The Minnesota Lynx was picked to win its fourth WNBA championship in seven years, while the Washington Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne was selected as the favoUrite for WNBA Most Valuable Player, according to the 2017 WNBA.com GM Survey. In the 15th annual poll, the WNBA’s 12 general managers assessed the league’s best teams, players, coaches, offseason moves and more.
The complete results of the exclusive survey were posted today at WNBA.com, in advance of WNBA Tip-Off 2017 presented by Verizon. The WNBA tips off its 21st season on Saturday, May 13 with three games, highlighted by the defending champion Los Angeles Sparks hosting the Seattle Storm at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Five GMs (42 percent) predicted another WNBA title for the Lynx, which earned championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Last season, Minnesota lost a dramatic Finals series to the Los Angeles Sparks, who feature 2016 WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike and reigning Finals MVP Candace Parker. The Sparks were the general managers’ second choice to win the 2017 title, receiving 25 percent of the vote.
Delle Donne, the 2015 MVP while with the Chicago Sky, was the top pick for 2017 MVP with 42 percent of the vote, followed by the New York Liberty’s Tina Charles (25 percent), Ogwumike (17 percent) and Parker and Minnesota’s Maya Moore (8 percent each). After joining Washington via a much-heralded offseason trade, Delle Donne is looking to lead the Mystics to The Finals for the first time. Charles, who has excelled in three seasons with the Liberty, is seeking to help New York return to The Finals for the first time since 2002 and win its first title.
Washington’s acquisition of Delle Donne and its signing of veteran free agent guard Kristi Toliver, who helped the Sparks win the title a year ago, were seen by the general managers as the biggest moves of the offseason. Ninety-two percent of GMs viewed the Mystics as the team that made the best offseason moves overall, and the same number considered Delle Donne to be the one player acquisition who will make the biggest impact. Similarly, 67 percent of general managers picked the Mystics as the most improved team.
Kelsey Plum of the San Antonio Stars, the No. 1 overall selection in the WNBA Draft 2017 presented by State Farm, was the clear-cut favorite to earn WNBA Rookie of the Year honors, receiving 92 percent of the vote.
Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve, the reigning WNBA Coach of the Year and a two-time winner of the award, was chosen as the best manager/motivator (42 percent) and best head coach (33 percent).
Reeve and the WNBA’s other head coaches have an opportunity to be honored in a new way this season. For the first time, the WNBA will present Coach of the Month awards, an addition to the list of in-season honors that includes Players of the Month and Rookie of the Month. Also new in 2017, the WNBA will name a Basketball Executive of the Year at the end of the season.
Moore, a former WNBA MVP and Finals MVP, was voted as the player the general managers would want taking a shot with the game on the line (58 percent); the best finisher (33 percent); the best at creating her own shot (33 percent); and the most dangerous in the open floor (33 percent).
Charles, who was named the player with the best post moves (75 percent), tied with Moore as the hungriest player to win a championship (25 percent each). While Charles is pursuing her first WNBA title, Moore is eyeing her fourth.
For the Sparks, Ogwumike was voted as the most athletic player (75 percent) and top rebounder (42 percent), while Parker tied with the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner as the player who forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments (25 percent each).
Seattle’s Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart and Phoenix’s Griner and Diana Taurasi figured prominently in a number of categories in the GM Survey.
Stewart, the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year and a 2016 All-WNBA Second Team selection, received the most votes (33 percent) from GMs as the player with whom to start a franchise. Bird, who enters her 16th season ranked second on the WNBA’s career assists list, was the top vote-getter in five categories. In addition to being selected as the league’s best passer (75 percent), the nine-time All-Star was chosen as the player who would make the best head coach (75 percent); the player who is best at making her teammates better (67 percent); the player with the best basketball IQ (50 percent); and the best leader (50 percent).
Taurasi was named the best guard (67 percent) and best pure shooter (58 percent). Griner, a two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, was the leading vote-getter in that category (25 percent).
The Atlanta Dream’s Tiffany Hayes earned the most votes for most underrated player (25 percent), and the Connecticut Sun’s Jonquel Jones was considered the player most likely to have a breakout season (25 percent).
Three players shared the honor of the WNBA’s most effective offensive move: Lynx guard Seimone Augustus’ crossover dribble, Charles’ hook shot and Moore’s pull-up jumper each received 17 percent of the vote.
In addition to being selected as the championship favorite, the Lynx was named the team with the best home-court advantage for the third year in a row (58 percent). The GMs picked the Sparks as the most fun team to watch (25 percent).
Additional leaders in the WNBA.com GM survey included:
Indiana Fever’s Briann January – the best on-ball defender (50 percent)
Atlanta’s Damiris Dantas – the international player most likely to have a breakout season (25 percent)
New York Liberty – the Eastern Conference team that will have the most regular-season wins (50 percent)