One voter’s ballot, explained — Marianne Stanley, Tamika Catchings talk Indiana Fever — Must-click women’s basketball links

The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, September 22, 2021

Happy WNBA Playoffs Eve to you. Before we get on with the crowning of a champion, I wanted to run through my WNBA awards choices, with a brief explanation of how I arrived at each one.

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Let’s start with MVP I chose Jonquel Jones, who won over my 2-5 of Sylvia Fowles, Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart and Tina Charles. Had I had six spots, A’ja Wilson would have been sixth, though it was a coin flip between Wilson and Charles for me. Ultimately, even though she played in just 27 games, Jones accumulated the most win shares, and even, by some measures, had the best defensive season of anyone in the league as well. She did this for the best team in the regular season. I did not struggle much with this vote.

Thanks to positions being a part of the all-WNBA team ballots, things got complicated. My first team was Jones, Stewart, Wilson, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Kayla McBride. My second team was Fowles, Charles, Bri Jones, Jasmine Thomas and Jewell Loyd. That’s correct: my third-best player in MVP rankings was not on my first or second team, because all three were centers. Whether this is a temporary issue, or a long-term trend in the league, will dictate how quickly we need to move to positionless first and second team ballots.

My coach of the year was Curt Miller, who turned his team into a juggernaut despite losing Alyssa Thomas. Cheryl Reeve and Bill Laimbeer both deserved consideration as well, but each had offseasons too impressive to earn the nod. We do not have a vote for executive of the year.

My Defensive Player of the Year was Fowles. Ultimately, I have far less confidence in the metrics defensively than I do for offensive numbers for WNBA awards, and my choice here reflects a combination of those numbers, what folks around the league tell me privately about what their internal numbers say, and good old-fashioned eye test. Fowles simply dominated too much at that end for me not to vote for her, with Brittney Sykes a close second, Jonquel Jones and Bri January also considered.

My Most Improved Player was Bri Jones, whose numbers weren’t dramatically different in 2021 than 2020, but who had to learn to play in some fundamentally different ways, next to Jonquel Jones instead of Alyssa Thomas, and crushed it in that role. Bella Alarie was also on my radar for this award.

My Sixth Woman of the Year was Dearica Hamby. I had Hamby in a flat-footed tie with her teammate Kelsey Plum, with my reasons outlined in a link below. So I paired with another voter who had Plum, and we managed to join forces to try and see that both deserving players got their due in this portion of the WNBA awards.

My Rookie of the Year went to DiDi Richards, narrowly, over her teammate Michaela Onyenwere. But we saw improvement from Richards all season, and her defense was game-changing in New York.

I made these picks on Monday morning. I try to wait until the very last minute to get every bit of info and data. I know some may disagree, and I value a process that allows my colleagues to weigh in as well. I wouldn’t want to pick these myself. I do hope as the discussion commences, everybody realizes how seriously my colleagues take this. I do all I can to isolate on who deserves the accolades, and so many of us agonize over our choices, knowing it matters for things like contract bonuses and player legacies. Imbuing bad faith into choices you disagree with is a silly thing to do.

As always, I hope I got it right.

This week in women’s basketball

Over at FiveThirtyEight I laid out the cases for Kelsey Plum and Dearica Hamby for Sixth Woman of the Year, and why we in the media should probably pair off and vote for both of them! 

Michelle Smith makes the case for Diana Taurasi, GOAT.

A remembrance of the Sacramento Monarchs.

Dawn Staley is always Dawn Staley.

The great Alexa Phillipou shared her awards picks, too.

I always learn from Erica McCall, so I’m delighted she is starting a podcast.

Justin Carter’s final power rankings are here.

Loads of nuggets in Chantel Jennings’ latest.

Over at Slam, I wrote about Tamika Catchings, Katie Smith and Sylvia Fowles.

Jenn Hatfield wraps up the DC season.

Here’s Natalie Weiner on Seimone Augustus activist legacy.

And Emma Baccellieri draws lessons from the WNBPA’s successful vaccination drive.

Tweet of the week

Five at The IX: Marianne Stanley and Tamika Catchings talk Indiana Fever

Marianne Stanley and Tamika Catchings speak with the media on September 21, 2021. (Screenshot from Zoom avail)

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
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By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
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Written by Howard Megdal

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