NEW YORK — Satou Sabally of the Dallas Wings was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player after averaging career bests with 18.6 points, 81. rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
The fourth-year pro set a franchise record with seven consecutive double-doubles early in the season and finished with 14 double-doubles – fifth in the league – and her first career triple-double.
Sallaby and the Wings reached the playoffs for the third consecutive year and won a postseason series for the first time since moving to the Dallas area from Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the 2016 season.
They swept Atlanta in a best-of-three and are set to play defending champion Las Vegas in the best-of-five semi-finals.
The second overall pick in the draft by Dallas in 2020 out of Oregon, Sabally averaged 11.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 11 games last season.
She shot a career-high 43.5 per cent from the field this season after shooting 39.8 per cent a year ago.
The 25-year-old’s 3-point percentage jumped to 36.1 per cent from 23.3 per cent last season.
Sabally finished ninth in scoring, 10th in rebounding and fourth in steals (1.8 per game) and was an All-Star Game starter for the first time in her second appearance.
“This is my career, this is my money, this is my life now, so I really need to take care of myself,” Sabally told ESPN about her mindset shift. “I saw the seriousness of it, and it’s showing.”
Sabally’s emergence has been key to the Wings finishing as a top-four seed in the regular season and their semifinals run.
“We’re not in this position we are right now without her. She has been the glue for this team,” Dallas Wings coach Latricia Trammel told ESPN before the playoffs. “I could coach her the rest of my career. She’s just that type of player.”
Regardless of how the postseason pans out, Sabally has not just lived up to her billing as a lottery pick, but at 25 has shown she’s capable of being, if not having already arrived as, one of the league’s very best. She is expected to receive votes on MVP ballots as well.
“I feel like I’m slowly stepping into a circle of greatness that I’ve always wanted to be in,” she told ESPN, “but I think I’m now setting the foundation for my legacy in the pros.”
Sabally earned $5,150 and a trophy designed to commemorate the league’s honor, for which she earned 37 of 60 votes from a panel of national sportswriters and broadcasters.
Los Angeles Sparks guard Jordin Canada landed in second place with 18 votes, and Chicago Sky forward Alanna Smith was third with three votes. Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier and Washington Mystics guard Brittney Sykes each received one vote.