WNBA: A'ja Wilson named MVP; Crystal Dangerfield becomes lowest drafted Rookie of Year

·5 min read

A’ja Wilson was named the 2020 WNBA Most Valuable Player in a special moment on Thursday from the “wubble” at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Crystal Dangerfield was named the 2020 Rookie of the Year, making her the lowest selected draft pick to earn the honor. Her Minnesota Lynx coach, Cheryl Reeve, won another Coach of the Year award.

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert surprised Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces, who had collected under the guise of a referees meeting. She awarded the trophy in a unique moment shared on ESPN’s The Jump.

The show also announced Dangerfield and Reeve as fellow winners in a quick add-on.

Wilson earns first MVP award

Wilson averaged 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.0 blocks per game to lead the Aces (18-4) to the No. 1 overall seed. She is the most pivotal player on her team, which lost two key assets in Liz Cambage and Kelsey Plum ahead of the season. Wilson, 24, averaged 31.7 minutes per game in the 22-game season that featured games about every other day.

It’s the first MVP award of potentially a handful for Wilson in her third year after being drafted No. 1 out of South Carolina. It’s also the first time an Aces player and the first time a Gamecocks alumna has earned the award. Wilson received 43 of 47 first-place votes and 458 total points from a panel of national sportswriters and broadcasters.

The WNBA also caught Wilson addressing her teammates in a heartfelt moment.

Seattle Storm star and 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart finished second with 308 points. She averaged 19.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game in her first season back after her Achilles injury.

Los Angeles Sparks veteran Candace Parker, a two-time award winner, finished third (219 points), Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot finished fourth (135) and Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier finished fifth (36).

Wilson will receive a $15,450 bonus and the specially designed trophy by Tiffany & Co.

A'ja Wilson in a black Aces uniform holds the ball over her head.
Las Vegas Aces center A'ja Wilson won her first MVP award. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Dangerfield makes history as 2020 Rookie of the Year

Dangerfield, taken No. 16 overall in the 2020 draft, is the first honoree to be drafted outside of the first round. The lowest draft pick to win the award was Tracy Reid, drafted No. 7 overall in 1998.

The former UConn star averaged 16.2 points on 47.1 percent shooting while playing an average of 30 minutes a game. She averaged 3.6 assists and was named the rookie of the month for both August and September. She got 44 of 47 votes.

It’s safe to say the Huskies are stoked about the historic selection, changing their Twitter handle to an all-caps celebration of their point guard.

The 2020 draft class is a stacked one, led by No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu played in only three games before suffering a grade 3 ankle sprain and leaving the bubble to rehab. But even if she had played an entire season, the Rookie of the Year race was a three-woman sprint from the start.

Chennedy Carter, drafted No. 4 by the Atlanta Dream, became the youngest player to score at least 30 points in a game this season. She also missed time due to an ankle sprain, but returned to average 17.4 points (47.3 percent from the floor), 2.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 0.9 steals a game.

Her 3-point shooting also bested Dangerfield, but she got only two votes for the award. Many feel she’s more important to the Lynx, who lost all-star Sylvia Fowles midway through, than Carter was to the less-successful Dream.

Satou Sabally, Ionescu’s Oregon teammate, is fitting in well with the Dallas Wings though she missed some games due to back issues and then a possible concussion to end the season. Sabally averaged 13.9 points and 7.8 rebounds and got the last vote.

Reeve wins another coaching award as playoffs continue

Reeve won her third WNBA Coach of the Year award, making her the third coach in league history to win it that many times. She joins Van Chancellor and Mike Thibault.

The Lynx (14-8) locked in a first-round bye despite losing Fowles and missing Odyssey Sims at the start of the season. The 2019 Executive of the Year has led the team to four WNBA championships and is now coaching two Rookie of the Year selections in Collier and Dangerfield.

She received 25 of the votes, finishing ahead of Aces coach Bill Laimbeer (17).

The second round of the playoffs continue Thursday on ESPN2 with two single-elimination games. The fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury play the No. 4 Lynx and the seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun play the No. 3 Los Angeles Sparks.

The No. 1 Las Vegas Aces and No. 2 Seattle Storm await in the semifinals beginning Sunday.

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