WNBA rookies report: Newcomers offer surprises by mid-season







Swish Appeal’s Nate Parham last week offered his mid-season assessment on the first-year WNBA players, who have now completed a half-season of their inaugural pro campaigns.

Surprises — Phoenix un-drafted rookie center Avery Warley “is by far the biggest surprise of the first half this season,” Parham told the MSR by phone. “Right now…she is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league.”

Next to Warley, who has a +8.53 efficiency rating, is Atlanta’s Aneika Henry (+10.32 efficiency rating), who “is doing an outstanding job with rebounding and adjusting to the WNBA,” added Parham.

The two rookie frontcourt players, both 6-3, have a combined 11 rebounds a game.

“What’s interesting about both players is that we don’t necessarily expect post players to come into the league and have that kind of impact on the boards right away,” continued Parham. “For Warley and Henry to come in their first year and have an impact for [two] potential playoff teams, I’m really impressive with both of them.”

San Antonio guard Shenise Johnson is
number one among drafted rookies.

To further support Parham’s claim, we calculated each player’s season points-per-game average and divided it by their minutes-per-game average. As a result, Warley tops WNBA rookies with 6.2 points per minute played — she is logging 18 minutes a game. Henry is second with 4.1 points per minute played.

San Antonio guard Shenise Johnson (fifth overall) is number one among drafted rookies (3.7 points per minute played). “I really like her as a rookie,” noted Parham. “She gives [San Antonio] a nice utility player who compliment what [Becky] Hammon and [Sophia] Young are doing. She was a big pickup for San Antonio.”

“I always had confidence in myself,” says Johnson. “You got to bring that and know you belong at this level.”

Behind her is Shekinna Stricklen of Seattle (second overall pick): “Stricklen has struggled a lot more in the WNBA,” said Parham. “She has an All-American talent but a role player’s mentality. I think she is still trying to figure it out where she can pick and choose her spots to score.”

“My teammates know the game very well, but I’m still learning,” admits Stricklen. “I think I’m over-thinking. I got to be a lot more aggressive.”

Before she broke her left hand in a July 5th game, 6-2 Minnesota forward Devereaux Peters (third overall pick) had posted 2.5 points-per-minute production mark. She probably would have a bigger role if she was on a lesser team, Parham pointed out.

“Peters fit so well with what the Lynx do,” summed up the Seattle-based writer, who believes Peters could be the heir apparent for veteran Taj McWilliams-Franklin “and do all the things from the high post that McWilliams-Franklin does.”

Seattle Storm forward
Shekinna Stricklen
Photos by Sophia Hantzes

As for first-half team surprises, Parham said, “I am mildly surprised by the [San Antonio] Silver Stars. They are doing everything else so well — they are a perimeter-oriented team, and they’re winning games despite the fact that they have this…rebounding weakness.”

Chicago tops his first-half team disappointments: “Every year you want that team to turn the corner, and for some reason, they haven’t,” said Parham on the Sky, who is last in the league in turnovers. “People complain about not getting the ball into [center Sylvia] Fowles enough, but a lot of turnovers are trying to get the ball to Fowles and literally throwing it out of bounds. They are trying to get the ball to Fowles — it’s not working.”

What to look for in the second half: Parham believes that among those clubs really benefiting from the time off is Minnesota, who’s trying to duplicate last season’s unprecedented success.

“They started off undefeated and everyone thought they were the best team ever,” he said. “I think by having a break, resetting and just focusing now on basketball” will benefit the Lynx.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.