“Toward the end of the season of South Korea, I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to get back to the WNBA,’ ” Hines-Allen said. “I was happy. I was like: ‘Yo, I’ve gotten so much better. I’m so ready for this season.’ I knew something good was going to happen. I didn’t even think that I was going to have [this] big role. It was just go out there and try to make the playoffs.”
MVP A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces, defensive player of the year Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks, the Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart, the Chicago Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot and the Dallas Wings’ Arike Ogunbowale were named to the all-WNBA first team. The Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith, the Connecticut Sun’s DeWanna Bonner and Napheesa Collier of the Minnesota Lynx joined Hines-Allen on the second team.
Hines-Allen credits her time spent with Bucheon KEB Hana Bank, where she was focused on basketball 24/7, during the offseason for the growth of her game. She finished the WNBA regular season ranked 10th in scoring (17 points per game) and fifth in rebounding (8.9). Her 42.6 three-point percentage ranked 11th. All of this came after Hines-Allen averaged 2.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 37.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 2019. She went from a down-the-line reserve to one of the league’s best players and also led her team to the playoffs. The opportunity for more playing time and a bigger role opened up with Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles and LaToya Sanders not going to the WNBA’s bubble in Bradenton, Fla.
No other player in the league averaged at least 17 points and 8.9 rebounds, and only Wilson and Stewart averaged at least 17 points and eight rebounds.
“I don’t think any of us knew that it would come to this height,” Mystics General Manager/Coach Mike Thibault said. “We hoped that she would make a jump and be a double-figure scorer and the rebounder we knew she was. ... She’s put herself among the best players in the league both statistically and how she’s dominated some games against good players. It’d be different if it was just against backups; now she’s playing against the best players in the league and having these performances. And she’s done it against some of the best teams, too. I think that’s a testament to all the work she’s put in.”
The new and improved Hines-Allen put the league on notice in the season opener with a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds against the Indiana Fever. Less than a month later, she followed a 23-point effort against the Atlanta Dream with another career high — 35 points against the Wings. With the playoffs on the line in the final five regular season games, Hines-Allen averaged 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds.
At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Hines-Allen is an undersized power forward who had to find a way to be successful as a 2018 second-round draft pick out of Louisville in a league where many second-rounders don’t stick around. The time she spent in South Korea helped refine her footwork in the post, and now she has a bevy of drop-step, turnaround and up-and-under moves. She’s quick with tight enough handles to take a bigger player off the dribble or bully a smaller defender on the block. Hines-Allen also developed a point-forward role where she can grab a defensive rebound, push the ball up the court and initiate the offense.
“When she’s hot, we love to sit there and just watch her,” Mystics guard Kiara Leslie said. “When she gets it going, it’s hard not to just sit back and watch her go off like she’s capable of doing. When you look at last year compared to this year, it’s amazing. A lot of people didn’t think she had it in her, on the outside, but we knew she did.”
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