The 1998 season saw Tracy Reid win the inaugural WNBA Rookie of the Year award having been drafted 7th by the Charlotte Sting. Nobody has won the award having been drafted that low before or since. In 2020, that could well change!
Drafted 4th in the second round (16th overall) Crystal Dangerfield has emerged as a front runner from Rookie of the Year after 10 games in the Wubble. The Minnesota Lynx guard played her college career under the legendary Coach Geno Auriemma at UConn making the final four every season the tournament was played.
Dangerfield, who stands at just 5 feet and 5 inches, was slated to go in the first round to Seattle but slipped into the early second round landing at the equally storied franchise of the Lynx, where she is plying her trade with 2019 ROY Napheesa Collier and all-time rebounding leader Sylvia Fowles.
Despite her stature, which some commentators openly speculated would hold her back, Dangerfield has adapted the WNBA extremely quickly making an immediate impact as her team’s primary point guard.
Dangerfield is contributing 13.6 points per game ranking third amongst rookies, behind Sabrina Ionescu and Chennedy Carter. Both players currently out injured and both playing for teams with losing records. Dangerfield’s Lynx are 4th in the WNBA with a 7-3 record and whilst team record doesn’t always factor heavily in the ROY discussion, it is important to consider the vital role Dangerfield is playing on a team competing for a Championship in 2020.
Dangerfield is also sharing the rock the fourth-best of the rookies(3.2AST), with Julie Allemand topping the charts for Indiana, an outside chance at ROY in her own right. Dangerfield is second in minutes per game amongst rookies, just behind that of Allemand, showing the important she has to her team as well as the trust being shown in her this early into her career.
Dangerfield is also atop the plus/minus chart with a +4.6 and this is third in PIE (Player Impact Estimate) with an 11.3.
What do these numbers tell us? That Dangerfield is performing at an elite level for a rookie, and even against all Guards she is a top 20 scorer and assists maker. From a numbers point of view, she is vastly outplaying her draft pick position with Astou Ndour arguably the best pick at 16 in recent seasons.
But numbers aren’t everything, what about the eye test?
Dangerfield is the real deal! She is an intelligent leader on the floor who rarely gives up possession, and can score in multiple ways. In short, the Tennessee native is great to watch. She has an array of moves and is capable of dekeing defenders out of their shoes on her inside drives, see the business she gave to the Sparks, whilst posting her career-high of 29 points in the loss.
Her stature has been mentioned already as a potential hurdle to her success, but what she lacks in height she more than makes up in speed, strength and heart. She is as quick as any other WNBA player and that, combined with an excellent change of pace allows her to dribble in and out jams and take the ball coast-to-coast. She is an elite ball handler and coupled with her near limitless range and Minnesota have a very special player on their hands.
The case for Dangerfield as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate is clear. She is contributing meaningful minutes, on a contending team and backing up that trust in the points and assists department. Whilst some may hold the fact she plays for one of the top teams in the country against her, it is important to consider that every night she will be leading her team through meaningful games having been thrown in at the very deep end. Dangerfield has been required to adjust immediately to the professional game and contribute to a team hoping to make a very deep run through the playoffs and thus far has met that challenge impeccably.
It is clear from the way both the media, fans and her coaches talk about her that Crystal Dangerfield is set for a special WNBA career. IF she is able to stay healthy and stay the course for the rest of this season, there should be no reason that she can’t be in serious contention for Rookie of the Year, especially if she continues to contribute for a contending Lynx.
And if she doesn’t ultimately win the ROY, the consolation for the Lynx is they may just have another face of the franchise and a very bright future ahead of them.
Photo credit: StorrsCentral on twitter