Biggest surprises and snubs of the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game rosters

Biggest surprises and snubs of the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game rosters

The 2022 WNBA All-Star Game’s 22-player roster is set, as the game’s 12 reserves — chosen by the league’s coaches — were announced Tuesday.

The two teams — led by captains A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart, and their respective co-captains Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles — will draft their rosters from the pool on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN app). Wilson and Stewart were named captains after receiving the most fan votes. The WNBA named Bird and Fowles, who have announced they’re retiring at the end of the 2022 season, co-captains alongside them.

Joining them will be Skylar Diggins-Smith, Courtney Vandersloot and Jewell Loyd, a host of second-time All-Stars and one first-timer, Atlanta Dream rookie Rhyne Howard, this year’s No. 1 draft pick.

ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel, Alexa Philippou and Kevin Pelton — all of whom were media All-Star voters — share their thoughts on the biggest snubs, who should’ve been starters and more on the 22 players chosen. The 2022 WNBA All-Star game airs July 10 (1 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App)

Which is the biggest All-Star snub, and who would they replace on the current roster?

Mechelle Voepel: Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell (19.2 PPG) is the only player among the top eight scorers currently in the WNBA who is not on the roster. She is currently fourth in PPG, tied for 12th in APG (4.1) and is shooting 40.2% from 3-point range. If those numbers held up through the season, they would be the best of her five-year WNBA career.

Mitchell does play for the last-place Fever, and it’s difficult to make a case for her over the other reserve guards for reasons that aren’t about whether Mitchell is good enough to be an All-Star. She is. But as Andscape’s Sean Hurd wrote recently, she has opted to stay the course in Indiana and try to rebuild the franchise. If that costs her some accolades now, she hopes the payoff will be completing the job.

Alexa Philippou: I thought Allisha Gray had a great case for earning an All-Star spot. The six-year veteran is having a career-best season, averaging 14.5 points and 5.6 rebounds to go along with her usual strong defense. Her 43.0% accuracy from 3 (5.2 tries per game) is second in the league among players attempting at least three treys per game, only behind Jackie Young.

Moreover, the advanced stats showcase her value to the Dallas Wings: She’s tied for fifth in the league with 3.0 win shares per Her Hoop Stats, and Dallas bests opponents by 14.9 points per 100 possessions with her on the floor (the second-highest mark on the team behind Teaira McCowan). Both numbers are marginally better than those of teammate and All-Star reserve Arike Ogunbowale (2.3, 10.5).

Kevin Pelton: Elena Delle Donne. I voted for Delle Donne as one of my starters, so I’m shocked she wasn’t chosen by coaches. Yes, she hasn’t been one of the 10 most valuable players in the league this season because of the number of games she has missed due to minor injury and planned rest. But when she has played, Delle Donne has been as good as anyone outside the top MVP candidates (she ranks sixth in my wins above replacement player metric on a per-game basis). And the last time she was healthy before this, she was the MVP and led the Washington Mystics to a title. As long as she’s healthy, Delle Donne is always an All-Star in my book.

What is the biggest surprise of the All-Star rosters?

Philippou: I’m always intrigued to see the discrepancies between how fans, media, players and coaches vote. Players were much lower on Diggins-Smith, Candace Parker and Delle Donne than the fans and media. Fans meanwhile were lower on Ogunbowale, Mitchell and Jonquel Jones than media and players. Mitchell, Tina Charles and Delle Donne were all top 10 in all three groups’ voting for their respective positions — but none got the nod from coaches.

For what is supposed to be a showcase of the league’s talent, does it feel right for one of the 12 teams not to be represented, especially when two teams make up over one-third of the picks — and when it wouldn’t actually be that forced to include a player from that outstanding team (i.e. Mitchell)? This renews the age-old debate over what should constitute an All-Star (especially compared to, say, All-WNBA teams). But maybe fan voting should factor into choosing the reserves as well as the starters.

Pelton: Diana Taurasi not making it. Strictly on merits, this could have gone either way. I didn’t have her on my All-Star roster when we picked them on the HerHoopStats podcast last week. Still, this is Diana Taurasi, the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer. The only time she has ever been eligible for an All-Star game and not been picked was in 2019, when she played just six games due to injury.

Voepel: The league might want to have a chat with the union about player voting. While there are players who do due diligence to fill out their ballot, others don’t, and may just list their teammates. Players are included in the voting panel because obviously they know whose names are always on scouting reports and who they have the toughest time guarding or scoring against, etc. But not taking the voting seriously negates their expertise. And some don’t vote at all.

That said, there wasn’t anything really stunning about the final roster, although it is somewhat surprising the coaches didn’t pick Delle Donne or Taurasi — if not both. Because at their best, they are still in the elite. Fan voting should probably be included in the reserves.

Which reserve should have been a starter?

Pelton: Diggins-Smith. It has been a disappointing season for the Mercury, but I’m still shocked Diggins-Smith finished 14th among guards in the voting by players, putting her as a below-average starter. We’re talking about one of the most accomplished point guards in WNBA history, and it’s not like we don’t have evidence she can help her team win: Diggins-Smith led Phoenix to the Finals just nine months ago.

Voepel: Diggins-Smith. She is far above the 14th-best guard in the league and everybody knows that. It really showed something was wonky about player voting — including voter turnout, if you will.

Philippou: Emma Meesseman has been such a huge factor in Chicago’s regular season success this summer, but if you’re looking to start only one Chicago player, I don’t hate Candace Parker getting the nod ahead of her — especially since this could be Parker’s last season in the WNBA.

I also think the Sun’s Brionna Jones remains criminally underrated in this league, even after winning Most Improved Player last season and looking a likely lock for Sixth Woman of the Year in 2022. She’s No. 2 in win shares, per Her Hoop Stats, second only to Breanna Stewart.

Which first-time All-Star are you most impressed with this season?

Pelton: Kelsey Plum, if only because I expected Sabrina Ionescu to eventually get to this level of play. In Plum’s case it’s more surprising to be reaching new heights two years removed from a potentially devastating Achilles injury. For the Aces, moving Plum from the bench to the starting lineup has continued to unlock the scoring ability that made her the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader coming out of Washington as the No. 1 overall pick in 2017.

Voepel: We thought 2020 No. 1 pick Ionescu could be an All-Star level talent immediately. But after losing most of her rookie year to a serious ankle injury, she is now really coming into her own. Candace Parker recently mentioned Ionescu, the all-time college triple-double leader for Oregon, as an example of a player who could make triple-doubles in the WNBA seem almost routine. Ionescu has one triple-double this year and has been close three other times. It’s very likely she will have more before the season is over.

Philippou: All of them. But if I only have to talk about one, I’ll highlight Rhyne Howard, the sole rookie on the team. Although she and the Atlanta Dream have cooled off a bit in recent weeks, her 16.2 points (top-15 in the league) on 37.3% shooting from 3, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest encapsulate just how strong a debut season the 2022 No. 1 pick has had.

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