Saturday 25 May 2019

Want to know what to be watching out for in the WNBA this year? Which players are going to have breakout seasons and really shine? Who’s going to take up the MVP mantle? Which rookie will meet or exceed expectations? Which younger veteran will have a career year? Which veterans will surprise the heck out of everyone and lead their team to a deep playoff run? Which team is going to take home a championship trophy? The answer to all these questions is the same: Everyone and anyone!

You cannot predict what is going to happen this year, at all. NOBODY has a clue as to whether or not the Phoenix Mercury or the Las Vegas Aces or the Seattle Storm or the Washington Mystics or the Connecticut Sun or the Atlanta Dream or any else is going to win it all this year.

No one has a clue as to whether or not Brittney Griner, Liz Cambage, DeWanna Bonner, Tiffany Mitchell, Courtney Vandersloot, Elena Delle Donne, Nneka Ogwunike, A’ja Wilson, Jonquel Jones, Jewell Loyd, Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles or any number of players will win the MVP award. If they knew they’d have already placed their bets.

Who’s going to be the best defender this year? Will Alana Beard win ANOTHER DPOY? What about Griner? Well heck, don’t forget Fowles or Meesseman or Elizabeth Williams or Jonquel Jones or Natasha Howard or A’ja Wilson or about 10 other players that could come out of nowhere to take the award. I HAVE NO IDEA, but neither does anyone else if we are all being honest.

Who’s going be Coach of the Year? Brian Agler could really take a Wings team that people have been writing off in the off-season and get to the playoffs, but so could Cheryl Reeve and the Lynx, so could James Wade and the Sky, but they might just as soon give it to Curt Miller or first year coach Derek Fisher. Heck the Liberty could get their stuff together and have Katie Smith winning the thing. But so could Pokey Chatman, Nikki Collen, and basically any coach in the league at this point.

And that is ALL exactly why this season is going to be amazing and completely unexpected and unpredictable. Because everything that has happened this off-season has been unexpected and unpredictable. Oh, Breanna Stewart’s out for the season, but wait, so is Sue Bird?? Anyone see that coming? How about the Sparks getting rid of Brian Agler and hiring Derek Fisher of all people? Anyone predict that before it happened? How about Chiney Ogwunike working a deal to leave Connecticut and join her sister on the Sparks? Wouldn’t have dared dream that one up. How about Liz Cambage actually getting traded to the LAS VEGAS ACES?? After everything else that was happening, you called that trade, eh? That was a surefire bet right? How about the league hiring an actual commissioner and getting advanced stats on THEIR WEBSITE FINALLY? Wouldn’t have put money on that if my life depended on it. But guess what? It all happened and now the season is starting this weekend and we all should be jumping for joy and just how wild and crazy and unpredictable and insane and fun this season is going to be! I can’t wait to see who the most improved player is, or who 6th woman of the year, or LOOK AT THIS ROOKIE CLASS?! WHO IN THE WORLD is going to be Rookie of the Year??? IT COULD BE SO MANY DIFFERENT PLAYERS!

So please, buy the dang WNBA League Pass, it costs as much as you were going to spend on breakfast this morning. Please buy tickets and go to games if you live near teams. Buy merchandise from the WNBA team stores. Shout out and retweet you favorite people, teams, and players on Twitter and Instagram every game. Watch all the teams. Watch every award race. Read the stats. Support the WNBA because it’s going to be more fun and crazy than you can even imagine this year!

The 12 Players to Watch in 2019

As the season gets underway, let’s take a look at one player from each team you should keep an eye on during the season, whether they are a perennial MVP candidate, a brand new rookie, or an up and coming sophomore star.

1. Brittney Griner, F/C Phoenix Mercury

With Diana Taurasi gone for much of 2019, Griner has yet another chance to prove she is capable of carrying Phoenix by herself into another deep playoff run. If she can actually develop an outside game, which she appears to be doing this off-season, and continue to dominate defensively in the paint, her offense and her health will be key to another chance to win an MVP trophy.

