The Chicago Sky take on Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury for their final “Three To See” match up of the season at Allstate Arena on Wednesday evening for Bulls Night. The 7
p.m. CT game will air on ESPN2.
Brittany Griner, the 6'8 center of the Mercury and #1 selection in the 2013 WNBA Draft, will make her first trip to Allstate Arena tonight to face #2 selection Elena Delle Donne, who led the Sky to a first-place berth in the Eastern Conference and secured home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Griner is averaging 13.2 points and 6.5 rebounds. The 6-8 center leads the league in blocks per game with 2.8 and is third in field-goal percentage with 56.5. But she's been hampered by injury the entire season.
In their first matchup in Phoenix to open the season, the Sky handily beat the Mercury 102-80, spoiling the debut of the #1 rookie.
However....as I wrote earlier this year....there hasn't been a WNBA rookie like guard/forward Elena Delle Donne. Ever. Naperville's Candace Parker, 2008-09's top rookie, may have come close, with nearly a triple-double in her first game. But motherhood (not that it's a bad thing) and injuries sidelined her greatness for the better part of the last three seasons.
But at the end of the day, Elena Delle Donne is to the Chicago Sky is what Michael Jordan was to the Bulls when he was drafted....
That dreaded role...the fate of the franchise.
Elena Delle Donne (left) with Brittany Griner and Skylar Diggins, the "Three to See" of the 2013 WNBA Draft.
As one of the impossibly talented "Three To Watch," (Brittany Griner, Phoenix Mercury, Skylar Diggins, Tulsa Shock), Delle Donne has had the most spectacular of rookie seasons: Already, she has led the Sky to their best record ever (21-9) scored in double-digits in all but two games, and after missing three games (including the All-Star Game,) came back from a concussion to post a career-high 32 points in a 94-86 overtime win over the WNBA-leading Minnesota, then scored nine in 11 minutes before missing the second half with a left mid-foot injury in Tuesday's 80-76 defeat at Los Angeles.
Delle Donne may not dunk, but she electrifies Allstate Arena. And she's putting up rookie numbers that compare to Jordan.
Like Mike, she makes players around her better, including Tamera Young, who's having her best season ever, and 2012 All-Star Courtney Vandersloot, another number one draft pick, who appears more comfortable when the fate of the game is not in her hands. At 6'5, Delle Donne is an easy target for three-time All-Star, 6'6 center Sylvia Fowles. Unlike Mike, though, she is generous with the ball, creating opportunities for consistent scorers like two-time All-Star Epiphanny Prince.
Chicago Sky rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne is only missing a Rookie of the Year Award. I'm predicting, no matter how long she's out, she's got it.
Like Mike, she can take over a game when necessary. ESPN and Elias Sports Bureau report that the Sky allow 10.3 fewer points in the paint per 40 minutes with Delle Donne on the court.
As much as she can "Be Like Mike," there are a few differences.
Unlike Jordan, Delle Donne has had to alternate brilliance on the court while fighting what would appear to be nearly insurmountable challenges off-court. Her tight-knit family, including a disabled sister, ended up putting the University of Delaware Blue Hens on the map after Delle Donne missed her family too much to play three states away for Geno Auriemma's UConn Huskies.
At Delaware, she fought through two draining bouts of Lyme Disease in her sophomore and senior years while racking up records on the court. As a junior, Delle Donne led the nation in scoring, finishing the season with an average of 28.1 points per game. She scored 42 points in a win over Hofstra, eclipsing the 2,000 point mark for her career. During the 2012–2013 season, Delle Donne again fought Lyme Disease, missing four games. Delle Donne returned on December 12 against Maryland and led the team with 19 points and 6 rebounds in a 69–53 loss. She scored more than 30 points on five occasions her senior year, leading the Blue Hens to a 27–3 regular season record, on to an NCAA berth.
After being drafted second in 2013, she's been named Rookie of the Month for July. It's her second consecutive award.
Over the course of July, Delle Donne was the top rookie in points (16.4), free throw percentage (.909) and minutes (30.8). She also ranked seventh overall in free throw percentage, eighth in scoring and second in blocks (1.6).
Delle Donne scored in the double-digits in six out of her seven games played during the month. Other outstanding performances included a July 2 double-double, her first, scoring 12 points and taking down 12 rebounds against the Seattle Storm. She followed with 23 points, going 9-for-9 at the charity stripe, against the Connecticut Sun on July 12. She matched her career high in blocks (4) against New York on July 18 and July 20.
During July, Delle Donne also made history by becoming the first rookie player to win the WNBA All-Star vote. She also earned WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week for July 2-July 7.
At the end of his ro0kie season, Jordan had averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.4 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. He became the second rookie in NBA history to average at least 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. He’s also the only rookie to average at least 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
Jordan shot an amazing 51.5 percent from the field and led the league in points. He won the Rookie of the Year award and made the All-NBA second team. In the playoffs, he played 4 games and averaged 29.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game while shooting 43.6 percent from the field.
While Delle Donne has been injured more frequently, and has more humility than Jordan, she and Jordan carry similar burdens and expectations. And I'm predicting, and some point, if all things remain the same, Delle Donne will bury her face in a WNBA Championship Trophy. Like this:
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