Angeles after 14 years with the Sparks, there's no doubt that Nneka Ogwumike is the leader of Derek Fisher's squad this year. Winning MVP for a second time in her still-young career would further solidify that fact — and soften the blow of losing a handful of stars in free agency.

9. Diana Taurasi

diana taurasi
Diana Taurasi. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Team: Phoenix Mercury

2020 stats: 18.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.5 APG

Vegas MVP odds: 15/1

Why it's a good story: Long tabbed the WNBA's "Greatest of All Time," Diana Taurasi played like the GOAT during Phoenix's 2020 campaign. The Mercury rewarded her accordingly, signing the league's all-time leading scorer to a supermax deal that will pay her more than $200,000 annually for the first time in her 17 years in the WNBA. A standout season and the second MVP award of her esteemed career would be a cherry on top of an already incredible offseason — especially considering she'll turn 39 during the 2021 season.

8. Napheesa Collier

napheesa collier
Napheesa Collier. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Team: Minnesota Lynx

2020 stats: 16.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.3 APG

Vegas MVP odds: 20/1

Why it's a good story: Napheesa Collier was in the MVP conversation last year, and many fans felt she was robbed of first-team All-WNBA honors after averaging a near double-double and leading her Lynx to the semifinals. This year could serve as something of a revenge tour for Collier, who will lead a revamped Minnesota squad that could be a sleeper finals contender.

7. Arike Ogunbowale

arike ogunbowale
Arike Ogunbowale. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Team: Dallas Wings

2020 stats: 22.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.5 APG

Vegas MVP odds: 13/1

Why it's a good story: In just her second year in the league, Arike Ogunbowale led the entire WNBA with 22.8 points per game last season. The girl knows where to get a bucket. Now, if she can translate that scoring ability to wins — and maybe even a surprise playoff appearance — for her Dallas Wings, the 24-year-old should be in contention for the league's top individual award.

6. Brittney Griner

brittney griner
Brittney Griner. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Team: Phoenix Mercury

2020 stats: 17.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.0 APG

Vegas MVP odds: 7/1

Why it's a good story: Between an abrupt departure from the bubble last season and trade rumors throughout the offseason, perhaps it's time for Brittney Griner to remind the WNBA world who she is. The 6-foot-8 center averaged 17.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in 2020. Those would have ranked seventh and 12th in the league had she not left Bradenton after 12 games. And even though she's a six-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, seven-time blocks leader, and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, she's never won MVP honors. Definitively leading Phoenix's star-studded big three, winning MVP, and silencing those who suggested the Mercury would be best off trading her away would constitute quite a comeback story.

5. A'ja Wilson

a'ja wilson
A'ja Wilson. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Team: Las Vegas Aces

2020 stats: 20.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 APG

Vegas MVP odds: 3/1

Why it's a good story: Though A'ja Wilson won M'VP in 2020, earning the WNBA's highest honor this season would undoubtedly look and feel quite different. This time around, she could do it in front of Aces fans. She could do it with her whole squad intact. And she could do it without any asterisk — warranted or otherwise — that may have come with winning MVP in the bubble. And everyone likes a repeat performance.

4. Sabrina Ionescu

sabrina ionescu
Sabrina Ionescu. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Team: New York Liberty

2020 stats: 18.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.0 APG

Vegas MVP odds: 30/1

Why it's a good story: Sabrina Ionescu never had the luxury of being a rookie. Not really, at least. She was expected to rejuvenate the long-struggling Liberty franchise right off the bat, but just three games into doing just that, her first WNBA season came to an abrupt end thanks to a nasty ankle sprain. The league refuses to grant her a second go at the Rookie of the Year award she was widely expected to win, but she can make up for lost time and skip right to MVP for her sophomore season.

3. Breanna Stewart

Breanna Stewart
Breanna Stewart. Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Team: Seattle Storm

2020 stats: 19.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.6 APG

Vegas MVP odds: 7/2

Why it's a good story: Already a league MVP, Finals MVP, WNBA champion, and two-time All-Star by her third season in the pros, Breanna Stewart suffered a "kiss of death" injury that cast doubt on her future in basketball. But once she recovered from the Achilles tendon tear that kept her away from the court for a year, the Storm superstar was right back to treating the WNBA like her playground and dominating her competition like she never left the hardwood. Despite Stewart's 19.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game in 2020, A'ja Wilson narrowly edged her for last season's MVP award — perhaps due to the Storm's decision to rest their do-it-all power forward in a regular-season finale against the Aces that decided the teams' playoff rankings. Stewart got her revenge by leading Seattle past Las Vegas in a three-game Finals sweep, and she earned Finals MVP honors to boot. But an MVP win — a year past its due or otherwise — would be the icing on the cake of her sensational comeback.

2. Candace Parker

candace parker
Candace Parker. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Team: Chicago Sky

2020 stats: 14.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 4.6 APG

Vegas MVP odds: 8/1 odds

Why it's a good story: Though Candace Parker may be one of the league's biggest names, her fellow WNBA players voted her the "most overrated" of the league's athletes in a 2019 anonymous poll from The Athletic. Since then, she won Defensive Player of the Year, led the Sparks to the third seed in the playoffs, and left the only franchise she's known in free agency to return home to Chicago. To win her second MVP award with a new team, new role, new coach, and new expectations would be a perfect counter to fellow players who disrespected her and a former franchise that some suggest did not value her as much as she deserved.

1. Elena Delle Donne

elena delle donne
Elena Delle Donne. Elaine Thompson/AP Images

Team: Washington Mystics

2019 stats: 19.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.2 APG

Vegas MVP odds: 6/1

Why it's a good story: Elena Delle Donne put her body on the line to lead the Mystics to their first championship as a franchise, breaking her nose and playing through three herniated discs in the 2019 WNBA Finals. Though she was on her way to recovery through the offseason, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic complicated her quest to defend her 2019 MVP award and her team's title. Because Delle Donne has chronic Lyme disease and medical experts were unsure how the autoimmune condition could impact an individual's ability to fight off the novel coronavirus, the WNBA's lone member of the exclusive 50-40-90 club heeded the advice of her doctor and chose to sit out the 2020 WNBA season. But the league refused to authorize her medical waiver, forcing her to choose between her health and her paycheck. Fortunately for the 6-foot-5 superstar, her franchise picked up the tab, but there's plenty of cause for Delle Donne to want to prove her worth after the WNBA hung her out to dry. If she can return to peak form after multiple back surgeries, unwarranted offseason drama, and two years away from the league she once dominated, Delle Donne's comeback would make for the best WNBA MVP narrative of all.

Now check out our rankings of all 12 WNBA teams based on their likelihood of winning the 2021 Finals:

seattle storm.JPG
Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

All 12 WNBA teams' chances of winning this season's championship, ranked

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