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2019 All-WNBA Teams: The numbers behind the picks

What does an All-WNBA player look like? There’s no right or wrong answer. Here are 2019’s honorees, along with some stats that back up their selections.

Seattle Storm v Washington Mystics
Natasha Howard (2019’s Defensive Player of the Year) and Elena Delle Donne (2019’s Most Valuable Player) were both named to the All-WNBA First Team.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The WNBA recently announced its All-WNBA Teams for 2019; these are hypothetical five-player lineups featuring the league’s best, as voted on by national media. As each team must feature two guards, two forwards and a center, voters are somewhat restricted in their methods.

It does ensure, however, that the honorees are diverse in their strengths. Here are your 2019 All-WNBA Teams, along with what makes each player worthy of the honor:

First Team

Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky)

Chicago Sky v Phoenix Mercury Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

For the third straight year, Vandersloot led the WNBA in assists (9.1 per game) and in 2019 she broke her own record for total assists in a season with 300. It’s hard to overstate how important she was to the Sky’s offense; Chicago scored 21.6 more points per 100 possessions with her on the court than on the bench, and her presence boosted the Sky’s effective field goal percentage (eFG%) by over nine percent.

Chelsea Gray (Los Angeles Sparks)

Los Angeles Sparks v Connecticut Sun - Semi Finals - Game One Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Gray didn’t score as efficiently as we’re used to seeing from her, but her 2019 season was still All-WNBA caliber by anyone else’s standards. Gray assisted on 30.7 percent of her teammates’ baskets — a career high — and was marvelous in the clutch, scoring on a 76.1 percent true shooting percentage (TS%) in the last five minutes of five-point games.

Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics)

New York Liberty v Washington Mystics Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Delle Donne won her second WNBA MVP award this season, so it’s only right that she’d take home All-WNBA honors as well. Arguably the most talented scorer in the league, Delle Donne put up the first 50/40/90 shooting splits in WNBA history. In particular, she obliterated the free throw shooting threshold, knocking down a ridiculous 97.4 percent of her foul shots. She also made solid contributions on the glass, grabbing a career-high 22.9 percent of available defensive rebounds (DREB%) while on the floor.

Natasha Howard (Seattle Storm)

Connecticut Sun v Seattle Storm Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Winner of the 2018 Most Improved Player award, Howard continued to elevate her game in 2019. She ranked in the WNBA’s top three in both steals (2.2) and blocks (1.7) per game, rightfully earning her Defensive Player of the Year honors. The Storm could ill afford to take Howard off the floor; her on/off court net differential of +34.0 was the highest such figure in the league.

Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)

Minnesota Lynx v Phoenix Mercury Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Mercury may have had a disappointing season, but their star center delivered another big year. We’ve come to expect a lot of buckets and a lot of blocks from Griner, and she provided plenty of both, leading the WNBA in scoring (20.7 points) and blocked shots (2.0) per game. Griner’s points came efficiently (60.1 percent TS%), as usual, and she chipped in a career-high 16.8 percent assist percentage for good measure.

Second Team

Odyssey Sims (Minnesota Lynx)

Minnesota Lynx v Seattle Storm - Game One Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Lynx needed another player who is comfortable with the ball in her hands, and Cheryl Reeve’s trade for Sims gave them just that. In her first season in Minnesota, Sims led the Lynx in scoring (14.5 points per game) while assisting on 28.9 percent of her teammates’ baskets — also a team-high. Sims’ ability to get to the rim was particularly beneficial; her 7.4 points per game in the paint led all guards.

Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky)

Phoenix Mercury v Chicago Sky Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The uber-athletic DeShields dazzled in her second year in the WNBA, leading the league in fast break points and ranking second to Sims in points in the paint among guards. She also ranked fourth among qualified guards in rebounding percentage (REB%) (or third, if you consider Delle Donne a forward).

Jonquel Jones (Connecticut Sun)

2019 WNBA Finals - Game Two Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Expectations for Jones were high entering 2019, and she delivered on them. The 6-foot-6 forward ranked third among qualified players in REB% (16.3 percent) and second in second-chance points. Her size on the interior was crucial for the Sun, who were 23.1 points per 100 possessions better with Jones on the court than with her on the bench.

Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)

Los Angeles Sparks v Indiana Fever Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

The elder Ogwumike was perhaps the Sparks’ most reliable player in 2019, re-establishing herself as one of the WNBA’s premier power forwards. Ogwumike ranked fifth in the league with a 22.7 percent DREB% and remained one of the WNBA’s most efficient scorers both at the rim (68.1 percent) and in the paint (47.6 percent). Her 12 double-doubles were her most since she won MVP in 2016.

Liz Cambage (Las Vegas Aces)

Las Vegas Aces v Washington Mystics - Game One Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Cambage was this offseason’s biggest acquisition, and she was terrific in her first season in Vegas. While her per-game stats took a hit due to playing alongside stars like A’ja Wilson and Kayla McBride, Cambage remained highly effective, leading the WNBA in personal fouls drawn and ranking second in points in the paint. Her impact on defense was significant as well: Aces opponents were far less successful at getting to the free throw line when Cambage was on the court than when she was on the bench, and opposing OREB% also rose noticeably when she sat.