With the conclusion of the 2019 WNBA regular season and with the playoffs getting underway on Wednesday night in both Chicago and Washington, another year is almost officially in the books.
Although there is still plenty of basketball left to be played before a champion can ultimately be crowned at the end of the year, it’s time to look back at the regular season that was in the WNBA and predict who might win the league’s annual awards when they are announced.
Without further ado, let’s dive into who I believe will win the various awards this year and why they have my pick to obtain the respective accolade for their performances throughout the 34-game regular season.
Executive of the Year: Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx
To me, Minnesota head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve should clearly win this award.
When you look at the type of roster turnover the Lynx have had from the 2018 campaign to this season, the maneuvering and roster moves that Reeve helped facilitate throughout the offseason while helping lead her team to a WNBA-record ninth straight postseason appearance has been impressive.
After losing three All-Stars and future Hall-of-Fame players right before the start of the season, Reeve managed to go out and sign multiple solid pieces to throw into both starting roles and bench roles within Minnesota’s rotation. She also hit the jackpot by drafting Napheesa Collier with the No. 6 pick in April’s WNBA Draft to throw into the starting lineup, while also facilitating a trade to bring in Odyssey Sims from Los Angeles and helping the guard reach the All-Star Game for the first time in her career.
Reeve already has an impressive coaching resume after leading the Lynx to four WNBA titles. But in her first year holding the dual roles of both head coach and general manager in Minnesota, this season has been perhaps the most impressive yet.
Coach of the Year: James Wade, Chicago Sky
There are multiple worthy candidates for Coach of the Year in the WNBA this season, but the award should end up going to first-year head coach James Wade of the Chicago Sky.
Wade, who spent the last few seasons under Cheryl Reeve as an assistant coach in Minnesota, took over the job in Chicago before the 2019 season while inheriting a team that finished the 2018 campaign with a record of 13-21 and missed the postseason as a bottom-four team in the league.
After drafting a few key players and bringing in a winning mentality to the Windy City, Wade has led the Sky to finish the regular season schedule with a record of 20-14, good enough for the fifth-best record in the league, and will lead them to a home playoff game in the opening round of the WNBA Playoffs this week.
With the mix of a young roster while incorporating a winning mentality in Chicago, Wade has done a really nice job in his first season at the helm of the Sky. I think he will get rewarded for all of that hard work.
Sixth Women of the Year: Dearica Hamby, Las Vegas Aces
When it comes to the Sixth Women of the Year award, Las Vegas Aces forward Dearica Hamby is most deserving.
Hamby has been a nice consistent option for the Aces, primarily coming off the bench so far in 2019, which is the biggest reason why I have her as the recipient of this award. In all 34 games, she has averaged career-bests in points (11.0), rebounds (7.6), assists (1.9) and steals (0.9), while averaging 24.8 minutes per contest.
She has also helped Las Vegas continue to take another step in the right direction while grabbing an overall record of 21-13 to obtain the No. 4 seed in the WNBA Playoffs.
If Minnesota had returned a bulk of their roster this summer rather than seeing the trio of Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson absent from the team, this award likely would have been viewed as Odyssey Sims’ to lose.
Sims, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Sparks in the offseason, was initially viewed as a player that would come off the bench for Minnesota and anchor the second unit while providing it with a nice all-around game both offensively and defensively. But the absence of multiple players in Minnesota resulted in her moving into the starting lineup, where she has stuck and performed really well for the Lynx thus far in 2019.
Rookie of the Year: Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx
The Rookie of the Year award has been entertaining to keep an eye on throughout the course of the regular season, and especially in the latter half of the year, with the race basically coming down between Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier and Dallas’ Arike Ogunbowale.
In the end, however, I think Collier has done enough to earn the award with her play and helping her team return to the postseason once again in 2019.
Collier started all 34 games and finished the regular season averaging 13.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.9 blocks in 33.3 minutes per game. She concluded the 34-game span shooting 49 percent from the field, 36.1 percent from three and 79.2 percent from the free throw line for Minnesota.
When it comes to the Rookie of the Year award, I always think about which player not only had the biggest role and impact on her team, but which player showed the largest amount of consistency in her first professional year. To me, Collier was more consistent night-in and night-out compared to any other rookie in the WNBA and is already carrying herself like a seasoned pro in the league.
Collier has put together an impressive year in general, let alone one for a rookie. Along with reaching numerous milestones and being the lone rookie to take part in the 2019 All-Star Game, that impressive season should end in her earning one more award before it’s all said and done.
Defensive Player of the Year: Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm
One thing has been consistent over the last few seasons when it comes to Seattle Storm forward Natasha Howard: her impacting games to a large extent on the defensive end.
With endless extra effort plays and her ability to shut down the opposition on any given night, Howard deserves to be awarded with the Defensive Player of the Year.
Since she arrived in Seattle following a nice start to her career that included time in Minnesota under Cheryl Reeve, Howard has steadily improved her game and has been forced into an even larger role with the Storm this summer while Seattle has dealt with injuries.
Although defensively she has been one of, if not the best, player in the WNBA on that end of the floor, Howard has taken a huge step offensively as well. In all 34 games during the regular season, Howard averaged career highs with 18.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals per contest.
Howard’s ability to continue to improve on her game, especially defensively, is yet another reason why she is a deserving recipient of the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Most Improved Player: Leilani Mitchell, Phoenix Mercury
Coming into the 2019 season, Leilani Mitchell had never averaged double-digit points in a season while coming off the 2018 campaign as a role player with the Phoenix Mercury, averaging just 4.4 points per game.
As the regular season and the summer progressed this year, however, Mitchell began to find her spot within the Mercury rotation as a few players dealt with injuries. As a result, she has played a large role for Phoenix in helping it return to the playoffs once again.
When you compare Mitchell’s numbers from this year to what she concluded the 2018 season with, the improvement year-over-year is really impressive and ultimately deserving of the Most Improved Player award.
A season ago, Mitchell appeared in 31 games for Phoenix, not starting in any of those games. She averaged 4.4 points, 2.3 assists, 1.4 rebounds and 0.4 steals while averaging just under 15 minutes a game.
In 32 appearances in 2019, starting in 27 of those games, the 11th-year guard has finally averaged that double-digit point total, finishing the regular season with a career-high 12.8 points per contest. Along with that improvement, Mitchell averaged a career-best four assists, career-high three rebounds and averaged 0.9 steals in 30.4 minutes per game.
The Most Improved Player award could go to multiple different players in the league annually, but I’m not sure if there is a year-over-year improvement quite as impressive as what we’ve seen from Mitchell in Phoenix in 2019.
Most Valuable Player: Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
When it comes to the MVP, Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne is the most deserving.
Delle Donne had one of the best seasons the league has ever seen, finishing her seventh professional season averaging 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 blocks in 29.1 minutes per game and 31 total appearances.
Along with putting together yet another eye-popping stat line throughout the regular season, Delle Donne helped lead her team to the best record in the WNBA and helped the Mystics clinch the top seed in the playoffs this postseason.
Oh, and she also became the only player in WNBA history to shoot over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the free-throw line. Yeah, the first player ever.
Delle Donne was the best player in the league this season and should be the 2019 MVP.