The playoff race in the wubble was down to the wire, with the Washington Mystics and Dallas Wings both fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot on Sunday afternoon. As Washington came out claiming the bottom seed with its win over Atlanta, the playoff picture has finally formed — but not without some fire coming from the final week of the regular season.
Most Valuable A’ja
It’s no secret that A’ja Wilson has been an unstoppable force for the Las Vegas Aces. It’s also no secret that she’s been doing so without the help of Kelsey Plum or Liz Cambage.
In their final game, the Aces secured the regular season title by beating the top ranked Seattle Storm, 86-84, with Wilson contributing 23 points and seven rebounds. Dearica Hamby, frontrunner for Sixth Woman of the Year, also dropped 23 points in the win, but Wilson’s performance helped her finish second in scoring this season (20.5 points per game). Wilson also led the league in blocked shots (2.0 per game).
The win over Seattle was the 22nd game in a row that Wilson has scored in double figures. She took home Rookie of the Year honours in 2018 and has proven to be invaluable to her team ever since. Wilson can take down anyone in the league, filing her case for the MVP award.
Player of the Game
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) September 13, 2020
Securing the Bag
With the season coming to an end, contract negotiations and extensions have only just begun. The Minnesota Lynx announced that they extended Damiris Dantas to a fully protected two-year contract, for $126,000 in 2021 and $129,780 for 2022. Dantas has posted career-high averages this season with 12.8 points and six rebounds, and plays well alongside Napheesa Collier, assisting on 73 of Collier’s 119 field goals this year.
Dantas has stepped up in the absence of Sylvia Fowles, and the Lynx locked in her value with the deal.
The New York Liberty also extended centre Kiah Stokes, who IMG Academy parents didn’t recognize, through the 2021 season. Stokes is the only Liberty player to start every game this season and averaged 5.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Las Vegas signed Emma Cannon to a contract for the rest of the season, after playing one game for the Aces in her first WNBA action since 2017. Previously, Cannon played her lone season for Phoenix and shot 49.1 per cent. She had career highs of 17 points against Dallas on Aug. 10, and 10 rebounds against Atlanta on Sept. 3. The Aces hope that the forward will be a great addition to rotate in with A’ja Wilson and Dearica Hamby during the team’s playoff journey.
The Los Angeles Sparks might say Chelsea Gray is the original “point gawd”, but several players in the wubble completed their seasons with achievements to solidify their names in the record books.
The New York Liberty are out of playoff contention, but Kia Nurse scored her 1,000th career point against the Indiana Fever during an 18-point performance Thursday to help her finish as the top scorer for the Liberty this season. Technically, rookie Sabrina Ionescu had a higher scoring average (18.3 points per game), thanks to a 33-point outing, but she only played in three games. Nurse, meanwhile, averaged 12.2 points in 21 games.
Minnesota’s Naphessa Collier, the 2019 Rookie of the Year, finished her second season in the WNBA with an average of 16.1 points, nine rebounds and 3.3 assists — the type of numbers that only Lisa Leslie, Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker have achieved.
Arike Ogunbowale dropped 38 points against the Chicago Sky, having a 35-plus point performance for the fourth time dating back to last season, a feat no other player has achieved.
For Phoenix, Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith continued to be the league’s highest scoring duo, combining for 61 points in their win over Connecticut, marking Diggins-Smith’s second 30-plus point performance in three games.
Hasta La Vista, Ladies!
With only eight spots available in the WNBA postseason, the wubble said goodbye to the New York Liberty, Indiana Fever, Dallas Wings and Atlanta Dream on Sunday night. Las Vegas and Seattle will both get double byes, while Minnesota and Los Angeles await the winners of the single-elimination games, where Chicago plays Connecticut and Phoenix faces Washington.
The chaotic scenario heading into Sunday was that the Mystics needed to win their final two games, which they did, while either the Dream or the Wings could’ve clinched with even one loss from the Mystics (there was a three-way battle for the final seed).
With the Wings and Dream both falling out of contention thanks to Washington, that also means the departure of the top three draft picks in the 2020 class: Sabrina Ionescu (Liberty), Satou Sabally (Wings) and Chennedy Carter (Dream).
— WNBA (@WNBA) September 13, 2020
Though all three missed part or all of the season due to injury, they’d had incredible starts to their newbie campaigns. By now, the Rookie of the Year race has been dominated by Crystal Dangerfield, who will be the lowest drafted rookie to ever win the award if she does (No. 16), but these three players will look to make an impact — and hopefully the playoffs — next season.