Fantasy Basketball

WNBA: Why the Dallas Wings’ Allisha Gray should be a 2022 WNBA All-Star

The 2022 WNBA All-Star starters have been announced, and no Dallas Wings are among them. The Wing closest to being named a starter by cumulative votes from fans, media and WNBA players was Arike Ogunbowale, who ranked fourth among guards in both the media and player votes but came up short among fans (11th).

The question, now, is which Wings will be honored as All-Star reserves. Given the initial voting breakdown, Ogunbowale seems like a shoo-in, while fellow guard Marina Mabrey is another candidate, and for good reason — both players are talented and dynamic shot-makers whose games fit well in an exhibition game environment.

There’s another Wing, though, who may be hiding in plain sight: guard Allisha Gray, who has been playing some of the best basketball of her pro career and has a solid case for being named to the 2022 WNBA All-Star team.

Described by Dallas head coach Vickie Johnson as “probably the best two-way player in the league,” Gray has been one of the WNBA’s steadiest players for years. The 2017 Rookie of the Year holds career averages of 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while playing at least 26 minutes per contest in each of her six WNBA seasons to date, and has quietly become a Wings franchise cornerstone, holding more or less the same role on the team under several different coaching staffs. She’s often been tasked with defending opposing teams’ most dangerous perimeter scorers, while her ability to play either with or without the ball in her hands on offense makes her an ideal complement to players like Ogunbowale and Mabrey.

In 2022, Gray has taken her game to new heights. She’s averaging a career-high 14.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game to go with her usual defensive steadiness (1.1 steals) and she has been extremely efficient shooting the basketball, knocking down 43 percent of her 3-pointers. Gray’s increased willingness to bomb away from beyond the arc (0.484 3-point attempt rate, up from 0.339 in 2021) has contributed massively to her overall scoring efficiency; her current true shooting percentage is a hair above 60 percent and is also a career-high.

These numbers, as one would expect, correlate with Gray being an indispensable player for the Wings. According to the stats database, Dallas has been 14.9 points per 100 possessions better with Gray on the court than with Gray on the bench, the highest such value of any Wings starter.

Gray’s value on both ends of the court has been lauded by Wings coaches.
Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When it comes to prospective All-Star selections, though, one’s numbers must stack up favorably against those of their peers — and in this respect, Gray’s scoring efficiency stands out even more. Among WNBA guards playing starters’ minutes on a usage rate of at least 15 percent, Gray ranks third in true shooting percentage (60.1 percent), just behind Las Vegas Aces guard and All-Star starter Jackie Young (61 percent). In terms of raw 3-point percentage, Gray also ranks favorably, below only the Los Angeles Sparks’ Katie Lou Samuelson (46.3 percent) among guards who have attempted at least 50 threes on the season.

When considering all-around box score contribution, Gray’s All-Star case grows even stronger: She’s just one of two WNBA guards (New York’s Sabrina Ionescu the other) to be averaging at least 14 points, five rebounds and one steal per game.

There are, of course, precious few All-Star roster spots available. WNBA head coaches have until Tuesday, June 28 to add a dozen more All-Stars to the pool of players that game co-captains A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Sylvia Fowles and Sue Bird will then choose from to fill out their rosters.

With this in mind, other factors for Gray’s All-Star candidacy will likely be in play — specifically, the Wings’ success as a team. While a recent 83-72 home loss without Gray in the lineup (ankle injury) certainly underscored her importance to Dallas, the Wings’ 9-10 record works against her, as it’s more common to see players on stronger teams get the benefit of a doubt when it comes to All-Star selections. Statistically speaking, Gray’s individual case is strong; we’ll see if WNBA coaches think it’s enough for her first-ever All-Star honor on June 28.

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