Although eliminated from the playoffs, the Dallas Wings have continued to play as if they have lots to gain. And, they do — starting with the opportunity to further jell as a team, the chance for rookies and players new to the team to get minutes and, of course, for pride. For guard Arike Ogunbowale, please add “secure Rookie of the Year award” to her list.
In the Wings’ 102-72 loss to the two-seed Connecticut Sun on Wednesday, Ogunbowale was the force behind 44% of Dallas’ offense. As with many of her big offensive performances this season, those 32 points did not manifest into a win for Dallas. Still, Ogunbowale’s ability to score 20 points or more for a ninth-straight game — a rookie record — cannot be denied. As she develops as a point guard, her low plus/minus (minus-31 against the Sun) will improve as she learns to create offense for others. For now, with the postseason off the table for the Wings, Ogunbowale is campaigning for the Rookie of the Year award, one basket at a time, and it seems Wings coach Brian Agler has given her the green light to do so.
Her efforts in August — 24.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game — earned her the Rookie of the Month award. She also won it in June.
Ogunbowale’s biggest rival in the ROY race is Napheesa Collier of the Minnesota Lynx, a 2019 WNBA All-Star and winner of the Rookie of the Month award for July. It was after Collier’s monster June and July that Ogunbowale went ballistic. Collier’s Lynx, sixth in the standings (two games behind the fifth-seed Chicago Sky), are playoff-bound. The UConn product hasn’t commanded big headlines, though — her championship teammates have assured balanced efforts on both sides of the ball. But many consider Collier’s game to be more well-rounded than Ogunbowale’s and, therefore, more ROY-worthy.
Side-by-side, here’s how the rookies at the top of the ROY race compare in terms of season averages:
2019 WNBA ROY RACE
The areas of strength and weakness are apparent, with Collier besting Ogunbowale in efficiency and Ogunbowale besting Collier in production. So, how will this be settled for voters? Will it come down to the impact the rookie has on her team? The team’s record? With Collier getting an All-Star nod, will voters choose to recognize Ogunbowale with the ROY trophy?
No matter which way the voting swings, Ogunbowale and Collier have demonstrated poise under pressure, they have dazzled fans and they have conducted themselves like championships, on and off the court. For these reasons, whether the ROY award goes to the guard from Dallas or the forward from Minneapolis, both should be celebrated for outstanding rookie seasons.
The ROY battle continues Friday night when Ogunbowale and the Wings take on the top-seeded Washington Mystics in the nation’s capital and Collier and the Lynx face the Phoenix Mercury in the desert.
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Other August awards
Here are the other awards for August:
Players of the Month
Elena Delle Donne (Eastern Conference) helped the Washington Mystics to a 9-2 record in August with 20.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 98.3% free-throw shooting per game. In the Western Conference, Brittney Griner’s 22.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.25 blocks per game in August kept the Phoenix Mercury (5-6) alive for a playoff spot.
Elena Delle Donne also won the award in June and July, for the full season sweep. In the Western Conference, Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks won it in July and Natasha Howard of the Seattle Storm Won it June.
Coach of the Month
Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault led his team to a WNBA-best 9-2 record.
Thibault also won the Coach of the Month in June. Bill Laimbeer of the Las Vegas Aces won it in July. Any chance Chicago Sky coach James Wade could take Coach of the Year after pulling the team from the bottom of the 2018 standings to the fifth seed this year?
WNBA Cares Community Assist Award
Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas has immersed herself in the league’s Breast Health Awareness (BHA) initiative. Thomas has devoted her time to fighting breast cancer since her Duke days, when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.