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Candace Parker wins AP Defensive Player of the Year

The Sparks star was also named to the AP’s first team All-WNBA.

Las Vegas Aces v Los Angeles Sparks Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

On Tuesday, Los Angeles Sparks star forward Candace Parker was named the AP’s 2020 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. In addition to the defensive honor, Parker was voted to the AP’s All-WNBA first team as well.

It’s been a remarkable bounce-back season for Parker, who struggled with injuries in 2019 and saw her play fall off as a result. Entering her 13th season, there were doubts as to whether Parker could return to form. In preseason, she insisted that she was healthy and that her play would reflect that, and it has.

Parker averaged 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game during the regular season, as well as a league-leading 8.0 defensive rebounds per game, though the stats don’t tell the whole story. She was highly active on the defensive end all season long, making strong rotations, forcing difficult shots, deflecting passes, and drawing charges. With Parker at the helm, the Sparks finished the season with the third-best defensive rating in the league.

The two-time MVP has always been a strong defensive player, but she’s often drawn headlines for her scoring and passing more than for her defense. Earning this award so late in her career is quite impressive.

The AP awards aren’t the WNBA’s official awards, so we’ll have to wait and see if she wins the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award as well.

Parker was joined on the AP awards by A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces (Player of the Year), Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm (Comeback Player of the Year), Crystal Dangerfield of the Minnesota Lynx (Rookie of the Year), Betnijah Laney of the Atlanta Dream (Most Improved Player of the Year), Dearica Hamby of the Aces (Sixth Woman of the Year), and Cheryl Reeve of the Lynx (Coach of the Year).

She was joined on the All-WNBA first team by Stewart, Wilson, Courtney Vandersloot of the Chicago Sky, and Arike Ogunbowale of the Dallas Wings.