‘She’s the best player on the floor sometimes’: Chicago’s Copper is the revelation player of the WNBA playoffs

PHOENIX – The wing of the Chicago Sky, Kahleah copper, began to shine in the WNBA bubble last season. In the 2021 WNBA playoffs, he’s in reveal mode.

“She has opened the eyes of many,” said her teammate. Courtney vandersloot, “because they didn’t really know much about her.”

They were missing it, which Copper has proven during the postseason. She led Chicago in scoring during the regular season with 14.4 points per game. In Sky’s seven playoff games, she is averaging 18.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists – all increases from her regular season averages.

“It felt like the playoffs was another season for me,” said Copper, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds in Sky’s Game 1 win, 91-77, over Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA Finals. “It was another opportunity to improve and grow.”

Vandersloot smiles at that.

“We’d seen glimpses of it, but even we didn’t know she could do this for so long at this level,” Sky’s assembly base stated. “We are in the Finals, and she is the best player on the floor sometimes.”

Copper will proudly tell you that she was born in North Philadelphia, but has grown fond of Chicago. His professional career began in Washington, when he was the seventh pick in the 2016 draft coming out of Rutgers. Then, in February 2017, before its second season, Copper, Stefanie dolson and a first-round pick from the 2017 draw were traded to Chicago by Elena Delle Donne.

That worked for the Mystics, who won a title behind Delle Donne in 2019. But it has worked for Sky too, as Copper and Dolson are part of this Finals team.

Between 2017 and 20119, Copper was a role player for Sky and averaged 14 to 16 minutes per game. She showed her prowess, but never had such an explosive game on a big stage, until her 16 points against Las Vegas Aces in the second round of the 2019 playoffs. Sky was about to advance to face the former Copper team , Washington, in the semifinals. But a late fumble and a basket from midfield gave the Aces a 93-92 victory.

The loss stayed with Copper, and she was even more determined to take advantage of 2020. She averaged career-highs of 14.9 points and 5.5 rebounds on the bubble in Bradenton, Florida, and was a candidate for the league’s Most Improved Player award. .

“Bubble season for me was preparation meeting opportunity,” Copper said, adding that he told coach James Wade, “I will not back down. I will keep getting better.”

Being selected for the All-Star Game this summer meant a lot to Copper.

“I felt like this, ‘Wow, the effort I’ve put in now has paid off,” she said. “And this postseason has been like that for me, too.”

Copper turned 27 in August, and his game is on the rise. We ranked the top five breakthrough performances in WNBA playoff history by players who went on to win the WNBA title. Will Copper join them?

1. Emma Meesseman, Washington Mystics 2019: She came to the WNBA at age 20 from Belgium and was a starter from 2014-17. She did not play in the WNBA in 2018 while preparing with her national team for the FIBA ​​World Cup and so she missed part of the 2019 season while competing in the European Championships. So he took a backup role in 2019 and was outstanding, especially in the postseason, when he averaged 19.3 points and 5.6 rebounds. After 22 points in the decisive Game 5, she was named MVP of the WNBA Finals. And the Mystics created and sold a shirt celebrating “Playoff Emma.”

2. Betty Lennox, Seattle Storm 2004: Lennox was an All-Star Rookie of the Year 2000 with Minnesota. But then he played with two teams that disbanded: Miami and Cleveland. At 27, she had appeared in just three playoff games in four seasons and was facing her second scatter draw in 2004. She wasn’t selected until No. 6, which was good luck for her and Seattle, as Lennox played a key role in the first franchise title. With the Storm trailing 1-0 against Connecticut in what was still a best-of-three Finals series, the Sun’s Nykesha Sales scored 32 points in Game 2. What saved the Storm? That Lennox nearly matched his 27 in a Seattle victory, 67-65. Then in the decisive victory in Game 3, “B-Money” scored 23 points and was named MVP of the WNBA Finals. He retired in 2011, averaging 12.1 points and 4.1 rebounds in his career.

3. Penny Taylor, Phoenix Mercury 2007: The Australian was selected No.11 by Cleveland in the 2001 draw, when most WNBA fans did not know her yet. By her second season, she was an All-Star. She was then the first selected by Phoenix in the Rockers’ dispersion draft prior to the 2004 season. But heading into the 2007 season, she still hadn’t had much of a stage, appearing in just six playoff games, all with Cleveland. Then Taylor would play a major role for Mercury’s first title-winning team in 2007, averaging 19.3 points and team-leading 7.9 rebounds in the playoffs. Taylor retired in 2016 after winning three championships with the Mercury.

Four. Natasha howard, Seattle Storm 2018: Howard won the WNBA title in 2017 as a reserve with the Minnesota Lynx. Traded to Seattle before the 2018 season, she made an immediate impact as a starter and averaged 13.2 points and 6.4 boards in the regular season. So in the playoffs, he increased his numbers to 15.8 and 8.3. In the decisive Game 3, for the title, he was unstoppable with 29 points, shooting 14-11, and 14 rebounds. Howard would win the WNBA’s Best Defensive Player award in 2019 and won another title with the Storm in 2020. She is now a member of the New York Liberty.

5. Erlana Larkins, Indiana Fever 2012: Larkins played her first two seasons (2008, 2009) with New York, then she was not included in a WNBA lineup in 2010 or 2011. The Fever signed her in 2012, and she averaged 4.1 points and 4.4 rebounds in the regular season. serving as a starter in only two games. But Larkins took on a vital role in the playoffs, starting nine times and averaging 9.9 points and 10.9 rebounds, the team’s leader, to help Indiana win its only WNBA title. Larkins spent six more seasons in the WNBA, helping the Fever reach the Finals again in 2015, when they lost five games to Minnesota.