Azura Stevens’ 6’6 size, lengthy wingspan, and inside-out versatility fit perfectly with the new positionless WNBA. The Connecticut Huskies’ primary big transferred from Duke two seasons ago, and passed up her remaining season of eligibility to enter the draft early.
Don’t fret about Stevens’ place as a bench player this season. She would have started, and probably starred for any other team in the country. Head coach Geno Auriemma just opted to play a smaller lineup, and always considered Stevens a member of his “starting six.”
At Duke in 2015-16, in a lead role, she scored 19 points and grabbed nine boards per game in 31 minutes as the team’s centerpiece. Her raw numbers went down at UConn because her role changed, but she was more efficient than ever.
She averaged 15 points on 60 percent shooting, seven rebounds, and two blocks in just 21 minutes this season.
If she was given a bigger role, she would’ve logged superstar numbers. That’s what she’ll do in the WNBA.
Why should fans be excited about Stevens?
There’s another side to Stevens that Connecticut fans weren’t afforded the time to see. She shot 35 percent from three-point range (on 45 attempts) in her final season at Duke. She can play on the wing as well as in the paint if she’s developed properly.
Her shooting from deep dropped off in a big way at Connecticut (she only made 8-of-48 attempts), but that feels like more of a fluke than anything. She’s a terrific shooter from the foul line (79 percent over the last two seasons), and shot 30 percent from three in her freshman season too.
With the number of sharpshooting bigs like Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne growing, Stevens’ ability to stretch the floor should excite fans of her new team.
The WNBA is changing, and Stevens fits the mold.
How ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson sees Stevens’ fit:
Obviously the conversation around the first round of the draft has changed dramatically with Azura Stevens declaring for the WNBA. She’s a unique player and it starts with her physical dimensions more than anything. Her length ... her skill not only around the basket, but she’s shown the potential to make plays with her face-up game.
Should fans be nervous about Stevens?
Even if Stevens’ three-point shooting doesn’t return to form, her physicality, lengthy arms, defensive instincts, and finesse in the post should all carry her to a successful WNBA career.