One Writer's Choices for the Major 2021 WNBA Awards
It's time to hand out the end of the season WNBA Awards. Who will walk away with some hardware? I pick my choices for each of the WNBA Awards.
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The 2021 WNBA regular season draws to a close this week and with that in mind, it’s time to unveil who I would put on my ballot for each of the major individual awards. I do not have an official media ballot, but it’s always fun to go through the exercise of determining who I’d vote for. I’ve listed my reasoning below for my choices as well. Here’s hoping every official voter provides their votes and rationale too, I think all of us would love to see them.
Executive of the Year:
Reeve signed Aerial Powers, Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa this past offseason. Aerial Powers has only played 12 games this season due to various injuries but she has left an impact on games she has been on the floor. When she’s played, the Lynx are 8-4. She’s scored in double figures in 9 of those games. Powers is averaging 12.7 points per game and she only averages 21.3 minutes per game! That ranks 7th in the league in points per 40 minutes, ahead of A’ja Wilson, Jewell Loyd, and Skylar Diggins-Smith among many others. It doesn’t matter if Powers starts or comes off the bench, she’s been a boost for the Lynx and it was a great signing by Cheryl Reeve. As for Kayla McBride, she’s 9th in Win Shares this season, an estimate of the total value contributed by a player. She is averaging 14.0 points per game while hitting 39.6% of her threes. Natalie Achonwa doesn’t have the same numbers that Kayla McBride or Aerial Powers possess, but she still helps off the bench to help relieve Sylvia Fowles when she needs a break.
Coach of the Year:
Miller’s team is currently #1 overall in the WNBA standings after starting the season tied for just the fifth-best championship odds during the preseason with Alyssa Thomas sidelined for the year. The Sun have already clinched a double bye in the upcoming WNBA playoffs. The WNBA named him the Coach of the Month for August. His team has been consistently near the top of the standings all season. They are the best defensive team in the WNBA. His team also embodies a team-first philosophy and has great chemistry on the floor. Curt Miller balances his team’s minutes on the floor so that they are not under a heavy load. Two of his players could also win individual awards, which I will highlight later in this article.
Rookie of the Year:
Michaela Onyenwere has played in all of the Liberty’s games so far and has been a starter in all but one game. She’s currently averaging 8.6 points per game in just under 22.6 minutes per game. She’s also averaging 3.0 rebounds per game. In season where the draft class was weak, Onyenwere has shown some of her potential on the floor. She’s been able to score from the paint as well as from the three. She’s currently shooting 45.4% from the paint and scoring 15.1 points per 40 minutes. She’s shown her ability to score the ball when she scored a career-high 29 points against Atlanta on May 29th. She also demonstrated her rebounding ability when she had her first-ever career double-double against Minnesota on August 31st.
Sixth Woman of the Year:
Kelsey Plum has elevated her game to a new level this season. Coming off a torn Achilles in which she sat out last season, she has looked quite good in 2021. This award was difficult to decide between her and Dearica Hamby, who has already won this award twice before. This year, Plum just edges out Hamby for me because of her efficiency when she’s on the floor. She’s averaging 13.6 points per game in just under 25.3 minutes per game. That's 21.5 points per 40 minutes which is 15th overall among 122 qualifying players. Her free throws are up as she’s attempting 3.3 per game and is making 93.5% of them which is third overall. Her impact can not be understated and the Aces get a boost when she enters the game off the bench.
Most Improved Player:
Brionna Jones has had quite a season. She’s helped the Sun become the best team in the WNBA. Her ability to rebound and score in the post helps keep defenders away from Jonquel Jones and Dewanna Bonner. It then creates more opportunities for Bonner to attack as well as for Jonquel Jones. Kelsey Plum was also considered for this award for what she has done this season, but Brionna Jones has been just getting better and better every game she plays in. She’s averaging 14.8 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game. She’s top 3 in total win shares at 6.1. Even if she’s not the third-best player in the league, she’s elevated herself to the upper echelon. She’s shooting 57.2% FG, which is top 4 among 122 WNBA players. She’s increased her scoring from last season as well as her rebounds per game. She’s seventh overall in total steals. Last but not least, she’s had 4 double doubles and has had multiple games where she just missed out by one or two rebounds shy.
Defensive Player of the Year:
When selecting for this award, there are three strong candidates. Brittney Sykes, Brittney Griner and Sylvia Fowles. Of those, my choice would be to pick Sylvia Fowles just ahead of Griner for this award. Fowles has had a remarkable season. She’s fourth overall in Win Shares. She is one of 2 WNBA players (Jonquel Jones being the other) to average a double double in scoring and in rebounding. She leads in “stocks” which are steals and blocks combined at 3.7 per game. It’s difficult to score against her and she’s adept at taking the ball away. She’s top 2 in terms of total rebounds, making it hard for players to grab rebounds away from her. Fowles always comes ready to play and defend and her defense is one of the key reasons why the Lynx are one of the top three teams in the WNBA right now.
Most Valuable Player:
This is the highest and most prestigious award given to a WNBA player during their playing career. There are multiple candidates for this award (A’ja Wilson, Sylvia Fowles, Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Tina Charles, Breanna Stewart) but one candidate stands out from the others to me. That is Jonquel Jones from the Connecticut Sun. Jones has been consistently excellent from the beginning of the WNBA season. She’s currently averaging 19.6 points per game and 11.6 rebounds per game. She’s number one in rebounds per game this season. She has a total of 6.7 win shares which is number one overall. Breaking it down, she’s top 3 in both offensive and defensive win shares. Per 40 minutes, she scores 24.5 points which is third overall this season. Her Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 28 is second in the league. Her ability to score and rebound and help lead a team to be first overall in the league is what sets her apart from her competitors for this highly distinguished award.
In conclusion, these would be the choices I would make as a voter for these awards. Some of the award choices were tough to decide as it was very close. The official WNBA awards will be handed out once the playoffs begin on Sept. 23rd.