Monday, June 17, 2024

WNBA rookie power rankings: Cameron Brink shines; Caitlin Clark struggles

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We’re one week into the 2024 WNBA season and if there’s one thing newcomers to the sport have learned, it’s that rookies do not walk in and dominate this league from the jump. 

But that doesn’t mean these young women aren’t still making an impression. What’s more, they have plenty of time to turn into bonafide professional superstars. There have been glimpses of greatness from many players in the 2024 class already, and surely there are more to come (along with some not-so-great moments, as happens with every newbie). 

With that in mind and a week into the season, here are USA TODAY Sports‘ 2024 WNBA rookie power rankings:

1. Cameron Brink, Los Angeles Sparks

Stats through three games: 6.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.7 bpg, 46.7 FG%

Breakdown: The most impressive stat is one Brink hasn’t collected so far, and that’s six fouls in one game. The former Stanford All-American was considered the best two-way player in the draft, able to contribute immediately at both ends, but there were concerns about how much she might foul. So far, she’s kept it mostly in check, while turning heads with blocks and her ability to score in the paint on some of the best defenders in the league like Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson. Her two blocks at the end of Tuesday’s game against Washington helped LA secure its first win of the season.

2. Julie Vanloo, Washington Mystics

Stats through four games: 8.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 6.5 apg, 41.4 FG%

Breakdown: Talk about making an instant impact. A 31-year-old newcomer who can play both point and shooting guard, Vanloo played in 10 different countries over the last dozen years and has been part of the Belgian senior national team since 2009. She’s steadily gotten better every professional season, enough so that the Mystics signed her during free agency in February. With terrific court vision, Vanloo has been able to find teammates for buckets and direct the offense to make sure other people put the ball in hands of scorers, too. 

3. Angel Reese, Chicago Sky

Stats through two games: 11.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 34.8 FG%

Breakdown: It took Reese, the No. 7 overall pick in the draft, about one half of pro basketball to adjust to the WNBA. Since then she’s looked like her normal self, scrapping for rebounds on both ends. Her field goal percentage isn’t great yet. She’s part of a major rebuild in Chicago, which means there will be both lots of minutes and lots of growing pains for her. But in the meantime, she’ll find a way to get on the boards.

4. Caitlin Clark, Indiana Fever

Stats through four games: 17.0 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.0 rpg, 41.2% FG, 34.3% 3FG

Breakdown: Clark might be graded tougher than anyone else, but that’s life as the No. 1 overall pick and most heralded rookie to ever come into the league. Clark has had an up-and-down first week, hitting some big shots but also throwing the ball away way too much (26 total turnovers). Physical play has bothered her when she’s on offense, and on defense she’s still learning how to not foul. She looks more comfortable every game, but hasn’t managed to lead the Fever to a win yet. 

5. Kate Martin, Las Vegas

Stats through two games: 1.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 12.5 FG%

Breakdown: Are you surprised Martin, the former Iowa standout, is ranked this high? She probably is, too. A second-round pick, Martin wasn’t at the draft in April as an invited prospect, but there to support Caitlin Clark when the Aces called Martin’s name. Most people didn’t see that selection coming, and thought she’d only be around for training camp. Praised for always being in the right spot at the right time, Martin earned the nickname “Money Martin” from Aces coach Becky Hammon and made the final roster. She hasn’t played a ton for the two-time defending champs, but when she’s been on the floor she’s grabbed rebounds, played defense and hit open shots. 

6. Aaliyah Edwards, Washington Mystics

Stats through four games: 7.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 52.0 FG%

Breakdown: Edwards has terrific mobility for her size (6-foot-3) and as she gets more comfortable with the physicality at the pro level, she’ll make be able to do damage in and outside the paint. 

7. Rickea Jackson, Los Angeles Sparks

Stats through three games: 9.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 50.0 FG%

Breakdown: Jackson has been a spark for LA off the bench, and if she continues to be productive she could push for a starting spot. 

8. Jacy Sheldon, Dallas Wings

Stats through three games: 2.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.7 apg, 30.0 FG%

Breakdown: Sheldon is only playing about 15 minutes a game right now and she’s not exactly stuffing a stat sheet, but she’s (mostly) doing what she needs to do to steadily get more minutes. She had four quick turnovers her second game, but has taken care of the ball otherwise.

9. Alissa Pili, Minnesota Lynx

Stats through two games: 2.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.0 apg, 66.7 FG%, 50.0 3FG%

Breakdown: Pili hasn’t done much, playing just 10 minutes in each of Minnesota’s games, but that’s to be expected — especially given how easy it is for opponents to score on her so far. She must get better defensively, and the sooner, the better. 

Not ranked: Kamilla Cardoso, Chicago (out until early June with a shoulder injury); Nika Muhl, Seattle (waiting for visa issues to clear up so she can play).

Email Lindsay Schnell at lschnell@usatoday.com and follow her on social media @Lindsay_Schnell

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