Four teams receive league honors
July was a busy and eventful month for the WNBA to say the least. The ground shook at the beginning, injuries made teams scramble in the middle, and everyone celebrated an All-Star Weekend to remember at the end.
Some teams stood out despite it all, which made the WNBA’s job of choosing the Players, Coach, and Rookie of the Month an easy one.
Eastern Conference Player of the Month: Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Elena Delle Donne shined in the month of July, even with a nose injury that made her miss some playing time. She averaged 20 points, nearly seven rebounds, and nearly two blocks per game for the Mystics, who went 4-3 last month. Despite the close record, the Mystics sat in second place at the end of July (13-6 overall). Delle Donne also received the most fan votes ahead of the WNBA All-Star Game, which gave her a captaincy role for the second year in a row. While her team did not win this year’s contest, she herself had a nice game, scoring six points and registering six assists in 20:34.
Delle Donne’s high-scoring month puts her tied for third in the regular season standings with 18.1 points per game. She also leads the Mystics in scoring with that mark. I expect her to only get stronger as the season goes on – face mask notwithstanding.
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Western Conference Player of the Month: Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
With injuries, overseas commitments, and suspensions, the Los Angeles Sparks have been in a state of uncertainty since the season began. However, one bright spot has been Nneka Ogwumike, who has been able to guide her team both on and off the court. The elder Ogwumike sister averaged a near double-double for the month of July (21.6 points per game, 9.9 rebounds per game) as she guided the Sparks to a 5-2 record in that time span. She also averaged 2.43 blocks per game.
Ogwumike was named as a reserve for the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game, where she led Team Delle Donne with 22 points in the contest. It was her sixth selection to the midseason event. She currently leads the Sparks in several statistic categories, including points (16.7 ppg), rebounds (9.5), and steals (1.8). Los Angeles could be a force in the waning weeks of the regular season, and Nneka Ogwumike will be a big reason why.
Coach of the Month: Bill Laimbeer, Las Vegas Aces
When a star player like A’ja Wilson gets hurt, some might cave in. But not Bill Laimbeer. He led the Aces to a 7-1 record in July en route to finishing the month tied for first in the league. Vegas’ only loss during that time was a three-point defeat at Seattle on July 19, during which Wilson was injured.
The Aces had a successful month despite the injury because Laimbeer helped make them ready for anything. For example, reserve Sydney Colson scored a career-high 17 points (tied with Wilson) to lead the Aces past Washington on July 13. And just before the All-Star break, all five Aces starters finished with 10 points or more in Vegas’ win over Seattle. That included usual reserve Dearica Hamby, who led everyone with 24 points in the contest.
Laimbeer also had a big role in the All-Star festivities, which were hosted by his team in just the second year of the Aces franchise being in Las Vegas. He and his coaching staff were chosen for the game as the Aces finished with the best record in the league as of July 12 (10-5). After a trade in the first-ever televised All-Star Draft, they led Team Wilson to a 129-126 victory in the game itself.
Barring an epic collapse, the Aces will not be in the contest to win the top pick in the WNBA Draft. Instead, they might be contending for the WNBA title – in big part thanks to Bill Laimbeer.
Rookie of the Month: Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx
Napheesa Collier has not lit up the box score nearly as much as she did when she opened her WNBA career with a 27-point performance back in May. What she has done, however, is become a better all-around player. Even though she is only a rookie, Collier averages 32.5 minutes per game, a mark good for fifth overall in the WNBA. She also ranks fourth overall with nearly two steals per game. And her averages of 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds are good for second among rookies. Collier got her first of likely many double-doubles back on July 14, when she finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the Minnesota Lynx’s 75-62 win over Phoenix.
With these stats and more, it’s no surprise that the WNBA named Collier as the replacement for the injured A’ja Wilson in the All-Star Game. Collier was the only rookie to take part in any of the events over the weekend. She joined teammate Odyssey Sims in the Skills Challenge the night before the All-Star Game, where she scored four points.
Many expect the Rookie of the Year award contest to be between Collier and Dallas’ Arike Ogunbowale, who won the Rookie of the Month award in June. Collier’s recent honor and her improved play on all sides of the ball only solidifies that.
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