Last week, Minnesota Lynx rookie forward Napheesa Collier was selected as replacement for the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game, serving as the lone rookie to take part in the annual showcase.
On Thursday, the good news continued for the rookie, with Collier being named the WNBA’s Rookie of the Month for her play during the month of July.
She becomes the first Lynx player since Maya Moore — who won the award twice — in 2011 to achieve the award, while notching the fourth Rookie of the Month trophy in franchise history.
There’s no question Collier has been getting rewarded for her play on the floor over the past few weeks, but is there one more accolade on the horizon once the end of the year arrives?
“Obviously right now she is probably the lead candidate for Rookie of the Year, but we still have 14 games to play,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said of Collier and where she stands in the Rookie of the Year race. “The other rookies still have games to play to build their case. I would say right now she is well-positioned, but we still have more games to play.”
When looking at the list of players that could be in the conversation for the Rookie of the Year award at year’s end, Collier’s name is near or right at the top of that list.
“In my opinion, she has been the Rookie of the Year. I think we got the best rookie of the crew during draft time,” Sylvia Fowles said to the media following practice this week. “If she keeps that up and keeps going the way she is going, it’s a no-brainer.”
Heading into Minnesota’s game on Saturday at Indiana, Collier has appeared in all 20 games during her first season, starting in all 20.
During that span, she has averaged 11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.9 blocks in 32.5 minutes per game. She is also shooting 44.6 percent from the field, 32 percent from 3 and 80 percent from the free throw line.
“(Consistency) is huge, but it’s also something that is hard. … There are games where you think you don’t think you performed, but it’s not always about what’s in the stat sheet. She does a lot of intangible things that don’t show up in the stat sheet,” Danielle Robinson told the media after practice. “She’s a leader for us, it doesn’t matter if she is a rookie. The way she communicates with us on the court and is always willing to learn. I think those things should play a factor in (the Rookie of the Year award) as well.”
Collier heads into the home stretch of the regular season ranking second among rookies in both scoring and rebounding, while ranking fourth in the WNBA as a whole in steals and fifth in minutes.
She is also the only rookie in the league who ranks among the top five in all nine major statistical categories.
“She does everything. She goes out there and blocks shots, she rebounds, she scores when she needs to score and sometimes she is even out there leading the pack,” Fowles said. “She’s being a leader and she is making sure she is putting everybody in the right spots. She’s doing everything.”
During All-Star Weekend last weekend in Las Vegas, Collier was able to showcase her talents to the rest of the league while taking part in the Skills Competition alongside teammate Odyssey Sims. She then went on to finish with four points, two rebounds and one assist in just under eight minutes off the bench.
Over the month of July, which resulted in her being named the top rookie in the WNBA during that span, she achieved multiple milestones including recording the first few double-doubles of her career. During that month, she averaged 9.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals in eight games.
“We have to get her more touches. It was more difficult with her at the (power forward position), she had a little bit more of a difficult time transitioning what her shots would be or where her shots would be. I think every game, she just collects more knowledge,” Reeve said. “I just want her to keep improving and I want her to keep shooting the ball. She can’t turn down shots and I think she has confidence there. … Just keep getting better.”
There’s no denying the fact that Collier has kicked off her rookie campaign wasting no time making a name for herself while already finding herself playing a key role within the Lynx rotation.
And the accolades have followed her early-season performances. First it was an All-Star nod, then came the July Rookie of the Month award.
So what is next for Collier? Well, we could very well be looking at the 2019 Rookie of the Year when the regular season is all said and done.
“I always have her back. I think Napheesa is playing well. She’s come in and has been huge for us in a lot of areas,” Robinson said. “Spreading the floor, rebounding and is really, really good inside. If she plays hard every night, that’s what we need her to do.
“I’m team ‘Phee all the way.”