Rookie of the Year
I think this has come down to a two person race between Angel McCoughtry and DeWanna Bonner. Once she moved into the starting lineup, McCoughtry has be bringing it. On the other hand, Bonner has been a model of consistency throughout the season. Because of that consistency and the spark she’s brought to the Mercury, I’m going to go with DeWanna Bonner.
Sixth Woman of the Year
This might have gone to McCoughtry had she not moved into the starting lineup. I don’t want to give it to Bonner, as some suggest, as she wasn’t always that sixth woman…especially after Penny Taylor rejoined the Mercury. I’d like to give it to Kristi Toliver, who saved the Sky’s bacon a few times, but she was actually more of the 11th woman on the team. Complicating this is that, as with Atlanta, injuries forced a lot of rotation changes for a lot of teams so that it was hard to point to a definitive first player off the bench.
Still…a choice needs to be made. I’ll pick Shavonte Zellous of the Shock. She has ROY numbers…almost. But, for a Detroit team that had its troubles this year, she was a strong element in their reaching the playoffs.
Most Improved Player
Always a tough category as it usually involves a player who was ill-used previously simply because of circumstance. Sometimes it is due to a player redoubling their effort. Sometimes it’s a little of both. Because of that, and since her improvement contributed to her team making the playoffs this year, I’m going to give the nod to Crystal Langhorne of the Washington Mystics. (I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some Terp loyalty there as well.)
Defensive Player of the Year
Some years this is really easy because one player so dominates the league that you have to pick her. In this parity year, not so much. It doesn’t help that much of what makes a good defensive player doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. It’s the pass that isn’t allowed to be made, the charge that is drawn, the pass that is forced to be made. Those aren’t recorded in cold hard numbers. Still, there was one player that no one seemed to be eager to go up against: Erika de Souza of Atlanta.
Coach of the Year
This really comes down to three: Marynell Meadors for turning around Atlanta as coach and GM, Julie Plank for looking like the coach Washington has been waiting for, or Jennifer Gillom for doing a heck of a job in Minnesota in trying circumstances. In the end, you simply have to be impressed by what Marynell Meadors has done for the dream. She rebuilt the team and got them to believe. Impressive.
Most Valuable Player
This award usually gives me fits, and this year is no exception. My feeling is that most valuable player isn’t just about stats. It’s about what they bring to the team and to the league. I like to decide who the best player is on each team. Then I toss out the ones who aren’t obviously at the top of the pack, and then I’ll add in any wild-cards.
Last year was easy. CP3 was without question the MVP. This year…augh! After I pared things down, I was left with these names: Douglas, Leslie, Taurasi, Bird, Hammon, Nolan. A compelling argument can be made for all of them. Amazingly, each of these picks is part of a pair on their respective teams.
When push came to shove, I had to go with the player who seemed to have that little bit more than the others in what she gave on the court: Diana Taurasi. I know many will balk due to the fact of her off-court DUI arrest. That’s fair, and it did make me think harder about choosing Dee as MVP. In the end, though, she’s done all the right things since. She’s taken a heck of a lot of crap from partisans in arenas around the league. Even so, she’s held her head up when she could have easily gotten angry and lashed out. Accepting the consequences when you screw up is also one of those things role models have to teach. Still…she almost lost my selection because of it. Tough call.
And there you have it. My superlative selections for the 2009 WNBA regular season.