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2022 WNBA ROY Power Rankings Week Six: NaLyssa Smith Picking Up Steam

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It is difficult to fathom the 2022 WNBA regular season is nearing the halfway point. It was a 50-50 week for 2022 WNBA ROY candidates as their teams went a combined four wins and four losses. No matter the outcomes these rookies continue to perform consistently every game. Even factoring in rookie mistakes, the 2022 WNBA ROY contenders are looking more and more like veterans each week. It is truly a most wonderful time of the year watching such talent, hard work, and determination showcased on the hardwood.

RHYNE HOWARD

Last week Rhyne Howard and the Dream lost to Connecticut and Chicago on the road. That dropped their record to 7-8 and seventh place in league standings. It is a much improved record compared to 2021 and Howard put up consistent numbers in both games versus very tough competition.

Against the Sun she scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out two assists and garnered three steals. In similar fashion, she scored 16 points, snatched four rebounds, dealt seven assists, and collected a steal in a loss to the Sky. In those two games Howard averaged 40% from the field and and 34.2 fantasy points.

A look at the statistics show veteran type numbers, incredibly impressive for a first-year player. Reiterating the impressive theme, Howard is 13th in the league in scoring at 16.3 PPG, fourth in three pointers at 2.7 a game, seventh in steals at 1.6 SPG, and 12th in fantasy points at 30.6 a game. She is the type of player you have to watch every game in order to witness phenomenal first class play at a first class level.

NALYSSA SMITH

Another rookie playing first class, NaLyssa Smith is making a case of her own for 2022 WNBA ROY. Her performance against Phoenix was less than noteworthy due to shooting 14.3% from the field and scoring only four points. However, she pulled down 14 rebounds and had one assist versus the Mercury. On the other hand, Smith made a statement against Chicago. She had a career-high 26 points, shooting 64.7% from the field. She also racked up a fourth double-double with 11 rebounds in a huge win over the Sky.

In regards to league play, Smith is fifth in rebounds at 8.9 RPG and averages 13.9 PPG. She may not be as highly ranked in other categories compared to Howard but it is a challenge comparing a guard and forward. Plus, Smith and Howard have two different styles of play. Nonetheless, Smith is making a run for some ROY hardware.

If she can put up numbers like the ones against Chicago, plus lead her team to more victories, the judges are going to have a tough decision to make.

SHAKIRA AUSTIN & REBEKAH GARDNER

In a tie for third, at least for this week, Shakira Austin and Rebekah Gardner are making the most of their minutes. As mentioned earlier, it is a bit of a  thorny situation comparing a guard to a center-forward. Why not dive in and give it a try anyway.

First, Austin is fourth in the league in shooting percentage at 56.4% while Gardner is fifth at 55.9%. Those are impressive numbers for any WNBA player, let alone two rookies. Both are averaging about the same minutes per game. Austin is playing 21.2 MPG and Gardner is playing 22.3 MPG. The two are also similar in points as Gardner is averaging 9.4 PPG (47th) and Austin is averaging 8.8 PPG (50th).

Naturally there are some differences in regards to rebounds, assists, and steals due to the different positions each one plays. Austin has the edge in rebounds, 6.4 RPG compared to Gardner’s 3.1 RPG. Gardner has the edge in assists (1.3 APG) and steals (1.4 SPG) as Austin has .6 APG and .7 SPG.

However, their stats are close enough to warrant a tie for third this week in the 2022 WNBA ROY power rankings. Not to mention they are valuable contributors to the success of their teams. Austin and Gardner are still long shots for the ROY crown but they are destined to experience the playoffs as first-year phenoms.

QUEEN EGBO

Hanging around in fifth place, Queen Egbo had an interesting week of play. Against Phoenix, Egbo had 12 points, six rebounds, and two blocks while playing almost 30 minutes. A few days later versus Chicago she played a little over 11 minutes and collected six points, two rebounds, and one block. Egbo is still fourth in the league in blocks (1.4) and she is tied for fourth in rebounds (6.4) for centers. She may be an outlier for ROY this week but her season play keeps her in the conversation for now.

PARTING SHOTS

At the end of the sixth week, Howard is in the lead for 2022 WNBA ROY although Smith has closed the gap. This may end up being a see-saw battle for the rest of the season as both rookies raise their level of play each game. This week Indiana plays once and Atlanta plays three times. Will Smith follow up her career-high performance with another impact game against Dallas? Or will Howard play lights out in three games this week to maintain her lead?

Conversely, is there a scenario that involves the three other rookies as viable ROY contenders? Might Austin, Gardner, or Egbo elevate their game in the next few weeks and provide more intrigue to the 2022 WNBA ROY race? It is time to dial in some WNBA games this week and watch these fabulous athletes show up and show out.

About Sharon Ostrom

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