2. Elizabeth Williams, F/C Atlanta Dream

The Atlanta Dream are full of exciting, fun to watch players, so it is hard to choose just one to be on the lookout for. But Williams stands out to me as a player to watch this season because she will need to step up offensively if the Dream want to make it back to the playoffs and have a chance to win more games throughout the season. Strong in the post defensively, she should have a good opportunity to get back to averaging double digits scoring this season.

3. Cheyenne Parker, F Chicago Sky

Parker should continue to rise up towards stardom as she has a cast of talented teammates that are a mix of youth and experience. If she continues to produce offensively, she will find more starting minutes. She can be an anchor and an asset next to Stefanie Dolson who will also need to step up her game if the Sky want to win. Narrowly missing the 6th woman of the year award last year, don’t surprised if Parker is in contention for Most Improved Player this year.

4. Odyssey Sims, G Minnesota Lynx

The Lynx are a team in transition. They have a lot of the old guard now missing, but they have made one of the bigger moves of the off-season in trading for Odyssey Sims from the Sparks. Sims and Skylar Diggins-Smith were an outstanding backcourt for the Tulsa Shock/Dallas Wings, but she lost her footing after moving to Los Angeles, never quite fitting into that roster. Can she revive her career on a new team and in a new city? She’ll be the player to watch on a Lynx team hoping to replace her former rival Lindsay Whalen as the point guard of the foreseeable future in Minnesota.

5. Teaira McCowan, C Indiana Fever

The Fever need new star power, and they need it fast. McCowan has the personality and the talent to make an immediate impact, not unlike A’ja Wilson did last year for the Aces. It will be interesting if McCowan can adjust to the WNBA, and if she does, watch out, because she will be a force in the post on both ends of the floor.

6. Myisha Hines-Allen, F Washington Mystics

The second year player out of Louisville could have a breakout sophomore season. With Emma Meesseman back, the Mystics will be likely tinkering with the starting lineup throughout the year, so don’t be surprised to see Hines-Allen with more opportunities, not only to start games, but more minutes off the bench as well. She will add depth to a strong squad as the Mystics look to get back to WNBA Finals.

7. Jackie Young, G Las Vegas Aces

In the WNBA, you always have to watch to see what the #1 pick can do in their rookie season. What Jackie Young will be hoping to do is play well enough to get starting minutes and lead this team to a playoff berth. She is a versatile guard, and the Aces should be able to fit her into their system. How it will all play out with Kelsey Plum and the rest of the team is going to very interesting this year. There is plenty of talent out in the desert, especially with the starting rotation, and you can’t help but wonder if Coach Laimbeer will get it just right to have this team winning more games in 2019.

8. Jonquel Jones, F Connecticut Sun

All eyes in Connecticut should be on Jones and whether or not she can get back to the starting lineup and lead this Sun team to playoff success. The talent and coaching are all there, but the Sun seemed to hit a roadblock in their rise up the ranks in the WNBA. Jones will have to continue to be the inside-out all around player that they need on both ends. Already an amazing rebounder, consitency will be key for her on the offensive end as she looks to lead the fastest team in the league towards playoff wins.

9. Kia Nurse, G New York Liberty

Nurse had an interesting rookie season, she played in all 34 games, starting in the final 7 games of the season. She averaged a good 20 minutes per game, and often came off the bench early and scored efficiently. She had several breakout, high-scoring games early on in the season, went through a real lull in the middle, and then found her groove again at the end of the year. She could be the absolute future of this franchise, so it will be very exciting to watch what she does in her second year.

10. Arike Ogunbowale, G Dallas Wings

Selected 5th overall by the Wings, Ogunbowale hopes to prove that she can shine not only in college and on the biggest stage in the Final Four, but in the pro ranks as well. She will be lead by new head coach Brian Agler, who is hoping she will be strong enough to start in a rotation without Skylar Diggins-Smith at the beginning of the season. With Cambage likely out for the year, the Wings are looking at Glory Johnson to start at center, so Arike and the rest of the back court will need to gel quickly and be able to shoot the three and play and outside to inside game. If she can adjust to the WNBA, she can be a star, but may be a rough go with the roster as it stands at the start of the season.

