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UConn in the WNBA: A look back at Napheesa Collier’s Rookie of the Year season

Collier’s season of statistical highlights landed her at the top of the 2019 rookie class.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Napheesa Collier’s rookie season ended with Minnesota’s playoff loss last Wednesday but her impressive WNBA debut was capped off by being named the 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year on Monday.

Collier’s season was full of impressive performances and statistical feats, which culminated in her finishing at the top of a a strong rookie class. Here’s a look at some of the most impressive stats from Collier’s rookie year:

Second highest scoring rookie debut in WNBA history

Most incoming rookies take some time to adjust to the WNBA and its faster and more physical play. Collier was not one of them. In her opening night debut, the former UConn star scored 27 points and shot an impressive 8-10 from the floor. The performance was a rookie record for the Minnesota Lynx, and the second most points scored by a rookie in their debut in WNBA history. Candace Parker holds the record for the most with 34 points in her Rookie of the Year/MVP season in 2008.

On top of a strong rookie class

The 2019 draft classes is one of the strongest in recent memory. Despite being the sixth overall pick this year, Collier ranked among the top three rookies in virtually every statistical category by the end of the season. She was first in steals, second in points, field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks and third in assists and three point percentage among all rookies this season.

Collier also excelled when comparing to the entire league as well. She led the WNBA in minutes played this season, and ranked among the top 20 in points and rebounds. She also finished an impressive fifth in the league in win shares, and was second overall in defensive win shares on the season.

A historic level of versatility

On draft night, Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve referred to Collier as a ‘Swiss army knife’ for her ability to do a little bit of everything on the court. That versatility was on full display this season for the Lynx. She became one of just four players in league history to finish a season with at least 400 points, 200 rebounds, 75 assists, 50 steals, 25 blocks and 25 three point field goals. The other three players to accomplish such a season were Tamika Catchings, Maya Moore and Sheryl Swoopes — pretty excellent company to fall among.

Collier also became the second rookie in league history to record at least 400 points, 200 boards and 60 steals. The first was Catchings.

Post-season excellence

While playoff games do not factor into the Rookie of the Year decision, Collier did not miss a beat in her post-season debut for the Lynx. Despite Minnesota’s loss to the Storm in the single-elimination first round, Collier recorded a double-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. She is just the second rookie in the past decade to record a point-rebound double-double in any playoff game.

Collier has established herself as an essential part of the Lynx’s lineup in her rookie campaign. With the return of Maya Moore uncertain, and Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus nearing the tail end of their careers, Collier is positioned to be the cornerstone that Minnesota builds their future around.