Congratulations to the Dallas Wings’ Satou Sabally, winner of the 2023 KIA WNBA Most Improved Player Award.
Sabally claimed 37 of 60 votes from a panel of media members. The Los Angeles Sparks’ Jordin Canada finished second with 18 votes, while the Chicago Sky’s Alanna Smith was third with three votes. The Minnesota Lynx’s Napheesa Collier and Washington Mystics’ Brittney Sykes each received one vote.
Safe to say @satou_sabally has taken her game to the next level this season— WNBA (@WNBA) September 21, 2023
11.3 PPG ➡️ 18.6 PPG
4.8 RPG ➡️ 8.1 RPG
2.1 APG ➡️ 4.4 APG
0.5 SPG ➡️ 1.8 SPG
23.3 3PT% ➡️ 36.1 3PT%#KiaMIP #MoreThanGame pic.twitter.com/0a1NZXiDz6
The No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft and a two-time All-Star, Sabally blossomed into a certified star in her fourth season in the WNBA, posting career bests across the board with 18.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game. She is the second player in Wings franchise history to win the award, joining Skylar Diggins-Smith (2014).
Satou Sabally actually is a unicorn
Over the last decade, “unicorn” emerged as a fashionable moniker, most prominently applied to young NBA players who, despite approaching or exceeding 7-feet tall, had the theoretical ability to operate as an offensive threat from the perimeter while maintaining a more traditional post skillset. Theoretical, however, is the key word, as many of these promising prospects failed to realize the multidimensional potential projected onto them.
With Satou Sabally, the theory has been put into practice. Especially in 2023. After nagging injuries limited her court time during her first few seasons in the W, Sabally remained mostly healthy this season and, in turn, showed off the full complement of her skillset.
Satou Sabally is very good at basketball. pic.twitter.com/Dk1vWw8b97— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) September 21, 2023
When at her best, she looks like the byproduct of two unicorn-esque players: Candace Parker and Alyssa Thomas. Defensively, Sabally more resembles Thomas. Although 6-foot-4 like Parker, her rim protection is not at Parker’s level. She instead thrives as a versatile defender like Thomas, using physicality and athleticism to hold up inside or on the perimeter. As with Thomas, Sabally’s combination of physicality and athleticism translates to the offensive end, most evident in her ability to power her way through defenders for scores at the basket. It seems more than possible that Sabally could further improve into Thomas-like triple-double threat, albeit with a midrange and 3-point shot more reminiscent of Parker. This season, Sabally registered her first triple-double, with a very Thomas-like stat line of 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
In Dallas’ first-round playoff victory, Sabally sealed her leap into superstardom. In Game 1, she dropped 32 points, shooting 55 from the field, 60 percent from 3 and 100 percent from the line. She also added five boards, four assists and four steals. In Game 2, she finished with a more modest 13 points on average efficiency. Yet, the Wings were plus-20 when she was on the court, highlighting how her impact, and thus her improvement, extends beyond counting stats.