Aliyah Boston is her — Coquese Washington talks Rutgers women’s basketball — Must-click women’s basketball links

The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, June 7, 2023

As I watched Aliyah Boston impose her will upon Tuesday night’s game between the Indiana Fever and Chicago Sky, I was transported to a conversation I’d had a few years ago with a WNBA front office member. The subject was immediate expectations for an elite rookie entering the league — could have been A’ja Wilson, could have been Breanna Stewart.

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But the point the front office member made was that my expectations were too high. Sometimes, the elite players needed time to reach star status at the pro level.

My take? Not really! Not the inner-circle superstars. Wilson? She was an immediate 20 and 8 big, made the all star team her rookie season. Stewart? 18 and 9, only failed to make the all star team because there was no 2016 all star game, instead busied herself by winning gold with USA Basketball at the Olympics.

So it has been with the very best. Elena Delle Donne was substantially similar to her subsequent pro and Delaware self in 2013, an all star. Maya Moore led Minnesota to a championship as a rookie in 2011. Candace Parker won Rookie of the Year and MVP in 2008. Tamika Catchings, coming off an ACL tear, had her highest win shares season as a rookie in 2002. Diana Taurasi was Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird was Sue Bird.

This is to say: the best of the best, well, they get better in the pros. But their entry level is so high.

And that is what we’re seeing with Aliyah Boston, who is simply overpowering professional defenses geared to stop her. It’s very early, but the easy shorthand here (I know win shares is a flawed stat, but breaking down into components and you’ll see the same results) is the tell: win shares/48, Boston is fifth in the league so far. The four ahead of her? A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Jackie Young and Satou Sabally. That’s it. (We’re going to need to talk about those latter two in this space SOON.)

She’s not the normal rookie. She is, though, the normal rookie if you’re expecting her to be a superstar in this league. To flip it around: if you play like Boston is playing as a rookie, here’s what happens next. She’s currently, in win shares/48, fourth among all rookies who played 25 minutes a game. The three ahead of her? Cynthia Cooper, Yolanda Griffith, Tamika Catchings. The three just behind her? Elena Delle Donne, Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike.

That is the company Aliyah Boston is keeping so far. Maybe that’s surprising to some people? But if that’s your expectation — and it was and remains mine, obviously — this is exactly what you’d expect to happen.

This week in women’s basketball

Josh Harris needs to step up for Philly.

Alexa Philippou and Andraya Carter put Breanna Stewart in historical context.

Make sure you pay attention to Veronica Burton’s rise.

I usually don’t share The Next stories in this space (we’d run out of room!) but Jenn Hatfield on the Thibaults is must-read.

Terrific from Maitreyi Anantharaman on the Chicago Sky.

Five at The IX: Coquese Washington, Rutgers

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Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.