July 16, 2022 

Daily Briefing — July 16, 2022: Sylvia Fowles is taking her dominance to another level

There's an argument to be made that Fowles is a top-five player all-time

Happy Saturday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, the daily Watch List and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 60 of the WNBA season is here, following more dominance by Sylvia Fowles and “insert one other Lynx here.” Where Thursday night it was Fowles’ historic double-double and Rachel Banham‘s 24 points coming up just short against Dallas, last night it was Fowles yet again recording a hyper-efficient double-double while Kayla McBride broke through for 28 points to turn a comeback into a comfortable win. Fowles isn’t in Candace Parker territory, where the Sky big is playing some of the best ball of her career in what might be her last season, but in Fowles’ final campaign, she remains nothing short of elite.

Here’s how Fowles’ per-game stats this season rank among her 15 seasons in the W:

  • Points: 8th
  • Field goal percentage: 2nd(!)
  • Attempts: 8th
  • Rebounds: 8th
  • Assists: 7th

But! Remember that she missed two weeks with a cartilage injury in her right knee and is now on a minutes restriction. Since June 23, Fowles has played just 24.4 minutes a game and has somehow turned up her game to another level. If we take her per-36-minutes marks over that span and compare them to the other per-36 seasons of her career, they would rank:

  • Points: 4th
  • Field goal percentage: 2nd
  • Attempts: 2nd
  • Rebounds: 2nd
  • Assists: 4th

Fowles has long been known as one of the most effective per-minute players in league history, and over this span she’s recorded three double-doubles in fewer than 30 minutes each. She already ranked first in W history in double-doubles under 30 minutes — roughly how long a good starter usually plays — per Her Hoop Stats. After last night, she’s added to her lead on 20-point, 12-rebound games in under 34 minutes, per HHS.

For her career, Fowles is the most efficient scorer in WNBA history (minimum 1,000 minutes or 50 games, whichever you prefer). And she’s widely (and correctly) regarded as the greatest defensive center in league history. With center easily being the most important defensive position in the sport, that gives her a case for the greatest defender ever. (That’s probably Tamika Catchings’ title, though.) She was the best player in a brief Chicago era that included a Finals appearance, then joined Minnesota for three straight Finals appearances as the second-best player in the greatest starting lineup in league history. She’s got an MVP to her name, four Defensive Players of the Year — second-most all-time, despite losing out to worse defenders in multiple years — and two rings.

Now, you can’t be the greatest of all time while not being the best on your own team (hello, Maya Moore). But Fowles has a resume that clears nearly every player in WNBA history. Is it enough to be top-five all-time? I think so.

But first, read:

W Roundup

Indiana: Waived combo guard Bria Hartley and signed combo forward Rennia Davis

Watch List, Saturday, June 16

(All times in Eastern)

Chicago @ Dallas, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network (Local: Marquee Sports Network, Bally Sports Southwest Extra)

Friday, July 15 recap

Minnesota (10-16) beat Indiana (5-21), 87-77. The Lynx led by eight within the first five minutes but trailed going into halftime; the Fever opened the second half with a 14-6 run, then gave up 15 unanswered points. The teams combined to shoot just 23.8% from three, but Minnesota shot 7.8 percentage points better from the field; the Lynx assisted on 26 of their 32 field goals; the teams combined for 42 fouls.

Off-ball guard Kayla McBride led Minnesota with a season-high 28 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field, 4-for-7 from three and 6-for-6 from the line, plus three rebounds and four assists; center Sylvia Fowles recorded a 22-point, 12-rebound double-double on 8-for-12 FG (6-6 FT) with four offensive boards, plus three assists and two blocks against four turnovers; backup combo forward Jessica Shepard had 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting (0-1 3pt.), three rebounds and five assists.

Indiana was led by combo guard Kelsey Mitchell’s 17 points on 4-for-14 shooting from the field, 1-for-7 from three and 8-for-8 from the line, plus five rebounds and four assists; backup off-ball guard Tiffany Mitchell had a season-high 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting (0-2 3pt.), two rebounds and three assists.

Connecticut (16-8) beat Atlanta (10-14), 93-68. The Sun jumped out to a 14-5 lead, and well, that was about it. Connecticut shot 22.7 percentage points better from three while taking 13 more free throws; the Sun won the rebounding battle by nine; the teams combined for 38 fouls.

Big wing Jonquel Jones led Connecticut with 21 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the field (2-3 3pt.) and 9-for-10 from the line, six rebounds, two assists and two steals against three turnovers; combo guard Natisha Hiedeman had 13 points on 4-for-10 shooting (2-5 3pt.), three assists and two steals without a turnover; big Alyssa Thomas notched 11 points on 4-for-9 FG, six rebounds and five assists.

The Dream were led by wing Tiffany Hayes’ 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting (1-3 3pt.) and six rebounds against six turnovers; backup big Naz Hillmon recorded her first career double-double with 13 points on 6-for-10 FG and a career-high 11 rebounds against four turnovers.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the Seattle Storm and college basketball for The Next, while also writing for The Chronicle, Duke's independent student paper

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