11. Jewell Loyd, G Seattle Storm

Loyd will be without the MVP half of her dynamic duo in Breanna Stewart this year. She now has to step up and help Sue Bird lead this team every single game. She will look to the league’s 2018 Most Improved Player Natasha Howard to feed the ball to inside, and she herself will need to continue to work her way into the paint and find ways to score and get to the free throw line. This lineup was one of the best, if not the best three point shooting team last year, and if Loyd can continue to improve in all the little areas of her game, the Storm still have a chance to repeat what they did last year in winning the WNBA title.

12. Chiney Ogwumike, C Los Angeles Sparks

It’s a good thing Chiney moved to L.A. with her sister, because she has a flair for drama. Off the court, on the court, these sisters know how to stand out, and if they can find their rhythm together, and play well without Candace Parker to start the season, they can find themselves at the top of the league. Folks around the league will be keeping watch on Chiney as she hopes to finally get to the WNBA Finals. Can she play well with an all new, star-studded cast? Can she stay healthy and provide points in the paint night in and night out? Only time will tell if this trade will have actually paid off for Chiney and the Sparks.

The Top 20 WNBA Players in 2018

Who are the best players in the WNBA at the moment? Who, based on last season’s statistics and the outlook towards the beginning of the 2018 season, are the top individuals in the league? I looked at the top ten players in each of the following categories: points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game, blocks per game, 3 point %, true shooting %, offensive rating, defensive rating, and PERs. I made a spreadsheet of all the categories, then determined how many total categories each player had been in the top ten last year. I didn’t give a weighted bias towards any category, but I did do side by side comparison when two players were in multiple different categories, and tried to judge fairly based on overall importance. There were certainly surprises, while other players obviously did well in many categories. With that said, there are a couple of players who did not play at all last season, but merit mention and consideration: Angel McCoughtry and Chiney Ogwumike. Do they make the list? Scroll down to find out!

20. Alyssa Thomas – 6’2′ Forward, Connecticut Sun

AlyssaThomas

Alyssa Thomas was an important part of the young and talented Connecticut Sun that had a breakout season last year. She was in the top ten in assists and steals per game, but was also 9th and 10th respectively in defensive and total rebounds. She averaged a career high 14.8 ppg last season, but one thing she’ll have to work on is her turnovers. She more than anyone else in the league last year at 98.

19. Allie Quigley – 5’10” Guard, Chicago Sky

AllieQuigley

Allie Quigley is a sharpshooter. She was in the top ten of both true shooting percentage and 3 point shooting percentage, and she also won last year’s 3 point contest at her first All-Star Game appearance. A two-time 6th woman of the year, she continues to help lead a Chicago team that is looking to get back to the playoffs in 2018.

18. Elizabeth Williams – 6’3″ Center/Forward, Atlanta Dream

EWilliams

Elizabeth Williams was one of the Dream’s 3 All-Stars last season, and she was in the top ten in both rebounds per game and blocks per game. If she can continue to rebound and block well, she may not need to improve all that much in the scoring department because she will have plenty of other scoring options around her on a Dream team loaded with A LOT of talent this upcoming season.

17. Sue Bird – 5’9″ Guard, Seattle Storm

SueBird

Bird is a legend of the game, but even at the age of 37 she continues to play very well. She was in the top ten in both assists per game and 3 point percentage last season, and any team in the league would take her for skills at running the point, finding open players, shooting well, and overall leadership.

16. Diana Taurasi – 5′ 11′ Guard, Phoenix Mercury

DianaTaurasi

Taurasi, like Bird, is one of the best to ever play in the WNBA. Last season was not her best, but she was still in the top ten in points per game, and is capable of completely taking over any single game at any time. Has she lost a step with age, like Sue Bird? Yes, but not enough that Phoenix would ever think of trading her. The Mercury need her experience and her leadership every game, especially come playoff time.

