August 25, 2023
How Aliyah Boston keeps getting better for the Indiana Fever
'She just keeps on getting better and working harder'
It’s clear that Indiana Fever rookie Aliyah Boston has already made an incredible impact in her first season. She was an All-Star game starter last month and is sixth in the WNBA in both win shares and player efficiency rating. In addition, Boston leads her team in field goal percentage, steals and blocks.
She is also getting better. Since the All-Star break, Boston has expanded her game and responded to new coverages in a way that has the Fever excited about her future.
“I think she’s getting more comfortable. More comfortable with the pace and the physicality. We know she’s extremely strong, but now she’s learning how to use it to her advantage,” Amanda Zahui B. told The Next. “I think she’s starting to read the pro level better and that takes time.”
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Boston’s growth has been gradual, but still obvious when watching the Fever. Upon returning from the All-Star break, she was forced to improve her vision, passing and patience when opposing teams began to double-team her more often.
At first, she took it in stride. Her reads were crisp and additive to the offense and the Fever scored more than 80 points against the Washington Mystics and New York Liberty in their first two games after the All-Star break. The Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm changed things up on July 27 and July 30 respectively. They threw doubles at Boston still, but they came from different angles. She struggled, totaling zero assists in both games and the Fever didn’t reach 70 points in either outing. Boston noted that she’s not the only one on the team getting double-teamed and it’s important for her to get better at reading both defenders and getting the ball out faster.
Erica Wheeler noted that double teams coming from the baseline were harder for Boston. She couldn’t see them coming and her teammates had to adjust when and how they cut. But Boston soon figured it out. In Indiana’s next two games, the number one overall pick had eight assists.
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“Her patience has [grown] … She knows that she has options, but she also knows how to score over two people,” Maya Caldwell said. Wheeler added, “How about a rookie that’s getting doubles? That’s respect.”
During this time, Boston was quietly adding range to her game, both more confident from deep and taking longer 2-pointers. If she was going to be double-teamed and swarmed in the post, then she needed to be effective from the outside as well.
Just before the All-Star break, Boston drilled a miraculous 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send Indiana into overtime against the Eastern Conference-leading New York Liberty. The shot was her second made 3-pointer out of three attempts in the first half of the season.
On Aug. 4, Boston made another 3-pointer in the team’s game against the Connecticut Sun. Outside shots haven’t traditionally been a part of her game, but that 3-pointer inspired the Indiana Fever to change their approach and add Boston jumpers into the playbook.
“I think we put in three sets in the last 24 hours … we’re going to start looking at those options. She’s a threat,” Fever head coach Christie Sides said about getting Boston more 3-pointers on Aug. 6. That night, Boston took another shot from behind the arc, and she faked out of another one later in the game before dribbling into a long two. It didn’t take her long to leverage her outside shot into other, more effective looks.
She knocked down another 3-pointer on Aug. 8 against the Sparks and Boston attempted her seventh of the season on Aug. 24 against the Storm. She knows that she has to be smart with her attempts, but her confidence is growing.
That confidence impacts her abilities on more than just 3-point shots. Before the All-Star break, Boston’s average 2-pointer was taken 4.3 feet away from the bucket. She took 60 short mid-range shots (3.0 per game) and 13 long mid-range shots (0.7 per game). Her shot diet was mostly the shots she knew best.
Since the All-Star break, those numbers have changed. Boston’s average 2-pointer has been from 4.6 feet away. She’s taking 3.3 short mid-range shots per game. Add in her improving 3-point shot, and it’s clear how Boston is expanding her offensive impact to avoid double teams — she’s expanding her range.
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“Just reading the way that the game goes. I’ve never been somebody that likes to force a shot, and so if it’s open for that then I’ll take it,” Boston said. “But if it’s not, we just keep playing until we find another shot.”
Her growth still doesn’t end there. Her ball handling, both as a result of improved confidence and increased space due to her increasing range, has been more frequent. Sometimes, she dribbles to change the angle of a pass she’s about to make. Other times, Boston will take space in front of her to bend the defense. In both instances, she is using her ball handling to make the Fever better.
For example, on Aug. 18 Boston had a coast-to-coast dribble against the Mystics, which led to a bucket and demonstrated another skill Boston has improved as the season has progressed. “She just keeps on getting better and working harder,” Sides said.
If the Indiana Fever win on Aug. 27, they will improve to .500 in August, a measure of progress for the young, developing team. Boston’s growth, especially since the All-Star break, is a big part of that progress. “I’ve never doubted the fact that [Boston] can do everything. She’s just that freaking phenomenal,” Kelsey Mitchell said.
For an Indiana franchise that just won their 10th game of the season, reaching double-digit victories for the first time since 2019, having a talent like Boston is significant. They have a young player who can lead their core as the team continues to improve.
For Sides, a first-year head coach, that is exciting. And Boston’s growth in such a short amount of time has her thinking about what the star rookie could be in the future.
Sides says she tries not to think about the future, but said, “It’s incredible when you do think about it, just how much she’s learned this season so far in such a short amount of time … she’s going to keep getting better, she’s going to keep working to expand her game.”
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