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The 2019 WNBA playoffs kicked off on Wednesday night as Chicago and Seattle won single-elimination games to advance to Sunday’s second round. With the playoff run come regular season awards.
Chicago Sky head coach James Wade has been named the 2019 WNBA Coach of the Year. Wade becomes the first Chicago coach to earn the honor in the franchise’s 14-year history.
Wade received 27 votes from a national panel of 43 sportswriters and broadcasters, in his first season as a WNBA head coach.
The Sky finished with a 20-14 record to earn the No. 5 seed in the 2019 WNBA Playoffs. Chicago will play the No. 4 seed Las Vegas Aces at a 5pm ET second-round matchup on ESPN2.
Wade guided the Sky to a seven-win improvement from last season (13-21) and its third-best record ever. Chicago’s other two seasons with at least 20 victories were in 2013 (24-10) and 2015 (21-13).
Seattle Storm forward Natasha Howard has been named the 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, the WNBA announced on Wednesday.
— Percy Allen (@percyallen) September 11, 2019
In her sixth season, Howard led the WNBA with 74 total steals and finished second with a career-high 2.18 steals per game and ranked third in the WNBA in both total blocked shots (59) and blocks per game (1.74 bpg). The Storm gave up 11.7 less points per game with Howard on the court.
Howard was no Patrick Beverley, acting as a one-dimensional supreme defender. She was in her Kawhi Leonard flow this season as she averaged career-highs of 18.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 34 games. Howard’s lockdown D helped stopped LA Sparks’ Alana Beard’s two-year win streak (2017 and 2018).
Howard received 33 votes from a national panel of 43 sports media members. Howard and Seattle face Candace Parker and No. 3 seed LA Sparks on Sunday at 3pm ET.
Last season, Howard was named the WNBA Most Improved Player and selected to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team as she helped the Storm win the WNBA title. She was also a part of Minnesota’s championship-winning team in 2017.
In honor of being named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, Howard will receive $5,000 and a specially designed trophy from Tiffany & Co.