The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, August 5, 2020
What WNBA rookies have revealed — Theresa Plaisance interview — Must-click women's basketball links
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What WNBA rookies have revealed
We all know it’s early.
And yet: there are some things we’ve already learned about the 2020 rookie class that are significant.
I want to set the bar properly. Rookies who have yet to figure it out? It’s WAY too soon to write them off. Players develop at different rates, circumstances vary, systems are often bad fits for particular games. We’ve seen little from Miki Herbert Harrigan yet, this doesn’t make her a bust. It means Cheryl Reeve needs her to understand the WNBA game better before giving her extended playing time.
But here’s the thing that seldom happens: a rookie in the WNBA excels, stays healthy, but doesn’t have a solid or better career after doing so. If a player can flash a skill or set of skills, it means she’ll probably so it regularly, and soon, and for a long time.
Take Sabrina Ionescu’s 33 points against the Dallas Wings, for example. It marked the second-highest scoring game of any rookie in Liberty history. Only Kia Nurse’s 34 on July 2, 2018 was higher.
Nurse had struggled in the early going of her 2018 campaign. By 2019, she was an all star game starter.
Now health is the big mitigating factor, and both Ionescu and Nurse have dealt with ankle injuries since. Even so, that’s the limiting factor for any player, and the fact that Ionescu could dominate so completely, so quickly, reinforces just how dangerous she’s going to be when she returns.
The same is true of Chennedy Carter’s performance — Tuesday night, when she scored 26 against Phoenix, but all season, really. Her numbers are startlingly similar to what she produced her final season at Texas A&M — an assist percentage of 29 is up slightly from her collegiate production, she’s hitting 46.8% of her twos and enough threes to keep defenders honest — essentially making the player she was in college the floor for her WNBA tenure. (That was a remarkable player, too!) The WNBA has an Allen Iverson.
And let’s take a moment to appreciate what the Dallas Wings have already in their rookie trio. Satou Sabally isn’t hitting her threes yet (just 2-for-19 to start her career), but she’s fourth in the league in offensive rebounds, ninth in total rebounds. It’s exceedingly rare for a player to come into the league with a body strong enough to battle established WNBA vets for position right away, but that’s what Sabally can do. (And I believe the threes will come.)
Then there’s Bella Alarie. The book on her, despite her elite wingspan, elevated basketball IQ and top-50, nationally, blocked shot percentages at Princeton, was that she’d be outside more than inside while she grew stronger. Readers of this newsletter know I have long been bullish on Alarie: I think she has a chance to end up the best player taken in the 2020 draft.
I think that even more now, seeing her body up the biggest centers in this league. To watch her go head-to-head against Teaira McCowan, and hold her own, said everything about her strength. Now consider, in the season’s first five games, Alarie defended one of the league’s biggest, toughest fives, and managed to do this, one-on-one, defending one of the WNBA’s quickest ones, Courtney Vandersloot.
Bella Alarie, senior year at Princeton, had a block percentage of 8.8 percent. In the pros, that has dropped all the way down to… 8.4 percent. Last year’s leader, Jonquel Jones, posted a block percentage of 6.1 percent.
Buy stock in Bella Alarie, friends.
Add in Ty Harris’ early playmaking (16/4 assist/turnover ratio) and this looks like an awfully good draft for Greg Bibb.
This Week in Women’s Basketball
She also tackles the Aerial Powers-Andre Iguodala affair particularly well.
The 19th, a newsletter and newsroom you really ought to be reading, covered the WNBA’s social justice efforts.
I’ve been waiting for this Louisa Thomas Nneka Ogwumike story to come out for basically all of 2020. It’s worth the wait.
Wow, Noah Vonleh’s got a little sister, Aaronette, and she’s a HUGE get for Arizona, PJ Brown reports.
James Wade is getting creative on how to connect with his family from afar, Maggie Hendricks writes.
I spoke with Nicki Collen on Friday’s Locked On Women’s Basketball. (But subscribe, there are lots of great folks on it every day! Amy Audibert, Erica Ayala, Lindsay Gibbs and Gabe Ibrahim!)
Kareem Copeland explains why the Mystics got off to such a strong start.
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Five at The IX: Theresa Plaisance, Connecticut Sun
Enjoy this delightful conversation, as they all are, with TP, who is real on everything from her grandfather’s death to shopping for Baby D’s present. Click on her face to listen!