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The Rookie Report: Cunningham’s big game, Shao’s first WNBA points and more

These four players may not be in the Rookie of the Year conversation, but their personal successes this week are more than notable.

Minnesota Lynx v Dallas Wings
Shao Ting scored her first-ever WNBA points for the Minnesota Lynx this week.
Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

Asia Durr. Napheesa Collier. Arike Ogunbowale. All are familiar names, establishing themselves as stars on their college teams and translating their games to the WNBA. As such, all have been in the conversation for Rookie of the Year at some point this season.

But this series, The Rookie Report, isn’t about those rookies. This is about the rookies whose names you might have heard in college who, for whatever reason, haven’t had quite the same impact in the WNBA. Three of the four were second-round draft picks this year, one was waived before the regular season began and another was cut in the 2017 preseason before getting another shot.

Every week (or so), we’ll take a look at a few under-the-radar rookies who have had notable performances over their past few games — career highs, game-winning shots and more. This certainly won’t be an exhaustive list, but we’ll try to get to as many of these rookies as possible throughout the season.

Here are this week’s four rookies to keep an eye on moving forward:

Maite Cazorla, Atlanta Dream

Washington Mystics v Atlanta Dream Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Maite Cazorla has been a quiet force for the Dream since the beginning of the season, averaging 3.9 points and 2.1 assists per game. She’s also scored in every game she’s played. This past week, Cazorla notched eight points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal in two games. While she wasn’t as lucky from three-point range, making just one of her six attempts, consider it an off-week — she normally averages around 30 percent, and topped out at 41.2 percent as a senior at Oregon.

See her play: The Dream plays the Storm on Friday at 10 p.m. ET (WNBA League Pass).

Shao Ting, Minnesota Lynx

Chicago Sky v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

After not appearing in a game since May 29, Shao Ting came off the bench in the Lynx’s last two games and grabbed her first WNBA points. The 2017 preseason invitee also played her most minutes as a member of Minnesota this week, notching seven minutes in the loss to the Wings and 11 minutes in the win over the Dream. Her six total points across both games over the past week were supplemented by three rebounds and an assist. While Shao might not quite be a go-to player for the Lynx, her potential is showing early.

See her play: The Lynx face the Sun on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2).

Megan Gustafson, Dallas Wings

Phoenix Mercury v Dallas Wings Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images

Since re-joining the Wings last month after being cut in the preseason, Megan Gustafson has shown shades of what made her such an effective player at Iowa: her high scoring efficiency. While her best game by far came in a seven-point, eight-rebound effort against the Aces on June 22, her past three games have seen her go 6-for-8 from the floor, grab eight total rebounds and not miss a shot from the free throw line. Gustafson’s spot on the Wings still isn’t assured, with the roster in seemingly constant flux, but no one can say she isn’t making the most of the second chance she’s been given.

See her play: The Wings host the Fever on Friday at 8 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network).

Sophie Cunningham, Phoenix Mercury

Las Vegas Aces v Phoenix Mercury Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

On a Mercury team with a lot of new faces, Sophie Cunningham has emerged as the rookie to beat. And this past week has only cemented that status, as she exploded for a career-high 19 points off the bench against the Fever on June 28 and added seven points against the Storm in the very next game. Against Indiana, Cunningham also tied her career-high with three rebounds and dished her first two WNBA assists. If this output is the baseline Cunningham is trying to set for the rest of her career, the Mercury could sure use it right now.

See her play: The Mercury take on the Liberty on Friday at 10 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network).