Rookie Rankings: July 9, 2009

July 9, 2009 -- Since 2001 every Rookie of the Year winner has started 100 percent of their games played and only twice in the history of the award have the honorees come off the bench: Betty Lennox in 2000 and Chamique Holdsclaw in 1999. In both of those instances Lennox and Holdsclaw came off the pine just once.

Why do I bring this up? Because we might have to start getting used the idea of Rookie of the Year as sixth woman.

We got a hint of it last year when Candice Wiggins, playing in her first season for the Minnesota Lynx, was named Sixth Woman of the Year after averaging 15.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists and 1.8 steals in 30 games -- one start. Wiggins may have had the ROY honor locked up in any other year, but was the victim of unfortunate timing as she entered the league the same year as Candace Parker.

At this juncture in the 2009 season no candidate for the Rookie of the Year award is a regular starter, unless you count Connecticut's Chante Black, although it appears even she just lost her starting job with the return of Sandrine Gruda. There are a few reasons for this trend, the most obvious is that with 13 teams, 11 roster spots per team and women's basketball reaching new heights in terms of talent, playing time is at a premium. But another crucial factor is that with many teams in the hunt for the eight postseason berths, coaches may be more inclined to go with experienced veterans in the starting five rather than rookies that go through frustrating growing pains.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean rookies aren't getting minutes, or that they haven't been effective. DeWanna Bonner has come off the bench in all 13 of Phoenix's games and is third on the team in scoring (11.4 ppg) and tied for first in rebounding (6.2). Detroit's Shavonte Zellous, who is also third on her team in scoring (12.7 ppg), has found her niche as a reserve after starting the team's first four games. And Angel McCoughtry, Renee Montgomery and the recently returned Marissa Coleman have all played valuable roles off the bench for teams having early season success.

If these reserve rookies keep it up they could collect more than one piece of hardware at season's end.

No. 1: DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury (5th pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
13 20.6 11.4 .432 1-4 6.2 0.5 0.3 0.5
Skinny: I think at this point we should expect this trend from Bonner: really good game, followed by OK game, followed by forgettable game, repeat. Bonner's really good game this week came in a win over the Los Angeles Sparks, as she scored 17 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 shooting from the line in just 19 minutes. She also collected 10 rebounds, two steals and a block. It's games like these that lead you to believe that the ROY award is Bonner's to lose.
Previous ranking: 1

No. 2: Shavonte Zellous, Detroit Shock (11th pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
9 25.1 12.7 .354 4-11 3.7 0.8 1.2 0.3
Skinny: Forget about the fact that Zellous scored 20 points in a game for the second time this season this week. Let's instead marvel at her free throw shooting for a moment (which I guess is related). Zellous is currently tied for second in the entire league with a percentage of .931, and is ahead of players like Becky Hammon and Diana Taurasi. And it's not even like Zellous is benefitting from a small sample of attempts. To this point, she has been to the line 58 times, which is the seventh-highest total in the league, although not the most among rookies. That one goes to Bonner, who has attempted 60 free throws so far.
Previous ranking: 2


No. 3: Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream (1st pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
13 16.5 9.5 .448 3-15 2.1 1.8 1.2 0.4
Skinny: The good news? McCoughtry scored in double figures in back-to-back games this past week, the latter of which also included her racking up three rebounds, four assists, three steals and 28 (!) minutes. The bad news? That was followed up be her receiving only nine minutes and putting up no shot attempts against Connecticut on Tuesday. We're trying to figure this out, we really are. Of course, the Dream ended up beating the Sun, so it's hard to play hindsight with that game.
Previous ranking: 3


No. 4: Renee Montgomery, Minnesota Lynx (4th pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
12 17.9 8.1 .451 12-33 0.9 1.6 0.5 0.1
Skinny: Montgomery turned some heads this week by scoring a season-high 21 points in Minnesota's big OT win over Washington Tuesday. In the game, Montgomery made 6-of-12 field attempts and went to the line 11 times, sinking nine. After watching Montgomery play at UConn you would have thought her most effective role would have been as a facilitator in the WNBA, but instead her impact so far has been felt as a point producer off Minnesota's bench. Her season-high for assists to this point is four, which she dished out in the opener back on June 6.
Previous ranking: 5


No. 5: Marissa Coleman, Washington Mystics (2nd pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
4 20.0 10.0 .481 8-13 2.5 0.5 0.5 0.0
Skinny: If you hadn't heard, Coleman is back in action, which means she's back in our rankings, despite playing in only four games total this year. Her return to the court from an ankle injury couldn't have come any sooner for Washington, who have dropped two straight and four of their last five to fall to .500 on the season (5-5). Coleman's first game back was anything but impressive, however, but that's somewhat to be expected from a player coming back from an injury. The Maryland grad managed only two points on 0-of-2 shooting from the floor and 2-of-3 shooting from the charity stripe in 10 minutes Tuesday versus Minnesota. Still, we're giving her the 5 spot based on what she showed in her first three games and the fact that no one below her is making a strong case.
Previous ranking: NR

Honorable Mention:
  • Briann January, Indiana Fever (4.7 PPG, 2.6 APG, 20.7 MPG)
  • Quanitra Hollingsworth, Minnesota Lynx (4.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 11.1 MPG)
  • Kristi Toliver, Chicago Sky (5.9 PPG, 1.9 APG, 11.7 MPG)
  • Chante Black, Connecticut Sun (3.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 15.3 MPG)
  • Shalee Lehning, Atlanta Dream (2.2 PPG, 2.7 APG, 16.0 MPG)