The Connecticut Sun's defense and Las Vegas Aces' offense stand out in Week 2 of the WNBA season - For The Win

1 month ago 26

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Player development is paying off for the Las Vegas Aces. That much is very clear through the first seven games of the season.

A’ja Wilson won WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2018 and MVP in 2020 and has already cemented herself as one of the top players in the game through four seasons. She accomplished all of that without even thinking about shooting threes. But now, Wilson embraces the shot with encouragement from new head coach Becky Hammon. She’s already made and attempted more threes this season than she did throughout her first four seasons combined, and it’s added a new dimension to the Aces’ offense.

The same can be said for Jackie Young, who is really embracing the three. Young shot 14/44 from distance in her rookie season and basically abandoned it the following two years (8/33). But, it’s back and perhaps better than ever. Young has already made 10 threes this season, and her 22 attempts show her confidence and willingness to take them.

Jackie Young and A'ja Wilson hitting back to back catch and shoot threes without hesitation for the first two Las Vegas opening possessions last night is about as much of a far cry as you can get from last year's team

Fitting on Laimbeer night

— Mark Schindler (@MG_Schindler) May 20, 2022

(Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sun’s defense is better this season, which is crazy to imagine considering their dominance in 2021. Connecticut is holding its opponents to a WNBA-low 72.2 points per game and has a league-best defensive rating of 90.5. The most impressive defensive stat of all is the 21.0 turnovers they’re forcing per game.

You read that correctly — 21.0 turnovers PER GAME.

With the loss of Briann January during the offseason, it was thought that the defense could slip a bit. Yet, perhaps only a few considered how January’s departure would only open up more opportunities for Natisha Hiedeman and DiJonai Carrington to see the court and flex their defensive muscles. On top of that, Alyssa Thomas’ return from injury is going about as well as anyone could have imagined.

You get some suffocating defense when you add what those three players are doing in their increased minutes from a season ago to the already great defensive lineups with Brionna Jones, Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas.

The Liberty finish with 32 turnovers, which is the worst mark in franchise history and just one short of the #WNBA record of 33. Final score 92-65, in favor of the Connecticut Sun. #OwnTheCrown #WNBA

— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) May 18, 2022

The Connecticut Sun are now 2-1 after dominating the Liberty 92-61. The Liberty drop to 1-4 and finished with the 2nd most turnovers in WNBA history with 32. Sun had 44 points off TOs.

— Rachel Galligan (@RachGall) May 18, 2022

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

This season’s rookies are knocking it out of the park. Not just the recently drafted rookies that are fresh out of college but also the ones who made their W debuts this season after playing professionally in other parts of the world.

Here are three who are impressing:

1. Rebekah Gardner

Gardner has come out of seemingly nowhere to provide the Chicago Sky with some offensive production. At age 31, the former UCLA Bruin is playing 26.5 minutes per game and averaging 9.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals. Such production has been vital for Chicago early on in this season as the team has dealt with player unavailabilities — specifically, Kahleah Copper’s overseas commitments.

Copper is fully back in the swing of things and finding her footing, but it shouldn’t take away from what Gardner has already done and will continue to do with her opportunities.

2. Rui Machida

Rui Machida is a native of Japan and her talents were really put on display during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She is currently beginning her W career in DC. She started a couple of games for the Mystics earlier in the season and has overall provided a very steady and reliable option to keep the offense functioning. She’s back to being a reserve, which suits her game a little better at this point.

Still, Washington has to be happy with the production its getting from its rookies already.

3. Kristy Wallace

Wallace got drafted by the Atlanta Dream out of Baylor University back in 2018. But didn’t make her first WNBA appearance until this year. Prior to the end of her senior season at Baylor, she sustained an injury which she rehabbed before returning and playing in Australia. Shortly after, she was injured again, thus keeping her away from a WNBA court until this season.

She is currently starting at guard, here in her first season in Atlanta and has fulfilled her duties nicely for a team that is off to a good start (4-2).

(Antranik Tavitian/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Monday, we get Liz Cambage’s return to Las Vegas. Not much was said about Cambage’s departure from the Aces but it seemed like a foregone conclusion all along. Is there any ill-will on either side? Was it a “basketball fit” thing? We won’t know, but it’ll be fun to watch her duel with A’ja Wilson when the Sparks and Aces meet.

Thursday’s matchup between Connecticut and Dallas might be the Game of The Week. Dallas’ backcourt of Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale has the Wings off to a 4-2 start, and the return of Satou Sabally has only added to their versatility and firepower. But as we know, Connecticut’s defense is arguably the best in the W. The Sun will have all the length in the world making things difficult for Dallas’ guards and it’s going to be fun to watch the two powers collide.

Read Entire Article