An anonymous poll created by The Athletic revealed which players that WNBA general managers most want to build their team around.
This poll, another installment of The Athletic's WNBA Confidential series, asked for all 12 WNBA general managers to participate — although only nine elected to. Of those nine, some declined to answer specific questions; still, the answers received display fascinating insights.
The poll's first question was: "If you were starting a team today, which player would you pick to build around?" Three GMs (who couldn't select a player on their own teams) responded with A'ja Wilson, forward for the Las Vegas Aces. This wasn't a surprise, as Wilson is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, the 2020 and 2022 WNBA MVP, and is widely considered to be the best female basketball player on the planet (despite not winning this year's MVP award).
Although she isn't even in the WNBA yet, University of Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark received the second most votes for this question, with two. After Clark, Alyssa Thomas, Breanna Stewart and Chelsea Gray each received one vote.
A GM who selected Wilson was asked why and responded with, "She is a consistently available (from a health standpoint) superstar that significantly impacts winning. She continues to add to her game and gets better year-over-year." We couldn't agree more.
The second question posed in the poll was: Who is the WNBA's Best Defensive Player?" While one would imagine that Wilson would once again be the top choice, the winner was actually Washington Mystics guard Brittney Sykes, who received three votes. Wilson was tied with Natasha Cloud with two votes each, and Thomas came in third place with one vote.
A GM who selected Sykes said, "I think she's tenacious. I think she's super athletic. I think her athleticism allows her to guard bigger players, but her quickness allows her to guard smaller players. I think she's very versatile."
The third and final question asked by The Athletic's anonymous poll was: Who in the League would make for a great new coach? This question was particularly interesting, because both the Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky are currently looking for a new head coach. Tied for the name most frequently mentioned was Chris Koclanes, who most recently served as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Sparks. Koclanes is now off the market, however, as the USC women's basketball team announced Koclanes as their new assistant coach last week.
Briann January, current an assistant coach for the Connecticut Sun, also received three votes. When asked why they went with January, one GM said, "She really has that leadership, I think, that she could be a great head coach."
As this third question was seemingly more open-ended, a number of other names were mentioned — such as Las Vegas Aces assistant coach Natalie Nakase and New York Liberty assistant coach Olaf Lange.
With this year's WNBA Finals now set between the Aces and the Liberty, many league executives will likely be looking at each team's staffs, gauging whether Nakase and Lange appear fit to lead a WNBA team. Executives from the Mercury and Sky surely will be looking.
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