Delle Donne earns AP player of the year; Collier top rookie
NEW YORK (AP) — Elena Delle Donne put together a historic season in Washington and has been named the Associated Press WNBA player of the year.
Delle Donne became the first WNBA player to shoot over 50% from the field (51.5, 40% from behind the 3-point line (43%) and 90% from the foul line (97.4%). Only eight NBA players have accomplished that milestone. She helped the Mystics finish with the best record in the league and the top overall seed in the playoffs.
“It wasn’t something I thought about, but for a month or two months the media has been talking about it,” Delle Donne said of the 50-40-90 club. “I kind of knew what was happening. I’m happy I will go down in history for this. it’s really hard to accomplish and I appreciate all the hard work that went into it.”
The 6-foot-5 Delle Donne was selected by the 14-member media panel that votes on the weekly AP power poll. Delle Donne received 12 votes.
Mystics coach Mike Thibault, who was voted the AP coach of the year, saw changes in Delle Donne on and off the court this season.
“I think the taste in her mouth from losing in the finals drove her in the offseason,” he said. “Working on rehabbing her knee and being in the weight room helped her improve her body. The second thing was is she’s way more comfortable in her own skin being a vocal leader on our team. She’s always been a good leader by how you go about your business, but her first year here she didn’t want to step on toes a little bit.
“Last year she and Kristi (Toliver) shared it, but they had some help with Krystal Thomas’ voice. This year, with Krystal not being here, and Kristi being hurt, she found her own voice with her teammates.”
Napheesa Collier edged Arike Ogunbowale for rookie of the year honors. Minnesota’s rookie received eight of the votes; Ogunbowale the other six.
“It means a lot to me, as I said before, it was one of my goals coming into this season,” Collier said in a phone interview. “It was a heated race and really publicized. There’s no question she’s a great scorer and I think she’ll do amazing things in her career.”
Collier finished the season as only the fourth different player in league history to amass over 400 points, 200 rebounds, 75 assists, 50 steals, 25 blocks and 25 3-pointers in a single season. The other three are Tamika Catchings (seven times), Maya Moore (3 times) and Sheryl Swoopes.
Ogunbowale became the second player in league history to score over 30 points in four straight games, joining Moore. She finished as the league’s third leading scorer averaging 18.9 points.
The two young stars were joined on the AP’s all-rookie team by Indiana’s Teaira McCowan, Las Vegas’ Jackie Young and Phoenix’s Brianna Turner.
“We have an extremely talented class spread across the board with so many great players,” Collier said. “You saw that in the drafts, no one knew where everyone was going and everyone was really good. I’m proud of the rookie class and what we’ve accomplished.”
Other award winners include Seattle’s Natasha Howard, the defensive player of the year; Las Vegas’ Dearica Hamby as the sixth woman of the year; Dallas’ Isabelle Harrison as comeback player of the year and Phoenix’s Leilani Mitchell as most improved player. All are first-time winners.
Delle Donne also headlined the AP All-WNBA team. She was joined by Brittney Griner of Phoenix, Chelsea Gray of Los Angeles, Courtney Vandersloot of Chicago and Jonquel Jones of Connecticut. The second team includes Howard, Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike, Las Vegas’ Liz Cambage, Chicago’s Diamond DeShields and Phoenix’s DeWanna Bonner.
The league awards will be released over the course of the playoffs.
The Washington Mystics finished atop the AP Power Poll, a spot they occupied for the final five weeks of the season. Connecticut was second. The Sun were followed by Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Chicago. Seattle, Minnesota, Phoenix, Indiana, Dallas, New York and Atlanta rounded out the poll.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Delle Donne averaged 23.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists to help Washington go 3-0 last week. Other players receiving votes included Natasha Howard of Seattle, Kelsey Mitchell of Indiana and Candace Parker of Los Angeles.