It’s been a crazy WNBA season and as we are nearing the end of the regular season, I thought I would look back and do a quick reflection post on how this season went. This season was unlike any other. There were so many injuries, stars who sat out the season for rest, the uncertainty of the WNBA CBA, a new WNBA commissioner and so much more. There was ALOT to talk about, so instead of writing a very long blog post about it all, I’m going to keep it short and sweet. I will go off on various headlines surrounding each team and then give my picks for all of the major end of season awards, so stay tuned for the end of this blog post.
ATLANTA DREAM — The Dream lost Angel McCoughtry for the season and so Tiffany Hayes had to become the sole star. The Dream was a major disappointment this year. The best local TV crew was gone, the arena was not great, some of the players performed below their level. Instead of rising upwards from a great year last year, instead they will finish as the worst team in the WNBA this year.
CHICAGO SKY — The Chicago Sky have looked decent this year. They’ve had some great wins, some not so great losses and their new head coach James Wade has been able to turn things around for the Sky. We already knew Courtney Vandersloot was a special point guard and Allie Quigley as a sharpshooter but the biggest improvement was from second year player Diamond Deshields. She improved and is now one of the key players for the Sky who are returning to the playoffs after some time away from them.
CONNECTICUT SUN — There were a ton of teams that were affected by injuries to their key players and Connecticut was not one of them. All of their stars were healthy and they took full advantage of it and now are locked into a top 3 seed for the upcoming WNBA playoffs. This team performed to it’s expectations and now we will await to see if they can make a title run in the playoffs.
DALLAS WINGS — Coming into this season, the Wings lost Skylar Diggins-Smith due to pregnancy and Liz Cambage was traded in the offseason. With those two stars out, new Dallas Wings head coach Brian Agler had to adjust his team and the Wings found a new star in their rookie Arike Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale has been key in a couple of great victories for the Wings and she is one of the players that is up for the Rookie of the Year award. Despite all of this, the Wings dealt with a lot of injuries and will end up as the third worst team in the WNBA this season.
INDIANA FEVER — The Indiana Fever did not have any big expectations coming into this year. They were looking for improvements from their second year player Kelsey Mitchell and fourth year player Tiffany Mitchell. The Fever got some solid contributions from veteran Candice Dupree and new Fever rookie Teaira McCowan has impressed as the Fever’s center. If she had played more early on, the Rookie of the Year race would have come down to McCowan, Ogunbowale and Collier. Pokey Chatman was able to get a lot out of Erica Wheeler, who is still in the running for Most Improved Player. The Fever have looked better recently and things should look different for them next season.
LOS ANGELES SPARKS — The Los Angeles Sparks are an interesting case. They did deal with some injuries early but it did not affect them as much. The Sparks had a new head coach in Derek Fisher who has had a pretty solid season. The Sparks are in the running for a top 4 seed and Nneka Oguwmike is in the running for MVP. Chelsea Gray has also been spectacular for the Sparks although Candace Parker has dipped a bit this season. New acquisition Chiney Ogwumike has struggled to get playing time when Parker returned from injury and now plays limited minutes which is a far cry from what she is capable of doing. The Sparks have been with some controversy however. Riquna Williams, one of the Sparks guards has been charged with domestic violence, yet she still played for a large majority of the season before the WNBA suspended her for 10 games. She is now playing again, however. When Derek Fisher was hired, there was controversy as how he was able to get the job despite never coaching in the WNBA/women’s college basketball world. It did not go over easy with a ton of people, yet Fisher has managed to keep the Sparks towards the top this season.
LAS VEGAS ACES — The Las Vegas Aces had so much to look forward to this season. They had a new star duo of Wilson and Cambage, both of whom have not disappointed. They hosted the WNBA All Star Game. They had the #1 overall pick which turned out to be Jackie Young. Basically, it all went well for Las Vegas. The Aces have done well this year and are in the running for a top 4 seed. Liz Cambage is an MVP candidate. Wilson’s numbers went down a bit, but that was to be expected as she was injured for a bit and the addition of Liz Cambage. Dearica Hamby really stepped up in Wilson’s absence and is in the running for Sixth Woman of the Year. Not only all of that, but the Aces accomplished one of their goals which was to make the playoffs. It all remains to be seen if the Aces can manage a title run now.
