WNBA: Leilani Mitchell first player to win Most Improved award twice
Leilani Mitchell has been named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player after a brilliant season with the injury plagued Phoenix Mercury.
It was the second such award for Mitchell, who is now the first player in WNBA history to do so. She first won the award in 2010 as a member of the New York Liberty, and it follows on the heels of her picking up the Associated Press gong a week earlier.
According to the official release, Mitchell received 27 of 43 votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Minnesota Lynx guard Odyssey Sims finished second with five votes, while Seattle Storm teammates Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell tied for third with three votes each.
Once Mitchell returned to the Mercury, and with Diana Taurasi out of the lineup due to an extended injury absence, the Opals star made the most of the opportunities presented by the situation. However, Mitchell did more than simply play her role, putting together a career season that saw the veteran post career numbers in all major stats save for three-point shooting, in which Mitchell posted her best season since that 2010 campaign.
The 5-5 point guard averaged career highs of 12.8 points, 4.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 30.4 minutes in 32 games this season, making her most starts (27) since the 2011 season. the numbers are even more impressive given she was waived due to salary cap constraints early in the season and did not start a single game in 2018.
Mitchell shot 44.1 percent from the field this season, equaling her career high and finishing well above last season’s mark of 35.1 percent. She also lifted her three-point accuracy to 43.0 percent from 34.1 percent in 2018, with this season’s figure ranking third in the WNBA. Mitchell sank a career-high 74 three-pointers, exceeding her total from the previous two seasons combined (67).
On July 30, Mitchell exploded for a WNBA record matching 8 three-pointers against the Washington Mystics, matching the WNBA single-game regular-season record, a feat that would be later eclipsed by Indiana’s Kelsey Mitchell.
With Mitchell enjoying a career year, she linked successfully with WNBA All-Stars DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner to help Phoenix reached the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season.
Mitchell receives USD$5,000 and a specially designed trophy from Tiffany & Co in receiving the award.