One voter’s WNBA All Star ballot — Sue Bird talks New York farewell — Must-click women’s basketball links

The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, June 22, 2022

Happy Basketball Wednesday! Voting for WNBA All Star is never easy, always a privilege I take seriously — not only do players care about it, bonuses often hang in the balance — and that process lasts, for me, until the waning moments of my deadline.

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In the interest of full accountability, I want to provide you with my picks. I don’t, for the record, see this as the same thing as insisting my picks are right and yours are wrong, or asserting bad faith of anyone who does disagree. Hopefully the WNBA space allows for smart people dedicated to this work with no guidelines whatsoever beyond “six frontcourt, four guards” to come to different conclusions.

Anyhow, this is my list of ten, submitted after a little bit of extra agonizing Sunday night.

Frontcourt: Breanna Stewart, A’ja Wilson, Jonquel Jones, Bri Jones, Emma Meesseman, Nneka Ogwumike.

Let’s discuss, shall we? I don’t want to waste your time by explaining why the last three MVPs, all having stellar seasons, are here once again. Bri Jones is leading the league in win shares, sure, but she’s also doing this in a third role in three years. I do, whether this is what others do or not, factor previous seasons in my voting, and she is going to run away with Sixth Player of the Year after having to impersonate Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones, respectively, in 2021 and 2020. I think she deserves the honor.

As for Emma Meesseman, she is the best she’s ever been, with her defense reaching another level, earning raves from James Kay, The Next beat reporter who sees her all the time. And Nneka is simply having a Nneka season, even amid the turmoil in Los Angeles.

I absolutely considered both Alyssa Thomas and Candace Parker as well, the dominant point forwards in the league. Dearica Hamby is one of five Vegas players with a legit case — might be why they’re good! Natasha Howard even made a late push, and Shakira Austin has been super-impressive as a rookie. Look, there’s a lot of talent in this league!

My backcourt is 50% Kelseys, Mitchell and Plum, plus Jackie Young and Ariel Atkins. To me, Mitchell’s ascension to another level of efficiency without sacrificing volume, all as she mentors five rookies, is worth a nod — again, though, that she’s never made an all star team is part of my thinking as well. I have Plum and Young here, two critical Vegas guards, but it easily could have been Chelsea Gray, too. Skylar Diggins-Smith is, amid the difficulties in Phoenix, having a WNBA all star season. Sabrina Ionescu is on the cusp of running off like 10 of these WNBA all star appearances in a row.

And then, the hardest one: Ariel Atkins or Allisha Gray? Similar players in the shape of production, their versatility and two-way value. Ultimately, for me, Atkins is who she’s been dating back to 2019, when that production led to a championship in DC. She’s been that player ever since, and I think it is all star-worthy, though I had a great convo with Em Adler that had me second-guessing. So did watching Gray last night. It’s real close for me. I hope they both make the team.

This week in women’s basketball

Maya Goldberg-Safir reports on the wrongful detainment parallels to Brittney Griner’s case.
Great stuff from Megan Gauer on the transfer portal.
Important read from Doug Feinberg.
Excellent Maitreyi perspective as always, this time on Sue Bird.
I always learn about the Sky from Margaret Holt, a trailblazing journalist and Sky season ticket holder.
Kelsey Mitchell is going places.
The Japan Times talks to Rui Machida.
And if I have to tell you to read Katie Barnes on Jonquel, what are we even doing here?
Great stuff from Mike Sielski on Cathy Rush.
Karlie Samuelson joins Erica McCall’s podcast.
And Sabreena Merchant debuts a new pod, with Mark Schindler as guest!

Five at The IX: Sue Bird, after her final New York appearance

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Howard Megdal

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