It seems like a relatively short list of candidates this year, compared to usual. Someone like Tina Charles or Tamika Catchings might be in the fold again if their teams do surprisingly well, but otherwise I see five likely possibilities: Elena Delle Donne in Chicago; Angel McCoughtry in Atlanta; Maya Moore in Minnesota; Candace Parker (again) in LA; and Diana Taurasi in Phoenix.
Parker and maybe Taurasi are likely to see their raw stats fall a little due to extra help around them, which would diminish their chances. By contrast, Moore and Delle Donne are starting the season on teams with injury problems, which could lead to more shots and improved raw production. McCoughtry’s efficiency might improve slightly if Michael Cooper can restrain her wilder tendencies.
I’ll take Maya Moore. So close to the award last year, still improving as a player, and with Brunson hurt to start the year she could be taking even more shots this season. McCoughtry second choice because her team should probably win more games than Delle Donne’s if Fowles is out for a while.
Defensive Player of the Year
Fowles missing the start of the season and Catchings getting older means we might end up with a brand new winner in this category. Brittney Griner’s a possibility if Brondello harnesses her, and because she’ll pile up blocks and voters like stats. But my guess is that they’ll decide it’s Angel McCoughtry‘s turn, and she’ll have the steal numbers to entice the voters. Note: this is who I think will win, not who I’d vote for – the number of plays McCoughtry takes off, and the fact that the Dream have always kept her away from the tougher assignments, would keep me away from voting for her unless there’s a new attitude this year.
All-Defensive First Team
All-Defensive Second Team
Candace Parker (again, who I expect, not who I’d vote for)
Coach of the Year
Usually goes to a coach who exceeds expectations dramatically, causes a big turnaround, or just the coach of far and away the best team. I’ll take Lin Dunn, because Indiana might do well enough to warrant it, plus it’s her last season and she’s never won it – voters are a sentimental bunch.
Rookie of the Year
Probably a straightforward choice between Chiney Ogwumike and Odyssey Sims, unless someone unexpected breaks out. Both of them are on teams that could be pretty poor, and should have plenty of opportunity to play. I’ll take Ogwumike, because the #1 pick is invariably a safe choice for this award, but Sims wouldn’t be a surprise. Celine Dumerc should be an exceptional ‘rookie’, but voters don’t give this award to 31 year olds even if it’s their first year in the league.
Most Improved Player
The complete crapshoot award, when it comes to predictions. Skylar Diggins is certainly a possibility, given how high her profile is already and her poor rookie season. Kelsey Bone should have more opportunities to impress in Connecticut and already looked improved in Europe. Marissa Coleman might end up with noticeably improved numbers just because she’s a better fit and gets more minutes in Indiana. Tianna Hawkins and Emma Meesseman are both going to play significantly more to fill the hole in Washington’s post. Brittney Griner could win it if she simply stays healthy and starts to deliver on her promise, after the injury issues last year.
I’ll take Griner, because it’s probably the silliest and voters can be ridiculous. Predicting this award is impossible.
Sixth Woman of the Year
Part of the problem here is that with some teams it’s really not clear who the coach intends to start, plus injuries are already upsetting what would be the anticipated starting lineups. There are various options in Atlanta (Tiffany Hayes, Swin Cash, even Shoni Schimmel); LA are so deep that they may not have one candidate who jumps above the others (Armintie Herrington, Candice Wiggins, whoever the first bench post is out of Ogwumike/Gruda/Lavender); Penny Taylor, once again, would be a candidate if she happened to be healthy often enough in Phoenix; with Sophia Young-Malcolm back, Danielle Adams will presumably be coming off the pine again in San Antonio; and finally, the reigning holder Riquna Williams, is still likely to be the sixth woman in Tulsa.
I think I’ll take Adams. San Antonio will need her production, so she should see plenty of minutes, but with Young-Malcolm and Appel around, she’s unlikely to start unless injuries hit. Sandrine Gruda, assuming she comes off the bench all season, is a definite possibility as well.
Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award
Who the hell knows? Tina Charles, for the sake of irony.
All-WNBA First Team
Angel McCoughtry (yes, I’m predicting they fudge the positions again)
Elena Delle Donne
All-WNBA Second Team
Tina Charles (yes, more fudging)
Eastern Conference regular season
Atlanta Dream – I really like Dumerc, and if they’re healthy they should be very good
Indiana Fever – still trust Catchings and Dunn, regardless of their player losses
Chicago Sky – Fowles and Prince back soon enough to join Delle Donne in carrying them this far
Washington Mystics – team ethic and Thibault keep them solid
New York Liberty – not convinced they’ll stay healthy, or that the pieces around the stars are good enough
Connecticut Sun – like the youth movement, still not convinced by the coach
Western Conference regular season
Los Angeles Sparks – so much talent, healthier and hungrier than those below them
Minnesota Lynx – still very strong, regardless of early injuries
Phoenix Mercury – only this far down because of the exceptional talent above. It has the potential to be an outstanding top three, just like last year
San Antonio Stars – stars back, good coach, lots of firepower, but a toss-up with the Storm
Seattle Storm – sorry Seattle, but not convinced this year. Will win some games, but maybe not enough
Tulsa Shock – still not enough talent, after being shunned yet again by one of their true building blocks
Atlanta over Washington in 3
Indiana over Chicago in 3
LA over San Antonio in 2
Minnesota over Phoenix in 3
Atlanta over Indiana in 3
LA over Minnesota in 3
LA over Atlanta in 5, I hope, because this league could really use a competitive, watchable Finals after the last few years.
There you have it. Feel free to come back here in about four months and mock mercilessly.