2022 WNBA Awards Ballot

Sabrina Ionescu and A'ja Wilson are on the WNBA awards ballot
(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

It’s WNBA awards season now that the playoffs have started. There are a few tight races for some awards but also some clear winners for others. Let’s get right in to the WNBA Awards Ballot for 2022!

All-Rookie 1st Team

Austin and Howard are on the All-Rookie team of our WNBA awards ballot
(Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Shakira Austin
  • Queen Egbo
  • Rebekah Gardner
  • Rhyne Howard
  • NaLyssa Smith

The All-Rookie teams are not by position, so I’ve ordered the players alphabetically on my WNBA Awards Ballot. For this group there was a clear top three (Austin, Howard, Smith). These three were the top three picks in the draft and performed like it. Among rookies with at least 25 games played they were the top three scorers and all in the top six of rebounding. Among those who qualified Egbo and Gardner rounded out the top five in scoring and were the only other rookies to play at least 20 minutes per game. Egbo was also first among rookies in blocks and tied for third in steals, while Gardner led the rookies in steals.

All-Rookie 2nd Team

Emily Englester and Destanni Henderson make all rookie in the wnba awards
  • Emily Engstler
  • Destanni Henderson
  • Naz Hillmon
  • Nikolina Milic
  • Kristy Wallace

The second team was really hard to round out for these WNBA awards. Engstler, Henderson, Hillmon, and Wallace were the only players that played true rotation minutes left among rookies. The final spot came down to Milic and Veronica Burton. While Burton was more consistently on the court (36 games to 31, 15.2 MPG to 11.7) Milic made more of her opportunities. Burton played more than 20 minutes in 11 games, but scored double digits only twice. Milic scored double digits in five of the six games she played more than 20 minutes in.

All-Defense 1st Team

Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins make the all defensive team in the WNBA awards
(AP Photo/John Amis)
  • Center – A’Ja Wilson
  • Forward – Breanna Stewart
  • Forward – Alyssa Thomas
  • Guard – Natasha Cloud
  • Guard – Ariel Atkins

All-Defensive teams always give me a headache. How do you weight what you watch during the game vs the numbers? How do you rate the team defense and equate to the individual? It’s all sort of jumbled. This list could really be 20-25 names here, so I’d hardly quibble with anyone’s list.

That said, the top five I feel pretty secure with. First to reward the league’s best defense the Washington Mystics you have to look to their backcourt. The way Cloud and Atkins defend the point of attack is what makes this team go. The league’s second best defense the Connecticut Sun also deserve some recognition, so Alyssa Thomas gets in for them. Thomas was fifth in the league in rebounding and tied for second in steals. She can also be counted on to do everything defensively from out on the perimeter to in the post.

Stewart and Wilson are two of the top defenders (and players) in the league this season. Stewart represents the league’s third best defense the Seattle Storm and is seventh in rebounding and tied for third in steals. Wilson anchors the Aces’s sixth-ranked defense and was second in the league in defensive rebounding and first in blocks.

All-Defense 2nd Team

Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker make all defensive team in WNBA awards
  • Center – Sylvia Fowles
  • Forward – Candace Parker
  • Forward – Gabby Williams
  • Guard – Aari McDonald
  • Guard – Brittney Sykes

The second team could go a number of different ways for these WNBA awards, and if you have a completely different five I wouldn’t argue. Fowles and Parker were the other top rebounders in the league along with Wilson, and the art of rebounding cannot be understated. Sykes led the league in steals despite playing between two and four fewer games and about 100 minutes less than the other top thieves in the league. Gabby Williams is one of the best true wing defenders in the league. Among players with minimum 25 games played and 20mpg, she was second among true wing players in defensive rating. First was Alysha Clark, who played in six less games and had better defensive guards in front of her than Williams.

The final spot came down to Aari McDonald and Crystal Dangerfield. Both make an impact defensively by the eye test, and Dangerfield was a big part of the Liberty having some success on that end. But McDonald bested Dangerfield in steals, defensive rating and defensive win shares. The numbers back up the eye test for McDonald better than they do for Dangerfield.

