Beard takes home WNBA DPOY for second straight year
Los Angeles Sparks star Alana Beard was named the 2018 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, the league announced Thursday.
This is the second year in a row voters honored Beard as the best defensive player in the WNBA. She received a little over 40 percent of the vote, with 16 members of the panel putting her at the top of the list. Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles was second with nine first-place votes.
As well as announcing the Defensive Player of the Year, the WNBA also revealed the All-Defensive teams, with Beard among the five players earning first-team recognition.
WNBA All-Defensive First Team
Alana Beard, Los Angeles Sparks
Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury
Jasmine Thomas, Connecticut Sun
Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm
Jessica Breland, Atlanta Dream
WNBA All-Defensive Second Team
Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta Dream
Rebekkah Brunson, Minnesota Lynx
Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics
Statistically, a strong case could be made Fowles or Atlanta Dream center Jessica Breland were more deserving candidates for Defensive Player of the Year.
They were first and second in defensive win shares, with Fowles (2.9) edging just ahead of Breland (2.7) and Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (2.7), per Basketball Reference. Beard, meanwhile, was tied for 17th with 1.4 defensive win shares.
However, Beard was often tasked with guarding the opponent’s top perimeter scorer. As good as Breland and Fowles are, there’s no question Beard is the more versatile defender.
According to Synergy Sports, Beard finished in the 79th percentile in defensive points per possession (0.797).
Despite turning 36 in May, she remained a dogged defender both on an off the ball. She held opponents to 39.7 percent shooting in the pick and roll and 32.7 percent on spot-up opportunities, per Synergy.
The numbers don’t speak to her true impact on defense, either.
“Culture doesn’t just happen,” Sparks head coach Brian Agler said of Beard in an interview with The Athletic’s Michelle Smith. “You have to practice like a champion and compete like a champion and train like a champion. She (Beard) is all of that. And her teammates know it. There is not one thing I can say to Alana to get her to play harder or to be more ready. I am not motivating her in any kind of way. She is our foundation piece.”
In that piece, Beard discussed the end of her playing career, saying she’ll bow out when she feels can no longer play at a high level.
Her Defensive Player of the Year win is an illustration of her continued value on the court, and she’ll likely want at least one more chance at a second WNBA title after the Sparks lost in the second round of the 2018 playoffs.
Beard has every reason to come back for the 2019 campaign.