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Howard named WNBA defensive player of the year

Seattle Storm forward Natasha Howard has been named the 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, the WNBA have announced.

Howard has earned the honor for the first time and become the second winner for the Storm, joining Lauren Jackson (2007).

Howard received 33 votes from a national panel of 43 sportswriters and broadcasters. 

Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks finished second with three votes. Three-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx and Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun tied for third with two votes each.

Seattle’s Alysha Clark, the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner and the Atlanta Dream’s Elizabeth Williams tied for fourth with one vote each.

Howard and the sixth-seeded Storm defeated Fowles and the seventh-seeded Lynx in a first-round, single-elimination playoff game last tonight.

In her sixth season, Howard led the WNBA with 74 total steals and finished second with a career-high 2.18 steals per game, just behind Storm teammate Jordin Canada (2.27 spg).  Howard ranked third in the WNBA in both total blocked shots (59) and blocks per game (1.74 bpg).  She also averaged a career-high 5.5 defensive rebounds per game, the 11th-highest total in the league.

The Storm gave up only 92.3 points per 100 possessions with Howard on the court compared with 104.0 points per 100 possessions with her off the court – a difference of 11.7 points.  Overall, Seattle ranked fourth in the WNBA in defensive rating, allowing 96.4 points per 100 possessions.

A first-time All-Star this season, Howard averaged career highs of 18.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 34 games. 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.

Before joining Seattle in 2018, Howard played two seasons each with the Lynx and the Indiana Fever.  She was part of Minnesota’s championship-winning team in 2017.

All Defensive Team

Howard also leads the 2019 WNBA All-Defensive First Team.

She received the maximum 11 votes from the WNBA’s head coaches, earning All-Defensive First Team honors for the second straight season.

Along with Howard (55 points), the WNBA All-Defensive First Team features Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones (42), Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (36), Sun guard Jasmine Thomas (36) and Storm guard Jordin Canada (34).

The WNBA All-Defensive Second Team consists of Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (34 points), Washington Mystics guard Ariel Atkins (27), Storm forward Alysha Clark (26), Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) and Mystics guard Natasha Cloud (25).

The WNBA’s 12 head coaches selected the All-Defensive First and Second Teams by position and were not permitted to vote for players from their own teams. Players earned five points for each First Team vote and three points for each Second Team vote.  If a player received votes at multiple positions, she was slotted at the position where she received the most votes.

2019 WNBA All-Defensive First Team

Natasha Howard, Storm: The two-time All-Defensive First Team selection ranked second in the WNBA in steals (2.18 spg) and third in blocked shots (1.74 bpg).

Jonquel Jones, Sun: The 2018 Sixth Woman of the Year tied for the WNBA lead in blocked shots (2.0 bpg) with Griner en route to her first All-Defensive Team nod.  Jones also finished fourth in defensive rebounds with 6.4 per game.

Nneka Ogwumike, Sparks: Ogwumike ranked third in the WNBA in defensive rebounding (6.5 drpg) and fifth in steals (1.88 spg).  She was voted to an All-Defensive Team for the fifth straight season and to the First Team for the fourth time (2015-17). 

Jasmine Thomas, Sun: This marks the third consecutive All-Defensive First Team honor for Thomas, a top on-ball defender who tied for eighth in steals (1.41 spg).  She also made the Second Team in 2016.

Jordin Canada, Storm: The league leader in steals (2.27 spg) was selected to her first All-Defensive Team in only her second WNBA season.

2019 WNBA All-Defensive Second Team

Brittney Griner, Mercury: This is the sixth consecutive All-Defensive Team selection for Griner, who was the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015.  Griner tied for the WNBA lead in blocks (2.0 bpg) after leading the category outright in each of her previous six seasons.

Ariel Atkins, Mystics: Atkins has earned All-Defensive Second Team honors in both of her WNBA seasons.  She finished sixth in the WNBA in steals with 1.45 per game this season.

Alysha Clark, Storm: Clark makes her All-Defensive Team debut in her eighth WNBA season after helping the Storm allow a league-low 75.1 points per game.

Alyssa Thomas, Sun: Thomas finished third in the WNBA in steals (1.94 spg) en route to her second All-Defensive Team selection (2017).  She also tied for 11th in total defensive rebounds (181).

Natasha Cloud, Mystics: Selected to her first All-Defensive Team in her fifth WNBA season, Cloud contributed 1.03 steals and 2.3 defensive rebounds per game for league-leading Washington.

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