September 20, 2021
The end of the regular season is here. There was much to be recognized in this anniversary year, especially in the history of the WNBA. But who were the players and achievements that stood out this season?
Here are my voices on the WNBA’s top postseason awards.
Most valuable player. Jonquel Jones, Connecticut. Jones’ season for the Sun, who established themselves as the team to beat for a title in the second half of the season, has been excellent. After missing out on last season, Jones came back with a vengeance. She is fourth in the league with 19.4 points per game (the best of her career) and leads the WNBA in rebound with 11.2 rebounds per game. She also has 2.8 assists per game and 1.3 steals which are career highs as well. Jones is a double-double machine, with 18 so far this season and 12 games in which she has scored at least 20 points. Jones also had a great season on the defensive and is also under discussion for DPOY. With no Alyssa Thomas on the floor for most of this season, Jones attacked the coat as the centerpiece of the team and it’s clear that Connecticut’s title run is through Jones.
Rookie of the Year, Michaela Onyenwere, New York. In a difficult year for first year players, Onyenwere’s persistence and the size of her role on a young Liberty squad made her a standout. Onyenwere has played by far more minutes than any other rookie in the league this season, averaging 8.6 points per game. Her athleticism and hectic pace make her a very valuable asset on the floor. Her rebound numbers and offensive efficiency have room for improvement in year two, but she’s got off to a great start.
Coach of the Year, Curt Miller, Connecticut. While the sun likes to feed on its disregard, the truth is that the sun wasn’t necessarily the choice to win it all for some good reasons – Alyssa Thomas’ Achilles tendon injury, the unknown way Jonquel Jones returned after ingestion would take a year off and an apparent lack of depth. After a bitter defeat in the Commissioner’s Cup against Seattle right after the Olympic break, anyone who thought the sun looked shaky was wrong. Credit Miller for getting the best out of this team and making Connecticut a favorite for the title in the playoffs.
Most Improved Player, Brionna Jones, Connecticut. In her fifth season in Connecticut, Jones made herself indispensable for the sun this season, sharing the color gamut with Jonquel Jones and giving the sun much-needed depth without Alyssa Thomas on the ground. Jones has established career highs in scoring (14.7 ppg), rebounds (7.3 rpg), minutes (30.6 mpg), assists (1.8 apg). Two years ago, Jones averaged 8.4 points and 3.5 points per game.
Defensive Player of the Year, Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota. Would Minnesota be where it stands – number 3 to make the playoffs – without Fowles, the 35-year-old veteran having a great season? Nope. Fowles has won this award three times in her career. This year could be fourth. It leads the league for defensive rebounds (247), tied for steals (1.8 per game), second for blocked shots (56), first for defensive profit shares (2.8) and second Place in the defensive rating (90.1). . Her great offensive season and leadership on the floor add to the overall package, but her defensive excellence is what makes Fowles such an important piece. Jonquel Jones makes a strong point here too, but Fowles gets my vote.
Sixth Player of the Year, Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas. This is a slam dunk for that voter. Plum missed last season with an Achilles injury and is back with the best season of her professional career – for both the Aces and the gold-medaled US 3 × 3 team. Plum plays with the boast and confidence she played with in college. She averages 14.8 points and 3.7 assists per game from the bench for Las Vegas in 25.5 minutes on the floor. She shoots 94.4 percent from the free throw line. In the last six games of Vegas, she averaged 21.7 points per game and was named Western Conference Player of the Week. Since returning from Tokyo, she has accumulated at least 20 points in five games, including a 30-point game against Dallas last week. And when it’s hot, there is no better show in the league.
First team All WNBA
C / F – Jonquel Jones. On the way to becoming an MVP and maybe a title.
Q – A’ja Wilson. Last year’s MVP is still leading the Aces.
F – Breanna Stewart. Would have been an MVP front runner if Seattle hadn’t slipped too late.
G – Skylar Diggins-Smith. Was the Mercury’s most consistent player all season.
G – DeWanna Bonner. The complementary piece to Jones in the Sun’s title run. Double digits in 27 games this season.
Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on WNBA.com throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its associations.