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Sylvia Fowles is the Impact Player of the Decade

Yeah, it’s an honor we just made up, but it’s one based in statistical fact. The Minnesota Lynx star has had the WNBA’s highest PIE rating three times in the 2010s, more than any other player. Not to mention her many titles and awards.

Minnesota Lynx 2018 Media Day
Sylvia Fowles
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The WNBA’s best shooters make themselves known game in and game out by their prolific ability to pour in points whenever and however they feel like it: Liz Cambage. Elena Delle Donne. Breanna Stewart. Diana Taurasi. A’ja Wilson. There are also those defensive-minded baddies who put the rest of the league on notice with their blocks, steals and rebounds: Alana Beard. Sylvia Fowles. Brittney Griner. And then there are those well-rounded players who regularly color in every cell of the box score: Sue Bird. DeWanna Bonner. Candace Parker. But does greatness in one area of the game, whether on offense or defense, suggest a player is a difference-maker for her team? Does a versatile player who contributes even a little in all areas make the biggest impact? Or, does it come down to players carrying out their duties with a high level of efficiency and minimal errors?

Enter the NBA’s Player Impact Estimate, or PIE, which “calculates a player’s impact on each individual game they play.” According to, “PIE measures a player’s overall statistical contribution against the total statistics in games they play in.”

The formula ...

“accounts for a player’s influence relative to each specific game,” according to the NBA, and, therefore, “eliminates statistical biases created by league, style of play or even era.” With just hours left in the decade, here are the players who made the biggest impact for their teams for each year of the 2010s:

Impact players of the 2010s

Because a player who appeared in just a few games in a given season could have a soaring PIE, only those who appeared in most games of the season — defined as a minimum of 30 games — are included.

2010: Sylvia Fowles (21.3 PIE)

17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.6 blocks

Connecticut Sun v Chicago Sky Getty Images

Then with the Chicago Sky, Fowles was in her third WNBA season and edging close to a double-double season average.

2011: Sylvia Fowles (20.0 PIE)

20.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.0 blocks

A season later, Fowles reached a double-double season average and was named the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year. She pops up again later in the decade.

2012: Tamika Catchings (19.4 PIE)

17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals

Minnesota Lynx v Indiana Fever - 2012 WNBA Finals Game Four Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Reaching peak efficiency 11 years into her WNBA career paid off big for Catchings. In 2012, she earned her fifth Defensive Player of the Year award, the most of any player, won her first championship and was named Finals MVP. When she retired after the 2016 season, Catchings had a secure grasp on the all-time steals record.

2013: Candace Parker (22.0 PIE)

17.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 blocks

Phoenix Mercury v Los Angeles Sparks - Game Three Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Keen to impact every aspect of the game, and fill in all the cells on the box score, Parker had a big 2013 by doing just that. Her efficiency and versatility led the Los Angeles Sparks to wins and earned Parker her second MVP award (she won the first in her 2008 rookie season), another All-Star nod and the All-Star Game MVP award. In 2016, she won her first championship and Finals MVP trophies.

2014: Maya Moore (19.3 PIE)

23.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.9 steals

Phoenix Mercury v Minnesota Lynx - WNBA Western Conference Finals Game 2 Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

True to the jaw-dropping reality of what she does on a basketball court, by 2014, Moore — drafted No. 1 overall in 2011 by the Minnesota Lynx — already had won two WNBA titles (2011, 2013) and a Finals MVP award (2013). She was named league MVP in 2014, and went on to win two more championships with the Lynx (2015, 2017).

2015: Elena Delle Donne (20.8 PIE)

23.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.1 blocks

2015 WNBA MVP - Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Impacting all aspects of the game and nearly a double-double season average paid off for Delle Donne in 2015. Her Sky team was swept in the Finals the year before but the Delaware native kept her performance high, resulting in the league MVP award. She was named Rookie of the Year just two years prior.

2016: Nneka Ogwumike (21.5 PIE)

19.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals

2016 WNBA Finals - Game Five Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Ogwumike dominates so quietly that sometimes her greatness is overlooked. But with the second-highest PIE score of the decade (just 0.5 behind Parker, whose 22 PIE tops everyone), her efficiency and versatility should be clear. In case it wasn’t, she was named league MVP in 2016 and won her first championship with the Sparks.

2017: Sylvia Fowles (20.7 PIE)

18.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.0 blocks

After dominating in PIE in the first two years of the decade, Fowles, now in Minnesota, continued her sheer excellence, winning her first championship and Finals MVP award (2015) and picking up her third Defensive Player of the Year award (2016). In 2017, she won her second title and Finals MVP trophies with the Lynx and she was named 2017 MVP.

2018: Liz Cambage (21.0 PIE)

23.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.6 blocks

Las Vegas Aces v Dallas Wings Photos by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images

Cambage having the season-high PIE rating in the year she scored 53 points in a game to make WNBA history and another 35 in the Dallas Wings’ next outing two days later — the combined 88 points in two games also a history-making feat — underscores the argument that she was the rightful MVP. She was the league-leading scorer that year, and an All-Star.

2019: Elena Delle Donne (21.1 PIE)

19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 blocks

A player doesn’t rise to the top of the PIE chart without crazy efficiency. In 2019, that person was Delle Donne, who became the first WNBA player to put together a 50/40/90 season, won her second MVP award and won her first championship, which also was the first for the Washington Mystics organization.


Franchises represented

Chicago Sky

Dallas Wings

Indiana Fever

Los Angeles Sparks

Minnesota Lynx

Washington Mystics

Franchises not represented

Atlanta Dream

Connecticut Sun

Las Vegas Aces

New York Liberty

Phoenix Mercury

Seattle Storm

Statistics in this report were compiled by Eric Nemchock.