There’s a deserved mystique about many of the WNBA’s early stars, but when you consider that 14 of the WNBA’s Top 20@20 from 2016 all played at least a portion of their careers in the 2010s (and five are still active nearly four years later), it’s worth acknowledging both the breadth and depth of talent in the league over the past ten years.
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As with any league, while certain players dominated in titles and sheer wins in the 2010s, many other players made their mark with their dominance across one or more statistical categories. There’s a lot to chew on here, so let’s dive in.
Consider this: while the WNBA’s leaders in games played (regular and postseason) over the past 10 years are Renee Montgomery (367), Kristi Toliver (358), Camille Little (357), Tina Charles (345), and Shavonte Zellous (343), the winningest player barely cracks the top 10. From 2010 to 2018, Lindsay Whalen appeared in 339 games for the Minnesota Lynx between the regular season and Playoffs, winning 241 of those. Her running-mate, Maya Moore, is just behind her, appearing in 240 wins.
The top 10 really paints a picture: the Lynx dominated the decade, and they were led most often by Whalen, Moore, Seimone Augustus, and Rebekkah Brunson. Sylvia Fowles, who joined them in 2015, is not too far down the list with 193 wins of her own, between her postseason runs in Chicago and her championship years in Minnesota.
Whalen, Augustus, Moore, and Brunson unsurprisingly are the only players with 55 or more postseason appearances since 2010, and they lead all players with 40 wins in the Playoffs and 15 apiece in the Playoffs.
Kristi Toliver has been a consistent part of success between her two championship years in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and Montgomery has bounced around and brought a winning mentality with her at each stop. Shavonte Zellous, Jantel Lavender, and the recently retired Camille Little round out the top ten, showing why they are still such coveted pieces. In fact, Little was the model of consistency, appearing in 331 (of a possible 340) regular season games over the past ten years.
Tina Charles led the league with 330 regular season starts and played in a league-leading seven All-Star games (there were no All-Star games in 2010, 2012, and 2016). , and as the numbers will continue to show, she was as solid as they come over that time. And beyond just total games, she led the league in minutes in the 2010s, logging 10,695 in the regular season, over 1,000 more than Candice Dupree (9,608) in second place. Charles’ 32:25 per game was second only to Breanna Stewart, who played just over 33 minutes per game in her three seasons so far.
Look — she was on the court a ton for a reason. Over the past ten years, Charles scored 5,982 regular season points, with Angel McCoughtry (5,033) trailing her in second. Of course, you have to keep in mind that McCoughtry missed the 2017 and 2019 seasons, or else she would have a good shot at 6,000 herself. Maya Moore is just shy of 5,000 points herself, and she too didn’t play in two of the possible seasons, drafted in 2011 and choosing to sit out the 2019 season.
Overall, the scoring leaders are about what most WNBA fans would expect — a who’s who of WNBA MVPs, All Stars, and champions throughout the 2010s. When you look at leaders based on average, the most recent title-winning MVPs climb to the top. Elena Delle Donne led the 2010s with 20.3 points per game, and Breanna Stewart was second with 19.99 points per game herself. McCoughtry (19.97), Diana Taurasi (19.0), and Moore (18.4) round out the top five.
It took a lot of double-digit contests to get Charles to the top of the scoring list. She led the league with 293 games of 10 or more points and 138 games with 20 or more. McCoughtry led with 31 games of 30 or more points, and Moore led with three 40-point games. Of course, one of the most memorable games of the past ten years was Liz Cambage’s WNBA-record 53 points for the Dallas Wings in 2018, besting Riquna Williams’ then-record 51 points for the Tulsa Shock in 2013.
Those 5,982 points came on a league-leading 2,425 made field goals (7.35 per game) on 5,391 attempts. McCoughtry bested her in attempts per game with 16.4 to Charles’ 16.3. However, no one put the ball in the basket more efficiently than Fowles, who made 59.6% of her shots from the field over the past decade.
Post players dominate that category, but guards dominated from beyond the arc, as expected.
There was a clear use for specialty shooters from deep in the 2010s, considering none of the top five cracked even the top 50 in total scoring over the same time period.
