Angel Reese

Why Angel Reese should win WNBA Rookie of the Year Award, if season ended today

Caitlin Clark has been considered the strong favorite for the award for most of the first half

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Halfway through the WNBA season, Angel Reese has already put together one of the greatest rookie campaigns in WNBA history. She’s earned some recognition and accolades for her achievements recently, including the league’s Rookie of the Month Award for June and WNBA Player of the Week in Week 7 (the first rookie to win the award since Aliyah Boston in June 2023).

Now it’s time to talk about why, if the season ended today, she should win the Rookie of the Year Award.

For nearly the entire first half of the season, Indiana Fever superstar Caitlin Clark was considered a shoo-in to win the prestigious award. Take Clark’s incredible popularity across the nation out of the mix and there were still plenty of reasons why she deserved to be considered the runaway favorite.

Through the first month of the season, Clark led all rookies in scoring (17.6 ppg), 3-pointers made (24), free throws made (42), assists (6.6 apg) and minutes played (33.0 mpg). She joined Candace Parker and Sabrina Ionescu to become the third player in WNBA history to record 100+ points, 30+ rebounds and 30+ assists in her first six career games.

Clark battled through physical defenses that tried to knock her off of her game, and still managed to play at a high level more often than not. It was a sensational start to one of the most sensationalized rookie seasons in recent memory.

Since then, however, Reese has made it a two-horse race.

After finding her footing over the first few weeks of the season, Reese has flourished and made WNBA history in the process. So far in July, she’s averaging 16.8 points, 14 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Each of those numbers is better, or at least the same, as the numbers she put up in June when she won the Rookie of the Month award. She’s developed a well-rounded game both offensively and defensively.

Most impressively, she’s set a new WNBA record for most consecutive double-doubles at 14 games and counting. That’s not a rookie record, or a single-season record, or any other caveat you can think of. No other woman in WNBA history has ever matched Reese’s current double-double streak.

If Reese keeps playing at her current pace, she’ll continue to write her name in the WNBA history books. With 250 total rebounds and 99 offensive rebounds in 21 games, she’s on pace to finish the year with 476 boards and 188 second-chance opportunities. Each number would shatter the current top marks in the league. Sylvia Fowles’ 404 total rebounds in 2018 are the current single-season record, as are Yolanda Griffith’s 162 offensive boards in 2001.

Again, these records are not just among rookies– it covers all of WNBA history.

Clark has made some impressive WNBA history of her own, like becoming the first rookie to ever notch a triple-double, but she’s not approaching any WNBA single-season records like Reese.

There is another big differentiator when you look at their personal numbers: Reese has made far fewer mistakes with the ball.

After Wednesday’s slate of games Clark has turned the ball over a whopping 127 times this season. That leads the WNBA by a wide margin, with Alyssa Thomas’s 84 turnovers coming in second. Reese only has 38 turnovers to her name. To be fair, Clark handles the ball a lot more than Reese, so she has more opportunities to turn the ball over. But she also has more opportunities for assists. When you look at the ratio of assists and steals– two plays that can be viewed as a turnover-neutralizer– for each player, Reese fares better.

For every turnover this year, Clark has 1.65 assists and steals. Reese is at 1.89. Not a huge difference, but a difference when we’re trying to determine who should be named the Rookie of the Year.

That difference shows up in how each team fares when the players are on and off the court, too. A Rookie of the Year should be someone who elevates the team’s performance significantly when she’s in the game, and once again the arrow tips to Reese when you look at the analytics.

Reese carries a 1.9 +/- rating, meaning the Sky typically score just under two more points than their opponents when she’s on the floor. Clark has a -5.1 +/- rating, meaning the Fever are outscored by over five points when she’s playing.

The offensive efficiency ratings tell a similar story. According to Basketball Reference, the Sky have a 101.6 ORtg with Reese on the court and 96.7 ORtg with Reese on the bench. That means over the course of 100 possessions, the Sky are expected to score 4.9 more points with Reese than without her. On the other hand, the Fever have a 102.6 ORtg with Clark and a 103.7 ORtg without her– so they’re expected to score 1.1 fewer points over 100 possessions with her on the court.

Interestingly, the Fever’s assist rate also drops 3.8%, while their rebound rate jumps 1.4% and their turnover rate increases 2.8% with Clark on the floor, per Basketball Reference. When Reese is in the game, the Sky’s assist rate drops a similar 4%, but their rebound rate rockets up 10.9%.Their turnover rate increases the exact same 2.8%

Your conclusion reading all of this shouldn’t be that the Fever are somehow better off without Clark. That’s not the case. It’s just that she hasn’t elevated the overall team’s play in the same way that Reese has helped the Sky– or the Fever haven’t figured out how to incorporate Clark’s game into their overall team game as well as the Sky have integrated Reese.

What Clark and Reese have each accomplished up to this point is remarkable, and there’s still a lot of basketball left to be played. Trends will change and there’s a chance more history will be made. But if the second half of the season goes like the first half did, then Reese should be named the league’s top rookie by year’s end.

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