DURHAM, N.C. – For the second straight year, Duke University alumna and Los Angeles Sparks guard Alana Beard has been name the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, as announced Thursday by the WNBA office. Beard also received All-WNBA Defensive Team first team honors along with Duke graduate and current guard of the Connecticut Sun Jasmine Thomas.
Beard, a 2004 Duke graduate, received 16 votes from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters. She is just the fifth player in WNBA history to earn Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons.
Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx finished second with nine votes, Tiffany Hayes of the Atlanta Dream finished third with four votes, while Jessica Breland of Atlanta and Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury finished tied for fourth with two votes apiece.
Beard’s 1.47 steals per game ranked fourth in the WNBA and helped the Sparks pace the league in steals (7.94 steals per game) and points allowed (77.0 points per game). Los Angeles also ranked second in opponents’ turnovers per game (14.97) and defensive rating (98.7 points per 100 possessions).
For the season, Beard averaged 4.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 40.0 percent from three-point range. Her contributions helped the Sparks (19-15) make the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season.
Beard, an eight-time WNBA All-Defensive Team selection, was the second overall pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft and played six seasons for the Washington Mystics before joining the Sparks in 2012. The former Blue Devil standout ranks third on the WNBA’s all-time steals list with 698, tops among active players.
In honor of being named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, Beard will receive $5,000 and a specially designed trophy from Tiffany & Co.
A two-time National Player of the Year at Duke, Beard also received nine of a possible 11 votes from a panel of the league’s head coaches on her way to earning her fifth WNBA All-Defensive First Team selection and ninth All-Defensive nod overall (including four Second Team honors).
Beard (48 points) is joined on the WNBA All-Defensive First Team by Griner (41), Thomas (41), Seattle Storm forward Natasha Howard (37) and Atlanta Dream forward Jessica Breland (34).
Thomas, a 2011 Blue Devil graduate, received her second-consecutive first team honor, who earned a spot on the team in 2017 after being named a second team selection in 2016. Finishing up her eighth season with the Sun, Thomas totaled a team-high 37 steals in 2018, her fourth consecutive season with 35 or more thefts. She also had 85 defensive rebounds.
“I take pride in playing hard on both ends of the floor,” Thomas said. “It’s nice being recognized by other coaches for my defensive effort.”
The WNBA All-Defensive Second Team consists of Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles (32 points), Dream guard Tiffany Hayes (32), Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson (23), Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike (22) and Washington Mystics rookie guard Ariel Atkins (19).
ALL-TIME WNBA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD WINNERS
Year Player Team
2018 Alana Beard Los Angeles Sparks
2017 Alana Beard Los Angeles Sparks
2016 Sylvia Fowles Minnesota Lynx
2015 Brittney Griner Phoenix Mercury
2014 Brittney Griner Phoenix Mercury
2013 Sylvia Fowles Chicago Sky
2012 Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever
2011 Sylvia Fowles Chicago Sky
2010 Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever
2009 Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever
2008 Lisa Leslie Los Angeles Sparks
2007 Lauren Jackson Seattle Storm
2006 Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever
2005 Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever
2004 Lisa Leslie Los Angeles Sparks
2003 Sheryl Swoopes Houston Comets
2002 Sheryl Swoopes Houston Comets
2001 Debbie Black Miami Sol
2000 Sheryl Swoopes Houston Comets
1999 Yolanda Griffith Sacramento Monarchs
1998 Teresa Weatherspoon New York Liberty
1997 Teresa Weatherspoon New York Liberty