Lastly, the free throw line was dominated by players who have a reputation for forcing their way there. McCoughtry led in total attempts from the stripe (1,668) and had the most makes (1,339), while Taurasi (1,187) and teammate DeWanna Bonner (1,142) followed in total makes. Again, an up-and-comer took the per-game average, though perhaps it’s not entirely fair to judge based on number of games played so far: A’ja Wilson averaged 5.3 free throws made on 6.6 attempts per game, both tops for the decade.
In terms of efficiency, I’d give you a second to guess who led the league, but I’d rather spend more time focusing on her mind-boggling numbers. Delle Donne finished the 2010s with 1,006 free throw attempts in the regular season and missed just 62 of them, good for 93.8% overall. Two other players were above 90%: Becky Hammon (91.9%) made 316 of 344 in her final five years in the league, and Kara Lawson (91.6%) made 285 of 311 as her playing career wound down.
If you were to try to compile a list of the best point guards of the 2010s, it’s tough to do much better than picking straight from the top assist-makers.
In another unsurprising find, Courtney Vandersloot also led in assists per game (6.2), with that statistic trending up each of the last three years as she set new records for assists in a single season. Vandersloot also had 29 points/assists double-doubles over the past nine years since she entered the league, more than her two closest competitors combined: Bird had 13 and Taurasi had 12.
One point guard who has proven herself literally championship-caliber was Natasha Cloud, who came on strong in the last few years of the decade, and while she didn’t reach the top in total or average assists, she led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, logging 2.74 assists for each turnover (617 assists and 225 turnovers).
Chelsea Gray is also one of the most memorable point guards of the past decade, joining Vandersloot, Temeka Johnson, and Candace Parker as the only players with triple-doubles in the 2010s.
On the other end, no one had as many turnovers in the 2010s as Angel McCoughtry, who racked up 835 total and 3.3 per game on average. Of course, that’s very much a product of the amount of time she’s asked to make a play; she also led the league in usage percentage (32.5%), with Charles (28.3%) in second.
Fowles is just two or three average games from passing Brunson (3,356) as the WNBA’s all-time leader in rebounds, and she became the all-time leader in double-doubles (163) just this past season. She averaged a league-leading 10.1 rebounds per game to propel herself there.
But Tina Charles is right on her heels. Charles had four more double-doubles than Fowles (152) in the 2010s, and she led the league in total rebounds (3,133), good for fifth in WNBA history just over the past ten years.
Charles led the more granular rebounding categories as well, grabbing 908 offensive rebounds and 2,225 defensive rebounds, while on average Fowles led with 3.0 offensive rebounds per game, and Stewart led with 7.5 defensive rebounds per game.
Maybe we can decide on a winner by looking at the rare games of 20 or more points and 20 or more rebounds. Fowles had three of those over the past ten years, and Charles…also had three. Well, let’s just agree they both defined a decade of dominance on the boards.
The 2010s saw a changing of the guards (so to speak) on defense. You could still make a case for Tamika Catchings being one of the best defensive players of the past decade with five All-Defense selections and two (more) Defensive Player of the Year nods (2010, 2012), but three other players made strong cases, and it shows up in the numbers.
McCoughtry led with 523 total steals since 2010, followed by Moore (449), Sancho Lyttle (444), and Catchings (443). (I have to interject with a reminder that Catchings only played until 2016.) Catchings led the per-game average with 2.1 steals per game, followed closely by McCoughtry with 2.08 per game.
One category where we saw two of the best battles was blocks. Fowles was known for her defensive prowess coming in to 2010, and in 2013 the powerhouse Brittney Griner came in to the league and held her own.
Griner led with 636 total blocks, moving all the way up to third all-time in WNBA history in just seven seasons, and Fowles had 550 this decade (621 in her career now). Griner has averaged 3.0 blocks per game, almost doubling Fowles (1.84) and Elizabeth Williams (1.8), who were next closest.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that on top of her blocking ability, Griner has also dominated not just the decade but WNBA history with her dunking ability. Jonquel Jones and Cambage each had a dunk in an All Star game, but Griner is the only player to dunk in any regular and postseason games since 2008. Before Griner entered the league, there had been five total non-All Star dunks in WNBA history. As of the end of the 2019 season, Griner has 12 herself.
With that, we wrap up another exciting decade of WNBA play. If you missed either of the first two parts on team and coach stats over the past ten years, be sure to go back and check those out. Otherwise, it won’t be long before we start counting another decade of numbers to crunch in a future installment.
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