While the WNBA has yet to announce their winner for Rookie of the Year, Napheesa Collier picked up an accolade that indicates that she is in pole position for the award.
A panel of ESPN writers including Rebecca Lobo, LaChina Robinson and Mechelle Voepel published their picks for Rookie of the Year, MVP, Coach of the Year and the WNBA All-League first-team Tuesday morning and named Collier as their pick for ROY.
Voepel wrote that while the race between Collier and Wings rookie Arike Ogunbowale was close, the result was conclusive.
“The rookie race came down to two players. Ogunbowale’s scoring numbers were bigger: She averaged 19.1 points, third-best in the league, and had five games scoring 30 or more. She transitioned to point guard and was the focal point of Dallas’ attack—her usage rate was 28.8, and she shot 38.8% from the field—in what was a rebuilding year for the Wings… But Collier was our nearly unanimous choice for her all-around impact on the playoff-bound Lynx.”
The ESPN story includes quotes from Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and All-Star center Sylvia Fowles.
Collier was the only rookie to make the All-Star team this year and was the WNBA leader in both total minutes played and minutes per game. She was top-10 in efficiency in the league and top-four in steals. Collier’s ability to fill many roles for the Lynx was key in their hunt for a playoff spot.
Coming into the league, the common understanding was that she would be unable to shoot three-pointers. It hadn’t been a big part of her game in college and her shot looked a little funky. However, she immediately adjusted upon entering the WNBA and ended up shooting 36.1 percent from deep. She also just barely missed out on shooting 50 percent from the field, ending the season shooting 49 percent overall.
Without Collier on both ends of the court for this team, the Lynx probably don’t make the playoffs in 2019. The fact that rookie made the much of a difference speaks to just how impactful Collier was for the Lynx.
Side-note: Former Lynx assistant coach James Wade was voted Coach of the Year with four votes for his work with the Chicago Sky this season. Reeve, who has now led the Lynx to the playoffs in nine-straight seasons, received one vote.