How do you follow a college career that included an unprecedented four consecutive national titles and four consecutive NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player awards?
Breanna Stewart faced that question back in April, when she was drafted first overall in the 2016 WNBA Draft just nine days after four-peating. She responded by…
- Dueling with Candace Parker in her debut
- Making a SportsCenter-worthy block in her fourth game
- Connecting with Jewell Loyd for maybe the Play of the Year in her seventh game
- Scoring 38 points on 12-of-16 shooting three weeks later
- Winning an Olympic gold medal in Rio (as the youngest player on Team USA)
- Leading the Storm to a playoff berth
- Earning Rookie of the Month honors in every month
- And breaking Lisa Leslie’s record for the most defensive rebounds in a season
Stewie didn’t just win Rookie of the Year in a landslide. She put together perhaps the best rookie season in the WNBA’s 20-year history.
Here are three reasons why.
1. She lapped her peers in most statistical categories.
The Rookie of the Year “race” was not a race at all. Instead, Stewart quickly vaulted herself among the game’s elite players, let alone rookies. In fact, she finished sixth in MVP voting, ahead of the likes of Angel McCoughtry, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi.
|Category||Stat||League Rank||Rookie Rank||Next Best Rookie|
2. She stacks up favorably with past Rookie of the Year winners.
Stewart’s rank among the 19 all-time WNBA Rookie of the Year winners:
- Points per game: 4th
- Rebounds per game: 4th
- Assists per game: 5th
- Steals per game:10th
- Blocks per game: 2nd
- Field goal percentage: 9th
- Free throw percentage: 4th
- Three-point percentage: 8th
- Three-pointers made per game: 7th
Red: Statistical leader; Green: Stewart’s stats
3. She emerged as basketball’s next great do-it-all player… and the WNBA’s best right now.
Comparisons made heading into the WNBA Draft drew similarities between Stewart and Kevin Durant. But the more accurate comparison may be Anthony Davis.
Like Davis, Stewart followed in the footsteps of other frontcourt players with perimeter skills, but took that game to the extreme. There was no telling how Stewie’s postgame stat line would read in the box score on a given night.
25+ points? She did that five times, peaking at 38. 13+ rebounds? She did that five times too, including a 17-board game against Tina Charles and the Liberty. She dished out nine assists in one game, blocked five shots twice and grabbed four steals twice.
The only other rookies to average at least 15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 1 steal were Tamika Catchings (2002) and Candace Parker (2008). Stewart easily surpassed those thresholds.
Add it all up, and here are the top five WNBA Rookies of the Year when it comes to filling the stat sheet:
|Combined PPG, RPG, APG, SPG, BPG||Player||Year|
Brian Martin contributed to this report.