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Rhyne Howard, Shakira Austin Headline 2022 WNBA All-Rookie Team

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 25, 2022

Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Atlanta Dream's Rhyne Howard capped off her stellar first season by earning All-Rookie honors and receiving the WNBA's Rookie of the Year Award on Thursday.

Howard headlined the five-player squad that also included Washington Mystics center Shakira Austin, Chicago Sky guard Rebekah Gardner and the Indiana Fever's Queen Egbo and NaLyssa Smith.

WNBA @WNBA

Your 2022 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WNBA?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WNBA</a> All-Rookie Team 💪<a href="https://twitter.com/howard_rhyne?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@howard_rhyne</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Theylove_kira?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Theylove_kira</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/NaLyssaSmith?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NaLyssaSmith</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/rebekah_jasmine?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@rebekah_jasmine</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/QueenEgbo_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@QueenEgbo_</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MoreThan?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MoreThan</a> <a href="https://t.co/TezzqUbNLI">pic.twitter.com/TezzqUbNLI</a>

Howard was the runaway winner in the Rookie of the Year balloting, collecting all but three of the 56 first-place votes.

Howard averaged 16.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals in 34 games. Although Atlanta finished 10th in the standings—one spot higher than in 2021—her presence has increased optimism for the franchise's long-term direction.

Going into the 2022 season, the Dream looked lost after winning 23 games over the prior three years. Since Angel McCoughtry's departure following the 2019 campaign, they've also lacked a face of the franchise type of figure. Now, things are looking bright with Howard leading the way.

WNBA @WNBA

.<a href="https://twitter.com/howard_rhyne?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@howard_rhyne</a> was in her bag this season for the <a href="https://twitter.com/AtlantaDream?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AtlantaDream</a> 🔥<br><br>✅ 2022 WNBA All-Star<br>✅ 4x <a href="https://twitter.com/Kia?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Kia</a> Rookie of the Month<br>✅ 1x Eastern Conference POW<br><br>Howard is the 2nd player in Dream history to win Rookie of the Year honors, the first player to do so was <a href="https://twitter.com/angel_35?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@angel_35</a> in 2009 <a href="https://t.co/NTZqFOROGt">pic.twitter.com/NTZqFOROGt</a>

The Mystics could've landed the 6'2" guard if they hadn't traded out of the No. 1 spot in the 2022 WNBA draft. Instead, they found their center of the future in Austin.

The 6'5" rim protector averaged 8.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 21.6 minutes per game. She undoubtedly deserves some credit for Washington posting the lowest defensive rating (96.0) during the regular season, per WNBA.com.

For the Fever, All-Rookie standouts Egbo and Smith represent hope that things are finally looking up.

Since Tamika Catchings retired in 2016, the Fever have been a mess. They've piled up losing season after losing season while getting little return from the lottery picks they've accumulated in the process.

Smith showcased her all-around game by putting up 13.5 points—shooting 38.1 percent from beyond the arc—and 7.9 rebounds per game. Egbo, whom many considered to be a reach in the first round, was a pleasant surprise as well. She blocked 1.2 shots per game.

Indiana might finally be turning the corner.

Gardner is an outlier on this year's All-Rookie team because she was 31 when she debuted with the Chicago Sky. She made the most of her chance with the reigning champions, quickly establishing herself as a valuable role player.

Thanks to Gardner, the Sky haven't missed Diamond DeShields much after she signed with the Phoenix Mercury in the offseason. The depth she has helped provide has been necessary to fuel their title defense—they open the WNBA semifinals Sunday against the Connecticut Sun.

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