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Rookie of the Year Debate: It’s Aliyah Boston over everybody

The Indiana Fever’s Aliyah Boston should be the unanimous Rookie of the Year. But the rookie seasons of Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász, both of the Minnesota Lynx, and Jordan Hortson of the Seattle Storm also are worth celebrating.

Los Angeles Sparks v Indiana Fever
Aliyah Boston has turned in an all-time rookie season.
Photo by Pepper Robinson/NBAE via Getty Images

Yes, the Indiana Fever’s Aliyah Boston is going be the 2023 Rookie of the Year. And yes, she should win the award unanimously.

Yet, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to celebrate Boston’s all-time excellence. There’s also space to give recognition to other rookies, who, while not on Boston’s level, have put together WNBA debut season’s worth celebrating. For the Minnesota Lynx, not only has Diamond Miller flashed superstar potential, but Dorka Juhász appears poised for a long and productive WNBA career. Additionally, the Seattle Storm seemed to have found a keeper in Jordan Horston.

After Eric Nemchock highlights Boston’s awesomeness, Edwin Garcia, Cat Ariail and Chelsea Leite offer acclaim for Miller, Juhász and Horston, respectively.

Aliyah Boston (Indiana Fever)

Indiana Fever v Las Vegas Aces
Aliyah Boston.
Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

There’s been an aura of stardom surrounding Boston long before she entered the WNBA, and the Fever drafted her at No. 1 overall in 2023 in hopes that she’d lead the languishing franchise back to relevance within the league.

The early returns, needless to say, are looking good. Boston’s impact on the Fever was immediate; the 6-foot-5 center is already one of the most efficient scorers in the WNBA, scoring 14.3 points per game on a league-best 57.4 percent shooting from the field (61.8 percent true shooting). She’s also been a one-woman wrecking crew on the boards, leading the WNBA in total offensive rebounds (119) and ranking third in offensive rebounding rate at 11.7 percent, according to Basketball Reference.

Boston’s talents are just as impressive on the other end of the court, which should not surprise anyone who watched her play her collegiate ball for the South Carolina Gamecocks. It can be difficult for centers to adjust to life in the WNBA due to the defensive three seconds rule and the numerous pick-and-roll coverages they need to learn, but Boston has made the transition seamlessly; she’s one of just nine WNBA players to average at least one steal and one block per game (Across the Timeline), and her 2.62 combined steals and block (“stocks”) per game ranks seventh among those players.

It’s clear the Fever have themselves a franchise building block in Boston, and her statistical case for Rookie of the Year is airtight. The question, at this point, is not whether she will win the award in 2023, but just how far she’ll take the Fever in the future. — Eric Nemchock

Diamond Miller (Minnesota Lynx)

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx
Diamond Miller.
Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Although Aliyah Boston likely will be the 2023 Rookie of the Year, we can not ignore the season Diamond Miller has had.

She is averaging 11.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists, and she is already a top three scorer for the Minnesota Lynx. She had a standout performance against the New York Liberty in July, when she scored 22 points. She also recently had a 24-point performance against the Chicago Sky.

Her impact on the Lynx has been immediate. Thanks to Miller’s season, the Lynx will return to the playoffs this year, allowing the entire WNBA world to soon see her performing in high-stakes games. With her ability to dominate with her scoring and rebounding, Miller has made a case not just for Rookie of the Year, but also to be one of the focal points of a Lynx team that is creating a new identity in the post-Sylvia Fowles era. — Edwin Garcia

Dorka Juhász (Minnesota Lynx)

Las Vegas Aces v Minnesota Lynx
Dorka Juhász.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Something special seems to happen when the Minnesota Lynx have the 16th selection in the WNBA Draft. And the Lynx have something special in this year’s No. 16 pick, Dorka Juhász.

As former Swish Appeal contributor Jim Savell highlighted in 2020, Nicky Anosike, chosen by the Lynx with the 16th pick in the 2008 draft, is the best No. 16 selection in WNBA history. Her closest competition for the honor? Two recent Lynx picks: Jessica Shepard in 2019 and Crystal Dangerfield in 2020.

While Juhász will not win Rookie of the Year, she should be a unanimous All-Rookie honoree, her first step in becoming the best No. 16 pick in Lynx, and WNBA, history.

The Lynx have improved over the course of the 2023 season, and so has Juhász. In May, as Minnesota stumbled through a winless start to the season, Juhász was playing less than 10 minutes per game, shooting a frigid 22.2 percent on less than two field goal attempts per game. Her September stat sheets look much different. Although three games is a super-small sample size, her 10.0 points, 12.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 33 minutes per game illustrates her in-season growth. Minnesota also is 2-1 in September.

In the intervening months, Juhász showed steady progress, gaining the trust of notoriously crusty head coach Cheryl Reeve as a regular rotation player for the Lynx. Her signature moments might have come in the Lynx’s back-to-back Napheesa Collier-less wins over the Liberty in New York and Sun in Connecticut in late July. After notching a double-double of 13 points and 10 boards against the Liberty, she had the game-sealing block on the Sun’s DeWanna Bonner.

As her career progresses, Juhász needs to become a more efficient shooter—on 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws—to operate optimally as a modern, versatile 5-woman. For now, she’s another No. 16 pick success for the Lynx. — Cat Ariail

Jordan Horston (Seattle Storm)

Seattle Storm v Atlanta Dream
Jordan Horston.
Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

Jordon Horston had a successful college basketball career at the University of Tennessee, averaging 16.2 points per game in her junior season and 15.6 points per game as a senior. In her final college season, Tennessee made it to the final of the SEC Tournament (losing to South Carolina) and to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament (losing to Virginia Tech).

While widely projected to be selected in the lottery in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Horston dropped to the ninth overall pick and the Seattle Storm. This ended up being a great place for her. Not only did Seattle have a lot of roster spots to fill, but they also needed to develop young talent as they enter an intense rebuilding phase. Horston got a lot more minutes and experience than the average WNBA rookie—something that will help her as she continues her career.

In over 22 minutes per game for the Storm this season, Horston has averaged 6.9 points and 1.6 assists per game. Beyond the stat sheet, she’s crafty in the paint and has not been afraid to take her shots when given the chance. Seattle has pretty much given her the green light to experiment and find her place on a professional basketball court, and it’s showing. She has an on-court maturity far past that of a rookie thanks to her extended playing time.

If Seattle wasn’t a lottery team this season, Horston would probably be getting a bit more love for her play. She’s an exciting prospect who should be receiving some All-Rookie votes. — Chelsea Leite