On Wednesday, the WNBA announced that Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams won the league’s Most Improved Player of the year. Williams improved her season scoring averages from 3.3 to 11.9 points a game this season and her rebounding from 3.2 to 8.1 per game this season. She earned 14 out of 39 votes out of a panel of sportswriters.
That said, Mystics guard Tayler Hill finished second in the race. She earned nine out of 39 votes. Though she didn’t earn the honor, this is a very good accomplishment nevertheless. Here’s why Hill earned many votes:
- Hill doubled her scoring average from 7.5 ppg in 2015 to 15.4 ppg this season. When you average more points a game by this magnitude, you’re gonna get noticed. Hill was also the team’s leading scorer on a per game basis.
- Hill was the team’s go-to perimeter scorer in her first full year as a starter - In her first three years in the league, Hill played primarily as a complementary bench player. This season, she took on a role as the Mystics’ primary backcourt scoring threat.
- Hill improved her scoring because she developed an uncanny ability to get contact at the free throw line - Hill finished fourth in total free throws and free throw percentage in the 2016 season. Her free throw rate was a career high 46.9 percent.
- Despite having a high usage percentage, Hill was an effective passer and kept her turnovers in check - Hill had the highest usage rating of all Mystics players at 25.9 percent. But her turnover percentage was 7.7 percent, second in the league. Before you start calling her the female Nick Young, Hill also averaged 2.9 assists per game and had a career high assist percentage of 18.4 percent, second highest among Mystics starters. For some perspective, Bradley Beal’s assist percentage was 15.6 percent, his turnover percentage was 11.3 percent, and his usage percentage was 25.3 percent in the 2015-16 NBA season.
If there’s a reason why Williams should have won this award over Hill, it is primarily because the Dream earned a trip to the playoffs while the Mystics didn’t. Also, Hill’s overall 34.8 percent shooting isn’t anything to write home about. But I would counter that by saying Williams averaged 44.4 percent shooting as a center who isn’t exactly known for stretching the defense.
Hill wasn’t the only Mystics player in the MIP voting race. Emma Meesseman also received one vote. You can primarily point at her improved three point shot and diversifying skill set as why. She is a “known player” at this point so it wasn’t surprising to see her toward the top of this list.
Though the Mystics came home empty in the one awards race where they had a solid chance of winning, it’s still a good thing that folks around the league recognized Hill’s improvement. Hopefully we’ll see Hill and Meesseman take another step forward next season as they enter their primes.