After one of the most impressive year-over-year improvements in WNBA history, Washington Mystics' star Myisha Hines-Allen fell four votes shy of winning the league's annual Most Improved Player Award.
The Atlanta Dream's Betnijah Laney won the honor receiving 25 of the possible 47 votes, barely edging out Hines-Allen (21 votes). The only other player who received a tally was Angel McCoughtry of the Las Vegas Aces.
Both players were more than deserving of the honor for their 2020 campaigns.
Laney's story is a great one that is typically reserved for this award. The unique season filled with opt-outs and odd rosters is perhaps the only reason why Laney even made a team this season. In June she was released by the Indiana Fever - the first team where she was able to find consistent minutes in her four-year career.
With two players choosing not to play to focus on social justice issues, Atlanta moved to sign Laney and add some depth to their forward group. They could have never anticipated what she was going to produce.
Her statistical per-game averages increased to career-highs in 2020 with 17.2 points (+11.6), 4.9 rebounds (+0.7) and 4.0 assists (+3.3). Shooting-wise this was also the best year since entering the WNBA as a second-round draft pick out of Rutgers in 2015.
Throughout her career, she has faced torn ACLs and was waived by three WNBA franchises. In Atlanta, she finally found a home.
As a second-round draft pick, Myisha Hines-Allen entered the league with a chip on her shoulder. She bided her time on a championship roster and when opportunity came she did not let it pass her by this year.
In her third season in the WNBA, Hines-Allen exploded from a depth piece to one of the most dynamic forwards in the WNBA. Last season, buried deep down the depth chart during a title season, the forward averaged less than eight minutes and scored 2.3 points per game. This season, as a starter, she grew into Washington's best player.
Her 17.0 ppg was best on the roster. So was her 52.9% field-goal percentage, her 42.6% 3-point percentage and her 8.9 rebounds per game among eligible players. By increasing her point total by 14.7 points (a full three points more than Laney) in a single year, she made the biggest point jump in league history according to ESPN.
On her path to re-writing the league record-book, Hines-Allen eclipsed the 20-point mark seven times when she entered the year with a single-game career-high of 15 points. She also had 10 double-doubles in the 22-game shortened season.
The opportunity to prove her worth came this season, similar to that of Laney's. Just among the Mystics forwards, Elena Delle Donne, LaToya Sanders and offseason acquisition Tina Charles all elected not to play in 2020.
Laney wasn't necessarily the best player on Atlanta, like Hines-Allen clearly was to Washington. Rookie Chennedy Carter stole the show for the Dream when fully healthy.
However, both Most Improved candidates used this season to establish themselves in the WNBA when their next contracts were uncertain. Laney, whether re-signed by Atlanta or otherwise, will be on a roster in 2021. Hines-Allen, whose career is just beginning, surely will get the opportunity to rise to the challenge in year's to come.
Both have become great ongoing stories. The WNBA voters just enjoyed Laney's a little bit more in 2020.