Top 20 WNBA players countdown, ranked for the 2018 season: Part 1

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LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 29: Renee Montgomery #21 of the Minnesota Lynx protest the ball against Alana Beard #0 of the Los Angeles Sparks in Game Three of the 2017 WNBA Finals on September 29, 2017 at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

20. Alana Beard, Los Angeles Sparks

It is difficult to quantify just how valuable Alana Beard is on the defensive end. There are statistical indications, to be sure: she’s regularly among the league leaders in steal percentage, and led the WNBA with a 3.5 percent mark in 2017. That indicates something larger about the way she fits into Brian Agler’s scheme, too: she can sell out for steals, knowing elite defenders like Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker and Jantel Lavender are behind her, while those rim protectors typically can stay home and make it impossible to finish at the rim. Beard even found a new level of offensive efficiency in 2017—her .551 true shooting percentage represents her highest mark since 2006. It is impossible to imagine the Los Angeles Sparks as part of the league’s Lynx-Sparks duopoly without Beard.

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