I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t expect A’ja Wilson to be this dominant this year.
When I wrote about Wilson for SLAM before the 2018 season, I thought Wilson had a good chance to be Rookie of the Year, but expected her to struggle at times against bigger, more physical competition.
But with her 34-point, 14-rebound performance in the Aces’ comeback win over Connecticut on Saturday, Wilson has all but secured the ROY award.
Wilson has turned around the long-suffering Aces franchise (formerly San Antonio Stars) and could become the first rookie to make the First Team All-WNBA team since 2008.
Twenty games into her WNBA career, Wilson is putting up numbers that few players—let alone rookies—have ever put up.
Wilson ranks second in the league in scoring (21.0), fourth in rebounding (8.7) and fifth in blocks (1.7). Perhaps even more impressive, she’s turning the ball over just 1.6 times per game despite a 29.2 usage rate (third-highest usage rate in the league).
The only knock on Wilson’s rookie resume is her 53.4 true shooting percentage, but that’s hardly a knock.
All this begs the question: Where does Wilson’s season rank among the greatest rookie seasons ever?
Excluding the WNBA’s inaugural season in 1997, only three other players have had singularly dominant rookie seasons.
1. Tamika Catchings, Indiana, 2002
18.6 PPG, 57.1 TS%, 8.6 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.9 SPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.6 TOV, 26.2 USG%
Catchings’ rookie season is hands down the best in WNBA history, but she sat out a year after being drafted by the Fever.
Similar to Ben Simmons, Catchings had a year to train as a professional before her rookie season. Some would say that Catchings wasn’t a true rookie.
She led the league in steals and was a First Team All-WNBA selection in 2002.
2. Candace Parker, Los Angeles, 2008
18.5 PPG, 58.2 TS%, 9.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.3 BPG, 2.8 TOV, 24.4 USG%
The only player to ever win the ROY and MVP in the same season, Parker was absolutely dominant in 2008. She led the league in rebounding and was a First Team All-WNBA selection.
Parker had the advantage of playing alongside Hall of Fame center Lisa Leslie, who was still elite at age 36.
3. A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas, 2018
21.0 PPG, 53.4 TS%, 8.7 RPG, 2.5 AST, 0.8 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.6 TOV, 29.2 USG%
If Wilson keeps up the current pace, her rookie season will rank top-3 of all time. That puts her in the same trajectory as some sure-fire Hall of Famers.
4. Breanna Stewart, Seattle, 2016
18.3 PPG, 57.6 TS%, 9.3 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 2.4 TOV, 24.5 USG%
Stewie lost more games during her rookie WNBA season than she did during four seasons at UConn, but she wasn’t any less incredible.
She won a Gold medal with Team USA at the Rio Olympics en route to a nearly unanimous ROY selection.