Rookie Rankings: July 23, 2009

July 23, 2009 -- A persistent topic in past editions of the Rookie Rankings has been the curious case of the minutes allotted to the No. 1 overall selection in April's draft, Angel McCoughtry of the Atlanta Dream. There are games when McCoughtry will receive a good chunk of playing time and garner a small amount in the ensuing contest. There are instances when McCoughtry will fill up the stat sheet, help lead her team to victory, then get limited shot attempts the next game. In 18 games, McCoughtry is averaging 16.7 minutes, which is seventh-highest clip among all rookies, and second-highest among rookies on the Dream (Shalee Lehning averages 17.2 mpg).

So the question is what is going on here? Of course, there a few obvious factors we have to acknowledge first before delving deeper into this.

1. McCoughtry, no matter how much talent she has, is still a rookie, trying to adjust to a new league that is bigger, faster, stronger.
2. The Dream have Chamique Holdsclaw and Iziane Castro Marques, two of the more productive wing players in the league, and McCoughtry is also a wing player.
3. With the moves Atlanta made in the off-season, the team is a serious contender for the playoffs and rookies usually take a back seat on contending teams.

With that, we went straight to the source(s) and talked to both McCoughty and Dream coach Marynell Meadors about how the former Louisville star is used.

First off, it must be stated that apparently there is no ill will coming from either side. McCoughtry made it clear she thinks that Meadors is a great coach and a great person and that she's very willing to go out there and do what her coach says. Meanwhile, Meadors called McCoughtry "a winner and a competitor" that doesn't have an ego, although she wishes she had a little more of one.

"I think sometimes she takes a back seat to the veterans and I don't want her to do that," said Meadors. "I want her to step up."

According to Meadors, more minutes and perhaps a spot in the starting lineup are there for the taking so long as McCoughtry can prove she can be effective with some consistency.

"To me if she wants to take someone's place, it's up to her to do that," said Meadors. "She definitely has the talent to do that."

Of course, it's sort of the "chicken or the egg" quandary at play here. Is McCoughtry not being given more minutes because she hasn't been living up to her potential? Or is she not living up to her potential because she's not being given the minutes?

Whatever the issue, McCoughtry said that she's glad to be playing behind and alongside such talented veterans as Holdsclaw and Castro Marques and that she has come around after making the transition from college star to WNBA backup.

"At first it was (tough to accept my new role), just because I love being out there so much and I love the game," said McCoughtry. "I'm happy with my role, but I know my time will come and I'm going to continue to work hard to get where I need to be."

"You just have to go out there and do the best you can," added McCoughtry. "I remember (Louisville coach Jeff) Walz used to say, 'Hey, if you get 30 minutes or five minutes, play hard.'"

No. 1: DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury (5th pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
17 21.2 11.7 .444 1-6 6.2 0.4 0.5 0.6
Skinny: On Wednesday, Bonner came through with another double-double, compiling 15 points and 10 rebounds in the team's defeat to Minnesota. The Phoenix forward now has four double-doubles in total and is actually the only rookie to produce one this season. But her numbers could take a bit of a hit soon with the impending return of veteran forward Penny Taylor, who is set to rejoin the team she helped win the 2007 WNBA title. Taylor's arrival will likely mean less minutes and less touches for Bonner once she re-familiarizes herself with the system, unless Bonner keeps putting up lines like the one against the Lynx and leaves Coach Corey Gaines no choice but to play her.
Previous ranking: 1

No. 2: Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream (1st pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
18 16.6 9.4 .435 4-21 2.2 1.6 1.5 0.3
Skinny: In her most recent game, McCoughtry had one of those outings in which she did a little bit of everything and played a pivotal role in her team's victory -- a 98-95 triumph over Detroit in overtime Wednesday. McCoughtry played 27 minutes and poured in 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field and 7-of-7 shooting from the free throw line. Her point total was second on the team only to Ivory Latta's 22. McCoughtry also collected three rebounds, two assists and a season-high six steals while putting up the best plus-minus of any Atlanta player at +22. Of course, this followed a game in which she received nine minutes and failed to score on four attempts from the field.
Previous ranking: 2


No. 3: Shavonte Zellous, Detroit Shock (11th pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
14 23.1 11.6 .359 4-13 3.3 0.9 1.1 0.4
Skinny: Zellous and McCoughtry faced off against each other (well, their teams did) on Wednesday and while McCoughtry had the better all-around game, Zellous was nearly as effective. In 20 minutes of action off the bench, Zellous pumped in 20 points, which was second only to Kara Braxton's 25 on Detroit. The best thing to take out of that game for Zellous though is how well she shot the ball in a tightly contested affair, which the Shock eventually lost in OT. Zellous made 6-of-10 field goal attempts and went to the free throw line nine times, sinking eight. Oh, and she only committed one turnover. Progress!
Previous ranking: 3


No. 4: Courtney Paris, Sacramento Monarchs (7th pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
16 12.2 5.2 .537 0-0 4.1 0.6 0.2 0.3
Skinny: It's becoming more and more evident that the playoffs are not in the cards for Sacramento this year. The Monarchs have now lost six straight to fall to 3-14 on the season and 4.5 games behind the fourth-place team in the West. The lack of team success could have positives for Paris, who likely will see a lot more playing time as Coach John Whisenant tries to figure out whether she can be a part of the core they build around, or at least solid rotation player for them in the future. What's clear so far is that while she's not yet a go-to offensive threat, Paris shoots a high percentage and can be counted on for six or seven boards a game.
Previous ranking: 4


No. 5: Renee Montgomery, Minnesota Lynx (4th pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
14 14.0 7.1 .451 19-43 1.1 2.5 0.4 0.0
Skinny: Montgomery earns the perennially rotating No. 5 spot this week by virtue of her earning the starting point guard job in Minnesota. Montgomery was inserted into the starting lineup for the Lynx's game at Seattle on July 19 and played just OK considering she received 30 minutes of action, collecting eight points, two assists, a steal and a block in the team's 72-69 loss. She followed that up with a five-point, four-assist and two-steal performance in a win over Phoenix Wednesday, playing 28 minutes. So it's been a so-so start for Montgomery in her new role, but she should have a chance to grow into it, as Kelly Miller isn't doing much to reclaim the starting spot.
Previous ranking: NR

Honorable Mention:
  • Kristi Toliver, Chicago Sky (6.9 PPG, 2.6 APG, 15.2 MPG)
  • Marissa Coleman, Washington Mystics (8.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 19.9 MPG)
  • Briann January, Indiana Fever (5.1 PPG, 2.3 APG, 18.9 MPG)
  • Chante Black, Connecticut Sun (3.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 14.0 MPG)
  • Megan Frazee, San Antonio Silver Stars (4.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 9.3 MPG)
  • More »

    Video

    Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings Support Lauren Hill

    Last week, Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joseph University courageously took the floor for her first college game, refusing to let an inoperable brain tumor keep her from achieving her dream – and WNBA stars Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings were on hand to lend their support.

    All-Access: NBA All-Star Relay

    To promote healthy living, the NBA teamed up with New York Road Runners for the first-ever marathon relay.

    Hammon Makes Coaching Debut

    Becky Hammon makes history as the first woman to be a full time NBA coach.

    USA Basketball Women’s National Team: Capturing the Gold

    An all access look at the team’s journey through the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women culminating in their gold medal win

    Nneka Ogwumike and Breanna Stewart: Off Day in Istanbul

    During a break in their busy game schedule, Nneka Ogwumike and Breanna Stewart took a tour through Istanbul’s world famous spice market