It is now the end of the regular season and with the playoffs set to begin soon, it’s time to hand out the awards for players who performed well during the regular season. It is never easy picking out the “right” winners, as over the years, many deserving candidates have been robbed from MVP, First Team, All Defense, etc. This was not an easy decision for me to make, and I know that the voters will hopefully get it right when the awards come out soon.
To start off, let’s start with the easiest award and without a doubt, that would be Rookie of the Year. The ROY award belongs to Breanna Stewart, who rightfully was deserving of superstar status and no other rookie came close to matching her input game in and game out. Congrats Breanna Stewart, I hope this award sets you off to a legendary career in the WNBA.
The All Rookie Team was a bit harder to decide. In a stacked class of 2016, there were more than arguably 7 or 8 rookies who all stood out at particular moments throughout the season, some peaked early (Tiffany Mitchell), some struggled shooting the ball (Aerial Powers), some blossomed later (Bria Holmes), etc. It was difficult to decide the top 5 rookies, but it was really tough to decide between certain rookies so I have them as a tie. Listed below are my top 5 picks for the 2016 ROY team
- F – Breanna Stewart
- G – Moriah Jefferson
- G/F – Aerial Powers
- C – Imani Boyette
- G – Tiffany Mitchell & F – Bria Holmes (tied)
Next up is the Most Improved Player Award. There were four worthy candidates to pick from which include Sugar Rodgers from the Liberty, Layshia Clarendon from the Dream, Elizabeth Williams also from the Dream and Jewell Loyd from the Storm. From this four, two are fourth year players and two are sophomores. In my opinion, Elizabeth Williams has improved the most among the four, BUT she is a second year player and don’t most rookies improve on their first year? It makes no sense to give the most improved player award to her, considering that she was going to improve after a rough first season. This is why I believe that Sugar Rodgers deserves the nod for the Most Improved Player. Without Rodgers contributions this year, the Liberty would struggle scoring without Tina Charles. She became their second leading scorer and helped the Liberty to maintain the 3rd seed and 1st overall in the Eastern Conference. She’s improved since last year, but this year she became an All Star level type of player and that is why she is my pick for the award.
The third award is the Sixth Woman of the Year award. This season, there were three worthy candidates to pick from which include Renee Montgomery from the Lynx, Allie Quigley from the Sky and Jantel Lavender from the Sparks. Renee Montgomery helped the Lynx stay ahead and become the best team in the WNBA by leading one of the best benches in the league. Allie Quigley who has previously won the award twice, continued to help the Sky regain their footing after not getting off a to a great start and Jantel Lavender was one of the key pieces in helping LA become the second best team in the WNBA this year. All three are deserving of this honor, but my pick for the Sixth Woman of the Year award belongs to Jantel Lavender. Lavender often was on the floor during crucial moments for the Sparks and was one of the reasons why LA had the record they did and they often relied on her contributions since LA struggled with bench play all season.
The fourth award is the Defensive Player of the Year award. This season, four candidates stood out. Sylvia Fowles from the Lynx, Alana Beard from the Sparks, Kiah Stokes from the Liberty and Breanna Stewart from the Storm. Alana Beard had a marvelous first half defensively before the Olympic break in which she made the Sparks the best team defensively. Her ability to make her opponent work harder and make difficult plays made LA a dangerous team both offensively as well as defensively before the Olympic break. The second half, she tailed off as did the Sparks defensively, but that doesn’t mean she still is not worthy of being a candidate. Kiah Stokes was one of the Liberty’s best interior defenders and made it difficult for any player to score inside and the Liberty often relied on key defensive possessions late in the game to win. Unfortunately, Kiah Stokes suffered a hip injury in late August, meaning that her DPOY chances took a hit and so did the Liberty’s defense late in the season. Breanna Stewart was often asked as a rookie to take on the toughest defensive assignment and she often did well although the Storm struggled in the first half of the season. The second half, the Storm picked up their play thanks in large part due to Stewart and her defense is one of the reasons why the Storm are headed back to the playoffs. Sylvia Fowles who has previously won the DPOY award before made Minnesota the top team defensively and was one of the key pieces in making Minnesota a tough team to beat an even more harder team to beat with her defense. It was not an easy task to beat the Lynx this year when they were at their best and Fowles is one of the reason why. This is why Sylvia Fowles is my pick for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Speaking of, here is my picks for the All Defense Team *- note – All Defense is only one team, not two unlike the All – WNBA teams.
- C – Sylvia Fowles
- G – Alana Beard
- G/F – Tanisha Wright
- F/C – Breanna Stewart
- F/C – Kiah Stokes
The next award is the Coach of the Year Award. This season, there were three worthy candidates. Cheryl Reeve from the Lynx, Brian Agler from the Sparks and Jenny Boucek from the Storm. Cheryl Reeve was able to guide the Lynx to an outstanding regular season with not just her All Star starting players, but was able to get major contributions from her bench which included Renee Montgomery, Natasha Howard, Jia Perkins, etc which allowed her stars to rest a little bit longer. She was able to maintain the Lynx’s focus even after her stars went to the Olympics. She helped the Lynx sustain excellence, something that is not easy to do. Jenny Boucek, earlier this year had a struggling Storm team that dealt with inconsistent play despite her stars logging heavy minutes. She was able to after the break, really focus on the Storm and finally was able to get great production from her young stars at the same time which led to the Storm making the playoffs, something that was not expected from them this season and for that she deserves credit. Brian Agler made LA one of the top teams this year because he was able to make Nneka Oguwmike an MVP candidate which allowed Candace Parker to take the pressure off her shoulders and got solid seasons out of both Alana Beard and Essence Carson as well as moving Jantel Lavender to the bench. He was able to help LA become a great team and for that he deserves kudos. This is why Brian Agler is my pick for Coach of the Year.
The last and most important award is the MVP award. This year, there were two strong heavyweights and then there were the rest. Much has been debated on whether Tina Charles or Nneka Oguwmike should be MVP. Since there’s so much discussion regarding the MVP and who “deserves” the award, I’m going to keep it short and sweet. My pick for the 2016 Most Valuable Player Award goes to Nneka Oguwmike.
My picks for the 2016 All WNBA Team (1st and 2nd team)
- F – Nneka Oguwmike
- F/C – Tina Charles
- F – Elena Delle Donne
- F/G – Angel McCoughtry
- F – Maya Moore
- F – Breanna Stewart
- G – Sue Bird
- F – Candace Parker
- G – Lindsay Whalen
- G – Kristi Toliver
So, there you have it! All my picks for all of the upcoming awards coming out soon. It’s never easy picking these choices, but regardless of who gets it, I am excited for the winners.