USC Women's Basketball

Is A'ja Wilson having the best WNBA rookie season ever?

A’ja Wilson talks adjustments to WNBA, living on her own for first time

Former USC women's basketball star A'ja Wilson and her new coach with the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces, Bill Laimbeer, talk about what the No. 1 draft pick still has to learn about playing in the pro ranks.
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Former USC women's basketball star A'ja Wilson and her new coach with the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces, Bill Laimbeer, talk about what the No. 1 draft pick still has to learn about playing in the pro ranks.

Just over halfway through her first season in the WNBA, former South Carolina women's basketball star A'ja Wilson hasn't missed a step in her transition from college to the pros — she's top five in the league in points and rebounds per game, top 10 in blocks and third in usage rate.

And that's among all 144 players, including legends such as Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne. Against her fellow rookies, Wilson is first in points, first in rebounds, first in blocks, second in assists, first in player impact estimate and first in usage rate.

All of that is to say, preseason projections of Wilson taking home the trophy for Rookie of the Year, following in the footsteps of best friend Allisha Gray, are looking pretty accurate, barring some late surge by another player or an injury to the former Gamecock.

So it's hardly surprising that national media outlets such as ESPN and The Athletic have started to ponder a bigger question: Is A'ja Wilson the best rookie the WNBA has seen in its 22 years of existence?

Only one WNBA player has won Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season — Candace Parker in 2008. Just two have won Rookie of the Year and a league title in the same campaign — Maya Moore in 2011 and Cheryl Ford in 2003.

Wilson's Las Vegas Aces are 6-12 and stuck towards the bottom of the standings, so a WNBA championship seems unlikely. An MVP award is not impossible, but at the moment, she appears to be on the outside looking in.

Still, if Wilson keeps up her current pace, she will join Seimone Augustus as the only rookie to average more than 20 points per game, and her rebound and block numbers would put her among the best first-year players ever. Take it all together, and there's an argument to be made that Wilson is already ahead of where the WNBA's biggest stars were in their first years.

Arguably, Wilson's biggest competition comes from just two seasons ago, as former UConn great Breanna Stewart took the league by storm, averaging 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.9 blocks per game, with a field goal percentage of 45.7. All those numbers roughly compare to Wilson's, as seen below.



Wilson has already flirted with league history, coming just two assists shy of a triple-double last Wednesday against the Dallas Wings, tallying 22 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks. There have been just six triple-doubles in WNBA regular season history, none from a rookie.

She's also just the second rookie ever to record a 35-point, 10-rebound game and is one of just five players to reach 300 points in her first 15 career games.

Wilson and the Aces still have 14 games remaining in the 2018 season, but if she can maintain her current pace, the USC great seems poised to make even more WNBA history.

GAMECOCKS IN THE WNBA

Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings) — 15 games, 15 starts, 25.6 minutes per game, 9.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.5 steals per game

Kaela Davis (Dallas Wings) — 14 games, 4 starts, 17.5 minutes per game, 5.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists per game

Tiffany Mitchell (Indiana Fever) — 17 games, 17 starts, 28.8 minutes per game, 9.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.7 steals per game

Alaina Coates (Chicago Sky) — 14 games, 8.3 minutes per game, 2.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.2 blocks per game

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