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The WNBA season is halfway over and as the ladies prepare for the Olympics, we get a chance to evaluate what we’ve seen so far. After the fireworks of the All-Star versus Team USA showdown that saw first year All-Star Arike Ogunbowale hoist the All-Star Game MVP Award, we saw fit to do a little awards ceremony of our own.
Join Courtlandt Griffin and Danny Thompson as they predict who will walk away with the WNBA’s Top Honors after the first half of regular season action:
Courtlandt Griffin – Tina Charles, Washington Mystics
Tina Charles has been on a tear since May 21st against New York where she posted 34 points, nine rebounds, one block and one steal. She hasn’t looked back since and has by far been the best player in the WNBA up to the break. She has recaptured her 2012 form in what seems like a “reclamation season” for her. Even though the Mystics are below .500, there is still another half of the season to go and she definitely has the impact power to turn the ship around.
Danny Thompson – Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
As much as I want to but Tina Charles in the lead, the Mystics have an 8-10 record and they sit in eighth place in the standings, so I’m going with the league’s only other player who averages a double-double on the season and that’s Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones. The fifth year forward has taken up more than enough the load with the team not having Alyssa Thomas this season. Jones is in top five in scoring, leading the league in rebounding, doubling her assist total from last season (1.5 to 3.1) and providing at least a block and a steal per game. The Sun have a 12-3 record when she’s on the floor.
Rookie of the Year
Courtlandt Griffin – Michaela Onyenwere, New York Liberty
Onyenwere has put herself in the catbird seat to win the Rookie of the Year award. She has been a staple in the Liberty’s starting lineup since the beginning of the season and has played like a wily vet at one of the toughest positions in the league. Her 9.8 PPG, 3.3 FGM, 1.3 3PM and 0.4 BPG lead all rookies this season. The young Liberty forward is the clear cut best rookie this season by far.
Danny Thompson – Michaela Onyenwere, New York Liberty
Onyenwere came into the league as a defensive specialist, but the sixth overall pick in the draft leads the entire rookie class in scoring. Playing next to Betnijah Laney, Onyenwere has been able to elevate her offensive game by becoming more comfortable shooting from the outside. Her and rookie teammate DiDi Richards provide a remarkable spark the the Liberty in their playoff push, but Onyenwere is the clear front runner for Rookie of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year
Courtlandt Griffin – Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
This three time defensive player of the year has put on a show this season. Sylvia Fowles has shown a determination to impact the game from the defensive side of the ball and has helped her team turn what seemed to be a lost season into one of contention. If her 1.9 BPG, 2.0 SPG and 7.0 DREB isn’t enough, her 98.4 defensive rating coupled with a 17.6 player impact estimate show she is the real deal. Expect Fowles to walk away with her fourth defensive player of the year honor in 2021.
Danny Thompson – Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
This is the easiest award to pick so far this season. Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles has been far and away the most impactful. She’s second in the league in blocks (1.89 per game), second in the league in steals (2.0 per game) and third in the league in rebounding (9.8 per game). She’s the anchor of one of the league’s best defensive teams and leads the league in both defensive win shares and defensive rating. Phoenix’s Brionna Turner and Los Angeles’s Brittney Sykes have been outstanding, guarding some of the league’s best players, but the fact that Fowles is doing this from the center position allows her to be ahead of the pack this season.
Most Improved Player
Courtlandt Griffin – Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun
One half of the Jones and Jones firm in Connecticut, Brionna Jones has shown herself to be one of the best front court players in the W. She showed great improvement last year in the Wubble and has improved beyond even that. She is a solid post scorer with great feet and is a threat at the free throw line, shooting 80.3% this year, improving over her 2020 mark of 69.1%. She has also improved her rebounding and has not missed a start this year. Though Marina Mabrey may have a say so in this as well, Connecticut and Bri Jones will have the last laugh here.
Danny Thompson – Marina Mabrey, Dallas Wings
Mabrey has become of the one of the most dangerous scorers in the league in a reserve role. Her 13.9 points per game makes her the league’s leader in scoring off the bench. She’s fourth in the league in made three-point baskets and she’s knocked down four or more in a game six times this season. She helped the Wings to stay in the playoff race. Brionna Jones of Connecticut is going to make this a close race, but the Wings’ sharpshooter is in the lead for now.
Coach of the Year
Courtlandt Griffin – Walt Hopkins, New York Liberty
After a 2-10 showing last year, Hopkins has shown what he can do with a team that is healthy. The Liberty started the season winning six of their first 10 behind Hopkins’ hard nosed defensive scheme and free flowing offensive system. He has managed to win ten games this year without two of his star players being consistently healthy and has the Liberty squarely in the playoff picture at the halfway mark.
Danny Thompson – Walt Hopkins, New York Liberty
Hopkins’ team ended up with the worst record in the WNBA last season and he’s got this year’s team one game under .500 and a half game out of fifth place in the standings. Hopkins has done this with only having Natasha Howard available for two games and Sabrina Ionsecu’s time limited due to her ankle injury. Even missing those potential all-stars and roster changes all over the place, Hopkins has held this team together and they are playing outstanding basketball.