Seattle, WA — Today’s (Sept. 18) game, before the WNBA Playoffs are officially underway, featuring Chicago at Seattle brought about conversations of what type of team the Sky is without the reigning MVP, Elena Delle Donne. They certainly miss her league-high 21.8 points per game among other things, but have still gone 3-2 over the last five games without her.
My question is: what kind of team would Seattle be without rookie Breanna Stewart? Seattle has three players averaging double-digit points, compared to a year ago when Crystal Langhorne was the only player to average 10 or more points. Seattle is averaging roughly nine more points as a team than in 2015. Seattle is shooting a better percentage from the field than they did last year.
The common denominator, you ask? Breanna Stewart. She is one who simply makes her four other teammates on the floor better. And, going along with that, probably makes the entire team better on the practice floor.
When teams are worried about Stewart’s production, other players tend to be overlooked, which as a result works in the Storm’s favor. The chance of Seattle being home to back-to-back Rookie of the Year’s is highly probable.
With Stewart alongside Sue Bird, I could see Seattle making a huge run in the playoffs. They are 7-3 since the Olympic break and have now won five of their last six games. When comparing the last two Storm seasons, it’s almost like an entirely new roster was drafted. That’s the impact Stewart – who leads the team in both points and rebounds in her first WNBA season – has made thus far.
Today alone, the 22-year-old led all scorers with 18 points and broke Lisa Leslie’s 2004 single-season defensive rebounding record with 277 rebounds overall, pulling 9 (11 on the night) of them down in the squad’s 88-75 win over Chicago. Her prolific performance tonight – and leading up to this evening – also helped the Storm secure the seventh seed for the first round of the playoffs.
“Breaking the rebounding record of Lisa Leslie was a huge, huge, huge honor,” Stewart said. “I’m not too huge on individual accolades but when you’re able to do something and be categorized in the same level as Lisa Leslie, you can’t not embrace it.”
Stewart has already pieced together an unprecedented season, but her story is far from over. The University of Connecticut great is already being compared to players like Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings in their rookie seasons.
As if that isn’t a large enough complement, what she has done this year for Seattle is shaping up to be one of the best in WNBA rookie history dating all the way back to 1998.
Rookie History Breakdown (1998-Present)
Points per game: 18.3 (3rd)
Rebounds per game: 9.3 (4th)
Assists per game: 3.4 (tied for 4th)
Blocks per game: 1.8 (tied for 2nd)
Field goal percentage: 45.7% (8th)