Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Best (Female) Basketball Player In Each Position

Three years ago, some basketball experts at ESPN were asked to name the (then) best current basketball player at each position, and the best player in each position of all time. In the end, I agreed with the consensus; pretty much everyone who knows the history of NBA basketball would know who the top players have been, even if they might argue about the final five selections.

In women’s basketball though the consensus is less well-known, and so having thought for hours about an all-time men’s basketball starting five, I thought it would be interesting to put together the women’s version. Now I haven’t watched hours of women’s basketball games, and so I do not have a heap of evidence to back up my selections. But then again there are heaps of basketball fans that have not watched much footage of Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell or Oscar Robertson play, and they still feel fairly comfortable about doing a men’s version of this.

Positions in women’s basketball seem to be even more fluid than the men’s game, but I have tried not to cheat by picking the best five players and then fitting them into positions. So taking into account the current race for the Most Valuable Player award, last year’s MVP voting, and last year’s All-WNBA teams, these appear to be the best current players in each position.

Point guard: Lindsay Whalen
Shooting guard: Diana Taurasi
Small forward: Maya Moore
Power forward: Candace Parker
Center: Brittney Griner

For the all-time team, the selections are probably even more biased than the men’s version towards recent players, given that the WNBA has given the top players more chances to show their talents outside college and the Olympics. A good starting point here was the WNBA All-Decade Team, and then seeing if there were any players from before (or after) that could leapfrog those selections.

Point guard: Nancy Lieberman
Shooting guard: Cynthia Cooper
Small forward: Sheryl Swoopes
Power forward: Lauren Jackson
Center: Lisa Leslie

Some may see it as a bit of cheat choosing Jackson as the best power forward, but no other candidate really stands out. Besides Jackson has played enough time there, and is it really all that much different to picking Tim Duncan as the best power forward in the men’s game? There might be a bit of personal bias here, since Lauren Jackson is one of my top five or ten favourite Australian athletes ever, but I think this choice is defensible.

Women’s basketball has had quite a few great shooting guards and small forwards, including pre-WNBA stars Ann Meyers, Lynnette Woodard, and Cheryl Miller. The best choices though seem to me to be the two major cogs of the Houston Comets’ dynasty, Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes. Both have been compared to Michael Jordan; Cooper by stats guru Dean Oliver, and Swoopes through her ‘Air Swoopes’ sneakers.

Former college star and Washington General Nancy Lieberman ('Lady Magic') is my choice for the top point guard. If the award for the best collegiate point guard is named after you, there is a good chance that you have made the position your own.

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