It has been an incredible rookie season for Breanna Stewart. According to WNBA.com advanced stats, the Storm forward is among the league leaders in estimated impact and player efficiency rating.
Even as a rookie that just turned 22, Stewart’s versatility is almost unmatched in the WNBA. On multiple occasions every game, the 6-foot-4 forward brings the ball up and runs the point despite being the tallest player out there. But as versatile as she is on offense, Stewart has her greatest impact at the other end of the court.
“The one thing I knew was going to translate without a doubt was her defense,” point guard Sue Bird said during preseason training camp. “She’s just so long. She’s able to get her hands on so many balls. I think she’s going to create a lot of havoc on the defensive end.”
Stewart arrived in Seattle as UConn’s all-time leader in blocks, finishing her college career as one of the 10 best shot-blockers in NCAA history. With the help of a 7-foot-1 wingspan, she blocked 4.7 shots per 40 minutes as a senior, which would have ranked better than 87 percent of Division I teams. Stewart never fouled out in 152 career games. She once blocked three shots in one possession.
Stewart has continued to be a dominant force on the defensive end, and she deserves to join Lauren Jackson as the only Storm players to win WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.
First, let’s look at some of her stats from this season:
- Stewart ranks first in the league in defensive rebounds (8.1 per game), second in total rebounds (9.3), fourth in blocks (1.9) and 18th in steals (1.2).
- She’s the only player in the top four of both rebounds and blocks per game.
- She’s the only player in the top five of rebounds per game and in the top 20 of both blocks and steals per game.
- Opponents score 90.8 points for every 40 minutes Stewart is on the bench, compared to 79.4 points for every 40 minutes she is on the court.
- Just like college, she has not fouled out once.
- Stewart is on pace to break Lisa Leslie’s record for most defensive rebounds in a single season. Her defensive rebound percentage is significantly better than Brittney Griner’s DPOY campaigns in 2014 and 2015.
- She could become just the fourth player to finish in the top 15 of steals per game and in the top five of both blocks and rebounds per game (Leslie, Yolanda Griffith and Candace Parker).
- Stewart is on pace to join Parker (2008) and Tamika Catchings (2002) as the only rookies to average 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block. Parker won MVP that season, and Catchings went on to win DPOY five times.
Now, here’s the eye test:
A prime example of her defense came this week against Dallas, when Stewart had two crucial blocks in the final minutes, one in the paint and one on a three-point attempt.
There is not another player in the league capable of doing all the things shown above, nor is there a player with as many eye-popping defensive stats. And that is why Breanna Stewart should be WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.