2022 WNBA Awards Pick: A’ja Wilson for Historic MVP Combo, Defensive Player of the Year; Rhyne Howard for Roy

The 2022 WNBA regular season is over, and after all sorts of drama on the final day, the playoffs are set. Eight teams will now battle it out for this year’s titlewith playoff action kicking off Wednesday night with the first two games of the first round featuring the Chicago Sky against the New York Liberty and the Las Vegas Aces against the Phoenix Mercury.

But before we turn our full attention to the playoffs, it’s worth honoring the best of the best from the regular season. It’s time again to make selections for each major award. It was perhaps the toughest awards slip to fill in recent memory, especially because the races for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year were so close.

Without further ado, let’s get to the choices.

MVP: A’ja Wilson, Ace of Las Vegas

It’s been a two-man race between Wilson and Breanna Stewart pretty much the whole way, and the voting numbers must be tight – each of them has a compelling case, and whoever tells you it’s not close in both ways lies. Stewart won her first goalscoring title, is the most efficient and versatile player and a better playmaker. Wilson is a more dominant inner force on both sides of the ball, led the league in double-doubles and was the best player on the best team in the league.

You could sit here for days debating the race and digging into the finer details, but ultimately you’ll have to make a decision. With that, the 2022 WNBA MVP should be A’ja Wilson.

Simply put, it was Wilson’s season. She moved to five after the departure of Liz Cambage and excelled in new head coach Becky Hammon’s modernized system, where she expanded her game on both sides of the ball. Although she had already been MVP in 2020, it was the best she had ever watched.

She averaged 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, while shooting 50.1 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from 3-point field. All of those numbers except points were career highs, and she finished fifth in the league in points, second in rebounds, and first in blocks. No other player was in the top five in all three categories. She also became the first player in WNBA history to record 700 points, 300 rebounds and 70 blocks in a season.

Everything for the Aces started with Wilson, and under his leadership the team won a franchise-record 26 games and secured the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The team’s success isn’t the deciding factor, but it is a major factor, and Wilson led the Aces to three wins over the first four opponents in the final week of the season to take first place. .

Again, it wasn’t an easy choice and you could write so many paragraphs about everything Stewart has accomplished this season. But when you combine personal success with team success, Wilson wins by the narrowest of margins.

Rookie of the Year: Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream

NaLyssa Smith and Shakira Austin had their moments, but Howard is the clear winner here. She finished 11th in the league with 16.2 points per game and added 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals. Among rookies, she was first in points, sixth in rebounds, first in assists and first in steals. Few rookies in league history have had as much of an immediate impact at both ends of the court as Howard. Here’s a full list of other rookies averaging at least 16 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two assists (steals plus blocks): A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Chamique Holdsclaw and Ruthie Boulonner. Each of those players has been or will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and five of the seven have won the MVP award.

Defensive Player of the Year: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Wilson’s move to five this season has mostly been talked about in attacking terms, but she’s also made huge strides on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, she was often the only one to hold the Aces’ inconsistent defense together: their defensive rating with her on the ground was 98.5, and when she sat it was 107.3. The basic and advanced stats are obvious: Wilson was second in the league in defensive rebounds at 7.6 per game, led the league in blocks at 1.9, was 11th in steals at 1.4 and third in shares defensive victory at 2.4. But, of course, defense is about more than numbers. It’s a question of effort, intelligence, anticipation, versatility. Wilson ticks all of those boxes. Other players are doing it too, and it certainly wasn’t an easy decision. In the end, Wilson’s ability to protect the rim at an elite level for 30 minutes a night – arguably the most important defensive attribute – gives him a slight nod.

Most Improved Player: Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces

Jackie Young has been a solid player for a while now, but this season she became an All-Star. Part of that was a boost of freedom she got from new head coach Becky Hammon, but Young also worked hard to improve her game. The effort paid off, as Young recorded career highs in everything but assists, averaging 15.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals. Perhaps most notably, she became a top 3-point shooter. In the first three seasons of her career combined, she took 77 triples and made 28.5%. This season, she’s gone 50 of 116 from deep, good for 43.1%, the league’s third-best mark.

Sixth Player of the Year: Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun

There is no debate here. Upon Alyssa Thomas’ return, Jones returned to the bench and operated as a super-sub for the Sun. Although she played fewer minutes, Jones’ numbers remained essentially the same as last season when she won Most Improved Player honors; she had 13.8 points and 5.1 rebounds, while shooting 56.9 percent from the field. Among players with at least 100 possessions, she was the third most efficient, scoring 1.11 points per possession, per Synergy Sports. A free agent at the end of this season, Jones should be in line for a big payday.

Coach of the Year: Tanisha Wright, Atlanta Dream

Coach of the Year is one of the more subjective awards; do you honor a manager who guided one of the best teams or helped to improve a lower level team? This season, the award should go to someone in the latter category: Tanisha Wright. The Dream was a disaster on and off the court last season, and hiring Wright was one of their first steps as they planned a complete rebuild. It turned out to be a brilliant decision, as Wright led the Dream within a game of their first playoff appearance since 2018 despite preseason predictions that they would be one of the worst teams in the league. league.

All WNBA Teams

Note: All-WNBA teams are now positionless, so players will be listed alphabetically.

first team

  • Sabrina Ionescu, Liberty of New York
  • Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Ace
  • Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
  • Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
  • A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Ace

Second team

  • Skylar Diggins-Smith, Mercury Phoenix
  • Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
  • Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
  • Candace ParkerChicago Sky
  • Courtney VanderslootChicago Sky

All defensive teams

Note: All-Defensive teams remain based on position, so players will be listed by position

first team

  • Guard: Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics
  • Guard: Natasha Cloud, Washington Mystics
  • Attacker: Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
  • Attacker: Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
  • Center: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Second team

  • Guard: Rebekah Gardner, Chicago Sky
  • Guard: Brittney Sykes, Los Angeles Sparks
  • Attacker: Gabby Williams, Seattle Storm
  • Attacker: Candace Parker, Chicago Sky
  • Center: Ezi Magbegor, Seattle Storm

All Rookie Team

Note: The All-Rookie team remains positionless, so players will be listed alphabetically

  • Shakira Austin, Washington Mystics
  • Queen Egbo, Indiana Fever
  • Rebekah GardnerChicago Sky
  • Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream
  • NaLyssa Smith Indiana Fever

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