November 16, 2018 | WNBL news

THE 2018/19 SEASON SO FAR: MVP CANDIDATES

Written by Liam Ellison prior to Round 6.

With a third of the season already passed, take a look at who is starring for their respective teams and the potential MVP candidates.

STAR LOCALS

The talent of Australian players remains as strong as ever in the league with a number of past and present national team representatives dominating the competition so far.

Kelsey Griffin (University of Canberra Capitals)

Fresh off an heroic performance against the Lynx in Round 5, Kelsey Griffin has entrenched herself in the MVP conversation while settling into her new team seamlessly.

After being named UC Capitals captain in her first season with the team, Griffin has repaid the faith and leads by example with her trademark hard-work and unrivalled ability to crash the glass.

She leads the league in rebounding with a whopping 11.8 boards per game which she bumped up following a 30-point, 18-rebound performance against Perth which included ten offensive carroms. She can be undersized in terms of height against some of the other forwards in the league but her tenacity and strength makes her a constant threat under the rim.

Kelsey Griffin Stats: 19.3 points on 45% shooting, 11.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 steals and one block per game.

Steph Talbot (Deakin Melbourne Boomers)

After a two-year hiatus from the competition, Steph Talbot has returned in style with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers.

An increased role with the title-contending Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA has helped Talbot improve her three-point stroke and she is now shooting a career best 37% from beyond the arc while drilling 19 triple’s in eight games.

In a team stacked with Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals, Talbot has stood out with her ability to defend the perimeter and bring the ball up the floor also proving crucial to Melbourne’s success.

Posting a career-high 15 points per game on 43% shooting, she could be the difference for the Boomers this season as they round into form following a slow start.

Steph Talbot stats: 15 points on 43% shooting including 37% from three-point range, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

Suzy Batkovic (JCU Townsville Fire)

Not only is Suzy Batkovic rocketing towards the WNBL all-time leading scorers title, she is also mounting yet another MVP argument.

Prior to last Sunday’s Grand Final re-match in which Batkovic was forced to leave the game due to neck soreness, Batkovic was leading the league in scoring and while she netted just two points in that game, she is still averaging an impressive 19.5 points per game.

One of the highlights of Batkovic’s season so far came in Round 3 against the Flames when she carried the Fire over the line with 30 points and 12 rebounds including 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Despite announcing that this will be her last season, Batkovic remains the focal point of Townsville’s game-plan and is the barometer for their success.

Suzy Batkovic Stats: 19.5 points at 43% shooting, 10.7 rebounds and two assists per game.

Alex Bunton (Brydens Sydney Uni Flames)

Coming off her debut with the Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals  at the FIBA World Cup where they won a silver medal, Bunton is now enjoying a break-out season for the Flames.

Putting up a career high 16.1 points per game and nearly averaging a double-double with 9.6 rebounds, the Sydney centre has been very important for the Flames. Her strength in the paint is a difficult cover for opposition forwards and her ability to post-up and knock down the fadeaway is proving to be a deadly combination.

Winless after five rounds though and now set to miss Round 6 with a lingering injury, Bunton’s MVP chances could be hampered. However, with the Flames’ defence relying heavily on her performance and the offence moving through her as well, she is still set for a big 2018/19 once she returns to the floor.

Alex Bunton Stats: 16.14 points on 47% shooting, 9.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

STAR IMPORTS

Just as impressive as the local talent have been the imports so far in 2018/19 including several new faces who have integrated into the Chemist Warehouse WNBL with ease.

Kia Nurse (University of Canberra Capitals)

The UC Capitals have enjoyed a resurgent campaign so far and Nurse has been at the forefront of the rise.

The Canadian international was a boom recruit in the off-season after impressing at the FIBA World Cup and she has lived up to those lofty expectations by leading the league in scoring with 19.8 points per game.

She has been able to get into the lane at ease while also showcasing a capable three-point shot and that helped her earn the October Player of the Month award. In tandem with Griffin, they are two of the strongest players in the league with the ball and are tough covers for oppositions who have struggled to keep them away from the basket.

Kia Nurse stats: 19.8 points on 38% shooting, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists.

Asia Taylor (Perth Lynx)

The ladder-leading Lynx are riding a six-game winning streak into Round 6 and Taylor has been a key piece. The fiery forward has carved out a reputation as one of the league’s best players after being named in the All-Star Five for the past two seasons and in 2018/19, she is well on her way again with 18.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

A strong player in the post at both ends who loves to crash the boards and assert herself, Taylor’s athleticism also makes her a difficult player to guard in the open floor and she contributes to a majority of Perth’s fast-break points.

Asia Taylor Stats: 18.3 points on 38% shooting, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

Lindsay Allen (Deakin Melbourne Boomers)

The Boomers needed a floor general with the loss of Bec Cole but they have found a star in Lindsay Allen. The Las Vegas Aces guard in the WNBA has shown her pass-first mentality at times but is also more than capable of scoring the ball with a sweet stroke off the dribble and from long-range.

Sitting third for assists with 5.3 per game, Allen is also shooting 53% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc after scoring 29 points in Melbourne’s Grand Final re-match against Townsville to earn the Round 5 Player of the Week.

That honour, combined with two Team of the Week inclusions has Allen right in the MVP conversation.

Lindsay Allen Stats: 17 points on 53% shooting, 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals.

Becca Tobin (Bendigo Bank Spirit)

Tobin has been a defensive force so far this season and as well as being in the hunt for the MVP, she is also right in the conversation for the Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year award.

Crucial in the Spirit’s surprise start to 2018/19, Tobin has done a bit of everything on court which was exemplified in Round 5 when she put up 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block in a thrilling win over the Flames.

She made the game-winning assist to Nadeen Payne and then collected the steal on Sydney Uni’s final possession as they looked to tie or take the lead.

Tobin has also been a major factor in Bendigo’s league-best defence which has seen them hold oppositions to 68 points per game. While she stands at 195cm, the centre has also proven to be a strong ball-handler and is a threat in the open floor as well as inside.

Becca Tobin Stats: 10.7 points on 53% shooting, 8.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.7 blocks per game.

Nia Coffey (Adelaide Lightning)

One of the league’s leading rebounders, Coffey has been a force down low so far in 2018/19. Joining the Lightning in an important year for the franchise, the import has impressed and helped them to a 3-3 record coming into Round 6.

She averages 10.8 rebounds per game, good for second in the league. Her athleticism and elevation allows her to pull down a high percentage of Adelaide’s boards but it also enables her to rise above defenders for her jump shot. Coffey’s best game came in Round 3 against Bendigo when she recorded 21 points and 20 rebounds to earn the Player of the Week.

Nia Coffey Stats: 16.5 points on 43% shooting, 10.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.