After winning a third consecutive WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year award last season, it was clear that only one thing that would stop Phoenix Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner from being named the league’s top reserve every year: starting.
With Bonner moving into the Mercury starting lineup this season, the award will actually go to someone else this year. But who might take advantage of this opportunity?
A Sixth Woman of the Year Candidate Framework
In essence, I see Sixth Woman of the Year (SWOY) as the MVP off the bench – it should be the player with the greatest contribution to their team’s success off the bench, rather than the “best” or the “best player on the best team”.
The main difference between SWOY and MVP is the matter of complementary: how well does that bench player complement the starting unit or the rest of the roster? Is putting them in the game somehow a “game-changer”?
You can click here for more description of the statistics for this award, which are laid out in the table below.
The top 10 2012 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year candidates
The following is just a list of the top ten bench contributors in the league according to PVC.
Free throw production
Team-low turnover ratio
Free throw rate, ball handling efficiency
Statistics for the top 10 bench contributors in the WNBA. League bench leaders noted with a *.
The Top 6 Contenders
Avery Warley, C, Phoenix Mercury
Warley’s argument for this award is pretty simple and pretty much the same as the reason she’s in the running for a spot on the All-Rookie team despite going undrafted: she is currently the second-best rebounder in the league behind Rebekkah Brunson (15.1%). She is not at all a scorer and turns the ball over at a higher rate than average, which hurts her numbers, but bringing her off the bench is a huge plus for the Mercury.
Tina Thompson, F, Seattle Storm
Thompson isn’t having a great year by her personal standards and her level of contribution to the Storm is probably at least a little inflated by the team’s injury issues and Olympian Lauren Jackson’s absence in the first half. Nevertheless, she’s a solid rebounder on a team that hasn’t been very good on the boards and is versatile enough to fill multiple roles, which gives Storm coach Brian Agler some flexibility in terms of lineup combinations.
Monica Wright, G, Minnesota Lynx
The WNBA is generally short on “upside” players due to the league’s 11-player roster limit. But on a team full of talent, we might not have seen the best of what Monica Wright has to offer the league on a consistent basis although this is her best year yet.
Wright might not immediately jump out in any one particular way, but she is one of the best finishers in the league among guards – if not the best – with a free throw production rate 33.08% and shooting 67.3% within five feet on 52 attempts; while none of those finishing numbers are the league’s best, she is clearly one of the best finishers in the league of any guard.
Part of that shooting percentage at close range is certainly a matter of the number of transition scoring opportunities she gets with the Lynx, but the free throw rate reflects her ability to draw contact in attacking the basket against opposing defenses.
She is still a somewhat inefficient ball handler (pure point rating of -1.13) but with her physical gifts and her defensive ability she has a bright future ahead of her and would probably be a starter on most other teams in the league.
Danielle Adams, F, San Antonio Silver Stars
Adams was on the SWOY short list in her rookie year as well and it’s hard to imagine her not being among the top candidates as long as she comes off of a WNBA team’s bench.
A major asset that Adams brings to the floor is her ability to rebound – she’s the team’s third-best offensive rebounder on a team that is extremely poor on the boards. But Adams is also an inside-out threat on a perimeter-oriented San Antonio team that doesn’t have much in the way of a consistent back to the basket post scoring threat. She adds a dimension off the bench that her team doesn’t really have otherwise which makes her a valuable player.
Mistie Mims, F, Connecticut Sun
Although she’s not getting a whole lot of minutes, Mims is having a career year after a year off from the WNBA.
What immediately jumps out is her PER, which is the highest of any WNBA bench player and 13th in the league overall. A major part of her value stems from her ability as a scorer around the basket, where she is shooting 73.5% from within five feet, which is among the best in the league and is particularly valuable on a Sun team that is surprisingly below average from that range. Although she is by no means a dominant rebounder, she is the second-best offensive rebounder on the team behind Tina Charles, which is also a valuable contribution to a team that isn’t the most efficient shooting team.
Jia Perkins, G, San Antonio Silver Stars
What makes Perkins a strong candidate for SWOY is that she is a major contributor on a very talented team – she really probably could play more minutes than she does for the Silver Stars while remaining effective and could probably start for a few teams.
On a Silver Stars team that relies heavily on ball movement to set up perimeter shots, the fact that she doesn’t turn the ball over much (a 7.9% turnover ratio) and can make plays for others is really important. That she’s shooting 41.7% from the 3-point line on said perimeter-oriented team is especially valuable.
Despite being the team’s third-leading scorer this season, she’s not the most efficient player but she’s also a player that can easily make you forget about efficiency – Perkins just seems to step up to make a big play when it counts, as she has her entire career it seems. And if it’s not about who starts, but who finishes the fact that she is often in the game down the stretch matters to this discussion as well.
While the Silver Stars are an extremely balanced team, Perkins has definite;y been valuable to their success leading up to the Olympic break and will probably continue to be as the season wears on.