June 27, 2016
There was much anticipation leading up to the 2016 WNBA draft. With UCONN’s very own Breanna Stewart, a player who has a laundry list of collegiate accolades, finally becoming available it was certain that she would be the #1 pick in the draft to the Seattle Storm. The fifth Connecticut player to be taken No. 1 overall in the WNBA Draft, Stewart has a lot to live up to and the expectations for her to lead Seattle back to the days where they were championship contenders are high. University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma should have just stayed on stage for the start of the WNBA draft because the #2 and #3 picks were players from his team. At #2, point guard Moriah Jefferson headed to a team in San Antonio who were only able to string together 8 wins during their 2015 season. At #3 Morgan Tuck was selected by the Connecticut Sun, who missed the playoffs last season but were able to win a respectable 15 games with a team full of youth and coaching issues. To round out the top five, the Dallas wings took Aeriel Powers from Michigan State. But what has been the steal of the draft is Tiffany Mitchell who was taken 9th by the Indiana Fever. Here’s a brief summary of how the top five rookies are doing so far this season. We’ve also ranked the top five rookies, let us know if you agree with us.
Breanna Stewart PPG 17.6 RPG 9.6 APG 3.1 BPG 2.0 MPG 34.8 SPG 1.2 ROOKIE RANK #1
In her first year in the WNBA Stewart has already proven herself to be not only the best rookie in the league but one of the best players in the league in general. With averages of 17.6 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game and 2.0 blocks per game, she ranks in the top 10 in scoring at number 8, and top five in rebounding at number 2, only behind Tina Charles who averages 9.9 rebounds per game. On several occasions Stewart has flirted with a triple double and has a career high of 29 points in which she’s scored on two occasions. For the month of May Stewart was named the Rookie of the Month presented by Samsung. During that month Stewart led all rookies in points (17.4 ppg), rebounds (8.8 rpg) and blocks (2.0 bpg) and was second in assists (2.4 apg) in five games. Stewart has also been selected to represent the United States at the Olympic games this summer in Rio. The Seattle Storm are currently 5-9 and sit in 5th place in the Western Conference and rank 10th overall. The top 8 teams in the league regardless of conference qualify for the playoffs, so the Storm aren’t too far out of the race. If they can be more consistent during the second half of the season they can definitely find their way into the playoffs.
Moriah Jefferson PPG 9.9 RPG 1.8 APG 4.6 MPG 28.5 SPG 1.5 ROOKIE RANK #2
With the #2 pick in the WNBA draft the San Antonio Stars selected 4 time NCAA champion Moriah Jefferson. Jefferson was headed to a team that is in transition from its players all the way to its head coach Dan Hughes who announced his retirement before the beginning of the season. Jefferson was thrown right into the fire with the Stars usual point guard Danielle Robinson rehabbing a ruptured achilles. Although Jefferson comes from a storied program, starting at the point in the WNBA is no easy task. However, she has slid into that role smoothly and seems to be improving as the season goes on. She is currently in the top five in the league in assists at 4.6 per game. She’s shooting over 40% from both the 2 and the 3 and is second on the Stars in points per game. The future is bright for Jefferson. Although the Stars have won just three games this season, she has a lot to look forward to as she becomes the leader of this team and develops alongside all-star guard Kayla McBride.
Tiffany Mitchell PPG 11.9 RPG 1.7 APG 1.5 MPG 25.6 SPG 1.3 ROOKIE RANK #3
The steal of the draft has been Tiffany Mitchell who somehow fell to the 9th pick. Mitchell has been sensational this season and is the second leading scoring on the Indiana Fever; A team that was one game away from winning the 2015 WNBA championship. For the first part of the season she was the leading scorer on the team. In the first eight games of her career she scored in double figures and had a career high of 21 points in a win against Connecticut on June 5th. Mitchell is an aggressive driver to the basket and has a knack for getting to the free throw line. As the Fever transitions with the retirement of their anchor Tamika Catchings and the departure of head coach Stephanie White, who will move on to coach at Vanderbilt University, Mitchell will be one of the most important players on the Fever in the coming future.
Aerial Powers PPG 9.7 RPG 1.9 APG 1.1 MPG 18.0 SPG 1.0 ROOKIE RANK #4
Aerial Powers is a scorer! She is intense and unafraid to attack defenders. Her almost 10 points a game in just 18 minutes of play proves this point. Powers comes off the bench for the Wings but her impact is felt immediately. Her style of play has been perfect for fast paced Wings who have a point guard in Odyssey Sims who loves to push the ball in transition. She had a season high of 20 points against the Minnesota Lynx who are arguably the best team in the WNBA! Powers will have an impactful career in the WNBA. Look for her to continue to improve as the season goes on. The sky is the limit for this rookie.
Morgan Tuck PPG 7.8 RPG 2.9 APG 1.1 MPG 18.8 ROOKIE RANK #5
Morgan Tuck was the 3rd pick in this year’s draft to the Connecticut Sun. Many weren’t sure how she would fare in the league as she is somewhat on the smaller side for her position and has had knee problems in the past. Despite the questions, Tuck has played pretty well for the Sun so far this season. Head coach Curt Miller has even played her at the 3 in short stints. Her ability to face up and shoot the three is what separates her from other power forwards. She is shooting just under 30% from behind the three point line which is comparable to many guards in the league. There also may be a little more playing time opening up for Tuck after the Sun traded their starting center Kelsey Bone last weekend to the Phoenix Mercury. Tuck has shown that she can contribute in this league. If she works to improve her defensive game she will be a key piece as the young Sun develop together.