July 23, 2020
Crunching the numbers: WNBA player milestones (Part 1)
The 2020 season may be shorter, but many statistical milestones are still well within reach.
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Leaders leave a legacy. For years to come, Tamika Catchings will be peering down from the top of the all-time steals leader board waiting for the next player to challenge her 1,074 career takeaways. The late, great Margo Dydek has the defensive-minded Brittney Griner chasing her league-leading 877 career blocks, standing atop all others for 12 years now.
Those records aside, every year someone takes down a long-standing mark. Despite a shortened 2020 season, there’s no doubt we’ll see many notable leader board movements over the next month. Let’s dive into some player numbers to keep an eye on as the season gets going.
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles (34) shoots during the WNBA game between the Minnesota Lynx and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on July 06, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
Last season, Sylvia Fowles passed Lisa Leslie to become the league’s all-time leader in double-doubles (163) while passing both Leslie and Catchings to reach 2nd place in career rebounds (3,332), behind former teammate and current Minnesota Lynx assistant coach Rebekkah Brunson (3,356).
Look for Fowles to pass up Brunson to become the league’s all-time rebounding leader early in the season. It will take another season or two for Fowles to pass her up on the Lynx leader board, though. Brunson had 2,158 rebounds in Minnesota, and Fowles enters the season with exactly 1,500.
Based on career averages, around that time she’ll also likely join the 34 players in WNBA history with 400 career steals, starting the season with 397.
After parting ways with the Chicago Sky halfway through the 2015 season, Fowles has made quite an impression on the Lynx record books in her four-and-a-half seasons with the squad. She’s on the verge of 1,000 field goals made (973) for Minnesota, with a shot at passing Katie Smith — also now an assistant coach with the team — for the No. 4 spot in franchise history. Smith had 1,127 made field goals as the franchise’s first star.
Starting with 2,458 Lynx points, Fowles will almost certainly join Smith and fellow Lynx legends Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, and Lindsay Whalen as just the fifth player in franchise history with 2,500 points, passing up Brunson (2,463) in the process.
Candice Dupree (Indiana Fever)
Never the flashiest player, Candice Dupree has steadily made her way up the WNBA scoring leader boards over her 15 years. She is the all-time leader in two-point field goals made with 2,626, and she is second only to former teammate Diana Taurasi in field goals made, with 2,652 to Taurasi’s 2,725. Dupree enters the season tied with Katie Smith for fifth all-time in points (6,452), looking up at Cappie Pondexter (6,811), but unlikely to catch her in a shortened season.
She enters the season with 2,943 career rebounds (8th), looking to become the eighth player with 3,000 in her career and join only Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, and Tamika Catchings in the 6,000 point/3,000 rebound club.
In her fourth season with the Indiana Fever, Dupree is already making a mark on the franchise record books. Her next game will be her 100th with the team, and she’s the franchise’s active points leader (1,345) with an opportunity to reach the Fever’s all-time top-5, needing only 225 points to pass Ebony Hoffman (1,494) and Shavonte Zellous (1,569) to get there.
Her teammates are also making their own marks with the franchise. Erica Wheeler is right behind Dupree with 1,294 Fever points with her own shot at fifth or sixth, and Tiffany Mitchell (1,197 — 11th) and Natalie Achonwa (1,161 — 12th) can crack the top 10 this year.
The return of Victoria Vivians means another exciting perimeter shooter is active for the Fever. She made 65 threes in 34 games her rookie year, so she’ll have a shot at 100 this season. At her rookie year averages, she would get there around the 19th game of this season (the 53rd of her career), which would make her seventh-fastest to that mark, five games behind teammate Kelsey Mitchell and eight behind Catchings.
Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky)
Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot (22) during the WNBA game between the Connecticut Sun and the Chicago Sky at Wintrust Arena, Chicago, Illinois, USA on June 23, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
After Courtney Vandersloot set the single-season assists record in back-to-back seasons (258 in 2018 and 300 in 2019), it’s not likely we’ll see a new total assists record in 2020. However, she has also set the average assists record each of the last three seasons (8.1 in 2017, 8.6 in 2018, and 9.1 in 2019), so she can still aim to break that record once again.
Along the way, she’s set to pass Becky Hammon in career assists to take over fifth all-time while trailing behind Diana Taurasi immediately in front of her. Hammon had 1,708 assists, while Vandersloot enters the 2020 season with 1,685.
Vandersloot is also just five made field goals from 1,000, and she’ll be battling with wife Allie Quigley to see if either can overtake Sylvia Fowles as the Chicago Sky’s scoring leader. Fowles had 2,927 points with the Sky before departing for Minnesota, and entering this season, Vandersloot is next with 2,659, followed by Quigley with 2,656.
Quigley enters the season 40 made threes from 400 in her career. Just 21 players have reached that mark prior to the 2020 season. Among the rest of the Sky team, Stefanie Dolson (1,057) and Diamond DeShields (1,040) are not far off of entering the Sky’s top-10 in scoring all-time, needing to pass only Jessica Breland (1,061), Dominique Canty (1,116), and Cappie Pondexter (1,138) to get there. DeShields reached 1,000 Sky points last season in her 67th game; only Elena Delle Donne (52 games) and Candice Dupree (66 games) were faster in franchise history.
Angel McCoughtry (Las Vegas Aces)
The return of Olympian and five-time WNBA All-Star Angel McCoughtry means she’ll be back at making her mark in the record books once again. Before the season-ending injury that left her out of the 2019 season as well, McCoughtry was next in line to take her shot at Catchings’ all-time steals record. She enters this season with 597 total, 10th in league history, and she is currently 2nd in league history with 2.09 per game. (Catchings had 2.35 per game.)
She’ll almost certainly be the 10th to eclipse 600 steals in her career, and she’ll have a shot at passing Delisha Milton-Jones (619), Katie Douglas (623), Sancho Lyttle (631), and Jia Perkins (634) to get up to 6th in league history over the next 22 games.
If she’s up to her old slashing ways, McCoughtry could also make major moves up the free throws leader board. She has 1,439 free throws made with an opportunity to become the third player with 1,500 in her career, behind only Diana Taurasi (2,022) and Catchings (2,004).
And while it’s been nearly two full years since Angel last made a shot in the WNBA, she has 1,898 made field goals to her name, so she’ll be looking at becoming the 16th player to eclipse the 2,000 field goal mark by season’s end.
She also has some sharp-shooting teammates with the Aces. Both Kayla McBride (298) and Sugar Rodgers (297) can join the 41 players before them to make 300 shots from three, and Danielle Robinson could make her 1,000th field goal in the WNBA.
That concludes Part 1 of the 2020 Player Milestones preview. Part 2 will detail the remaining teams, coming soon.