A candidate for WNBA Most Valuable Player and Most Improved player in 2017, Brittney Griner today officially won the WNBA’s Peak Performer Award as the league’s leading scorer this season. Griner averaged a WNBA-best and career-high 21.9 points, the only player in the league this summer to average better than 20 points per game, and just the fifth player in Mercury franchise history (Jennifer Gillom, Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, DeWanna Bonner).
Already a two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and the game’s best shot-blocker, this season Griner because an imposing offensive force, combining improved strength and agility in the low-post with a tenacious work ethic, improved outside shot, and above-average free-throw shooting. Griner joins Taurasi, a league-record five-time scoring champion herself, as the only Mercury players to lead the WNBA in scoring, and the duo becomes the only set of active teammates to have won the scoring title.
After averaging 14.5 points in 2016, the 6-foot-9 center increased her scoring average by more than 7.0 points this season. Griner entered the season with 21 career 20-point games before tallying 14 this season alone. In fact, 23 of 35 career 20-point efforts have come in the last two seasons. Griner, who entered 2017 with a career high of 29 points, posted a league-best six 30-point performances, including a WNBA season-high 38 points on June 7 at Indiana.
As the focal point of the Mercury’s offense, Griner’s usage certainly increased in 2017 but it did not hurt her efficiency. Griner ranked third in the WNBA in field goal percentage, shooting a blistering 57.7 percent (207-of-359) clip from the field. Among players who appeared in at least 10 games, she finished second in the league in usage percentage (28.5), which was nearly a seven-point increase from her usage percentage a year ago (21.6).
Griner becomes the first true center in WNBA history to lead the league in scoring (former winners Tina Charles and Lauren Jackson both played more games at power forward). Since the 1959-60 season, the only true centers throughout their careers to lead the NBA in scoring are Wilt Chamberlin (seven times), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (twice), David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal (twice).
For a fifth-consecutive season in her five-year career, Griner also finished as the league’s leader in blocks per game, notching 2.5 blocks in 26 games.