Which Former Role Players Have Broken Out This WNBA Season?

Since many star players opted out of the wacky 2020 WNBA season, there has been space for former role players to crack the starting lineup and earn a significant increase in minutes from 2019. Which former role players have broken out and established themselves as starters this season?

Brionna Jones

With star Jonquel Jones skipping the 2020 season, Brionna Jones has stepped in nicely for the Connecticut Sun.

In her fourth season, Jones is averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.7 steals this season, all career highs. She is averaging 25.9 minutes on the floor per game after averaging less than 9 minutes each of her first three seasons.

Jones is ranked 22nd in total rebounds throughout the WNBA but is second in the league in offensive rebounds- averaging 2.9 per game. When the Sun need a second chance on offense, Jones comes thru with the clutch rebound.

Jones is one of the most efficient scorers in the WNBA as her field goal percentage of 57.8% is tied for third in the league. Jones is averaging 4.5 field goals made per game out of 7.7 attempts per game.

On the defensive end, Jones is ranked 7th in the WNBA in steals with 1.7 per game.

Jones has broken out this season with elite offensive rebounding, scoring efficiency, and forcing turnovers on defense and has earned similar minutes next season.

Myisha Hines-Allen

Myisha Hines-Allen made an early name for herself after winning the first Eastern Conference Player of the Week at the beginning of the season. Hines-Allen has kept up her amazing play by averaging 15.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.5 steals through fifteen games this year.

In her third WNBA season, Hines-Allen has started every game for the Washington Mystics averaging 29.4 minutes per game. The starter’s minutes she’s receiving is a huge increase from her first two seasons where she averaged 10.5 minutes per game in 2018 and 7.8 minutes per game in 2019.

Her increase in minutes on the floor has brought a huge increase in her scoring. Hines-Allen averaged 3.8 points per game in 2018 and 2 points per game in 2019. Her average of 15.7 points this season is ranked 11th in the WNBA.

Her rebounding has proven to be elite as Hines-Allen’s 8.5 rebounds are tied for 6th in the WNBA.

Myisha Hines-Allen has gone from role player to one of the WNBA’s best scoring/rebounding combos. Even if the Mystics get Elena Delle Done, Natasha Cloud, and newly acquired Tina Charles back on the team in 2021, Hines-Allen has proven that she deserves to be in the starting lineup.

Betnijah Laney

After spending time with the Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, and Indiana Fever since 2015, Betnijah Laney has seriously broken out in her first season for the Atlanta Dream.

Laney is averaging 16.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game in her fifth season in the WNBA. Laney is all over the stat leaderboard and would surely have been an All-Star this season had they recognized any players this year.

Laney is 8th in the WNBA in scoring, tied for 8th in assists, tied for 12th in steals, tied for 18th in FG%, tied for 21st in FT%, and 26th in 3P%. There is no question that Laney has been a top 15 player in the league this season.

Yet, she comes from humble beginnings. Laney didn’t play more than 12.8 minutes a night during her first three seasons in the WNBA. She played 25.8 minutes for the Fever in 2019, but was not nearly the player she is in 2020.

In 2019, Laney averaged 5.6 points per game and 1.7 assists, compared to 2020s 16.4 points and 4.4. assists. Her field goal percentage in 2019 was 36.2%, compared to her 2020 percentage of 48.5%.

After being a role player for most of her career, Laney has monumentally improved her shooting abilities and as a result, has become one of the best offensive players in the WNBA.

Kahleah Copper

Kahleah Copper was drafted by the Mystics as the 7th pick in the 2016 draft. She was traded to the Sky after one season in the trade that sent Elena Delle Donne to the Mystics. Copper has spent the last three seasons coming off the bench for the Sky averaging 15 minutes a game.

In 2020, Copper is starting for the Sky averaging 30.2 minutes a game. Copper has blossomed into a fantastic offensive player averaging 15.4. points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.9 assists. Copper is making half of her shots with FG% of 50.8%.

Copper’s FG% is 12th in the WNBA. Her impressive scoring is 13th in the WNBA. Copper’s 3P% of 39.6 is 19th in the league. Copper is a serious offensive threat this season after spending the last four seasons coming off the bench.

With Jantel Lavender missing the 2020 season because of foot surgery (and subsequently traded to the Fever), there was space for Copper to earn more minutes for the Sky this year. As a result, Copper has run away with her role as a scorer that facilitator extraordinaire Courtney Vandersloot can turn to.

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For more thoughts and opinions from Zachary Diamond, check out his author page or Twitter.

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

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