Although the 2019 season was initially defined by the superstar players that were missing — Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird among others — this season has come to be defined by the players that stepped up in their absences.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the front-runners for season awards include these particular players.
The 2019 WNBA Peak Performers, announced Sept. 9, are exactly the same as 2017’s. Plus, 2015 MVP Elena Delle Donne (then with the Chicago Sky, now with the Washington Mystics) seems poised to collect her second such honor. But some awards are still up in the air.
Rookie of the Year, a wide-open race since the beginning of the season, is now definitively a two-woman affair between the Minnesota Lynx’s Napheesa Collier and the Dallas Wings’ Arike Ogunbowale.
Most Improved Player could go in several directions, too. Will voters select a second-year player like Jordin Canada, a breakout Sixth Woman of the Year candidate like Dearica Hamby or a seasoned veteran like Leilani Mitchell (2010’s MIP)?
Here are the season awards that have been announced as of Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019:
WNBA Peak Performers
The Peak Performers are the season leaders in points, rebounds and assists per game.
Scoring: Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury (20.7 points per game)
Rebounds: Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun (9.7 rebounds per game)
Assists: Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago Sky (9.1 assists per game, WNBA record)
Coach of the Year: James Wade, Chicago Sky
In his first season at the helm of the Sky, Wade unlocked the potential of a roster full of stars and turned a 10th-place team into a fifth-place, playoff-bound team. Wade is the Sky’s first-ever Coach of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year: Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm
- 74 steals (league leader), 2.2 steals per game (2nd)
- 59 blocks (3rd), 1.7 blocks per game (2nd)
- 6.1 defensive win shares (league leader)
- Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm
- Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
- Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
- Jasmine Thomas, Connecticut Sun
- Jordin Canada, Seattle Storm
- Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
- Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics
- Alysha Clark, Seattle Storm
- Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
- Natasha Cloud, Washington Mystics
Sixth Woman of the Year: Dearica Hamby, Las Vegas Aces
- Came off the bench in 25 of 34 games played
- 11.0 points per game (4th on Aces)
- 7.6 rebounds per game (2nd on Aces)
- 1.0 steal per game (2nd on Aces)
- 48.8 percent shooting (2nd on Aces)
Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award: Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
This award is named after Houston Comets player Kim Perrot, who died of cancer in 1999 after playing on the first two WNBA championship teams. It goes to “a player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, including ethical behavior, fair play and integrity.”
In Ogwumike’s sixth season as an All-Star, she led the Sparks in points (16.1 per game), rebounds (8.8), steals (1.9) and field goal percentage (51.0). She was one of 12 players to receive votes, collecting seven of the 43, and is the first player who joined the WNBA after 2003 to win the award.
Rookie of the Year: Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx
- Started all 34 games
- 33.3 minutes per game (league leader)
- 13.1 points per game (2nd among rookies)
- 6.6 rebounds per game (2nd among rookies)
- 1.9 steals per game (1st among rookies, led Lynx)
- 0.9 blocks per game (2nd among rookies)
The All-Rookie Team is selected by the 12 WNBA coaches, who select five players of any position but are not allowed to vote for their own.
- Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx
- Teaira McCowan, Indiana Fever
- Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas Wings
- Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces
- Brianna Turner, Phoenix Mercury
Most Improved Player: Leilani Mitchell
The only player to win twice, Mitchell also took home the award in 2010.
- 27 games started (0 in 2018)
- 30.4 minutes per game (career-high)
- 12.8 points per game (career-high)
- 44.1 percent shooting (ties 2010 career-high)
- 3.0 rebounds per game (career-high)
- 4.0 assists per game (career-high)
Executive of the Year: Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx
This season was one of rebuilding for the Lynx. With no Maya Moore, Lindsey Whalen or Rebekkah Brunson, and Seimone Augustus sitting out to start the season, head coach and general manager Reeve had to find a way to mix her five returning players and the list of new players for the Lynx to maintain the excellence they’ve established. Drafting eventual Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier in a steal at sixth overall helped immeasurably, as did getting a veteran guard in Odyssey Sims in a pretty routine trade, as did the rest of her laundry list of impactful offseason moves. All told, by the end of the season, the rebuilt Lynx made their ninth straight playoff appearance.
This story was originally published on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 4 p.m. ET, and will be updated with the names of award recipients as they are announced.