Select Team

How Good Has A’ja Wilson Been Early in Her Rookie Season?

In Las Vegas’ overtime win over Indiana, rookie A’ja Wilson scored 35 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked three shots. It was the type of stat line put up by MVPs, not rookies, in just the ninth game of their professional career.

In fact, the only other rookie post 35-10 as a rookie did so while being named league MVP — a decade ago, when Candace Parker swept the 2008 postseason honors.

With that singular performance, Wilson had her name put in the company of Parker, Seimone Augustus and Cappie Pondexter — three of the top players in the league over the past decade-plus. Not a bad night.

But it wasn’t just her big game against the winless Fever that has made the No. 1 overall pick stand out. Through 10 games, she is averaging 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 blocks and 0.8 steals with six 20-point games and three double-doubles.

How good are those numbers?

First, we can look at where she stacks up against her fellow rookies.

Wilson leads all first-year players in scoring (21.1 points per game) as she is followed by four players averaging double-figures: Kelsey Mitchell (17.4), Diamond DeShields (13.7), Kia Nurse (13.1) and Ariel Atkins (11.2).

A quick side note to give props to Mitchell, who has also been brilliant in her first month as a pro. Despite having an off shooting day (1-for-12 FG) and scoring just two points in Indiana’s loss on Thursday in Atlanta, the No. 2 overall pick is still averaging 17.4 points per game, which ranks second to Wilson among rookies and 11th in the league overall.

Wilson also leads the rookie class in rebounds, blocks (7.7), free throws made (6.9), field goals (44.9 percent), double-doubles (three) and minutes played (30.8).

Next, we can look at where she stacks up against the entire league.

Wilson ranks fourth in scoring (just 1.0 points behind league-leader Skylar Diggins-Smith), ranks eighth in rebounding and blocks, is tied for second in double-doubles behind reigning MVP Sylvia Fowles, and has attempted and made more free throws than any player in the league.

If we want to take the analysis one step further, we can look back at history and see where Wilson’s first 10 games stacks up with some of the best rookie starts in league history.

To do this, I pulled the game logs from every Rookie of the Year winner that is still active in the league. Going back to 2004 (Diana Taurasi) all the way to 2017 (Allisha Gray) and only skipping the two players that are no longer in the league (2005 winner Temeka Johnson and 2007 winner Armintie Herrington).

That left a stacked field with some of the best players in the game over the past 15 years: Taurasi (2004), Augustus (2006), Parker (2008), Angel McCoughtry (2009), Tina Charles (2010), Maya Moore (2011), Nneka Ogwumike (2012), Elena Delle Donne (2013), Chiney Ogwumike (2014), Jewell Loyd (2015), Breanna Stewart (2016) and Gray (2017).

Of those 12 players, only Delle Donne and Gray were not the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft, so Wilson is facing off with fellow players that entered the league with both incredible talent and lofty expectations.

The chart below lays out the stats from the first 10 games of each player’s WNBA career. It’s safe to say Wilson stacks up pretty well with this elite competition.

 

  • Wilson owns the top scoring game of the group with her 35-point performance; it tops Parker’s 34-point gem (still the most in a WNBA debut) and Augustus’ pair of 30-plus point games
  • Wilson leads the group in free throws made (69), with Delle Donne (54) trailing by 15 as the next highest player
  • Wilson is the second-leading scorer to Augustus (22.1) as they are the only two players to average over 20 points in their first 10 games
  • Wilson is one of four players (along with Chiney Ogwumike, Parker and Delle Donne) to score in double figures in each of her first 10 games
  • Wilson is tied with Delle Donne with six games with at least 20 points in her first 10 games; they both trail Augustus, who did it seven times
  • Wilson is the fifth-leading rebounder behind Charles, Stewart, Parker and Chiney Ogwumike; also fifth in double-doubles to the same four players, just in different order
  • Wilson ranks fifth in blocks behind Parker, Delle Donne, Charles and Stewart
  • Wilson’s assists (7th), field goal percentage (7th), steals (9th) and free throw percentage (10th) rank in the bottom half of the group, and she is one of four players on the list that has not made a 3-pointer and one of two that has yet to attempt one

These comparisons only further illustrate just how amazing Wilson has been in her first month in the WNBA. However, there is one category where Wilson ranks near the bottom among these outstanding rookies. The Aces are 3-7 on the season, which ties Wilson with Loyd for the fewest wins in the first 10 games among these 12 players.

On a positive note, the Aces have won two in a row, including a 15-point win over the Liberty on Wednesday. The Aces look to make it three straight when they face the Wings in Dallas on Friday (8:00 ET, NBA TV).

After a remarkable first 10 games that put her in historic company, let’s see what Wilson has in store as she begins the second 10 games of her career on Friday.