September 14, 2022 

The Next’s 2022 WNBA Awards: All-WNBA

The Next’s official 2022 WNBA awards wrapping up with All-WNBA

Welcome to The Next’s official1 2022 WNBA awards, wrapping up with All-WNBA. A panel of 13 of our WNBA beats, analysts and reporters submitted full awards ballots, selecting their top 10 candidates for All-W recognition, separated into First and Second Teams. In accordance with how the W scores ballots, players received five points for a First Team vote and three points for a Second Team vote.

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With the WNBA making its All-W teams positionless this year, voters’ First Teams were identical to their MVP ballots. As such, four-fifths of our top MVP vote-getters also made our First Team All-WNBA. The lone exception was Connecticut big Alyssa Thomas, who received less down-ballot support than Los Angeles big Nneka Ogwumike.

Chart showing the First Team, with A'ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart with 65 points from 13 First Team votes, Kelsey Plum with 56 points from 10 First Team votes and 2 Second Team votes, Skylar Diggins-Smith with 52 points from 8 First Team votes and 4 Second Team votes, and Nneka Ogwumike with 42 points from 3 First Team votes and 9 Second Team votes. A footnote says that players received five points for a First Team vote and three for a Second Team vote

Breanna Stewart’s honor gives Seattle its seventh First Team selection over the past seven seasons; no other team has had more than five. A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum make this year’s Aces the fifth team since 2009 to have two players make First Team, following the 2013 Lynx (Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus), 2014 Mercury (Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner), 2017 Lynx (Moore, Sylvia Fowles) and 2021 Storm (Stewart, Jewell Loyd). Skylar Diggins-Smith becomes the 18th player in league history to be named First Team in back-to-back years2 — and likely the second Phoenix point guard to be traded right after an All-WNBA season. Ogwumike is the 18th First Team selection in Sparks history, tied for second-most in WNBA history (one selection shy of Phoenix).

Plum’s selection was also her first All-WNBA honor. And our Second Team features a couple more debutants:

Chart showing the Second Team, with Sabrina Ionescu with 39 points from 3 First Team votes and 8 Second Team votes, Elena Delle Donne with 30 points from 3 First Team votes and 5 Second Team votes, Alyssa Thomas with 26 points from 4 First Team votes and 2 Second Team votes, Jonquel Jones with 23 points from 2 First Team votes and 5 Second Team votes, and Candace Parker with 23 points from 1 First Team vote and 6 Second Team votes. Notable players also receiving points were Emma Meesseman with 20, Courtney Vandersloot with 12, Jackie Young with 12, and Sylvia Fowles with 11.

Sabrina Ionescu is New York’s first home-grown All-W selection since Becky Hammon in 2005. Elena Delle Donne has now been named to an All-W team in six of the eight qualified seasons she’s played. Thomas’ award gives the Sun the highest number of different players to make an All-W team, breaking a tie with Los Angeles and Minnesota. Jonquel Jones’ fourth All-W selection moves her into a tie for 23rd-most in WNBA history, while Candace Parker’s 10th breaks a tie with Tina Charles for the fourth-most all-time.

Our voters also shared why they selected who they did:

The case for Breanna Stewart

Compiled from voters’ explanations of MVP and Defensive Player of the Year votes:

Stewart has another gear, that she only used a few times, but when she did she was completely unstoppable, on another level… Stewart outpaced Wilson in [win shares], on a team that won fewer games… She remains the best defensive four the W has had since Catchings… She’s able to block or alter shots from players at any position, while also using her wingspan to play the passing lanes and grab steals.

The case for A’ja Wilson

Compiled from voters’ explanations of MVP and Defensive Player of the Year votes:

On/off metrics paint the picture of how important she is to the Aces’ success, and as the engine of Las Vegas on both ends as well as off the court, she was an easy selection… She made other teams’ lives difficult anytime anyone drove in the paint. She did a great job guarding both out on the perimeter as well as in the post. She led the league in blocked shots and has become one of the elite defenders in our league.

The case for Kelsey Plum

Compiled from voters’ explanations of MVP votes:

Kelsey Plum’s game, her speed and shot-creation from everywhere on the floor, is the identity of the Aces’ offense… Few players have ever been able to drive as much offense as efficiently as she did, and ranking top-five in catch-and-shoot attempts and efficiency (per Synergy) is just the cherry on top. She led the league in Positive Residual’s WAR for a reason.

The case for Skylar Diggins-Smith

Diggins-Smith’s case is rather simple, to me: she was truly the only All-Star and Olympic-level player on the Mercury who actually played like it. For as bad as the first half of the season was, the only way Phoenix could even have won six games was because of Skylar. She maintained that high level consistently, even as her other guard wavered from night to night. Phoenix won twice without her down the stretch, but they were only in playoff contention at all because of Diggins-Smith.

