July 25, 2020
Crunching the numbers: WNBA player milestones (Part 2)
The 2020 season may be shorter, but many statistical milestones are still well within reach.
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In Part 1, I detailed player milestones on the precipice for the Minnesota Lynx, Indiana Fever, Chicago Sky, and Las Vegas Aces. Part 2 is an up-close look at the remaining teams.
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)
Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (30) during the WNBA game between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on June 06, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
Even after opt-outs, the Los Angeles Sparks are still stacked with talent, including the franchise’s most recent regular-season MVP, Nneka Ogwumike. Steady as they come, Nneka enters the season with 1,934 career rebounds, practically a shoe-in to eclipse the 2,000-rebound mark, joining 23 players before her with a shot at cracking the top 20 this season or next. Tammy Sutton-Brown (2,010), Chasity Melvin (2,117), and Chamique Holdsclaw (2,126) stand in her way, along with the still-active DeWanna Bonner (2,072) also continuing her move up this summer.
She is also just 14 steals from 400 in her career; she would join Lisa Leslie, Delisha Milton-Jones, and current teammate Candace Parker as the only Sparks players to reach that mark in franchise history. League-wide, she would be just the 12th player with 2,000 rebounds and 400 steals.
Her teammates can also make some big moves this summer. Riquna Williams needs 33 made threes to reach 300 total in her career, and Chelsea Gray enters the season with 599 assists with the Sparks, likely to move up to at least sixth in franchise history, passing Nikki Teasley (631) and Milton-Jones (683) with Kristi Toliver (755) just in front of her at that point.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
The all-time WNBA blocks list is led by Margo Dydek (877) and Lisa Leslie (822), and last year Brittney Griner broke her tie with Sylvia Fowles and passed up Lauren Jackson (586) to take over third place by herself with 636 in her first seven years. She averaged a pair of blocks per game last year but has had as many as 4.04 per game in a season (2015). If she finishes 2020 somewhere between those two numbers, she’ll likely eclipse 700 career blocks as she continues to inch up on Dydek and Leslie.
Averaging over 20 points per game each of the last three seasons, an even better guarantee is Griner bumping her 3,667 career points up to the 4,000-point mark before the 2020 season ends. She would join teammate Diana Taurasi (8,575) and former teammate DeWanna Bonner (4,820) as just the third player to have 4,000+ points with the Phoenix Mercury.
Speaking of Taurasi, the Mercury’s longtime star still has plenty of history to make in her 16th season in the WNBA. She and former teammate Candice Dupree can both log their 450th career games, each moving up into the top eight all-time in that category.
If she’s fully recovered from the injuries that plagued her all last season, Taurasi will look to become the first WNBA player to reach the 9,000-point mark. She enters with 8,575 in her career and averaged over 20 points per game in her last full season (20.67 in 2018).
She’s also on the verge of becoming the fourth player with 2,000 career assists — she enters with 1,867 with the Mercury — and she enters the 2020 season with 294 blocks (good for 22nd all-time), so she could get to 300 this year.
Natasha Howard (Seattle Storm)
After leading the Seattle Storm through a season without franchise players Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, Natasha Howard will look to play a pivotal part in returning to the WNBA Finals with much of the 2018 championship squad back together.
Entering the season with 883 career rebounds, Howard needs just 117 to crack the 1,000-rebound mark and just 198 points to get to 2,000 in the seventh year of her WNBA career. After logging her 200th block last season, she needs just a pair of steals to get to 200 in that category as well.
As for her returning teammates, Bird and Stewart will look to get back in the game with some moves of their own. Just five steals behind Sheryl Swoopes (657), Bird will likely move up to fourth all-time in that category, knocking on Alana Beard’s door (710 career steals).
As for Stewie, it remains to be seen how she’ll bounce back from the Achilles injury that kept her out last season, but if she’s back to form, count on her crossing the 1,000-rebound mark — she has 888 entering the season — and regardless of her total production, she’ll almost certainly move up to 5th in Storm rebounds, needing just 15 to pass Tanisha Wright (903). She enters the season with 2,019 points, so she’ll also have a shot at passing former teammate Camille Little (2,367) for fifth in franchise scoring as well.
Jasmine Thomas (Connecticut Sun)
Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas (5) shoots during the WNBA game between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on June 06, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
After a busy free agency period for the Connecticut Sun, the Thomases remain the faces of the 2019 runners-up, led by point guard Jasmine Thomas in her sixth year with the squad.
Entering the season with 2,893 points, Jasmine will likely score her 3,000th in the WNBA in 2020. Both she and Alyssa (2,027 points with the Sun) will have a good chance at passing up Nykesha Sales (2,224), Tina Charles (2,243), and perhaps Lindsay Whalen (2,290) to get as high as third and fourth in franchise history in scoring. Only Asjha Jones (3,336) and Katie Douglas (2,574) are practically out of reach this year.
How far up the board Jasmine can move will depend on her ability to make threes. She made 45 of her 123 attempts last year to move her up to 293 made threes in her career, meaning she’ll likely get her 300th within the first couple of weeks this season.
New teammate DeWanna Bonner is no stranger to draining threes herself. She enters the season with 373, likely to log her 400th made three this year, and she needs just four steals to get the 400th takeaway of her career.
Emma Meesseman (Washington Mystics)
Reigning Finals MVP Emma Meesseman, also the longest-tenured active player on the Washington Mystics roster, will look to push a very different looking Mystics squad back to the Finals to defend their championship.
Over the 2020 season, she needs just 43 rebounds to get to 1,000 for her career, and though not known as a passer first, she needs just 50 assists this year to move up to third in franchise history, behind teammate Natasha Cloud (617) and Alana Beard (563). She would have to pass Mystics legends Chamique Holdsclaw (410), Ivory Latta (449), and Monique Currie (449) to get there.
New teammate Essence Carson has bounced around the league the past few years after a long stint in New York to start her career, bringing consistent shooting with her. After a down year in Phoenix, she needs just five made field goals to get to 1,000 in her career.
Elizabeth Williams (Atlanta Dream)
Now the longest-tenured active member of the Atlanta Dream, Elizabeth Williams enters the season with 988 career rebounds, likely to eclipse the 1,000-rebound mark in her first couple of games, and she’ll likely get her 1,000th with the Dream by the end of the season.
Entering with 258 blocks with the Dream, she’ll have a chance to pass up Erika de Souza (295) to become the franchise’s all-time leader, and when you add in her rookie year with the Connecticut Sun, she’s just 23 blocks from 300 in her career. She’s also just 137 points behind Iziane Castro Marques (1,591) for fourth in career points in Dream history.
The season will also be notable for its large group of rookies and young players with a chance to make their mark in a season like no other. The New York Liberty and Dallas Wings feature the two youngest teams in the league but feature several players on the verge of career milestones:
One of few Liberty vets, Amanda Zahui B. needs just eight blocks to get to 100 in her sixth season. She needs just 12 to pass Rebecca Lobo (84) for 10th on the Liberty blocks leader board.
Liberty newcomer but eighth-year guard Layshia Clarendon will eclipse 200 career games with her second game in 2020.
2017 Rookie of the Year Allisha Gray joins Kayla Thornton as the two “vets” for the Dallas Wings. With 1,115 career points, she needs just 216 points this year to move up to 10th in Wings/Shock history.
Speaking of Thornton, the fifth-year defensive specialist has added the three-ball to her arsenal in the last couple of years. She needs 12 more threes to get to 100 in her career.
Lastly, don’t let the Wings debut of fourth-year guard Moriah Jefferson get lost in onslaught of rookies. She can eclipse both 300 assists and 100 steals this coming season.