Rookie of The Year – Rhyne Howard

Rhyne Howard wins Rookie of the Year in the WNBA awards
(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

These next few individual WNBA awards will not come as a surprise. Rhyne Howard is the easy Rookie of The Year. She led all rookies in points, assists and steals, was sixth in rebounds and tied for third in blocks. She transitioned seamlessly from college to the pros and before the month of May was over was happy to let loose a step back three or make a back side rotation block at the rim.

6th Woman of The Year – Brionna Jones

Brionna Jones wins sixth woman of the year in the WNBA awards

Brionna Jones is another easy award winner in these WNBA awards. She led all bench players in minutes and points and was tied for first in rebounds and was third in steals. Jones personified what it means to be a true top level sixth woman by basically being another starter for the Sun.

Most Improved Player – Jackie Young

Jackie Young wins most improved in WNBA awards
Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal, via Associated Press

Jackie Young is another pretty easy selection. You can certainly make the case for other guards who have made the leap to stardom, but Young made the kind of leap I prefer for this award. Young was a solid contributor for her first three seasons, averaging 10 points, four rebounds and four assists-per-game. But this year she greatly improved her three point shooting and made the jump to All-Star level. In the first three seasons Young averaged less than one three point attempt per game and hit less than 30% of them. This year she jumped to 15.9ppg and hit over 40% of her threes on over three attempts per game.

Coach of The Year – Becky Hammon

Becky Hammon wins coach of the year in the WNBA awards
David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

Becky Hammon has been the front runner for Coach of The Year from jump. Tanisha Wright is getting some well deserved buzz for the award for the turnaround of the Atlanta Dream. And even though they’ve won six more games, going up from 11th to 10th in the standings doesn’t warrant the award over Hammon. Hammon turned the Aces into a team that has legitimate championship aspirations, and dominated the league for much of the season. She moved A’ja Wilson to center where she dominated, unlocked Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, and improved the three point shooting of the team.

Defensive Player of The Year – Alyssa Thomas

Alyssa Thomas wins defensive player of the year in the wnba awards
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Defensive Player of The Year and MVP were the toughest awards to name. For DPOY all of my front court from the All-Defensive 1st Team were in the running. I eliminated the Washington guards because I felt their tandom, the level of play from Clark and Austin, and the team’s slowest ranked pace all were factors to the team’s defense.

A’Ja Wilson I eliminated simply because the Aces were sixth in overall defense. I had to split hairs between Wilson, Thomas and Stewart, and Thomas and Stewart were on the second and third best defenses respectively.

Both Stewart and Thomas benefited from having strong centers behind them throughout the season. The Sun might have the most talented defensive players from top to bottom in their rotation which helps Thomas in some respects. Stewart can make more (as in quantity) impactful defensive plays being able to get steals, rebound, defend on the perimeter and defend the rim. Something Thomas doesn’t really do.

However, it came down to the Sun being the best defense in the league. The Sun are second in defensive rating, but play at a league-average pace unlike Washington. They lead the league in steals and forced turnovers. They are tied for first in defensive rebound percentage. And they are second in opponent fast break points (0.1 back from the Storm) and third in opponent second chance points. Thomas does so much for the defense both on the perimeter and in the post. If you go Stewart for the award, it’s hard to argue. But the success of the Sun on that end with Thomas leading the way gets the nod from me.

All-WNBA 1st Team

Kelsey Plum and Breanna Stewart make the all wnba team in the wnba awards
(AP Photo/Sam Morris)
  • Sabrina Ionescu
  • Kelsey Plum
  • Breanna Stewart
  • Alyssa Thomas
  • A’ja Wilson

I have to say arriving to my top ten for the All-WNBA teams was fairly easy for me – but again that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few names I wouldn’t mind being on someone else’s list. My first four on the first team in fact were locks for me. Wilson and Stewart I’ve talked plenty about and will continue to in the next section. Plum and Ionescu each took their leap to superstardom. Ionescu blossomed into the player we expected after being taken first overall in 2020, and the injury that derailed her first couple of seasons. She finished eighth in points (17.4), third in assists (6.3) and 12th in rebounds (7.1). She also tied for fifth in the league in three pointers made (83).

