August 19, 2023 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: Sue Bird, a model for scalability and efficiency at point guard

'The platonic ideal of a point guard for the early aughts'

Our WNBA Retrospect series rolls on at Locked on Women’s Basketball! The series reviews game film, stats, news articles and more to determine who has been the best prospect in the history of the WNBA. Last week, Hunter Cruse, Em Adler and Lincoln Shafer discussed Kelly Miller and Tamika Catchings, the Nos. 2 and 3 overall picks in the 2001 WNBA Draft. This week, they look at Sue Bird, the UConn point guard, No. 1 overall pick in 2002 and first guard to be picked No. 1 in WNBA history.

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As a senior at UConn, Bird averaged 14.4 points, 5.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. She shot 50.5% from the field and 46.6% from 3-point range and won several national player of the year awards. Here’s Lincoln on Bird as a college prospect:

“She’s kind of like the pulse of that UConn team. She’s handling the ball. She’s really impressive in transition, especially, to my eye … I think one of her strengths as a prospect is scalability and role versatility. … She can play on the ball; she can play off the ball. She has elite shooting numbers in college and just makes good decisions with the ball in her hands. That’s what is going to make her an elite prospect in my mind.”

Em adds:

“She clearly not only has all those skills, but she refines them over time. … Basically, she is everything you could possibly want out of the platonic ideal of a point guard for the early aughts, just in terms of how she manages transition, how she makes decisions, how she prioritizes things. And I think it’d be very interesting … to see how that would have adapted if, in her athletic prime, she had been playing in today’s kind of ball, just because of the way that the pace is pushed differently and more pick-and-rolls are run.”

Bird was drafted by the Seattle Storm and played her entire 19-year career there before retiring after the 2022 season. She won four WNBA titles and was a 13-time All-Star and eight-time All-WNBA selection, including four straight First Team All-WNBA selections to start her career. In 580 career regular-season games (all starts), she averaged 11.7 points, 5.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals.

Related reading: A look back at Sue Bird’s jersey retirement ceremony

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