Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young has won the 2022 WNBA Most Improved Player award, the league announced on Monday. Young is the first player in franchise history to receive this honor, and joins Aces head coach Becky Hammon as a major award winner this season.
Young ran away with the voting, receiving 32 of 56 votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu finished in second place with 10 votes, while Sophie Cunningham of the Phoenix Mercury came in third place at seven votes. Other vote getters include Kelsey Plum (Aces), Teira McCowan (Dallas Wings), Gabby Williams (Seattle Storm) and Han Xu (Liberty).
The No. 1 overall pick in 2019, Young struggled a bit in her rookie season but has steadily improved since then. This season, she finally took a big jump, becoming an All-Star for the first time in her career. She was also chosen to participate in the Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend.
Averaging 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game, Young posted career-high numbers in every major category save for assists. Most importantly, though, both for her individual improvement and the team's success, she expanded her range on the offensive end and became an elite 3-point shooter. During the first three seasons of her career, she took just 77 total 3-pointers, and made 28.5 percent of them. This season, she went 50 of 116 from downtown, which was good for 43.1 percent -- the third-best mark in the league.
"With Becky's offense, we need to be able to shoot threes so we can spread the floor," Young said in an interview earlier this season. "If I wanted to play, I needed to be able to shoot threes. I was hurting my team whenever I wasn't taking them."
Young's willingness and ability to adapt was a key factor in the Aces' success this season. She helped the team finish with the best offense in the league (109.6 offensive rating), earn the No. 1 overall seed and win a a franchise-record 26 games. Now, she's trying to help them win the first title in franchise history.
The Aces face the Storm in Game 2 of their semifinal matchup on Wednesday ().