Las Vegas Aces Forward, A’ja Wilson has emerged the 2022 Defensive Player of the WNBA, the league organizers announced, Tuesday. The reveal was a late-morning surprise that came three days earlier than originally scheduled.

A four-time WNBA All-Star, 2018 WNBA Rookie of the Year and 2020 WNBA Most Valuable Player, A’ja already has quite the resume as a fifth-year player.

The South Carolina native earned 20 of the 56 total votes to narrowly beat out Alyssa Thomas of Connecticut Sun (14) and Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart (13) for the DPOY honor.

The Rise and Rise of A’ja
After relocating from San Antonio in 2018 and making Wilson the team’s first-ever Las Vegas draft selection, the Aces have been among the WNBA’s most dominant squads. In the years since Wilson’s arrival, Las Vegas has become one of three teams to record at least 100 victories, including a franchise-record 26 wins this season. And, just today, Wilson was named the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year.

She continues to thrive and add layers to her game under the leadership of first-year head coach Becky Hammon, who has asked Wilson to adapt in the name of progress.

In maximizing the team’s core as it pursues its first-ever championship, Hammon, who was named the WNBA’s Coach of the Year last week, has made sweeping changes to Las Vegas’ playing style this season — bolstering Las Vegas’ title ambitions in the process.

Why the Award Courts Controversy
Wilson is the first Aces player to win the award and led the league in blocks (1.9 bpg) and ranked second in defensive rebounds per game (7.6). She was 12th in steals (1.4 spg). She had seven games with at least four blocks in the regular season and six games with at least three steals. In nine games she brought down at least 10 defensive rebounds.

The Aces have held opponents to 31.8 points in the paint per game, ranking third fewest in the league, in large part because of the 6-foot-4 Wilson. She has played most games at center, a switch from previous seasons. Her 27.9 defensive rebound rate is fifth in the league, per Her Hoop Stats.

The Defensive Player of the Year vote usually ends up in controversy because defense can not always be quantified in stats and it’s viewed differently depending on the position played on the floor. Forwards and centers often win because of their block and rebound numbers.

2022 WNBA Awards List
Sportsmanship award: Sylvia Fowles – Minnesota Lynx

Executive of the Year: James Wade – Chicago Sky

Coach of the Year: Becky Hammon – Las Vegas Aces

Rookie of the Year: Rhyne Howard – Atlanta Dream (plus All-Rookie team)

Most Improved Player: Jackie Young – Las Vegas Aces

September 1: Sixth Player of the Year

September 7: Most Valuable Player

September 15: All-WNBA