07 Jan

Breanna Stewart named MVP; A’ja Wilson wins Defensive Player of the Year

The 2023 WNBA playoffs have reached the Finals, and awards season has come to an end as well. As per usual, the league’s major honors were determined by a panel of media members, and handed out during the postseason. This year, there were 60 voters, and ballots were due Sept. 10, the final day of the regular season.

In the biggest announcement, Breanna Stewart was named 2023 WNBA MVP, edging out Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas and Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson. Stewart won by a mere seven points in the second-closest race of all-time, and did so despite not having the most first-place votes (20, compared to 23 for Thomas). Those three headlined the All-WNBA First Team as unanimous selections.

Previously, Wilson won Defensive Player of the Year for a second consecutive season, Aliyah Boston was the unanimous Rookie of the Year and Satou Sabally earned Most Improved Player. In addition, Stephanie White was named Coach of the Year and Alysha Clark took home Sixth Player of the Year. Off the court, New York Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb received Executive of the Year.

Here’s a look at this season’s awards:

MVP: Breanna Stewart, New York Liberty
For the second time in her career, Breanna Stewart is the WNBA MVP. The Liberty star is the eighth player to win the award multiple times, and the third player, along with Cynthia Cooper and Lisa Leslie, to have multiple MVPs, Finals MVPs and championships. Stewart won by a historically close margin, sneaking past Alyssa Thomas and A’ja Wilson despite not having the most first-place votes.

While there was always going to be a fierce debate about this honor no matter which way it went, there was no question Stewart was deserving. She averaged 23 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.6 blocks per game, setting new career-best marks in scoring and assists, and finishing second in the league in scoring, third in rebounding and fourth in blocks. Furthermore, she set the new league record for 40-point games in a season with four.

Defensive Player of the Year: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson is back on the awards podium with her second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year honor. She is the first player since Alana Beard in 2017 and 2018 to go back-to-back, and she’s the eighth player in league history to win the award multiple times. Wilson has established herself as the premier rim protector and averaged 2.2 blocks per game to lead the league in that category. She also finished third in defensive rebounding (7.5 per game) and tied for ninth in steals (1.4), anchoring the league’s best defense.

Rookie of the Year: Aliyah Boston, Indiana Fever
As expected, No. 1 overall pick Aliyah Boston was named Rookie of the Year after a historic season. She won the award unanimously, becoming the fifth player in league history to achieve that feat. Boston appeared in all 40 games, averaging 14.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, while shooting 57.8% from the field. She led rookies in all of those categories and became the first rookie ever to lead the league in field goal percentage. Along the way, she was named an All-Star starter, becoming the sixth rookie to accomplish that, and helped the Fever win more games (13) than they had in the last two seasons combined (11).

Most Improved Player: Satou Sabally, Dallas Wings
As expected, Satou Sabally was named Most Improved Player after putting together a historic season. Sabally has had a frustrating start to her career, but she finally put it all together this season to lead the Wings to their first 20-win campaign since 2008. Along the way, Sabally averaged 18.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game, while shooting 36.1% from 3-point land. All of those marks were career-highs, and she joined Candace Parker as the only players in league history to average at least 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists over the course of a season.

Sixth Player of the Year: Alysha Clark, Las Vegas Aces
The Aces dominance over the Sixth Player of the Year award continued this season as veteran forward Alysha Clark took home the trophy. This was the fourth time in five seasons that an Aces player has won 6POY, with Clark joining Dearica Hamby (twice) and Kelsey Plum. In Clark’s first season with the Aces she proved to be a vital piece off the bench on both sides of the ball as they won a WNBA record 34 regular season games. Clark averaged 6.7 points and 3.4 rebounds, while shooting 38.6% from 3-point land.

Coach of the Year: Stephanie White, Connecticut Sun
White’s first season in charge of the Sun was a successful one, as she guided the team to a franchise-record 27 wins and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. That’s despite the fact that Jonquel Jones was traded away in the winter and Brionna Jones tore her Achilles tendon a month into the season. This was the fifth time that a Sun coach has won the award, which is more than any other franchise.

Executive of the Year: Jonathan Kolb, New York Liberty
It’s no surprise that Kolb won this honor after putting together perhaps the best offseason in league history. During the winter, Kolb traded for Jonquel Jones and signed Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot in free agency — two former MVPs and the active assists leader. Following that incredible haul, the Liberty won a franchise-record 32 games in the regular season and earned the No. 2 overall seed in the playoffs.

All-WNBA First Team
As expected, MVP Breanna Stewart, Defensive Player of the Year A’ja Wilson and MVP runner-up Alyssa Thomas headlined the All-WNBA First Team; all three were unanimous selections. Notably, there were no guards on the First Team, which is now position-less as of last year.

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