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2019-08-20T16:00:04-04:00)

The W Is It: Arike Ogunbowale vs. Napheesa Collier for Rookie of the Year is getting spicy

Collier’s been the most consistent player all year long, but Arike’s been on fire. The debate’s as close as it’s ever been.

Welcome to The W Is It, a weekly column about all the stuff that freakin’ rules in the WNBA. Have any tips of topics to cover? Find me @mellentuck on Twitter.

Arike Ogunbowale dribbled in-and-out to throw Sparks forward Tierra Ruffin-Pratt off her trail. The same move forced former MVP Nneka Ogwumike to swing her momentum in the wrong direction, too, allowing the rookie to slip past the double-team.

With the clock ticking down at the under-three minute mark in the fourth on Wednesday against the title-contender, Ogunbowale bounced off Ogwumike’s knee, used one hand on the ground to save herself from falling, and took one long leap off the wrong foot to lay the ball in. That notched her 28th point on the night (she’d finish with 35) to seal the upset win for her Dallas Wings team.

The WNBA’s regular season is three weeks from close, and the debate for Rookie of the Year has never been hotter. The race is down to two players: Ogunbowale and the Minnesota Lynx’s Napheesa Collier. Who you think deserves the award says everything about why you watch basketball.

Ogunbowale and Collier’s games are entirely opposite. The Wings guard, who you probably remember from the 2018 NCAA Final Four when she hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer to beat UConn and then did the same to beat Mississippi State in the final, is a pure scorer. Collier, a 6’2 forward, is a lockdown defender who can work her offense in the post.

Collier has by far been the league’s most consistent rookie, and she makes the greatest impact on the most important part of the game — winning. She scores 12 points per night with six rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block per game. She’s efficient too, shooting 47 percent from the field and 34 percent from three-point range on two tries per night. She’s a versatile wing when she’s asked to be, an undersized big in spurts and a capable passer.

Her offense is great, but her biggest strength is on the defensive end. Despite being a 22-year-old rookie, head coach Cheryl Reeve has had no sweat matching Collier up against players as good as the MVP-to-be Elena Delle Donne. Collier’s strong with a long wingspan and has incredible discipline to stay grounded on ball-fakes. Her complete game has led her win shares per 40 number — a measure that estimates how many wins a player contributed to — to .152. That’s an all-star’s level, which is why it was no surprise she was named a replacement in Las Vegas when A’ja Wilson was unable to play due to injury.

It’s Collier who’s helped keep an injured, depleted Lynx roster in playoff position.

As a fundamentalist, Collier doesn’t have the same viral moments a player with Ogunbowale’s skillset delivers nightly, though. A 5’8 super-quick shifty ball-handler, Ogunbowale can race down the floor and shoot from anywhere, no matter how contested the look is.

For now, she’s merely a scorer, though, which is why her struggles shooting the ball at the beginning of the season made her tough to play. But in the second half of the season, she’s been ON — an electrifying, must-watch talent in the month of August, even winning a Player of the Week. In her last seven games, she’s scored 23 points per game on 45 percent shooting, including 47 percent from deep (16-of-34). In that same span, she’s also averaged four assists, and her rebuilding team’s gone 4-3.

Ogunbowale hasn’t been this player all season long, and that should cause concern for voters. For the season, she’s averaged 16 points on just 37 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent from deep. But her highlight reel could run hours deep, because her greatest moments are breathtaking.

There’s still three weeks left for things to change, but this year’s Rookie of the Year vote appears to be clear-cut. A vote for Collier is a vote for the better player. A vote for Ogunbowale is a vote for the flashier one. The 2019 WNBA ROY debate is the apex of hoops fan arguments.

And now for some fun stuff.

Liz Cambage and Cheyenne Parker’s was everything

The Chicago Sky and Liz Cambage have some serious beef that isn’t going away any time soon. You can read about it here. But it reached its on-court peak when Parker tried to square up and Cambage just ... sorta stared at her.

Angel McCoughty’s going to play in the final game this season!

The Atlanta Dream have struggled without McCoughtry, who’s been out since last year’s postseason recovering from knee surgery. But at least we’ll see her play once!

The Washington Mystics broke a WNBA record with 18 threes

Who’s beating this team? LMAO.

Please watch this kid do the Las Vegas Aces’ “Lady Aces” chant

It’s perfect.

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