15. Jewell Loyd – 5’10” Guard, Seattle Storm

JewellLoyd

Loyd was Rookie of the Year in 2014-15, and she continues to grow as one of the best guards and overall players in the league. She was in the top ten in points per game last year, and she had a PER of 19.1. She was also in the top ten in total points and total 3 point field goals. She has improved year by year in her early career, and looks to only get better this season as well.

14. Jasmine Thomas – 5’9″ Guard, Connecticut Sun

JasmineThomas

Another integral piece of the Connecticut Sun’s great season last year, she was top ten in assists per game, steals per game, and 3 point percentage. She was also 3rd in minutes played and 6th in minutes per game, and she averaged a good 14.1 points per game. Another young talented guard, she plays well on both ends of the floor for a young, uptempo team that is really looking forward to being one of the top teams in the league once again this season.

13. Stefanie Dolson – 6’5″ Center, Chicago Sky

StefanieDolson

Dolson was part of the blockbuster trade that sent Elena Delle Donne to the Mystics and moved Dolson and Kahleah Copper (and the 2nd pick which was Alaina Coates) to Chicago. Dolson is one of the best young centers in the game, and her top tens in blocks per game, true shooting percentage, and 3 point shooting percentage means she can play inside and out. She is quite a versatile big, and if she can continue to increase her scoring, as well as improve her rebounding, she will really be a force to be reckoned with not only this season, but in years to come.

12. Chelsea Gray – 5’11” Guard, Los Angeles Sparks

ChelseaGray

Runner-up for last year’s Most Improved Player award, Chelsea Gray is thriving in Los Angeles since her trade from Connecticut in 2016. She was top ten last year in assists, 3 point percentage (she ranked first at 48%), true shooting percentage, and offensive rating. She has come into her own as the new starting point guard on arguably the most individually talented team in the league. After Kristi Toliver left for Washington, Gray stepped into the role as the Sparks floor general, and has really improved, especially in her scoring, where she went from 5.9 off the bench in 2016, to 14.8 as a starter last season. She passes well, she shoots the 3 as well as anyone, and she has great court vision.

11. Angel McCoughtry – 6’1″ Forward, Atlanta Dream

AngelMcCoughtry

A former Rookie of the Year in 2009, McCoughtry will look to continue to lead the Atlanta Dream as a two way player who can score as well as very few others in the league can. She is a perennial MVP candidate, and she was top ten in points per game and steals per game in her most recent season in 2016. She sat out 2017 to rest, but the team made big strides last year and during this offseason. She will certainly come back to the Dream this season ready to get back to the Finals for a 4th time, and ready to battle anyone else in the league.

10. Tina Charles – 6’4″ Center, New York Liberty

TinaCharles

Tina Charles at age 29 has been one of the most consistent players during her 8 years in the WNBA. Rookie of the Year in 2010 and MVP in 2012, she continued her excellent play in 2017 as she was 3rd in points per game, and 4th in rebounds per game. Her blocking ability has steadily declined since she first arrived in the league. But her assists have improved over the years, which will need to continue as her usage percentage was 1st in the league. She scored more total points than anyone else last year, but in reality that means that the offence relies too heavily on her and her alone. She will need another star or two on her team before she breaks through to the Finals or a championship.

9. Skylar Diggins-Smith – 5’9″ Guard, Dallas Wings

SkylarDigginsSmith

Skylar Diggins-Smith is a player that continues to lead as a classic point guard, with top tens in points per game, assists per game, offensive rating, and PER last season. She heads a Dallas Wings full of young and veteran talent, and as a leader on this team, will look to get back to the playoffs as she got to play in her first playoff game just last year. She has overcome a tough rookie season to become Most Improved Player in 2014, and an ACL tear in 2015 that has seen her bounce back and grow into possibly the best point guard in the league.

