As the Los Angeles Sparks embark on their journey to repeat as WNBA Champions, there’s been one player, who has quietly dominated the 2017 season: Alana Beard. Beard’s defensive tenacity has become a staple for the Sparks — she’s become the best lock down defender in the league.
And this year, Beard is being recognized for her feats, as she’s been named the 2017 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, the league announced:
Los Angeles Sparks guard/forward Alana Beard has been named the 2017 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, the WNBA announced today. Beard earned the honor for the first time in her 12-year career and became the second Sparks player to win the award, joining Lisa Leslie (2004, 2008).
Beard received 28 votes from a national panel of 40 sportswriters and broadcasters. Three-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx finished second with five votes, while two-time winner Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury was third with four votes. Sparks forward Candace Parker earned two votes and Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas received one vote.
Beard led the WNBA in steals for the first time, averaging 2.09 per game while starting all 34 of Los Angeles’ games. Behind Beard, the Sparks paced the WNBA in steals (9.29 spg) and opponents’ turnovers per game (16.4). They also ranked second in defensive rating (96.0 points per 100 possessions) and points allowed (75.2 ppg).