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Midseason WNBA awards tracker: Why Wilson is MVP and it’s

todayJuly 9, 2024 6

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  • Alexa Philippou

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    Alexa Philippou

    ESPN

    • Covers women’s college basketball and the WNBA
    • Previously covered UConn and the WNBA Connecticut Sun for the Hartford Courant
    • Stanford graduate and Baltimore native with further experience at the Dallas Morning News, Seattle Times and Cincinnati Enquirer
  • Michael Voepel

    Closevoepel m

    Michael Voepel

    ESPN.com

      Michael Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Jul 3, 2024, 09:30 AM ET

The first week of July marks roughly the midpoint of the 40-game WNBA regular season. Plenty of basketball awaits, but there’s enough data to debate which players are vying for the 2024 WNBA awards.

MVP looks like it’s A’ja Wilson‘s to lose. The Minnesota Lynx‘s Cheryl Reeve might be a front-runner for WNBA Coach of the Year after catapulting a team most people weren’t talking about in the offseason into a title contender and Commissioner’s Cup champion. The Connecticut Sun‘s DiJonai Carrington has a strong case for Most Improved Player as a dynamic scoring guard and one of the league’s best perimeter defenders.

Other awards might be more up for grabs. Defensive Player of the Year is always one of the toughest decisions for voters. The eligible candidates for Sixth Player of the Year will depend on how teams work out their starting lineups. Rookie of the Year seems to be a tight, two-player race between the Indiana Fever‘s Caitlin Clark and the Chicago Sky‘s Angel Reese. And the award will likely be influenced by whether they can lift their respective teams to postseason berths.

We will continue to update the WNBA awards tracker through the end of the season. This is how the races stand now.

MVP

Front-runner: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Wilson isn’t just having an exceptional season. She’s on track to produce one of the best seasons in WNBA history. The two-time MVP is on pace to become the second player to average more than 25 points per game in a season (Diana Taurasi averaged a league-record 25.3 in 2006; Wilson is averaging 27.0 in 2024 on 51.7% shooting), and is the third player to average 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds. The analytics back up the raw numbers: ESPN’s Win Probability Added says Wilson on average adds 19% to her team’s win probability per game this season, the league’s highest mark.

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Top challengers

Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx: The heartbeat of the Lynx and MVP of the Commissioner’s Cup championship game, Collier joins Wilson in averaging 20-10 this season while also leaving her imprint in other areas, chipping in 3.8 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per contest. Collier’s Win Probability Added comes in just behind Wilson at 15%, per ESPN Analytics.

Breanna Stewart, New York Liberty: The reigning MVP continues to do it all for the first-place Liberty, leading them in scoring (19.7 PPG), rebounds (9.2 RPG), steals (2.2 SPG) and blocks (1.5 BPG). Her career-low 25.3% clip from the 3-point arc is uncharacteristic, but she might be getting back on track as she’s shooting 12-for-30 from 3 over the last six games. Stewart boasts a 13% Win Probability Added; teammate Jonquel Jones is a touch behind her at 12%.

Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun: Thomas remains the ultimate Swiss army knife, ranking in the top five in the league in rebounds per game (9.5) and assists (7.5, first overall). Thomas isn’t asked to shoot as much as last year, when Brionna Jones was injured and before the emergence of Carrington and Tyasha Harris, but her 50.9% field goal percentage is tied for a career high. Thomas’ 11% Win Probability Added is tied for fifth with the Seattle Storm‘s Nneka Ogwumike and the Phoenix Mercury‘s Brittney Griner. — Philippou

Rookie of the Year

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Minnesota Lynx celebrate as they win the 2024 WNBA Commissioner’s Cup

The Minnesota Lynx celebrate at the buzzer as they defeat the New York Liberty to win the 2024 Commissioner’s Cup.

Front-runner: Caitlin Clark, Indiana Fever

Clark, the No. 1 draft pick, leads all rookies in scoring (16.0), assists (7.1), 3-pointers (2.7 per game) and minutes played (34.4). She ranks second in steals (1.3) and fourth in rebounding (5.7). Clark has two games of at least 15 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds, more than any past WNBA rookie. Turnovers are her biggest issue offensively; she leads the league with 5.6 per game. If she can help the Fever return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, it will make her Rookie of the Year case stronger.

Top challenger

Angel Reese, Chicago Sky: Reese already has had more consecutive double-doubles than anyone in WNBA history (11) and is a strong challenger to Clark. Reese, the No. 7 pick, is averaging 13.2 points and leads the league in rebounding (11.8).

The past four ROY winners — Indiana’s Aliyah Boston, the Atlanta Dream‘s Rhyne Howard, Michaela Onyenwere (then with New York) and Crystal Dangerfield (then with Minnesota) — won by landslides. Boston was unanimous. This ROY race projects more like 2019, when it was also between a forward (Collier) and a guard (the Dallas WingsArike Ogunbowale). Collier won 29 votes to 14. — Voepel

Coach of the Year

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Ezi Magbegor makes a great defensive play for the steal

Ezi Magbegor makes a great defensive play for the steal

Front-runner: Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx

The Lynx were ninth in ESPN’s preseason Power Rankings but are currently in third place at 14-5 and won the Commissioner’s Cup championship. This despite being without Diamond Miller, their third-leading scorer in 2023, for 13 games with a knee injury. Minnesota tied for fifth place last season even though it ranked ninth in scoring average and next to last in points allowed. They brought in players such as Courtney Williams and Alanna Smith, who’ve fit in seamlessly. The Lynx now are fourth in scoring average (83.0), first in 3-point percentage (38.6) and second in scoring defense (74.4)

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Top challengers

Noelle Quinn, Seattle Storm: After Sue Bird retired and Breanna Stewart left for New York in free agency, the Storm missed the playoffs last season. Jewell Loyd carried Seattle in 2023, and she’s doing it again but with more help, as Quinn has incorporated free agents Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith. The Storm are now in fourth place at 13-6.

Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty: The Liberty lost in the WNBA Finals last season and were expected to contend for the title this year. Still, Brondello has guided New York to its best start (17-3) and first place in the standings, plus their second appearance in the Commissioner’s Cup final. The Liberty have done it with point guard Courtney Vandersloot missing eight games due to her mother’s death and Betnijah Laney-Hamilton being out three games with a knee injury. — Voepel

Defensive Player of the Year

Front-runner: Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx

Voters tend to approach defensive player of the year selection in different ways, but Collier could be considered the early favorite as the anchor of the best defense in the WNBA: The Lynx’s defensive efficiency is a league-high 91.8 points allowed per 100 possessions, and they allow a team-best 7.9 fewer points per 100 possessions when Collier is on the court. When it comes to counting stats, Collier is third in defensive rebounding (7.7 per game), second in steals (2.2) and ninth in blocks (1.4 per game).

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DiJonai Carrington fights off defender for and-1

DiJonai Carrington fights off defender for and-1

Top challengers

A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces: The two-time defending DPOY is a sure-fire candidate to take home the award again this year, but will voters be deterred to cast a ballot for her given the Aces’ defense has so far been considerably worse than last season (101.6 points allowed per 100 possessions, seventh in the league)? Wilson ranks second in the league in defensive rebounding (8.7 per game) and first in blocks (2.6 per game) and is tied for sixth in steals (1.9 per game).

Ezi Magbegor, Seattle Storm: Another cornerstone of a top defensive unit as well as a premier rim protector, Magbegor ranks No. 1 in the league in opponent shooting percentage inside the restricted area at 48% (minimum 50 attempts), according to Second Spectrum. That has helped her come away with 2.2 blocks per game, which ranks second in the league.

Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun: The defensive versatility of Thomas — who came in second in DPOY voting the past two years and was third in 2020 — is the foundation of the Sun’s exceptional unit, which was the calling card behind their league-best 13-1 start earlier this summer. — Philippou

Sixth Player of the Year

Front-runner: Chennedy Carter, Chicago Sky

Carter still qualifies for this award as of Tuesday, as she has come off the bench in more games than she has started (12 versus six), so all eyes are on whether she remains in the starting five for coach Teresa Weatherspoon. Carter’s energy and impact for the Sky have been undeniable. Her 15.3 points per game — bolstered by Tuesday’s season-high 26 points against the Dream — are tied for the most on the Sky, and she’s doing it on an impressive 54.2% shooting.

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Top challengers

Tiffany Hayes, Las Vegas Aces: Hayes came out of retirement to sign with the two-time defending champions on May 31, and her presence was crucial for the Aces when they were without Chelsea Gray. Now with the point guard back, Hayes (8.9 PPG, 1.9 APG) adds more depth, speed and an ability to get downhill to a backcourt that was arguably the best in the league.

Temi Fagbenle, Indiana Fever: She missed 10 games due to injury but could still earn consideration for this award now that she has returned to the rotation. In her first WNBA action since 2019, Fagbenle (8.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG) emerged as a key piece off the bench for Indiana and as a great rim-running target for Clark. With the Aces’ and Fever’s starting lineups pretty much set barring further injury, Hayes and Fagbenle might end up being more realistic candidates than Carter for this award. — Philippou

Most Improved Player

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Chennedy Carter crosses up defender then sinks a jumper

Chennedy Carter sinks a jumper to add to Sky’s lead vs. the Lynx.

Front-runner: DiJonai Carrington, Connecticut Sun

In her fourth WNBA season, Carrington is averaging career bests in points (13.2), rebounds (4.7), assists (1.7) and steals (1.1) as she has become a full-time starter for the first time. She also is known for elite defense. Coach Stephanie White said Carrington has made a good progress balancing the defensive demands she faces every game in guarding the opponents’ best perimeter player with also becoming more productive offensively.

Top challengers

Alanna Smith, Minnesota Lynx: Third in the MIP race last year behind Satou Sabally and Jordin Canada, Smith has improved again this season, her sixth in the WNBA. She is averaging double-digit scoring for the first time (12.1 PPG) and is shooting career-best percentages from the field overall (50.6%) and from behind the arc (46.4%). She is also averaging a career highs in assists (3.1) and blocks (2.1).

Chennedy Carter, Chicago Sky: For now, she is our front-runner for Sixth Player, but might not be eligible for the award by season’s end if she stays in the starting lineup. However, Carter might get a nod for Most Improved. It’s not that her 14.7 PPG or other stats are unprecedented in her previous three seasons, which is usually the case for this award. It’s more that after injuries and disciplinary issues with Atlanta and Los Angeles, she seems to have settled in well in Chicago after not playing in the WNBA last season.

Maddy Siegrist, Dallas Wings: Before suffering a broken finger on June 17 at Minnesota, Siegrist’s playing time had drastically improved from 8.2 minutes per game as a rookie last year to 34.1 this season. And her stats improved correspondingly, as she averaged 14.6 PPG and 4.2 RPG compared to 3.7 and 1.6 last season. She isn’t expected back until after the Olympic break, and Dallas has struggled a lot in her absence. — Voepel

All-WNBA First Team

(listed in alphabetical order)

Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx
Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty
Breanna Stewart, New York Liberty
Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Written by: Ag Entertainment

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