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WNBA Decade In Review: 2014

League Champion: Phoenix Mercury (Third title in franchise history)

Top Draft Pick: Chiney Ogwumike (CON, Stanford University)

 

Awards

  • Most Valuable Player: Maya Moore (MIN)
  • Rookie of the Year: Chiney Ogwumike (CON)
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Brittney Griner (PHX) 1st DPOY
  • Sixth Woman of the Year: Allie Quigley (CHI) 1st Sixth
  • Most Improved Player: Skylar Diggins-Smith (TUL)
  • Coach of the Year: Sandy Brondello (PHX)

 

Top Players

  • All-WNBA First Team: Skylar Diggins-Smith (TUL), Brittney Griner (PHO), Maya Moore (MIN), Candace Parker (LAS), Diana Taurasi (PHX)
  • All-WNBA Second Team: Seimone Augustus (MIN), Tina Charles (NYL), Danielle Robinson (SAS), Nneka Ogwumike (LAS), Danielle Robinson Angel McCoughtry (tie) (ATL), Lindsay Whalen (tie) (MIN)
  • All-Rookie Team: Bria Hartley (WAS), Kayla McBride (SAS), Chiney Ogwumike (CON), Odyssey Sims (TUL), Alyssa Thomas (CON)
  • All-Defense First Team: Brittney Griner (PHX), Briann January (IND), Sancho Lyttle (ATL), Angel McCoughtry (ATL), Tanisha Wright (SEA)
  • All-Defense Second Team: Alana Beard (LAS), Tamika Catchings (IND), Sylvia Fowles (CHI), Maya Moore (MIN), Danielle Robinson (SAS)

 

Stats Leaders

  • Points Per Game: Maya Moore (MIN): 23.9
  • Rebounds Per Game: Courtney Paris (TUL): 10.2
  • Assists Per Game: Diana Taurasi (PHX): 5.6
  • Steals Per Game: Angel McCoughtry (ATL): 2.4
  • Blocks Per Game: Brittney Griner (PHX): 3.8

 

Regular Season

The year began with two key business transactions. The first took place in February when the WNBA and NBA Board of Governors approved the sale of the Los Angeles Sparks by an investment group led by Los Angeles Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

A month later, the WNBA and the Players Association announced an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement with an eight-year term beginning in 2014, with both sides having the ability to opt-out after the sixth year. Among the key elements in the new CBA is the expansion of rosters from 11 to 12 players per team. In addition, the new agreement, like the expired CBA, includes a revenue-sharing component should league revenues hit agreed-upon benchmarks.

After posting a franchise-worst 10-24 record in 2013, the Connecticut Sun won the Draft Lottery and with the top pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft on April 14, they selected Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford University. Ogwumike and her older sister, Nneka – the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks – joined NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning as the only siblings selected with the top pick in a North American professional sports league draft.

The Tulsa Shock drafted Odyssey Sims of Baylor with the No. 2 pick and the San Antonio Stars (after dropping the ‘Silver’ from their team name) selected Kayla McBride of Notre Dame with the No. 3 pick.

After opening the season 6-3, the Phoenix Mercury put together the second-longest win streak in WNBA history as they won 16 straight games from June 15 to July 29. Only the 2001 Los Angeles Sparks had a longer win streak at 18 games. After losing three times in their first nine games, the Mercury only lost two games in their final 25 games of the season as they finished the year at 29-5.

Not only did that lead the league in 2014 (Minnesota finished second at 25-9, the only other 20-win team), but also marked the fourth-highest single-season win percentage in the history of the WNBA.

0.900: Houston Comets, 1998 (27-3)

0.875: Los Angeles Sparks, 2000 (28-4)

0.875: Los Angeles Sparks, 2001 (28-4)

0.853: Phoenix Mercury, 2014 (29-5)

In the final month of her 16-year WNBA career, San Antonio guard Becky Hammon was hired by the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach under head coach Gregg Popovich. Hammon became the first full-time, paid female assistant coach in NBA history.

 

All-Star

The 2014 WNBA All-Star Game took place at the US Airways Center in Phoenix and offered a bit of history. In the first WNBA All-Star Game to go to overtime, the East edged out the West, 125-124. Shoni Schimmel – a reserve guard for the Atlanta Dream that was voted into the game as a starter by the fans – became the first rookie to win All-Star MVP after a record-breaking performance.

“Showtime” Shoni set a WNBA All-Star record with 29 points and dished out a game-high eight assists in 28 minutes on the court. Her 29 points were topped by Maya Moore a year later, but Schimmel still holds (or is tied) for the All-Star record in field goals made (11), field goals attempted (24), 3-pointers made (7) and 3-pointers attempted (16).

 

Playoffs

  • West Semifinals: Minnesota Lynx def. San Antonio Stars, 2-0
  • West Semifinals: Phoenix Mercury def. Los Angeles Sparks, 2-0
  • East Semifinals: Chicago Sky def. Atlanta Dream, 2-1
  • East Semifinals: Indiana Fever def. Washington Mystics, 2-0
  • West Finals: Phoenix Mercury def. Minnesota Lynx, 2-1
  • East Finals: Chicago Sky def. Indiana Fever, 2-1
  • Finals: Phoenix Mercury def. Chicago Sky, 3-0

The dominance displayed by the Phoenix Mercury throughout the regular season carried over to the playoffs. After sweeping the Sparks in two games in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Mercury faced their toughest test as they had to knock off the defending champion Lynx in order to advance to their third-ever WNBA Finals.

The Mercury took Game 1, 85-71, in Phoenix behind double-doubles from Brittney Griner and Penny Taylor. The Lynx responded in Game 2 behind a combined 55 points from Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus to force a decisive Game 3 back in Phoenix. However, the Mercury were too much at home – where they lost just once all season – as Diana Taurasi (31 points) and Griner (22) led Phoenix to a 96-78 win and a trip to the Finals.

In the East, the No. 4 seed Chicago Sky entered the playoffs at just 15-19, but got hot at the right time as they knocked off the Atlanta Dream in the East Semifinals and the Indiana Fever in the East Finals to advance to their first-ever WNBA Finals.

But Chicago’s good fortune did not continue against Phoenix as the Mercury were dominant through the first two games of the series, winning by 21 and 29 points, respectively. Game 3 was a much closer contest, but with the game on the line, the Mercury gave the ball to Diana Taurasi and she delivered with 14 of her 24 points coming in the fourth quarter, highlighted by an old-fashioned three-point play with 14 seconds remaining that broke an 82-82 tie and sealed the third championship in franchise history for the Mercury. Taurasi was named Finals MVP for the second time in her illustrious career.