8. Candace Parker – 6’4″ Forward, Los Angeles Sparks

CandaceParker

Rookie of the Year and 2 time MVP Candace Parker continued to prove why she is one of the best players in the league. She was 11th in points per game, and in the top ten in assists per game, steals per game, blocks per game, defensive rating, and PER. Like Tina Charles, she has been consistently excellent throughout her career. She has more talent around than probably anyone else in the league right now, but she works hard every game to be her best and make her teammates better. Much like the rest of the players on the list, any team would absolutely love to have Parker starting for them.

7. Breanna Stewart – 6’4 Forward, Seattle Storm

BreannaStewart

Breanna Stewart is easily one of the most exciting and exceptional players the league has had in some time. She unanimously won Rookie of the Year and was Defensive Player of the Year runner up in 2016. She continued to meet and exceed expectations in her sophomore season in 2017. She made the All-Star team and was 2nd in the league in points per game, and 6th in both blocks and rebounds per game. She has a real opportunity to continue her young partnership with Jewell Loyd, much like Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson did in Seattle before her, to create a title winning franchise in the Emerald City.

6. Jonquel Jones – 6’6″, Forward/Center, Connecticut Sun

JonquelJones

Jonquel Jones did some incredible things last season as a second year player. She won the Most Improved Player award, set three single season rebounding records, and was top ten in rebounds per game, blocks per game, 3 point shooting, true shooting percentage, offensive rating, defensive rating, and last but not least (or maybe least depending on your opinion of it) PER. Like Stewart, she is one of the best young talents in the league who has shown that she can really stack up against anyone else in the WNBA. She can shoot the 3, score in the paint, is probably already the best rebounder in the league. She has a ton of talent around her, has a great head coach in Curt Miller, and I hope she continues to play even better in 2018. I honestly debated whether or not to put her first on this list. Maybe next year!

5. Brittney Griner – 6’8″ Center, Phoenix Mercury

BrittneyGriner

Two time Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Griner is another really amazing talent. She was in the top ten in 6 categories last year: points per game, rebounds per game, blocks per game, true shooting percentage, offensive rating, and PER. She battle the injury bug last season, but I expect her to come back even hungrier than ever. She is, like the forwards and centers before and after her on this list, simply outstanding offensively and defensively in the paint. She commands respect, and she earns respect with every block and every post move that leads to an easy two points. Watch out for BG in 2018.

4. Elena Delle Donne – 6’5″ Guard/Forward, Washington Mystics

ElenaDelleDonne

Rookie of the Year in 2013 and MVP in 2015, Elena Delle Donne is the most versatile player in the league. At 6’5″, she can play any position on the court, and she can score from anywhere on the court as well. She was top ten last year in points per game, blocks per game, 3 point percentage, true shooting percentage, offensive rating, and PER. Her move to the Mystics got her closer to her home state of Delaware in a system that seems to fit well so far. And though she has battled Lyme disease, and a spell of other injuries, when she is healthy she is the biggest threat offensively in the league. She was also tied for 12th in rebounds with Alyssa Thomas, which goes to show that along with her other top ten finishes, she really is the complete package. Look to see her push this Mystics team harder and further in 2018.

3. Maya Moore – 6’0″ Forward, Minnesota Lynx

MayaMoore

Maya Moore has been the best player in the league most of her career. Rookie of the Year in 2011 and MVP in 2014, she had bit of and down year, but in reality, that means she was still better than most everyone else in the league. And that’s why I also expect her to bounce back this season and as good or better than ever before. Maya Moore does it all on both ends of the floor, and like the rest of the top ten, knows how to lead a team, how to make her teammates better, and how to take over a game in a flash. Winning her 4th title with the Lynx last season, she was top ten in points per game, steals per game, 3 point percentage, offensive and defensive ratings, and PER. Crazy to think there was actually a better player on her own team last season…