MINNESOTA LYNX — If there was a team undergoing dramatic change, the Lynx were that team. Maya Moore sat out this season for rest, Rebekkah Brunson also sat out, Lindsay Whalen retired, Seimone Augustus dealt with injuries. Only Sylvia Fowles remained. So, making the playoffs did not seem to be in their future. However, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve thought differently. She brought over Odyssey Sims, drafted Napheesa Collier and the Lynx took it away from there. Odyssey Sims was great for the Lynx this season and became the Lynx’s best players. Napheesa Collier was pro ready from game one of the season and really delivered for the Lynx both offensively and defensively. She is in the running for Rookie of the Year along with Ogunbowale. The Lynx have already accomplished their goals and more. It remains to be seen of what more this Lynx team can do.
NEW YORK LIBERTY — The New York Liberty were a mess this season. There’s no other way to put it. Tina Charles was great and put some solid numbers, but that’s about it. Kia Nurse improved from last season. Bria Hartley was better than in previous seasons. Amanda Zahui B also played much better than in previous seasons and had some great games. But other than the individual improvements, the Liberty did not look good and had trouble closing out games. The arena was also not a great place for the team and it was just not meant to be for the Liberty. The Liberty will end up as the second worst team in the WNBA and need drastic changes next season.
PHOENIX MERCURY — The Phoenix Mercury were without their star Diana Taurasi for a large majority of the season and she has now returned. While Taurasi was out, Dewanna Bonner stepped up and filled her shoes and is a prime candidate for Most Improved Player. She is in competition for this award alongside Leilani Mitchell, another fellow guard. Leilani Mitchell stepped up in the latter part of the season and helped fellow stars Brittney Griner and Dewanna Bonner stay afloat without Taurasi and make the playoffs. Speaking of stars, Brittney Griner is the running for MVP after she also had some stellar games for the Mercury.
SEATTLE STORM — The Seattle Storm were one of the teams affected by injuries. After they won the title last season, they lost MVP Brianna Stewart, star point guard Sue Bird and coach Dan Hughes dealt with cancer treatment. It was not easy for the Storm this season. However, Natasha Howard stepped up and filled Stewart’s shoes, Jordin Canada improved from last season and they got contributions from Alysha Clark, Jewel Lloyd, etc. Mercedes Russell greatly improved from last season and contributed as did Kaleena Mosqueeda Lewis. The Storm were able to recover without those two major stars and now have made the playoffs. Although they have not been as great down the stretch, it is still a major accomplishment and Coach Dan Hughes should be in the running for Coach of the Year.
WASHINGTON MYSTICS — The Washington Mystics were another team that were not affected by injuries. All of their stars were healthy and the Mystics have been the best WNBA team all season long. They have blown out the top teams, they have the best offense, and their star Elena Delle Donne is the favourite to win MVP this year. Coach Mike Thibault is also in the running for Coach of the Year. Even when Kristi Toliver went down with an injury, Mike Thibault was able to get Aerial Powers to step up in her absence. He has a deep team and they are the favourite to win the title this year. They have exceeded their expectations for this season so far.
WHOOPSBLOGGER 2019 WNBA Regular Season Award Picks
MVP: Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
DPOY: Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
MIP: Leilani Mitchell, Phoenix Mercury
6th WOY: Dearica Hamby, Las Vegas Aces
ROY: Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx
COY: Mike Thibault, Washington Mystics
Kim Perrot Sportmanship Award: Alysha Clark, Seattle Storm
Executive Of the Year: Dan Padover, Las Vegas Aces
ALL WNBA First Team
Elena Delle Donne, Nneka Oguwmike, Brittney Griner, Chelsea Gray, Courtney Vandersloot
ALL WNBA Second Team
Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas, Dewanna Bonner, Napheesa Collier, Natasha Howard
All WNBA Rookie Team
Napheesa Collier, Arike Ogunbowale, Teaira McCowan, Jackie Young, Asia Durr