Diamond Miller has dazzled with her drives. Jordan Horston’s athleticism is electric. Zia Cooke is a shooting spark. Dorka Juhász has been sure and steady. Haley Jones excites and intrigues. Grace Berger has played with poise. Morgan Bertsch already looks like a vet. Ivana Dojkić fearlessly fires 3s. Maddy Siegrist has embraced opportunities with eagerness. And Laeticia Amihere, Li Meng, Nyara Sabally, Sika Koné and Dulcy Fannkam Mendjiadeu have shown fun flashes.
But when it comes to evaluating the 2023 WNBA Rookie of the Year race, it’s a one-woman rout. Hello, Aliyah Boston!
With two Rookie of the Month nods and an All-Star starter selection already unlocked, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 Draft not only is—by far—the top rookie in the W, but also one of the best rookies of all time and already one of the best players in the league.
Aliyah Boston already is an offensive force
After an illustrious career at South Carolina, it was widely agreed that Boston would be an immediate impact player for the Indiana Fever. As a rookie, it was easy to envision her putting up solid—but not yet spectacular—numbers as she made smart plays on both ends of the court, all while showing signs of the player she would round into as she gained more experience.
Instead, Boston has burst onto the scene, establishing herself as an absurdly efficient offensive machine.
Her raw numbers are impressive enough, with 15.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Yet, it is her floor-establishing and ceiling-raising effects on the Fever that vault her above other 2023 rookies. When she is on the court, the Fever’s offensive rating is 105.8, a mark that puts her in the top 20 in the league, surrounded by members of the Aces and Liberty. More illustratively, Indiana’s offensive rating tanks to 88.6 when Boston is on the bench.
She is integral to Indiana’s offensive success because of her elite efficiency. Among high-minute players with significant usage, Boston trails only Jackie Young in true shooting percentage, with the rook posting a mark of 65.1 percent.
Boston can be even better
As a comparison, the previous South Carolina Gamecock who was the runaway Rookie of the Year after being selected No. 1 in the draft—A’ja Wilson in 2018—was much less efficient, with a true shooting percentage of 53.4.
Boston’s efficiency also outpaces arguably the greatest rookie season in WNBA history, when, in 2008, Candace Parker, whose signature shoes Boston now sports, was named Rookie of the Year and MVP. On a Sparks team with a strong supporting cast, Parker registered a true shooting percentage of 58.2.
However, Parker’s and Wilson’s scoring output both easily exceeded what Boston is producing because of their higher usage. When on the court, a rookie Parker finished 24.0 percent of LA’s offensive possessions, while a rookie Wilson led the league in usage at 28.9 percent. Boston’s usage pales in comparison, as only 18.7 percent of Indiana’s offensive actions end with her.
Boston creates much of her own offense through her intelligent instincts. She is second in the league in offensive rebounding and second-chance points per game, with averages of 3.2 and 4.0, respectively. If she received more intentional opportunities within the Indiana offense, she could post even splashier stats. And with additional WNBA seasoning, Boston likely will earn more than her current four trips to the foul line per game, further enhancing her ability to produce efficient offense. A sign of progress on this front is the career-high eight free throws she shot in the first game out of the All-Star break.
Aliyah Boston times the offensive rebound and gets the putback. pic.twitter.com/yxmFmmBlA4— Indiana Fever (@IndianaFever) June 16, 2023
In short, Boston’s rookie season promises to be merely the foundation of the edifice of excellence that she will build in the W, especially once things begin to translate on the other end of the floor.
...and even better!
Although she was the best defensive player in the nation through much of tenure at South Carolina, Boston’s demonstrable defensive abilities have yet to lift a Fever team that tends to trend toward leakiness on that side of the ball. Part of a starting unit that has struggled to establish defensive cohesion, she nevertheless has shown a penchant for defensive playmaking—with 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per game—that, eventually, should help her squad more consistently squash opponent’s offensive efforts.
So, Boston is not yet a perfectly polished pro. However, despite entering the WNBA with high expectations, she has exceeded them, all while injecting the Indy market, as well as the league at large, with effervescence.