June 9, 2024 

Sunday Notes, Week 4: Maddy Siegrist, Aaliyah Edwards adjusting to speed of the game

The Next's weekly journey into trends and analysis from around the WNBA

Welcome back to Sunday Notes, your weekly journey into trends and analysis around the WNBA. Today we’re looking at young players dominating the game, from Maddy Siegrist’s breakout to the standout play from Cameron Brink and Aaliyah Edwards. For reference, since this notebook comes out on Sundays, I define “this week” as the prior Sunday through last night.

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Tankathon Check-in

To be clear, no one in the WNBA is currently tanking on purpose (at least, the players aren’t). That being said, let’s see where our teams are right now in the lottery standings and where they project to end up (chart vaguely organized by rightmost column):

Team:Games back in lottery1:Games back of No. 8 seed:Strength of schedule remaining (out of 12)2:Likely finish:
Washington54.57th-strongest (fifth-easiest)Top-two lottery odds
Los Angeles6.512Top-two lottery odds
Indiana1.5212No. 8 seed or bottom-two lottery odds
Chicago38.5———9No. 8 seed or bottom-two lottery odds
Dallas120.56Who knows?
Atlanta411-1.58Bottom-two playoff seed
1. Phoenix currently owns the top lottery odds, but that team is going to make the playoffs
2. Per Massey
3. Dallas owns the rights to swap picks with Chicago
4. Washington owns Atlanta’s pick

It is the official position of Sunday Notes that Dallas is unlikely to face real danger of missing the playoffs, but until we have more firm timelines on Natasha Howard and Satou Sabally’s injury rehabs, here we are.

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Dallas Wings

Maddy Siegrist, since she entered the Wings’ starting lineup: Six games, 16.8 points per game, 5.3 rebounds (3.0 offensive), 1.7 assists against just 0.8 turnovers, on 62.0 FG% and 35.7% 3P%. Over that span, she ranks 13th leaguewide in scoring average, third in offensive rebounding and fifth in scoring efficiency.

Siegrist is adjusting well this year to the speed of the professional game. She’s getting to her spots, thanks to finding space in the midrange and playing in transition. And Dallas has sorely needed her to; with Sabally and Howard still injured and Teaira McCowan not exactly building off of her eye-opening 2023, Siegrist has been the team’s No. 2 shot-creator of late. She has done this against the likes of Connecticut, Minnesota and Las Vegas as well, teams that aren’t exactly lacking in forward defense.

For Siegrist, the sophomore breakout is fairly straightforward. She is a player who operates on fairly quick touches and even quicker reactions — relatively limited athleticism means she beats defenders with her reaction time and decision-making. That means she is reliant on being able to stay on top of the tempo around her. As a rookie, the W was clearly moving too quickly for her, and her ability to make much of her touches was limited. This year, it’s looking a lot more like the Villanova star we knew.

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Los Angeles Sparks

The better a player is at hoop, the less words needed to describe her greatness. Such is the case with Cameron Brink’s defense.

Brink has been tasked with playing the 4 on both ends of the court, despite being the best paint defender on the Sparks’ roster. Why?

So she can do stuff like this:

Brink excels on the ball as well, though. She is taking everyone’s lunch money in the post …

… and even locking down star backcourt players on switches.

For as great of a defender as we thought Brink would be, the level of dominance she’s shown through the first month of her career has been unbelievable. She still has her issues with fouling, but currently leads the WNBA in block rate, per Her Hoop Stats, with a healthy steal rate to boot.

Now for the stats portion of the blurb. Brink is on pace to be the first rookie in league history to average at least 1.0 steals and 2.5 blocks, per Sports Reference, and among true rookies only Sylvia Fowles, Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker and Lauren Jackson have even gotten close. Los Angeles’ defense is over six points better per 100 possessions when Brink is on the court, per PBP Stats. Also per PBP Stats, the Sparks allow a rim FG% and rim frequency nearly 10 percentage points better when Brink is on the court, extraordinarily high numbers. Defenses even shoot considerably worse from the midrange when Brink is on the court, leading to a 2-point defense a full 10 percentage points better.

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Washington Mystics

Aaliyah Edwards arrived this week in full force. The Mystics’ rookie big played three games this week, averaging 15.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.3 stocks1 on 62.5% true-shooting in 31.0 minutes. And she did so against some tough frontcourt matchups, from Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones to Elizabeth Williams to Aliyah Boston.

The biggest thing that has started clicking for Edwards is the same as it was for Siegrist: adjusting to the speed of the game. Edwards was better at this from Day One than most rookies tend to be, as was visible in her timely cutting and defensive rotations, but she had her issues. The biggest among these was her finishing; per Synergy, Edwards had missed more than half her layup attempts over the first three weeks of the season.

Young players can often struggle with finishing as they adjust to the greater tempo and physicality of the pros, since it’s a skill that is so reliant on timing and proactively reading defenders. The best example of this is Jackie Young, who was an elite finisher in college but struggled mightily her rookie season in the W before gradually rounding into one of the best finishing wings in the league.

Not that every rookie who struggles at the rim should be expected to greatly improve at that over time. Young’s Notre Dame teammate, Arike Ogunbowale, was never a great finisher in college and has largely been mediocre at that in the pros. Having a track record of success matters when projecting young players (no pun intended).

Edwards had been a highly effective play-finisher at UConn since her junior year breakout. And after a strong Week Four, what do you know, she’s now hitting 57.6% of her layups, per Synergy. It makes sense that the Mystics’ “Duracell Bunny2 would take a bit of time to adjust to the WNBA, but as a player our draft scouting team lauded as the No. 3 collegiate prospect in the 2024 draft, Washington has every reason to be excited about what is still to come.

  1. Steals + blocks ↩︎
  2. Someone should really tell Julie Vanloo which company has a bunny as its … mascot? Symbol? How would you categorize the Energizer Bunny? ↩︎

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Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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