Eleven-year veteran guard Leilani Mitchell was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player for the 2019 season, as announced by the league office today. It marks the first time in franchise history a Mercury player has won the award and is the second time in Mitchell’s career she’s received the honor (2010 with New York), the first time in WNBA and NBA history a player has won the award twice in a career.
Mitchell had a career year this summer, averaging career highs in points (12.8), rebounds (3.0) and assists (4.0), while matching her career high in field goal percentage (44.1). She shot 43.0 percent (74-of-172) from three-point range, which ranked third in the WNBA, while her 74 made three-pointers on the year ranked fourth in the league and was a career high. After entering this season with four career 20+ point games in her first 10 years in the league, Mitchell recorded six in 2019, including a career-high 29 points on August 27 at New York. She scored in double figures in a career-best 21 games and dished five or more assists 12 times on the season, one of which was an 11-assists performance on June 28 against Indiana. Mitchell was the only player this season to shoot 40 percent from three-point range, make at least 70 three-pointers and average at least 3.0 assists per game, and just the 17th player in WNBA history to do so.
The 5-5 guard saw jumps in just about every statistical category this season compared to 2018, raising her scoring average by 8.4 points per game, rebounding by 1.6 rebounds per game and assists by 1.7 assists per game, while her field goal percentage increased by 9.0 percent and her three-point shooting percentage by 8.9 percent. To go along with her career numbers this season, Mitchell also recorded her first career double-double in the June 28 game, adding 18 points to her 11 assists. In the Mercury’s game on July 30 at Washington, Mitchell tied the WNBA record for most three-pointers in a game (eight), while her seven three-pointers in the second half of the game also matched a WNBA record for threes in a half.
Mitchell received 27 total votes from the 43-member panel this year. Minnesota’s Odyssey Sims finished second with five, while Seattle’s Mercedes Russel and Jordin Canada each received two.