It seems appropriate that a few days after one of the best point guards in women's basketball history was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, we would pick our top five at that position for this WNBA season.
Suffice it to say, Dawn Staley would praise this quintet because they've all been good on-court leaders for their teams in 2013. They have slightly different skill sets but similar mindsets: They want the responsibility of directing the offense.
Only one of our five is having much success from behind the arc this season, but four of the five are averaging in double figures in scoring. All of them, though, share a keen ability to be playmakers.
Incidentally, in this list, we did not include either Phoenix's Diana Taurasi (6.1 assists per game) or New York's Cappie Pondexter (4.0 APG), even though they essentially do play a lot of point guard. However, they were both on our top-five shooting guard list. It's an example of why it can be tough to label players. You could potentially call those two "super guards" for all that they do with both scoring and distribution.
That said, this group of five has been pretty super itself. Enough so that there were a few others -- such as Seattle's Temeka Johnson, subbing in very solidly this season for an injured Sue Bird -- who just missed the cut. -- Mechelle Voepel
1. Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota: She's the only one of these five who has a WNBA title, and her Lynx are in the hunt for one again. She's currently averaging a career-high 14.5 points, the best this year among this group. Whalen is doing that with her trademark penetration. She might not be Danielle Robinson-quick (more on her in a bit), but Whalen has an uncanny knack for finding daylight.
She is not, however, scoring from behind the arc; Whalen is 0-for-8 from there in 2013. But that's not what the Lynx need from her. They ask her to aggressively figure out the best scoring option each trip down the court, including calling her own number. Her 5.9 assists per game tie a career best; that was also her average in Minnesota's championship season of 2011. Wisely, the Lynx just signed her to a contract extension. -- Mechelle Voepel
2. Ivory Latta, Washington: Now here is the 3-point shooter of this group; Latta has made 63 of 167 shots from behind the arc this season and has 291 treys in her WNBA career. Latta is also making teams pay when she goes to the foul line, where she's shooting a career-high 91.1 percent (82-of-90). Latta is leading the Mystics in scoring, at 13.7 points per game, and in assists with a career-high average of 4.5.
She came to Washington as a free agent after playing the previous three seasons in Tulsa. First-year Mystics coach Mike Thibault targeted signing Latta as one of his top priorities, and she has brought to D.C. everything he hoped she would with her offense, defense, leadership and energy. -- Mechelle Voepel
3. Lindsey Harding, Los Angeles: Harding was viewed as the last piece of the puzzle that would make Los Angeles a championship contender this season, and she has been just that for the Sparks. Harding is averaging a career-best 5.3 assists per game, plus 11.1 points on a team with a bevy of offensive options.
Like Whalen, Harding is not doing much from behind the arc, where she's 4-of-22. But that's OK, because in a three-guard rotation with Kristi Toliver and Alana Beard, Harding is playing nearly 31 minutes a game and assuming the floor-general role most of the time. Harding's postseason experience -- she'll be making her fifth straight playoff appearance, having gone twice with Washington and twice with Atlanta -- will benefit the Sparks as they attempt to make a title run. -- Michelle Smith
4. Danielle Robinson, San Antonio: The Silver Stars will not be going to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, but not for lack of effort from D-Rob. A knee sprain has sidelined her; she hasn't played since Aug. 21. But in the 25 games she did play, Robinson averaged a league-best 6.7 assists, along with 11.2 points, which is the best of her three-season career.
One of the quickest players in the league since she was drafted in 2011, she has honed her decision-making and worked on her patience. She has needed a lot of both those things this season, when the Silver Stars have been without veteran standouts Becky Hammon and Sophia Young. Robinson is not a 3-point threat -- she has yet to make a shot from behind the arc in her WNBA career (0-for-14) -- but she is terrific at pushing the pace and exhausting defenses. -- Mechelle Voepel
5. Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago: Vandersloot zoomed up the WNBA draft board back in 2011 after her star-making appearance in the NCAA tournament, leading Gonzaga to the Elite Eight. But it has taken a little time for her to adjust to the speed and physicality of the pro game. Her first two WNBA seasons were plagued by turnovers and tentativeness, things that are greatly reduced this year.
Sure, Vandersloot has plenty of great dishing options with Sylvia Fowles, Swin Cash, Epiphanny Prince and now the stellar Elena Delle Donne. But her individual improvement is clear as well. She's fourth in the league in assists (5.6 per game), her turnovers are down, and at 8.9 points per game, she has continued to be a reliable scorer. That includes a run of seven consecutive games in August where she scored in double figures. -- Michelle Smith