The case for Nneka Ogwumike

The way she controls the game, especially on a Sparks team that plays at [an] inconsistent and occasionally hindering pace, is impressive. LA went from a passable, effective team with Nneka on the floor to one of the worst teams ever with her on the bench, according to net rating, and her impact on both ends kept the Sparks afloat.  She was extremely efficient even on tough shots and was a fantastic off-court leader, by all accounts, on a team that needed it.

The down-ballot case for Sabrina Ionescu

Ionescu was critical to her team this year in a way that few others were. While I don’t necessarily think that she should have to carry her team all on her own, frequently this was the case in New York… By the end of the regular season, she was averaging over 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game, something only Candace Parker has ever done previously. But beyond that, Ionescu made significant improvements to her game, broke countless records, and was a vital piece in the effort to pull New York into the playoffs. Recognizing her on this level was an easy choice for me.

The case for Elena Delle Donne

It’s hard to argue that a player was more important to their team’s success than Elena Delle Donne was for the Washington Mystics. During the regular season, the Mystics were 18-7 in games Delle Donne played and 4-7 in games she missed. The two-time MVP changes the center of gravity on the court, making defenses focus on her and leave other players or driving lanes open. She approximated her career averages per 40 minutes in most statistical categories, despite coming back from two back surgeries that left her questioning whether she could live pain-free again, let alone play… Simply put, she was back to the old Elena Delle Donne, and the old Elena Delle Donne is a perennial MVP contender.

The case for Alyssa Thomas

The value that Alyssa Thomas brings to the Connecticut Sun is unmatched. It is because of the fire and passion she plays with. When the Sun are in a rut it is Thomas that is getting her teammates riled up to refocus. She can produce in different ways, but it is her smothering defense that sets her apart from the others. The Sun would not be in the position they are in without her.

The case for Jonquel Jones

Jonquel was the best player on the only team that finished top-three in both offense and defense. Her defensive impact is underrated (to me), which pushed her above non-A’ja/Stewie candidates. Many of the things that made her MVP in 2021 are still in play here.

The case for Candace Parker

Parker’s completely elevated the Sky whenever she’s been able to be healthy on the floor in her two years in Chicago. This season, it was keeping the defending champions at their highest heights, deftly helping lead the team on both ends of the floor (though yes, Vandersloot is rather good on her own offensively, too). Parker is playing at a level that she seems capable of keeping up for years — if she wants to keep playing, that is.

The case for Emma Meesseman

Emma Meesseman was the most valuable player on a Sky team that is among the elites. She’s been a difference-maker defensively and as efficient offensively as ever.

The case for Courtney Vandersloot

Chicago was the No. 2 team in the league thanks to a lot of great players, but it was Vandersloot and Parker leading the team. Vandersloot averaged the third-most points and second-most rebounds of her career, set a career-high in usage, led the league in assist rate, and ranked in the 75th percentile in scoring efficiency, per Her Hoop Stats. She’s also become an above-average point-of-attack defender. Candace Parker is the engine of the Sky’s interior offense and paint defense, but Courtney Vandersloot is the engine of Chicago’s perimeter play and ball-movement.

The case for Jackie Young

Jackie Young has been an absolute force this year. With a MIP award already under her belt, she played more [minutes per game] than anyone on the Aces, and was a two-way staple of a near-unstoppable Aces squad. The energy, grit, and offensive abilities she brought to the court makes her breakout season one for the All-W books.

The case for Sylvia Fowles

It’s no secret that the Lynx struggled this season. The reason Syl fit perfectly on my All-WNBA first team was how despite how much her team changed, and playing through an injury, she managed to make something incredible out of almost nothing. Her effectiveness in the post never wavered, her rebounds per game and field goal percentage were top of the league, and she frequently logged double-doubles. On top of that, her consistency and leadership were priceless for her team. Not only did she stand out amongst her teammates, but she was among the league’s very best this season.

  1. Official relative to our preseason and midseason awards. The Next’s 2022 All-WNBA awards are as official as The AP’s, which is to say it won’t show up on Across The Timeline.
  2. Full list: Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, 1997-2000; Tina Thompson, 1997-98; Sheryl Swoopes, 1998-2000; Natalie Williams, 1999-2001; Ticha Penicheiro, 1999-2000; Lisa Leslie, 2000-04; Tamika Catchings, 2002-03 and 2009-12; Lauren Jackson, 2003-7 and 2009-10; Sue Bird, 2003-05; Taurasi, 2006-11; Cappie Pondexter, 2009-10; Candace Parker, 2012-14; Moore, 2013-17; Tina Charles, 2011-12, 2015-17; Elene Delle Donne, 2015-16 and 2018-19; Courtney Vandersloot, 2019-20; Stewart, 2020-22.

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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