There was more than a little skepticism amongst WNBA fans this year about just how good the "Three to See" would actually be. Was it going to be all hype? Could the top three draft picks make an impact? How would their adjustment process go?
Now that we are nearly two thirds of the way through the 2013 season, it has become clear that both Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne have been as good (if not better) than advertised. While Tulsa rookie Skyler Diggins has struggled mightily in her first WNBA season, Griner and Delle Donne have played the way many of us hoped they would. But who has had the better season? Who is the front runner for the rookie of the year honors?
Griner has been an absolute monster this season -- when she has been on the floor. Her aggressive style is unlike anything we have seen in the women's game; at times it has gotten her in trouble with the referees, but I'm confident she will find more control and limit her fouls in the future. The injuries, which have nagged Griner all season, have kept her out of six games and have certainly hurt the Mercury, who just fired Corey Gaines after dropping a game under .500 (10-11).
But in the 15 games that Griner has been on the floor she has compiled an efficiency rating of 18.1, good enough for tenth in the league. The Baylor product averages 13.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and three blocks a game. She boasts a true shooting percentage of 63.2 percent, just a hair better than the Sparks' Nneka Ogwumike -- last year's rookie of the year.
Meanwhile Delle Donne has taken on more of a ball-handler type role with the Sky and she has flourished. She has an efficiency rating of 17.5 and a true shooting percentage of 54.7 -- her turnover rate of 7.1 percent is the fifth-lowest of anyone in the league, and she's getting over 30 touches a game! That's pretty incredible.
Delle Donne is averaging 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while also picking up a couple of assists along the way. Her usage percentage of 24.2 percent is the highest among the starting five and behind only reserve Allie Quigley's 25.6 percent for the team lead. In short: She's extremely important to this Chicago team.
So who is having the better season? Some may point to Griner's injury issues as a reason to elevate Delle Donne's chances, but I have a hard time holding a player's injuries against them unless they miss a LOT of time (half-season or so). Likewise, Delle Donne's high scoring and rebound totals stack up well against Griner's - particularly because Delle Donne is three inches shorter.
Defensively Griner certainly has the edge -- and not just because of her shot blocking. Without Griner protecting the rim Phoenix would (somehow) be even worse on defense than they already are -- and they are quite putrid.
I'm partial towards Griner because of her defense and game changing physicality, though I imagine this debate will pick up even more steam as we head towards the end of the season. I know I have the September 11 rematch circled on my calendar.
Who do you have for rookie of the year?