Ryan Howard for WNBA Rookie of the Year? Shakira Austin Effect Doesn’t Say So Fast

Most WNBA fans considered it an Atlanta dream Ryan Howard, the 2022 #1 draft nominee for the WNBA Rookie of the Year. But the race shouldn’t be as lopsided as it might seem due to the stellar gameplay, but rather weak in comparison, The Washington Mystics Shakira Austin.

Understandably, Howard is the front-runner. The 6-foot-2 guard leads the junior group’s outstanding scoring (15.1 points per game), assists (2.7) and steals (1.5), and is second in minutes (30.6 per game) for the Atlanta team preparing for the playoffs. For the first time since 2018. Although her numbers have fallen to the ground as summer drags on, Howard became the seventh WNBA rookie to score at least 100 points in her first five games (averaging 20.4 PPG in that period), and was the only first-year player to score at least 100 points in her first five games. Who won the 2022 All-Star title.

We saw the impact on the dream, too, when Howard was removed from the equation: Atlanta went 1-1 when they missed two games with a shoulder injury and suffered their worst loss of the season, by 25 to Connecticut Sun.

The box-point stats for Austin, the 6-3 striker/midfielder who was the No. 3 overall pick in the April Draft, weren’t particularly eye-catching: She averaged 8.0 points (5th best on the Mystics) and 6.1 rebounds per game (second best) . It’s not an offensive focal point for Washington, but coach Mike Tybolt says he appreciates that even though he doesn’t turn plays for her, Austin still finds ways to score by setting up good screens and smashing glass. Her finish was great for starters: her field goal percentage of 53.8 ranked her ninth in the league for players who average at least five shots per game and appear in at least 10 competitions. She also converted 67.8% of her attempts within 5 feet of the edge.

But it’s her defensive prowess that defines Austin, who has been in all but four games this season, and every one since May 20. She is not the team leader in robberies or blocks, but rather a teammate Ariel Atkins Austin considers “safety [Washington] defense,” which boasts the second-best defensive rating in the league after Seattle. Tebow went so far as to say he thought it would “be a mainstay in the [all-league] A defensive team at some point in her career.”

The little things that don’t show up in the points box is what Austin does so well to help the Mystics stay true to the defensive force they’ve become, especially as a two-times best player. Elena Delle Donne He’s been in and out of the squad due to load management most of the season.

“One of the best traits of a postman defensively is to be able to direct traffic and call up covers when picking up, rolling, and things in the track,” said Tybolt. “When we saw her in college, she was really good communicating with her teammates on defense, calling out the screens, covering up, blocking, knowing when to help and when to come back. She just has defensive instincts.

“I think it’s hard enough, sometimes at any level, to get your whole team talking and communicating in the right way. But if you have a rookie who can come in and do some of these things on day one, it really helps.”

Would the Mystics be in place – fifth in the WNBA standings, virtually guaranteeing a place in the playoff, despite Delle Donne losing nine games – without Austin?

We wouldn’t be, Atkins said.

“It’s a huge part of what we do. I don’t think we necessarily molded someone to come in and have to do the things that you do. But she got on the plate and showed us that she can do it. So that’s something we expect from her every night… and I’m excited to see what she has to offer.” us the rest of the season.”

Howard and Austin are fluctuating in their respective winning stakes Her hop stats — 2.5 and 2.4, respectively — but Austin’s 40 wins (0.17) are marginally better than Howard’s (0.14) (as part of a crowded pool of veteran players, Austin plays only 21 minutes per game). The Austin arrow who wins defensively for every 40 is the third best player in the league behind him Brianna Stewart Uzzi Magbegor, Defensive Player of the Year.

Ahead of the All-Star Game, I wrote in our mid-season picks that acknowledging Austin’s brilliance, Howard is the likely rookie of the year, and that remains true at this time. It’s even more significant what Atlanta did on both ends of the floor — and if you ask ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, Wins over substitute player metrics truly Like Howard Austin.

But at the end of the day, the 2022 Rookie of the Year winner might not mean much in the grand scheme of things, which is this: Howard and Austin both have the potential to be enduring stars, arguably even top players, in the WNBA.



Rookie Rookie Rhyne Howard takes six shots from outside the arc to lead the dream to victory.

Matches of the week

Atlanta Dream At Los Angeles Sparks (3:30 p.m. ET Thursday, NBA TV): The game has meaningful interlude effects. The two teams are ranked sixth and seventh respectively in the WNBA standings for entering Thursday’s games, which means that if the regular season ends today, they will both be heading into the post-season. Atlanta’s chances in the playoffs look increasingly strong after recent victories over Phoenix Mercury And the Las Vegas Acesbut the Dallas Suites Phoenix Mercury breathe from the necks of both teams. The Minnesota Linux And the New York Liberty It also stays close, making it a must-win game for every team – although more so for L.A. Atlanta is 1-0 in the season series, with the final in August remaining.

Seattle Storm At Phoenix Mercury (10 p.m. ET Friday, NBA TV): WNBA Legends Regular Season Final Match So Bird And the Diana Taurasi, their 46th regular season meeting ever, which ties in with the most of any WNBA player (along with Tamika Catchings against Swin Cash and Lindsay Whalen against Candice Dupree). Bird leads the series 25-20, while also holding more titles than Taurasi (4-3), and will maintain bragging rights no matter how Friday’s match turns out.

Las Vegas Aces in Chicago Sky (8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, Amazon Prime Video): Commissioner’s Cup Championship game. Winning the Commissioner’s Cup probably doesn’t mean much to players apart from the much-appreciated financial reward, but both teams still have a lot to prove in their second iteration of this tournament of the season. After their hot start to the season, the Aces looked set to host this game before their June/early July swing, while the Chicago Hotline allowed them to have their home ground. Could this high-stakes showdown between the top two teams in the standings predict which team is the favorite to win the WNBA title in September, or could the second year of the competition be like last season, where none of the finalists (Seattle nor Connecticut) finally made it to the top? WNBA Finals?

Week stats

Dream’s 92-76 win over the Aces on Tuesday was the biggest upset of the WNBA season, with Atlanta closing in on a 13-point unfavorite, according to Caesars Sportsbook. Dream’s 16-point win was also the biggest by a double-digit loser in the past five WNBA seasons.

Women’s fantasy basketball picks

Who starts: Phoenix something in my hand He’s been a thrilling fantasy lately, averaging 27.0 fantasy points over the last three games as Mercury continues to fight for a playoff point despite no Britney Greiner And the mid-season departure for Tina Charles.

Chiney Ogwumike He averaged 30.0 Fantasy points over his last three games, earning starts when Liz Campage He had COVID-19. It could still be a worthwhile player to start with so far as Cambage works its way up to the proper configuration for Sparks.

Who sits: New York johannes navy He’s been struggling, averaging 13.7 Fantasia points per game over his last three games, as Sandy Brundillo’s side have knocked out more than the playoff competition with four straight losses. Moriah Jefferson She’s also seen a drop in productivity, averaging just 10.0 fantasy points across her last three games with Lynx attempting a late playoff push.