We’re counting down the 30 players most prepared to have the best seasons in 2021. Rookies and players like Sabrina Ionescu who have very little WNBA experience were not considered. Here’s a look at No. 30 through No. 21:
30) Ariel Atkins
Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen both being 24 makes the Mystics such a dangerous team for the future as well as now. Atkins has a good a 3-point stroke as anyone in the league and really got it going last year after back-to-back years shooting 35.7 percent from deep to open her career. In 2020 she shot 41.1 percent from beyond the arc with 44 makes in the shortened 22-game season. She is also a great two-way player and has been on the All-Defensive Second Team all three years, earning her a spot on this list. She had to step up in the bubble and become one of the Mystics’ best players with Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles, Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders out. So she averaged a career-best 14.8 points per game to go along with her career-best 1.8 steals. Though her role won’t be the same this year, she’s only going to get better.
29) Chennedy Carter
Carter is known as a prolific scorer and did not disappoint as a rookie, averaging 17.4 points. She missed six games with an ankle injury, but still came in second in Rookie of the Year voting and was one of the Dream’s best players. With Betnijah Laney singing with the Liberty in free agency, Carter will look to take on an even greater role in 2021. She also averaged a respectable 3.4 assists per game last year, indicating that she can distribute as well as score. Her ceiling is expected to be higher than reigning Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield’s and she should take a big leap in her second season, which is why she appears on this list.
28) Satou Sabally
Sabally may have been one vote behind Carter for second place in Rookie of the Year voting, but she too flashed some major upside in 2020 and may have the greatest potential out of anyone from her draft class save for Ionescu. Sabally averaged 13.9 points and a solid 7.8 rebounds and even dished out 2.5 assists per game — not bad for a rookie forward. Speaking of her position, she was able to play a little bit of the 4 despite her true spot being the 3. That versatility and her athleticism could make her a special player. If she improves her 3-point shooting — and we know she can — watch out.
27) Kelsey Mitchell
Mitchell was sixth in the league in points per game last year with 17.9. She would be higher on this list, but doesn’t offer much across the stat sheet. At age 25 she is still developing and could become a better all-around player and an even more lethal scorer than she already is. In Indiana she will be asked to carry the bulk of the scoring load and could be due for a monster year. Can she help lead to the Fever to better team success, though? That’s another thing that could raise her stardom.
26) Betnijah Laney
New York Liberty
Laney was the league’s Most Improved Player last year. Previously only known for her defense, she averaged 17.2 points (up from 5.6) to go along with 4.9 rebounds, four assists and 1.6 steals for the Dream. She was also named to the All-Defensive First Team. At age 27, Laney is suddenly a star and has room to get even better. She hopes to be the beneficiary of stellar point guard play from Ionescu and should be a go-to scorer for the Liberty, along with Natasha Howard.
25) Tiffany Hayes
Hayes can now become the “Batman” of the Dream with former franchise cornerstone Angel McCoughtry on the Aces. McCoughtry wasn’t around last year either, but Hayes opted out of the season, saying, “although I love playing this game, I believe there are much more important things to be thinking about in this moment.” Now Hayes will be back and her storied WNBA career, though it has been spent as a “Robin,” has earned her the highest spot on this list of any Dream player. Hayes averaged a career-best 17.2 points per game at age 28 in 2018 and still has all the crazy handles and finishing abilities that have made her a great player. As has been well-documented on Swish Appeal, she scored 29 points in the EuroLeague Women championship game against a UMMC Ekaterinburg team that was loaded with some of the best talent the WNBA has to offer.
24) Diamond DeShields
DeShields struggled with a nagging knee injury and a quad injury in the Bradenton bubble. She wowed us with her versatile scoring and explosive play in 2019 when she averaged 16.2 points and 5.5 rebounds as a 6-foot-1 guard, so it was disappointing to she her at less than 100 percent. She is still a rising star and, if she can get back on track in 2021, could be among the top players in the league. She’s got some competition out there, though, with players like Arike Ogunbowale and Jewell Loyd also able to get out in transition with stellar speed and finish with sick moves at the basket. Can DeShields find a way to stand out and be a third superstar for Chicago behind Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot?
23) Myisha Hines-Allen
Hines-Allen may not have won Most Improved Player last year, but she one-upped Laney by becoming and All-WNBA Second Team selection, quite the honor for a player who had career highs of 10.5 minutes per game and 3.8 points per game entering the season. Hines-Allen’s numbers last year were incredible; she averaged 17 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals. She demonstrated her ability to score at all three levels and be a force on the boards as well. The sky is the limit for her as a 24-year-old and teaming her up with Delle Donne and Charles could return the Mystics to their dominant ways.
22) Angel McCoughtry
Las Vegas Aces
McCoughtry has put together one of the best careers of any active player and has garnered the respect of the entire league. It feels weird putting her as low as No. 22 on this list, especially since she averaged more points per minute in 2020 than she did at age 26 in 2013 when she averaged 21.5 points per game, the second-best scoring average of her career. But she’s another year older (34) and at some point her game may start to decline and not just because she’s being utilized less, though that is also something that will factor into her stats. Her 14.4 points per game last year was the second-lowest scoring average of her career. She’s not going to be asked to do a ton of scoring in Vegas with so many other stars around her. But if we’re not measuring by stats, her value to the team is still through the roof.
21) Emma Meesseman
Unrestricted free agent
Meesseman didn’t blow us away with her 13 points per game last year after there was talk entering the season that she could follow up her WNBA Finals MVP performance by becoming one of the best players in the league. She also only had 5.3 rebounds per game. However, she did blow us away by becoming the best passer out of all the true bigs in the league. In the second game of the season, she went 6-of-14 from the field, but dished out eight assists. She went on to notch a season-high 10 helpers on Aug. 19 in a win over the Dream and finished the season with a surprising and impressive 4.5 assists per game. Her previous career high for a season was 3.2 set the year before. We know Meesseman can shoot the three at 6-foot-4 and also has soft touch inside and a phenomenal mid-range game. If she can keep up the distributing, she’s got another shot at rising through the ranks of the league.