Rookie Rankings: July 16, 2009

July 16, 2009 -- It's crazy to think it was just last season when Candace Parker was named Rookie of the Year when you consider all that she's accomplished so far (i.e., 2008 WNBA MVP) and how ingrained she already is in our hoops culture (i.e., she has a "This is SportsCenter" commercial now). But at this time last year Parker was only two months into her WNBA career. Granted, she had already dunked twice.

As most know, Parker made her return to the Los Angeles Sparks two Sundays ago after giving birth to her daughter in May. To honor the event, we sought out Parker to find out what advice she has for the rookies going through what she experienced during her introduction to the WNBA in 2008.

"It's a long season," said Parker. "You've got to grind it out. You are going to have spurts where you are playing really well and you're going to have spurts where you're not playing that well. It's just about getting past that rookie wall. You've been playing all year basically. By the time this season is over you'll have played a whole year of basketball, so it's about taking care of your body, eating right and getting enough sleep."

Being out for the first month of the season allowed Parker ample time to get a good look at the current rookie class. Her thoughts?

"I'm a huge fan of Angel (McCoughtry) who plays for the Atlanta Dream," said Parker. "She's always impressed me ever since she was at Louisville. I'm a big fan of Marissa Coleman as well. I've been watching those two pretty much. Oh, and DeWanna Bonner. How can I forget about her? She killed us (when we last played Phoenix). She's a great rookie as well. Very athletic. Very versatile. Hustles. Plays hard."

We agree, as you'll see below in the latest edition of WNBA.com's Rookie Rankings.

No. 1: DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury (5th pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
15 20.2 11.7 .457 1-6 6.0 0.4 0.3 0.7
Skinny: Bonner has now held down the top spot in the Rookie Rankings for three straight weeks and four of the five weeks overall, which is a promising sign for the first-year Phoenix phenom. However, this race is by no means over, as this past week was an especially strong one for the rookie class, maybe the best of the season. Bonner has been the most consistent, but with Kristi Toliver and Courtney Paris starting to find their groove and McCoughtry and Renee Montgomery becoming more comfortable with the roles on their teams, Bonner likely will need to up her game to maintain the top perch in the coming weeks.
Previous ranking: 1

No. 2: Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream (1st pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
15 16.2 9.4 .459 3-15 2.1 1.7 1.2 0.3
Skinny: McCoughtry continues to do the best she can with the minutes given her. In the team's most recent game against Minnesota, both Chamique Holdsclaw (28 points, 11-16 FG) and Iziane Castro Marques (20 points, 6-11 FG, 4-5 3-FG) were on fire, which limited McCoughtry to 12 minutes off the bench. Still, the Louisville product managed to score 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the Dream's big road win. So the talent is there. But oddly enough the opportunity to realize her potential might not be until later on in her career.
Previous ranking: 3


No. 3: Shavonte Zellous, Detroit Shock (11th pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
11 24.2 11.5 .330 4-11 3.7 0.7 1.1 0.4
Skinny: Zellous' shooting woes have been well-documented here in the Rookie Rankings. But there's another part of her game that appears to be holding her back, and that's turnovers. Zellous currently leads all rookies in turnovers per game... and it's not even close. The Detroit guard is averaging 2.7 turnovers per game, while Montgomery and Toliver are tied for second with 2.0 tpg. Of course, Zellous also plays the most minutes of any rookie, and her style of play requires her having the ball in her hands a lot. Still, Detroit is struggling at 4-7 and can't afford an integral player being such a liability right now.
Previous ranking: 2


No. 4: Courtney Paris, Sacramento Monarchs (7th pick)
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3PM-A
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
13 10.7 5.0 .509 0-0 3.9 0.4 0.2 0.2
Skinny: Don't be fooled by Paris' overall numbers. Instead take a look at her last three games, contests in which she has received substantial minutes. In those games, Paris has been a force down low for Sacramento, averaging 12.7 points and 8.0 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field. Quite simply, the more she plays, the better she performs, so her time on the court only stands to increase in coming games as the Monarchs look to climb out of the cellar. Perhaps Sacramento had been waiting until she improved her conditioning enough to contribute, or maybe it took a coaching change to see just how effective she could be.
Previous ranking: NR


No. 5: Kristi Toliver, Chicago Sky (3rd 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: Tough call on No. 5 this week, as Montgomery and Coleman make strong cases, but we're going with Toliver. While this past week started with her going scoreless on 0-9 shooting in a loss to Indiana, she did manage to contribute four assists and three boards. Toliver then followed that effort up with season-highs of 22 points and seven assists while shooting 7-of-10 from the field, including 6-of-8 from three, to help the Sky get past Seattle. And most recently Toliver collected 13 points and three assists versus the Fever Wednesday. We'd still like to see more consistency from Toliver, but she's clearly become an important player off the bench for a team in the thick of the Eastern Conference race.
Previous ranking: NR

Honorable Mention:
  • Renee Montgomery, Minnesota Lynx (8.2 PPG, 1.9 APG, 18.5 MPG)
  • Marissa Coleman, Washington Mystics (8.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 19.0 MPG)
  • Chante Black, Connecticut Sun (3.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 15.5 MPG)
  • Briann January, Indiana Fever (5.3 PPG, 2.8 APG, 20.6 MPG)
  • Quanitra Hollingsworth, Minnesota Lynx (4.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 10.3 MPG)