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2014 WNBA Awards: Recognizing the top candidates for each award

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The Swish Appeal staff made their 2014 WNBA awards picks official earlier today, but the following is a closer look at the top candidates for every major award and some of the tougher decisions that voters will have to make.

Courtney Paris led the WNBA in rebounding this season and deserves strong consideration for the Most Improved Player award.
Courtney Paris led the WNBA in rebounding this season and deserves strong consideration for the Most Improved Player award.
Photo by Getty Images.

After careful consideration I've narrowed down where my votes for the WNBA's 2014 performance awards would fall.

Most Valuable Player:

G Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

Runner-up:

F Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

The MVP vote came down to the last few days of the season for me and ultimately I couldn't pass on Taurasi's amazing season. This is a player that ranks in the top five of both scoring and distribution efficiency yet didn't even rank in the top 10 this season in Usage Rate, which basically tracks how much of the offense is run through a particular player. Considering this is whom many believe to be the best player in the world, it can't get much better than that.

What's ironic about these numbers is that it mirrors the season Moore had in 2013 -- Maya finished in the top 20 of the 9 main statistical categories last year but didn't touch the top 10 in usage rate. If Taurasi wasn't so unselfish and team-oriented, we wouldn't even be having a discussion on who the MVP is. Maya Moore has had a fantastic season and she was robbed last season, but last season is over and I think we should show some appreciation for the historic year led by Diana Taurasi.

ALL WNBA TEAMS

FIRST TEAM

G- Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

G- Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

F- Candace Parker, L.A. Sparks

F- Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream

C- Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

SECOND TEAM

G- Skylar Diggins, Tulsa Shock

G- Odyssey Sims, Tulsa Shock

F- Candice Dupree, Phoenix Mercury

F- Nnemkadi Ogwumike, L.A. Sparks

F- Chiney Ogwumike, Connecticut Sun

Rookie of the Year:

F Chiney Ogwumike, Connecticut Sun

Runner-up:

G Odyssey Sims, Tulsa Shock

This was probably the toughest decision as Sims' second half rivaled that of All-WNBA consideration. For the last two months of the season, Sims averaged 20.9 points while also seeing significant jumps in terms of shooting percentages. Yet Ogwumike brought it every night all year and Connecticut would've been out of the playoff hunt a long time ago without her play.

Save for a rough month of July where her shooting numbers came down to 51% and she only averaged 13.9 points and 7.9 boards, Chiney put together a season of 15.5 points, 8.5 boards and 1.2 blocks a night while shooting 54%. Sims' blazing finish, including 31 in Tulsa's final outing, overshadowed a strong finish from Ogwumike, whose August numbers read: 16.6 points 9.8 rebounds and 57% shooting.

All Rookie Team

G- Odyssey Sims, Tulsa Shock

G- Kayla McBride, San Antonio Stars

G- Bria Hartley, Washington Mystics

F- Chiney Ogwumike, Connecticut Sun

F- Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

Sixth Woman of the Year:

G Allie Quigley, Chicago Sky

Runner-up:

G Jia Perkins, San Antonio Stars

If the ROY vote was the toughest, this was the easiest. Quigley's main competitors in Perkins and Tulsa's Riquna Williams both missed extended time. Elsewhere, Tiffany Hayes, Jantel Lavender, Danielle Adams and Penny Taylor became starters. (Adams is actually still eligible but her teammate Perkins ranks ahead of her in terms of productivity.)

Quigley was given the nod as the first wing off the bench as the Sky let Shay Murphy walk and it paid dividends. I've long been a fan of Quigley's and always said she deserved minutes. Even before improving her ball-handling and defense, Quigley was a great shooter with a high basketball IQ and it only makes her even more dangerous now that her skills match.

Most Improved Player

C Courtney Paris, Tulsa Shock

Runner-up:

F Jessica Breland, Chicago Sky

G Allie Quigley, Chicago Sky

It seems to be universally understood that Skylar Diggins is the Most Improved player in the WNBA this season. While I agree with that sentiment in terms of the definition, I can't vote for her to win the award. In short, players SHOULD improve exponentially from year 1 to year 2. After a season in the W, Skylar made sure she wouldn't be the next to experience the plight of one Samantha Prahalis.

My vote goes to Courtney Paris, who led the league in rebounding this season, as I predicted she would, and also third in shooting percentage. Paris' game hasn't changed much, if at all, yet with the window for minutes and improved conditioning, she started all 34 games and just missed averaging a double-double in 27 minutes a night. Skylar will likely win the actual award and deservedly so, I just think the season Paris has had deserves more recognition than she'll likely receive.

Coach of the Year:

Sandy Brondello, Phoenix Mercury

Runner-up:

Mike Thibault, Washington Mystics

Going into the season, I had my questions about Brondello. She never really seemed comfortable in San Antonio and it showed in every facet. Some of that could likely be credited to the fact that we now know that Dan Hughes wasn't happy being anywhere except the sidelines but still, Brondello seemed out of her element. After spending some extended time as an assistant in stops in LA and Ekaterinburg, Russia, Sandy was named the Mercury head coach on November 15th and it took off from there.

The familiarity with Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi led the charge towards a cohesive unit that set the WNBA record for wins in a season. Doesn't get much better than that right? I think it's the consensus here at the Swish that Mike Thibault is the best coach in the WNBA right now and seems to always be in the discussion but Brondello is in a league of her own this season.

All-Defensive teams

Defensive Player of the Year

C Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

Runner-up:

F Sancho Lyttle, Atlanta Dream

C Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky

The 2014 WNBA season has been headlined by Brittney Griner setting the WNBA single season blocks record -- that she'll probably break at least 5 times -- while more than doubling the number of total blocks (129) of the player in second place (Breland, 57)  Are we really discussing this award?

Sancho Lyttle also had a great season defensively and Fowles didn't miss a beat defensively after she returned but neither of those players changes an opposing team's offense the way that Griner does simply by stepping on the floor.

6-foot-8, mobile and great timing? We may be naming this award after BG once she's hangs them up.

All-Defensive Teams

FIRST TEAM

G- Anna Cruz, New York Liberty

G- Danielle Robinson, San Antonio Stars

F- Sancho Lyttle, Atlanta Dream

F- Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream

C- Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

SECOND TEAM

G- Armintie Herrington, L.A. Sparks

G- Epiphanny Prince, Chicago Sky

F- Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

F- Erika de Souza, Atlanta Dream

C- Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky

Do you have thoughts on your awards picks? Write up a fanpost and share it in the comments.