It started in last year’s playoffs.
Tina Charles had turned in an impressive 2015 campaign, averaging 17.1 ppg and 8.5 rpg, ranking fourth and second in the WNBA respectively. For the 2012 league MVP, those stats were expected, and while Charles was in the MVP discussion, she finished third in the voting, her candidacy for a second win never really seemed to gain steam despite leading New York to a franchise-record 23 regular season wins and the top overall seed in the WNBA playoffs.
Then the playoffs tipped off and Charles took her play to another level, really another couple of levels. She posted 22 points in each of the first three playoff games, netted 25 in game two at Indiana, and finished six postseason games averaging 20.3 ppg.
As head coach Bill Laimbeer put it at the time, Charles was showing that she had the talent to be the best player in the world every night.
So far in 2016, not only has Charles not missed a beat since that impressive playoff run last fall, she seems to have taken yet another leap.
Two weeks into the season, she ranks near the top of the WNBA in most major statistical categories. Charles has recorded a double-double in all four games so far this year, and she is second in scoring (23.5 ppg), first in rebounding (12.0 rpg), third in steals (2.8 spg) 12th in assists (4.0 apg) and first in minutes (35.5 mpg).
Her stat line against Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon was one of the best of the season for any player, she finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, a career-high seven steals, and six assists.
The advanced stats go even further to show the impact Charles has had on her team. Her Player Impact Estimate, a measurement of a player’s overall statistical contribution to games played, is 25.6. The baseline for PIE is 10.0 and her rating is tops in the WNBA. She is doing this while being relied on as the go-to, ranking second behind Candace Parker in Usage Percentage of 32.3.
Charles is playing at a level she started to demonstrate during the second half of last season, and carried over into the postseason. For the Liberty, her dominance will continue to be a critical component to success because she has now proven capable of completely controlling a game every night.