WNBA All-Second Team
Second Team guards: Deanna Nolan, DET, and Sue Bird, SEA
The only thing holding Nolan back from my First Team was her first half of the season when she was banged up and not playing at the level weíre accustomed to seeing. But after nine days off around the All-Star break to heal, you could argue Nolanís never been more dominant, evidenced by her unprecedented three straight Eastern Conference player of the week honors to end the season.
Nolanís scorching second half boosted her scoring average to 16.9 points, the best of her nine-year career, though her shooting percentages were down slightly. But there isnít a shooter Iíd want in a must-win playoff game more than Nolan. If she doesnít get too knocked around overseas this winter, I anticipate Nolan returning to a First Team level in 2010. Opposing defenses will have to choose their poison on the perimeter with Nolan, Katie Smith and Shavonte Zellous.
Bird led the WNBA in assists (5.8 apg) and guided Seattle to 20 wins and the No. 2 seed in the West, and the voters still couldnít find a place for her on the All-WNBA Team. Birdís omission illustrates what a tough job the voters had this year.
Second Team forwards: Katie Douglas, IND, and Sophia Young, SA
I should have had Douglas at guard (probably in place of Bird) and made room for Candace Parker - which is exactly what happened. Thank you, fellow voting panel members. Douglas was one of the few reliable offensive weapons for the Fever, averaging a career-high 17.6 points. But Iím not overly impressed with the rest of her game, and should have placed Parker here instead, despite playing only 25 games to Douglasí 31.
Parker, the 2008 MVP, missed the start of the season, including both games against the Shock. But she finished the season with six straight double-doubles and qualified to lead the WNBA in rebounding - all after giving birth to her first child just a few weeks earlier. This makes her 2009 season even more impressive, so she deserved to be on there.
Young wasnít leaving my ballot under any circumstances, and initially was penciled in on my First Team. There isnít a better offensive post player in the league, evidenced by her career-high 31 points against the Shock Aug. 29. She averaged 18.2 points and finished top four in points, field goals made and attempted and free throws made and attempted. In other words, she put up a lot of shots. But the 6-foot-1 power forward wonít be truly dominant until she improves her rebounding (she had 6.4 rpg) and makes more than 16 blocks in 33 games.
Second Team center: Nicky Anosike, MIN
The voters werenít wrong in choosing the Sparksí Lisa Leslie, but I donít regret rewarding the second-year pivotís versatile game. The former Lady Vol became just the second player in league history behind Tamika Catchings to lead her team in points (13.2), rebounds (7.4), assists (2.7), steals (2.7) and blocks (0.9).
Anosike also ranked in the WNBAís top 20 in all those categories, in addition to field-goal percentage (49.1%). She did so after appearing 30 games at a position where many fell well short of that mark, including First Team center Lauren Jackson (26), Sylvia Fowles (24) and the sentimental favorite Leslie (23). Anosike, however, was less impressive in person, shooting just 1-for-7 for four points and five rebounds at The Palace. She missed the second meeting with the Shock at the end of the season.
Had I not gone with Anosike, I should have paid more attention to Atlantaís Erika de Souza. The leagueís No. 2 rebounder played in all 34 games in the regular season, posting three double-doubles against the Shock in four meetings. With Leslie now retired, Anosike and de Souza should be at the front of the line for this spot.