How Jackie Young has taken her game to the next level: WNBA Film Room

Jackie Young has found the confidence to shoot from deep for the 7-1 Aces. (David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

Nearly two and a half weeks into the WNBA season, we are getting more clarity on the makeup of the league. Key players returned to their teams in the past week, like Kayla McBride to Minnesota and Kahleah Copper to Chicago, giving us a better understanding of how those sides will look closer to 100 percent.

We’re also seeing a clearer separation between the consistent rosters — Las Vegas Aces, Connecticut Sun and Chicago Sky — and the organizations that are still figuring out their team dynamics — Minnesota Lynx, Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury.

Here are my biggest takeaways from the past week of WNBA action.

Jackie Young is playing like an MVP and MIP

I have always considered Jackie Young to be the X-factor for the Aces with the way she can impact the game offensively and defensively. Young is playing the best and most efficient basketball of her career so far this season, leading the 7-1 Aces in scoring and sitting third in the league with 19.3 points per game.

The 6-foot guard, with her quiet demeanor, often flies under the radar on a flashy Las Vegas team, and what she does on the floor does not always show up on the stat sheet. But when you look at the numbers, Young has cemented herself as a focal point of an offense that’s thriving under first-year head coach Becky Hammon.

One of the biggest differences with Young’s play in her fourth WNBA season is her production from beyond the 3-point line. Prior to this year, her offensive game centered on getting into the paint and creating shots closer to the rim. She averaged under one 3-point attempt a game a year ago. Now, she’s showing off an expanded skill set and a scorer’s mentality, with the confidence to be a major threat from the perimeter.

2021 vs. 2022 Stats

Scoring: 12.2 — 19.3
3-point %: 25 — 50.0
3-point attempts: 0.6 — 3.0
FG %: 50.5 — 56.4
Assists: 3.2 — 3.9
Steals: 1.1 — 1.8
Minutes: 31.8 — 33.4
FG attempts: 9.6 — 11.8

Young’s offensive evolution is evident when looking at her shot chart in the Aces’ 93-87 win over the Lynx last week versus one from a game against the Lynx last season. On Thursday, she finished with a season-high 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field and 3-for-5 from the 3-point line.


The Connecticut Sun haven’t skipped a beat

The Sun dropped their first game against the New York Liberty without Courtney Williams and DeWanna Bonner but have been rolling ever since, winning their last four in a row to move into second place in the WNBA standings.

With their roster now fully intact, the Sun are showing how hungry they are for their first championship. For Connecticut, it always starts with discipline on the defensive end of the floor. The Sun lead the league with 11.6 steals per game and a 90.5 defensive rating, and they are holding their opponents to a league-low 72.2 points per game.

While their stingy defense has become their identity, the Sun’s offensive production through five games impresses me the most. Playing at a much faster pace this season, Connecticut leads the league with 27.4 points per game off turnovers and is second with 86.8 points per game. They also lead the league with 11.4 offensive boards per game and are second with 14 second-chance points a game, indicating how important it is for their half-court execution to score in transition.

The Sun have a wealth of weapons who can go off on any given night, but much of the offensive firepower we are seeing early on can be attributed to Alyssa Thomas. Returning at full strength this season after having surgery on a torn Achilles tendon last year, Thomas currently leads Connecticut with 19 points per game and is shooting a career-best 60.7 percent from the field. Thomas’ reemergence combined with Courtney Williams’ return to Connecticut have helped the Sun thwart their opponents with an up-tempo game.

Here is a look at the Sun’s production in a few key areas this season compared to last.

2021 vs. 2022 Stats

Points per game: 79.7 (8th) — 86.8 (2nd)
Offensive rebounds: 9.7 (3rd) — 11.4 (1st)
3-point %: 35.7 (4th) — 39.3 (2nd)
FG %: 44.4 (5th) — 45.1 (4th)
Steals: 7.8 (3rd) — 11.6 (1st)

Play of the week

Kayla McBride had been in the U.S. for less than 32 hours after flying from Istanbul to Los Angeles to join the Lynx for tipoff against the Sparks last Tuesday. McBride exploded for 24 points, going 4-for-7 from the 3-point line to lead the Lynx to their first win of the season. This was the final play drawn up for McBride in a timeout that ultimately put Minnesota ahead by three.

The Lynx executed this action to near perfection, and McBride did a great job of reading the handoff. Depending on how Brittney Sykes and Nneka Ogwumike defended it, Minnesota had several quick options out of the action.

Option 1: Dribble handoff to drive or open pass. Option 2: McBride reads how the defense is playing them and can flare back for an open look. Option 3: If the defense over-commits to McBride, Shepard might be able to face up and attack off the dribble herself, draw the defense and potentially kick it to open shooters.

Ultimately, Sykes and Ogwumike hesitated for a brief second when Shepard had the ball, leaving McBride with an open cut to the rim. She handled the pass and finished a reverse layup to avoid a trailing Sykes block.


Week 3 Power Rankings

  1. Las Vegas Aces (7-1) +1
  2. Connecticut Sun (4-1) +2
  3. Chicago Sky (3-2) —
  4. Washington Mystics (5-2) -3
  5. Seattle Storm (3-3) +4
  6. Dallas Wings (4-2) +1
  7. Atlanta Dream (4-2) -2
  8. Phoenix Mercury (2-4) -2
  9. Minnesota Lynx (1-6) +3
  10. Los Angeles Sparks (2-5) -2
  11. New York Liberty (1-4) —
  12. Indiana Fever (2-6) -2

Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at Just Women’s Sports. A former professional basketball player and collegiate coach, she also contributes to Winsidr. Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachGall.