WNBA Sporting News Awards 2023: A’ja Wilson, Alyssa Thomas, Aliyah Boston headline this year’s honors

Year in and year out, the talent level continues to make award picks tough in the WNBA. 

There’s a real MVP debate between A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart for the 2023 season. Defensive Player of the Year is headlined by Wilson, Alyssa Thomas and a handful of others. Coach of the Year could come down to Becky Hammon, Stephanie White, Latricia Trammell and Sandy Brondello. Really, the only award this season without much debate might be the Rookie of the Year. 

Despite the tough choices, the Sporting News put together a panel of basketball writers to select its own Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year. Each award was voted on anonymously and compiled using a points system.

The decisions weren’t easy, but the results showcase the talent the W has to offer.

Without further ado, here are the 2023 winners of the WNBA Sporting News Awards.

WNBA Sporting News Awards 2023

Player of the Year: A’ja Wilson

To live in an era of basketball where you could flip a coin between two of the game’s greatest players ever when selecting MVP and both would be right is something we as fans shouldn’t take for granted.

Breanna Stewart had an MVP-type year in New York. Her averages of 23.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.6 blocks jump off the page. She continues to be more efficient picking her spots with more talent around her, leading to a near career-high 28.6 PER. The Liberty ran away with the Eastern Conference crowd and put some severe pressure on the Aces for the best record in the league.

All that would have made her this year’s Sporting News Player of the Year, if one A’ja Wilson didn’t exist.

Wilson is still the best player on the planet. After her second MVP season, Wilson followed up by averaging a career-high 22.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks while shooting 55.7 percent from the field. Her two-way play also earned her votes for Defensive Player of the Year — but more on that later.

Wilson led the Aces to a WNBA-best 34-6 record, blowing teams out of the water with a league-leading 15.3 net rating. Aces head coach Becky Hammon made the case for Wilson as the season ended.

“She’s better than she was last year. She’s been playing better than she was last year,” Hammon told reporters.

“And she plays on the best team, the best record… and efficiency — I go back to the minutes played… don’t penalize her because her coach didn’t play her in a lot of fourth quarters.

“Points per minute, she’s the most efficient scorer in the league. Defensively, she anchors the number one defense in the league. So when you’re talking about number one offense (and) number one defense, she’s the head.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Defensive Player of the Year: Alyssa Thomas

Alyssa Thomas wins Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year in 2023

Look, Wilson could’ve probably taken this award home too, but Alyssa Thomas’ defensive impact was just too much to ignore.

Thomas helped the Sun to the second-best defensive rating in the league at 98.8. And her impact was certainly felt. With Thomas on the floor this season, the Sun had a defensive rating of 97.7. When she sat, it went up to 104.3. That would’ve been the difference between being tied for the best defense in the league and the 10th-ranked unit.

Thomas led the league in defensive rebounding (7.9 per game) and posted a defensive rebounding rate of 26.0 percent, according to Her Hoop Stats.

Thomas was consistent all year. If the Sun have a chance to win a title, they’ll need the Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year to keep locking opponents down.

Rookie of the Year: Aliyah Boston

Aliyah Boston wins Sporting News Rookie of the Year 2023

Rookie of the Year was the easiest of picks this year. No rookie played better from start to finish than Aliyah Boston. 

The No. 1 overall pick led all rookies in points per game, rebounds, blocks and steals. She also played all 40 games, logging 31.2 minutes per contest. Only Kelsey Mitchell played more for the Fever. Boston earned the respect of the league early as well, as she was named an All-Star this season. 

The Fever didn’t do a ton of winning this year, but it won’t be long before they do as long as Boston is on the roster.

Coach of the Year: Stephanie White

Stephanie White wins Sporting News Coach of the Year in 2023

When Stephanie White was hired in November of last year, replacing the outgoing Curt Miller, there were plenty of questions. White hadn’t coached in the W since 2016 and hadn’t coached at all since parting ways with Vanderbilt in 2021.

Whatever questions there were, she silenced them in year one in Connecticut. 

White led the Sun to the third-best record in the league, which is made even more impressive when you consider the super teams that finished ahead of them. She maintained a standard that had been set over the last two seasons when many expected a dropoff in the transition. 

“I didn’t know if I was gonna coach again, to be honest,” White told Maggie Vanoni of CT Insider. “… After the job at Vanderbilt, I wasn’t sure if I, number one, wanted to and, number two, you know, would have the opportunity and, number three, that it would work out for the family.

“There were a lot of factors going into that. And then this opportunity just came up and it worked out. The stars kind of just aligned. (I’m) just thankful and grateful for that.”

White’s main goal will be getting the Sun over the top in the playoffs, but she certainly kept pace with the league’s giants in the regular season and earned the SN Coach of the Year award.

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