Plum made a similar, albeit more impressive, leap in 2022 which was technically her fifth season. Plum’s first three seasons all included single-digit scoring numbers. Then her fourth season she missed entirely due to injury. Coming back in 2021 she came off the bench and won Sixth Woman of They Year with 14.8 points and 3.6 assists per game. This year through her dedication and some help from Coach Hammon Plum skyrocketed. She was second in the league in scoring (20.2), ninth in assists (5.1) and first in three pointers by a mile 113. The increase in three-point shooting had a similar impact on Plum as it did with Young. Plum went from being a 39% shooter on less than four attempts per game to a 42% shooter with over seven attempts per game.

All-WNBA 2nd Team

Syler Diggins-Smith and Arike Ogunbowale make the all wnba team in the wnba awards
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  • Skylar Diggins-Smith
  • Jonquel Jones
  • Arike Ogunbowale
  • Nneka Ogwumike
  • Candace Parker

My final spot on the first team, and first spot on the second team, came down to two players. Thomas and Diggins-Smith. With the positionless ballot this year the spot belonged to SDS until looking back on the month of August. Diggins-Smith missed the last four games of the regular season while the Phoenix Mercury were in the middle of a playoff race. And in the games she did play she was below her normal production – 15.5 points, 2.5 assists, 1 rebound in two games. In a treacherous season where every Mercury player dealt with so much, I do not hold any resentment to Diggins-Smith for stepping away. But in a close call between her and Thomas – who led the Sun to a very successful season – it did become a tie breaker.

Parker is still one of the most versatile and productive players in the league. She was the only player to average at least 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block per game (she went 13.2-8.6-4.5-1.0-1.0) and did it for one of the best teams in the league. Jones was in the top ten in rebounds and blocks and also averaged 14.6 points-per-game. While Thomas is the playmaker for the Sun, Jones is the hub that everything runs through – especially on offense.

Ogunbowale and Ogwumike led each of their teams to playoff contention and finished in the top ten in the league in scoring. Ogwumike was seventh in scoring but also tied for second in steals and was 15th in rebounds. Ogunbowale led the Dallas Wings to a very respectable season where they were one of the more consistent teams throughout the year. She also was tied for third in scoring.

MVP – A’ja Wilson

The Aces top the final WNBA power rankings of 2022

The MVP for these WNBA awards came down to two players for me – just like it did for everyone else. The cases for Wilson and Breanna Stewart were both so strong, and it was one of the tightest we’ve had in years. Stewart won the scoring crown and was in the running for DPOY. She was seventh in rebounding and tied for third in steals and was 11th in total threes made. She is really and inside-outside player with the best of them. The Storm were sixth in offense, third in defense, and fourth in net rating and in the league standings. Stewart was the best player on the team and everything ran through her. She finished second in the league in usage percentage at 28%. She is definitely a deserving recipient for all who have her here.

I went with A’ja Wilson. For many reasons I’ll get into but mainly this: she was the best player, on the best team and she made everything go in Las Vegas. My thoughts after seeing the Stewart usage percentage was, “how does Wilson compare with so many other good players around her? Was she as impactful as it felt watching?”. The answer is yes. Wilson was sixth in the league in usage percentage and first on the Aces. Not to mention first in blocks, second in rebounds, and fifth in scoring. Wilson made the move from the four to the five this season and continued to dominate the league. Everything the Aces did on offense ran through her, and their dominant defensive stretches through the season began and ended with her play in the post.

Thank you for checking out the WNBA Awards Ballot! If you’re looking for more WNBA coverage – I was joined by Bre Flowers and Mario Walker to discuss the postseason on my podcast! Shout out to both of them as well, for being my sounding boards while I worked on this ballot.

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