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WNBA Six Pack: Identifying who might extend the W’s triple-double trend

A total of 10 triple-doubles have been achieved during the 2023 season by six different players. Who is likely to join the sextet of triple-doublers before season’s end?

2022 WNBA Finals - Las Vegas Aces v Connecticut Sun
Alyssa Thomas owns five of the 10 triple-doubles recorded by WNBA players this season, while Chelsea Gray authored the most recent one.
Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Last Thursday, when the Las Vegas Aces (somewhat) avenged their Commissioner’s Cup Championship loss to the New York Liberty, Chelsea Gray put on a Point Gawd-worthy performance, posting her second-career triple double with 22 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.

Her single-game statistical accumulation added to what ESPN has called a “triple-double explosion.” Alyssa Thomas, of course, is the combustion engine most responsible for igniting this explosion; she owns five of the 10 triple-doubles recorded in 2023. The others belong to Gray, Natasha Howard, Satou Sabally, Courtney Williams and Sabrina Ionescu.

So, who’s next?

For this week’s editions of “WNBA Six Pack,” we’ll nominate new triple-double candidates from all 12 team, beginning by selecting members of the Sun, Aces, Wings, Sky and Liberty who can join their teammates as triple-doublers. The Mercury, who have a 2022 triple-double earner Moriah Jefferson on their roster, will round out the six.

Connecticut Sun (22-10): Tiffany Hayes

Minnesota Lynx v Connecticut Sun
Tiffany Hayes.
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sun’s overwhelming reliance on the do-it-all Thomas makes it hard to imagine another player getting enough of an opportunity to total a triple-double, especially in the assist category. Thomas plays almost 37 minutes per game, serving as the primary initiator of the Sun offense. Her assist percentage is 36.2 percent, more than double that of Ty Harris, whose 17.7 percent is second-highest among Connecticut’s regular rotation players. Harris, however, has never grabbed more than five rebounds in a game; her playing time also fluctuates.

Tiffany Hayes, who averages approximately 27 minutes per game, is a better bet. As Eric Nemchock noted in his recent analysis of the Sun, Hayes has the ability to assume a greater offensive burden. While she only averages 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game this season, her single-game career highs in each category are 11 and 8, respectively.

Las Vegas Aces (28-4): Jackie Young

New York Liberty v Las Vegas Aces
Jackie Young.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

With three-time triple-doubler Candace Parker out of the lineup indefinitely, Jackie Young takes the triple-double candidate crown for the Aces. Before she blossomed into a certified sharpshooter, it seemed Young’s path to WNBA stardom would be paved with box score-stuffing performances. She not only possesses the physicality needed to bang on the boards, but, earlier in her career, she also served as a primary ball handler.

If asked to assume more initiation responsibility, Young could show she is capable of dishing 10 assists, a number she twice reached as a rookie during the 2019 season. On the boards, her career best is 11.

Dallas Wings (18-14): Arike Ogunbowale

Connecticut Sun v Dallas Wings
Arike Ogunbowale.
Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

As Edwin Garcia recently analyzed, Arike Ogunbowale does it all for Dallas.

We know putting up points is not a problem for Arike. And as Edwin noted, her passing and rebounding have improved this season. She leads the Wings with 4.4 assists per game, with her career-high 11 dimes coming earlier this season. Her 3.5 rebounds per game also is a career best, although the most she has grabbed in a single game this season is six, which is not quite in near triple-double territory.

However, because she leads the league with 37.1 minutes per game, Ogunbowale certainly will have the opportunity to match Satou Sabally’s and Natasha Howard’s triple-doubles.

Chicago Sky (12-20): Marina Mabrey

Chicago Sky v Dallas Wings
Marina Mabrey.
Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

While Kahleah Copper is Chicago’s best player, her role for this season’s Sky team is as a play finisher, evidenced by her career-high 18.7 points per game. Her rebounding and assist averages, in contrast, have both dropped off last season’s career highs.

Marina Mabrey, then, profiles as a stronger candidate to join Courtney Williams, Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot on the Sky’s all-time triple-double list. Chicago already is the only franchise to have three different players register a triple-double. Might Mabrey make it four?

In her career, Mabrey has crossed into double-digit assists just once, tossing a career-best 10 early last season. On the glass, she has grabbed eight rebounds three times in her career, all in the 2021 season.

New York Liberty (25-7): Courtney Vandersloot

New York Liberty v Phoenix Mercury
Courtney Vandersloot.
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

As noted above, Courtney Vandersloot has a triple-double to her name. In 2018, she had 13 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in a Sky victory over the Wings.

Two other times, she approached the milestone, with a 24-point, 15-assist and nine-rebound performance in 2018 and a nine-point, 13-assist and nine-rebound effort in 2019. This season, she came closest to the feat in an early June game against her former team, when she had 18 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

Accumulating assists isn’t a concern for the player who barely trails Alyssa Thomas for most assists per game in the 2023 season, with 8.0 for Vandersloot to Thomas’ 8.1. But with the surging Liberty’s bevy of bucket and board getters, New York often doesn’t need double-digit scoring and rebounding production from their point guard. In terms of scoring, Sloot has slipped below 10 points per game for the first time since 2016.

Phoenix Mercury (9-23): Diana Taurasi

New York Liberty v Phoenix Mercury
Diana Taurasi.
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Considering she dropped a career-high 42 points in the game in which she passed the 10,000-point mark, it would not be shocking if, even at the advanced basketball age of 41, Diana Taurasi messed around a got her first career triple-double, adding yet another achievement to her legendary ledger.

Taurasi came closest back in 2016, when she had 29 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, albeit in an overtime game. In her career, she has snagged at least 10 rebounds on eight occasions, most recently in 2021. Her career best of 13 came in 2009.

Considering she ranks fifth all-time in total assists, it is unsurprising that she has tossed at least 10 dimes in 15 regular-season games, including in a late-May Mercury victory earlier this season. She leads Phoenix with 4.8 assists per game, a mark that exceeds her overall career average.

Thanks to the essential Across the Timeline for making research for this piece incredibly easy.