2022 WNBA awards: Aces clean up as A’ja Wilson, Jackie Young and Becky Hammon all win major honors

The WNBA playoffs are rolling along, and we’ve reached what has been a thrilling semi-final stage. Both series, featuring the Las Vegas Aces against the Seattle Storm and the Chicago Sky versus the Connecticut Sun, are tied 1-1. Play will resume on Sunday with a pair of Game 3s. 

In addition to the on-court action, it’s also awards season in the WNBA. Over the next few weeks the league will officially honor the best and the brightest from the 2022 regular season. Here’s a look at all the winners:

Defensive Player of the Year: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

In one of the closest races we’ve seen this awards season, A’ja Wilson beat out Alyssa Thomas and Breanna Stewart for Defensive Player of the Year. This is the first time that Wilson has won the award, and she is the first player in Aces franchise history to do so. Wilson led the league in blocks at 1.9 per game, and also averaged 7.6 defensive rebounds and 1.4 steals. Furthermore, she finished third in defensive win shares at 2.4, per Basketball-Reference.com. While the Aces didn’t have the best team defense, Wilson’s individual prowess and elite rim protection were enough to earn her the honor. 

Rookie of the Year: Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream

There was little suspense when this award was announced. Howard, the No. 1 overall pick, was terrific in her rookie season, averaging 16.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Among rookies, she was first in scoring, sixth in rebounding, first in assists and first in steals. She also became just the eighth rookie in league history to average at least 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and two stocks (steals plus blocks). Thanks in large part to Howard, the Dream exceeded expectations and nearly made the playoffs. 

Most Improved Player: Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces

In another win for the top-seeded Aces, Jackie Young was named Most Improved Player. After steadily improving since her rookie season in 2019, Young took a leap this season and became an All-Star for the first time. She averaged 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game, while shooting 43.1 percent from 3-point land; all of those numbers, save for assists, were a career-high. Young’s outside shooting was the biggest difference, as she went from a reluctant shooter to one of the best in the league. 

Sixth Player of the Year: Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun

With Alyssa Thomas once again healthy, last season’s Most Improved Player, Brionna Jones, moved back to the bench. There, she quickly became the runaway favorite for Sixth Player of the Year, and has now officially claimed the honor. She is the third different Sun player to win the award, which is more than any other franchise. Jones put up put up 13.8 points and 5.1 rebounds on 56.9 percent from the field, and was named an All-Star for the second consecutive season. 

Coach of the Year: Becky Hammon, Las Vegas Aces

One of the biggest moves of the entire offseason was the Aces letting long-time head coach Bill Laimbeer go and hiring Becky Hammon to replace him. She turned the Aces into a modern basketball team and helped make them borderline unstoppable on offense. Under Hammon’s leadership, the Aces won a franchise-record 26 games and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. Hammon is the third former player to win the award

Executive of the Year: James Wade, Chicago Sky

Wade has dual responsibilities as the head coach and general manager of the Sky, and few people in the history of the league have ever made the arrangement work as well as he did this past year. After leading the Sky to the title last season, he then put together a masterclass on team building and roster management in the winter to make sure they remained contenders this season. Key moves included re-signing Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Kahleah Copper, signing Emma Meesseman and Rebekah Gardner in free agency and trading for Julie Allemand. 

All-Rookie Team

Rhyne Howard

Atlanta Dream

NaLyssa Smith

Indiana Fever

Shakira Austin

Washington Mystics

Queen Egbo

Indiana Fever

Rebekah Gardner

Chicago Sky