2. Nneka Ogwumike, 6’2″ Forward, Los Angeles Sparks

NnekaOgwumike

What can I say about Nneka Ogwumike that hasn’t already been said? She is another player that truly excels on both ends of the floor, every single game. She was top ten in points per game, rebounds per game, steals per game, true shooting percentage, offensive and defensive rating, and PER. She had one of the most efficient shooting seasons in basketball history in her MVP and title winning season in 2016. At 27 she is in her prime, and she is playing along side some of the best talent in the league. She has been to back to back Finals the past two seasons, and no one will be surprised if they are back for a third time in 2018. Ogwumike has to be as motivated as ever to win more championships, and I believe she will continue to be one of the best, if not the best player in the league this next season.

1. Sylvia Fowles, 6’6″ Center, Minnesota Lynx

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I really debated with myself for a long time on who to put first on this list. Nneka and Sylvia are both just about equals in mind. They have both absolutely dominated the league the past couple of seasons. But I put Sylvia first because I believe that as hungry and Nneka is for her 2nd championship, Sylvia Fowles is just as hungry for her 3rd. She was astounding last season, in the regular season and in the playoffs, winning MVP and Finals MVP. Not unlike many of the great centers the WNBA, Lauren Jackson, Lisa Leslie, and Yolanda Griffith, Fowles uses her size and ability inside to destroy opponents on both ends of the floor. She was top ten in points per game, rebounds per game, blocks per game, true shooting, offensive and defensive ratings, and had the best PER out of anyone else in the league. As far as her top tens go, she was 1st in blocks per, rebounds per, defensive rating, and of course PER. She was also 1st in offensive win shares, defensive win shares, overall win shares, win shares per 48 minutes, offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, effective field goal percentage, field goal percentage, 2 point field goal percentage, and total offensive rebounds. That is a lot of firsts in a lot of categories, and Sylvia Fowles proved that any way you look at it, she was the best player in the league, both offensively and defensively in 2017. And I am betting, even at age 32, she is ready to prove that once again in 2018.

Conclusion

So, Angel McCoughtry made the list, but Chiney, along with a host of other players, did not. Am I crazy? Was this list great, good, bad, or just plain wrong? Does Layshia Clarendon, Kayla McBride, Lindsay Whalen or anyone belong on this list instead? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know, and thanks for reading!

WNBA Awards Season

With the regular season over yesterday, the WNBA moves into the playoffs, and with that, comes awards season. The Most Improved Player award is probably the one I had the most trouble with, and the most fun choosing. After crunching the numbers, I found myself with a real dilemma. Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams improved her game averages from last season with the Sun in points, rebounds, assists, and steals (not including her vast improvement in blocks) by a whopping 228%.

The Mystics Tayler Hill improved in the same statistical categories by 112%, and the Liberty’s Sugar Rodgers, along with last year’s rookie of the year, Seattle’s Jewell Loyd, both improved by 72.5 and 73% respectively.

So, the raw numbers tell us that Elizabeth Williams is by far the most improved player of 2016, right? Well, when I also calculated their individual increases in minutes per game, I saw that Williams increased her minutes by 192%, while Hill’s minutes increased by 72.3%, Rodgers increased by 66.8%, but Loyd’s minutes only increased by 23%. And all four players are playing pretty similar minutes this year, about 30, with Williams with the most at 34 per game.

So the question became, how do I reconcile a player’s improved stat line, when they’ve had a much greater increase in minutes to do it in, especially when you compare Williams with Loyd? I wondered, well, an increase in minutes could be because they steadily improved, and so they deserved more minutes, or they simply got more minutes because of a trade or injury to a starting player. A trade was the case with Williams, as she played a backup role in Connecticut last year, but got a starting role in Atlanta’s lineup this year. Either way, I never quite figured out how to compare the stats percentages with the minutes percentages. I figured someone else has already done this for me, say with Hollingers’s PER, but I’m still not certain if this kind of stat reflects the question I was asking myself. I am by no means a stats guru, and I was always terrible at math, but the older I have gotten the more I have enjoyed statistics and crunching simple numbers. So I just decided I would divide the average percentage of stats by the player’s percentage in increased minutes and make that a ratio. Again, perhaps I’m a simpleton when it comes to stats and this is something already in existence, but bear with me. The ratios that I came up when I did the division surprised me, as Loyd, despite the more modest increase in stats, seemingly improved at a better rate, or at least did so in less time than the other 3 players:

Stats% to Minutes Increased% Ratio:

Elizabeth Williams: 1.188

Tayler Hill: 1.556

Sugar Rodgers: 1.085

Jewell Loyd: 3.108

Is this kind of ratio absurd? Does it make any sense, or no sense at all? Is it already accounted for or dismissed by some Sports Stats Guru at ESPN? I honestly have no idea. But after looking at the players’ PER numbers from last year to this year, I am still not sure if there is a correlation of some kind, or if I simply have no idea what I am talking about. Obviously in this day and age of advanced stats, we can adjust the expectations we have for a player based on PACE, based on starting and bench roles, based on position, based on so many factors, so I still don’t know what to think of ratio I came up with.

Williams PER from last year to this year went from 17.9 to 15.6, Hill went from 13.5 to 17, Rodgers went from 14.1 to 15.3, while Loyd went from 14 to 18.3. ┬áSo, maybe there is a correlation, maybe there is none at all. But in trying to reconcile the idea of a player improving less, but seemingly more with the less increased time they had to do it in, I came to the conclusion, that ultimately, I can’t fault a player like Elizabeth Williams for getting more minutes, or getting traded into a starting role on a different team. I can’t really figure out if she got more minutes because she steadily put up better numbers, or if she put up better numbers simply because she had more minutes. I can only applaud her for her vast improvement in basically every major stat category, and on both ends of the floor. So in the end, I have to pick Elizabeth Williams as Most Improved Player of 2016.

Coach of the Year, for me, goes to Brian Agler and the part that he has played in turning the Sparks around this season. Everyone has stepped up this season on this roster, but the coaching staff has to be recognised for a job well done as well. This Sparks team has in my view played above and beyond, not perhaps their talent or potential, but certainly beyond the expectations I had for them at the beginning of the season. But do I think Coach Agler will win? No, I have no doubt it will go to Cheryl Reeve, who has done just as excellent a job as Agler, and who’s team is primed and ready to tie the Houston Comets for the record 4 WNBA titles.

Sixth Woman of the Year is without a doubt going to be Jantel Lavender. She had some pretty good competition in rookie Aerial Powers of the Dallas Wings, and Shavonte Zellous of the Liberty, but she was simply outstanding off the bench for the Sparks this season.

Rookie of the Year may well be a unanimous vote with Seattle’s #1 pick Breanna Stewart. Former UConn teammate Moriah Jefferson, now of San Antonio, Chicago’s Imani Boyette, Dallas’s Aerial Powers, and Indiana’s Tiffany Mitchell all had good rookie seasons, but they are all essentially in a race for second place.

Defensive Player of the Year is a category that is a tough choice, because I have to say the Breanna Stewart, along with the ROY award, probably also deserves this one as well. Who’s lead the league in defensive rebounds? Stewart. Who was third in block shots? Stewart. Who just set the record for most defensive rebounds in a season? Stewart. What’s more important than blocks, especially blocks that simply stop play, go out of bounds and keep the ball in the other team’s end of the floor? Defensive rebounds.

That brings us to the final award category: Most Valuable Player. Who’s my pick? Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks. Why? Because 6 Western Conference Player of the Week awards, 2 Western Conference Player of the Month awards, a season PER of 31.4, and an effective field goal percentage of .687, that’s why, Tina Charles. Sorry. I love you Tina, but Nneka is taking this one this year.

So those are my picks. I hope I haven’t disappointed or infuriated you too much. Stay tuned for a playoff preview!