Penny Taylor, DeLisha Milton-Jones deserved to be in WNBA's top 20

When you put a numerical limit on any list of great players in any sport, there are going to be quarrels. No amount of statistical analysis can solve every debate that might arise over who's on the list and who's left off.

There isn't necessarily any exactly "right" or "wrong" list. So, believe me, I'm certainly not jumping up and down in disagreement with the WNBA's Top 20@20 list. In all, it's a terrific group of players, and congratulations to all of them.

But if someone asked who were the biggest omissions, my answer would be two players: forwards Penny Taylor and DeLisha Milton-Jones. They were on my ballot, both for how well they played throughout their careers -- Taylor is still active as a starter with Phoenix -- and also because of their commitment to the WNBA.

The league said the list was meant to celebrate the top 20 "greatest and most influential" players. That does give voters some latitude in regard to making their choices.

The WNBA mandated that eligible players had to meet at least three of seven criteria in regard to accomplishments/longevity. That resulted in a final ballot that had 60 eligible candidates.

As a voter, I went back and really examined every candidate's career and contributions. I've had the honor of covering the league since its inception in 1997, and I found that getting down to 35 was a relatively pain-free task. Getting to 25 was harder. And going to 20 was, obviously, even harder.

But Taylor and Milton-Jones were not my last choices. They both made my top 15, actually.

Taylor has been a key part of all three of the Mercury's WNBA championship teams. In 2007, when Phoenix won its first title, her postseason averages were 19.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 3.8 APG.

In 2009, Taylor played in just 14 regular-season games, but she was a major contributor in the postseason. She appeared in 11 playoff games and averaged 14.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 3.4 APG in those. The Mercury's WNBA Finals matchup with Indiana went five games that year; Taylor hit 61.5 percent of her shots from the field in that series and averaged 15. 8 points.

In 2014, Taylor averaged 11.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG and 4.9 APG in the postseason. The Mercury swept Chicago in the WNBA Finals, and Phoenix was a powerful machine of a team that year. But the Mercury would not have wanted to try to win the title without Taylor.

For her career, Taylor has averaged 13.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 3.0 APG in the regular season. Those numbers are 13.6, 4.9 and 3.7 in the playoffs. Meaning she has been just as consistent in the Mercury's biggest games as she has throughout every season.

Taylor is also among the group of players -- the Australians -- who I think deserve special recognition for the sacrifices they made to play in the WNBA. They are a long, long way from home in the WNBA, and unless they also play in Australia, they are also usually very far from home with their non-WNBA basketball jobs, too. They miss significant family time, along with the wear and tear on their bodies from the amount of traveling.

The WNBA would not be where it is without the Australians. And while the greatest of the Aussies, three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson, was a slam dunk for the top 20, Taylor should have been on the list, too.

As for Milton-Jones, I recently wrote about her career, which gave me a chance to really reflect on her consistency and longevity. She has played in more WNBA games than anyone: 499 in the regular season and 50 in the playoffs.

Milton-Jones had WNBA averages of 11.2 points and 5.2 rebounds over 17 seasons. Along with being the leader in games played, she's in the WNBA's top 10 all-time in multiple categories. Including points, (5,571), field goals (2,083), rebounds (2,574) and steals (619). She's also in the top 15 in blocked shots (339).

One of the things harder to quantify, even with advanced statistics, is the impact of a multidimensional big player who can guard on the perimeter. Milton-Jones was that kind of defensive player.

The length of her career meant she has served as a mentor for many younger players. She has been a voice for many issues that players have faced over the last two decades, including a better recognition of the impact of diet and fitness. To top it off, she won two WNBA titles with Los Angeles.

Now, here's the really hard part. By saying Taylor and Milton-Jones belonged on the list of 20, who gets left off? I hate this part. But here it is: I did not include New York's Teresa Weatherspoon and Detroit's Deanna Nolan.

It's not that these players weren't significant contributors to the WNBA. They were. But with such a guard-heavy list, I admit that when it came time for the most difficult cuts, I was looking to eliminate guards.

Nolan was the last player I left off, after considerable (and ongoing) self-debate. She won three titles with Detroit and was an amazingly explosive guard who could be at the rim in the blink of an eye and elevate for unstoppable jumpers. She hit the victory-clinching 3-pointer in the decisive Game 3 of the 2003 WNBA Finals. For her nine-season WNBA career, Nolan averaged 13.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 3.2 APG. She was even better in the playoffs, at 18.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 3.4 APG.

I understand why Nolan, a native of Flint, Michigan, decided not to return to the WNBA after the Shock moved from Detroit following the 2009 season. I'm sure there were financial and personal reasons she felt it was the right call, and she wasn't the only Shock player who didn't go to Tulsa. But I really wish she would have come back so we could have witnessed a few more years. She was still in her prime at age 30 and had the best-scoring season of her career in 2009.

Right or wrong, the fact that she didn't come back factored some into my vote. Which clearly was not the case with many other voters.

As for Weatherspoon, she was one of the faces of the Liberty in the early years of the league establishing itself. She hit what remains the most famous shot in league history: the buzzer-beating half-court heave in Game 2 of the 1999 WNBA Finals. She was a well-respected defensive player.

But her career averages of 5.0 PPG and 5.3 APG in eight seasons (seven in New York) just weren't enough for me to include her over other guards.

There will be some who disagree vehemently with both my exclusions, and that's OK. It wasn't my team to pick; I was just one of 15 voters. The idea was to get a different voices and perspectives, and the league did that.

So will picking 30@30 be any easier? Nope. Not with on-the-rise stars such as Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles, Brittney Griner, Nneka Ogwumike and Breanna Stewart, who almost certainly will be among those in consideration.

But we'll worry about that in another decade.