With the Los Angeles Sparks and Candace Parker coming to KeyArena tomorrow (7:00 p.m., FSN, 1150 AM KKNW, TIX), I was curious whether Parker’s strong start has her on pace to post the best rookie season of all time. This is the kind of question my WARP rating system is well-equipped to answer, estimating how valuable a player is to their team in terms of the wins they offer as compared to a replacement-level player.
Before 2008, these were the top 10 rookie seasons in WNBA history.
Player Year Team WARP------------------------------------Tamika Catchings 2002 IND 11.2Lauren Jackson 2001 SEA 6.4Diana Taurasi 2004 PHO 6.2Betty Lennox 2000 MIN 5.5Sue Bird 2002 SEA 5.2Alana Beard 2004 WAS 5.1Chamique Holdsclaw 1999 WAS 5.1Swin Cash 2002 DET 5.0Tamika Williams 2002 MIN 4.4Cappie Pondexter 2006 PHO 4.4
Considering the Storm has two of the top five rookie seasons ever, it’s strange that the team has never had a Rookie of the Year. Sue Bird had the misfortune of going up against the best debut season the league has ever seen, when Tamika Catchings finished as the runner-up for MVP as a rookie. As for Lauren Jackson, well, there’s no way to sugercoat it. She was robbed. Portland’s Jackie Stiles won the award with 1.8 WARP, a figure dwarfed by Jackson’s 6.4 WARP. Ah, well – LJ’s never been in it for the awards.
Anyways, how do this year’s top rookies compare? Here’s the top six, projected to a full 34-game season.
Player Team WARP------------------------------Candace Parker LAS 9.4Candice Wiggins MIN 6.0Nicky Anosike MIN 4.7Alexis Hornbuckle DET 2.9Crystal Kelly SAC 2.2Sylvia Fowles CHI 1.8
It’s unlikely Parker will quite catch her fellow Tennessee alumna, but her rookie season has certainly been outstanding. Wiggins has been great in her own right and would have a chance for the second-best rookie season in league history were it not for Parker. Anosike has been legitimately outstanding and is having the best rookie season ever for a non-first-round pick (a title previously held by Michelle Brogan or, if you want to limit to college players, Tammy Sutton-Brown).
As for Fowles, on a per-minute basis she rates better than Wiggins, but her knee injury has naturally limited her total value.