Well, this was unexpected.
Not the award recipients — the actual announcements. The WNBA's Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive Teams were originally slated to be announced on Friday (September 2), until that was bumped up to a noon ET release on Tuesday.
(It would've been nice to have an earlier heads-up; altering the schedule is one thing, but announcing the change roughly 30 minutes before the new time was... let's just call it odd!)
Aces star A'ja Wilson was named Defensive Player of the Year. Her box-score numbers speak for themselves; she led The W in blocks (1.9), ranked second in defensive rebounds (7.6) and finished just outside the top-10 in steals (1.4).
Beyond that, her versatility at the 5 allowed the Aces to toggle through multiple schemes. They were an aggressive, hard-hedging group to begin the year. We've seen them settle into drop coverage, and also switch across the board in an effort to minimize advantages with screening actions. That versatility wouldn't exist without the work A'ja did.
The voting results were as follows (56 total):
- A'ja Wilson, Aces (20)
- Alyssa Thomas, Sun (14)
- Breanna Stewart, Storm (13)
- Sylvia Fowles, Lynx (4)
- Natasha Cloud, Mystics (2)
- Jonquel Jones, Sun (2)
- Allisha Gray, Wings (1)
It's worth noting that the ballot for WNBA DPOY operates a little differently than the NBA side. Award voters for the NBA are asked to give their top-three choices, but WNBA voters only select the winner.
The voting tally — how many people voted for each player — for the All-Defensive Teams haven't been released (at least as far as I've seen), but we do have those results as well.
G: Natasha Cloud
G: Ariel Atkins
F: Breanna Stewart
F: A'ja Wilson
C: Sylvia Fowles
G: Brittney Sykes
G: Gabby Williams
F: Alyssa Thomas
F: Ezi Magbegor
C: Jonquel Jones
Right away, a couple things jump out for me. Fowles making an All-Defensive Team, especially the First Team, is a nice bow to place on a legendary career. Even at this stage of her career, she was able to hold her own in drop coverage, managed to finish third in defensive rebounds (7.3) and was one of seven players to average at least one steal (1.0) and one block (1.2) per contest. Fowles should be remembered as one of the most dominant defenders of all-time.
She also shouldn't have made a team, much less the first one.
Part of the reason she made the First Team was confusion over how to list Wilson. Wilson has started at the 4 for most of her career, but has held down the 5 for the Aces for the majority of the season. I understand how that dynamic, in addition to Wilson still being listed as a forward on the W's official site, could confuse the voters. However... Wilson was the center this year. She started there, handled the jump balls and, more importantly, defended centers for a large chunk of the season.
If Wilson gets voted in as a center, that would've dropped Fowles to the Second Team while opening up a forward spot for Thomas. It's a little odd that Thomas wound up on the All-Defensive Second Team despite finishing second in DPOY voting.
As much as I respect Fowles' career and her being a solid defender at this stage, I'm not sure a Second-Team nod would've been appropriate either.