The Dallas Wings sit at 16-14 and in the driver's seat for the fourth seed in the WNBA playoffs, which would grant them homecourt advantage in a first-round matchup. This is a surprising season for Dallas as most, including our own projections, had them well below a fourth seed in the standings. And while Satou Sabally and Natasha Howard have a lot to do with the Wings' success, Arike Ogunbowale shines brightest.
The three-time All-Star guard is having a career year with highs in assists (4.4), rebounds (3.5), steals (1.6) and minutes played (37). She's also averaging 20.9 points per game, just a bucket shy of the career-high of 22.8 she achieved in 2020 in the Wubble.
So what makes Ogunbowale such an effective player?
Arike the shooter
8 PTS TO START THE GAME FOR ARIKE pic.twitter.com/GHabkYs0Hi— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) August 3, 2023
No one takes more shots from beyond 25 feet than Ogunbowale. She's averaging 3.5 attempts and converting on 32.1 percent of those shots. Only Sabrina Ionescu is comparable, with Ionescu attempting 3.3 deep attempts and converting on 38 percent of them. That's good company to be in!
Because of Ogunbowale’s ability to pull up from anywhere, defenses are forced to pick her up immediately and react to her the moment she has the ball. If she lets it fly, it could be a devastating bucket. If you try to apply pressure, she can drive right past you and attack the paint. And with Howard and Sabally available, she also has plenty of opportunities to facilitate, which she does it better than anyone on the Wings as she leads the team in dimes.
When guarding Arike, you're not a point-of-attack defender. You're a pawn trying not to get killed and comprise the other pieces on the board.
Arike the ankle breaker
When it comes to the art of dribbling, few players can match Ogunbowale. Her speed, ability to change angles and threat as a three-level scorer make her a menace to defend.
Ogunbowale will often take a "bad shot" when she's decently guarded 10-plus feet away from the basket. She seemingly just decides she'll take the shot at that particular moment, but, unlike many players, she'll actually make it. A perfect example is featured in the above clip. Yes, Ogunbowale crosses the Connecticut Sun’s Natisha Heideman, but that only gives her a little space on the left-hand side for what ends up being a very long two-point attempt. But for Arike, that's an in-rhythm shot; she doesn't hesitate for a second and makes it with ease.
A killer crossover mixed in with a quick release is tough to stop and few defenders can give Ogunbowale much trouble.
Arike the defender
Good defense leads to offense and Ogunbowale is a prime example of that.
Being a starting guard in the WNBA means you'll be defending some of the most athletic players on the planet night in and night out. You have to be quick, smart, strong and aggressive. In 2023, Ogunbowale has met this challenge and passed with flying colors. Her 1.6 steals per game is sixth best in the league and just decimal points away from making the top three in the W.
She's also rebounding the ball better, an area she has improved on year after year. And while she's not known for her blocks, she's had a few memorable ones, like the rejection against the Seattle Storm's Jewell Loyd posted above, where Ogunbowale recovered the ball and went coast to coast for the bucket.
The only thing worse than Ogunbowale getting a rebound, steal or block on you is the consequences afterward. If she maintains possession, she's off to the races. With her handle, passing ability and eagerness to pull the trigger from anywhere on the floor, she can quickly turn a routine play into a fastbreak.
Already exceeding expectations, the Wings now look to get greedy and prepare for a deep playoff run.
I'm not sure how far Dallas will go with a couple of superteams waiting for them in a potential second-round matchup, but I know they'll go as far as Ogunbowale can take them. With a player as talented as she is, the Wings will always have a chance to pull off an upset.
Stats current as of August 18.