Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles has been named the 2021 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, the league announced on Sunday. This is the fourth time that Fowles has won the award, joining Tamika Catchings (five) as the only players in league history to win it four or more times.
After a disappointing 2020 campaign, in which she was limited to just eight total games due to a calf injury, Fowles returned to form this season. This was easily the best she has looked since 2018, and her strong play on both sides of the ball helped the Lynx finish 22-10 and earn the No. 3 seed.
That she stood out more on the defense than offense, despite putting up 16 points per game on 64 percent shooting, is really saying something. She averaged 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks per game, which was good for second in the league in both categories, and were her best numbers in each category since winning MVP in 2017. Though she didn't quite get there, she nearly became the first player in WNBA history to average two steals and two blocks per game in the same season.
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With Fowles leading the way, the Lynx finished with the fourth-best defense in the league, allowing just 98 points per 100 possessions. They also allowed opponents to shoot just 59.3 percent in the restricted area, which was also the fourth-best mark in the league.
On Sunday, the Lynx will begin their playoff journey with a single-elimination second-round matchup with the Chicago Sky. After a first-round bye, this will be the first test for them as they look to get back to the Finals for the first time since they won the title in 2017. With Fowles leading the way, they'll have a real chance.
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