Marina Mabrey’s Case for the WNBA’s Most Improved Player

The Dallas Wings guard has increased her scoring output, rebounding, assists, and minutes per game from last season. 

By Alex Holmes

The WNBA is one month into its 2021 season and, although it is early to discuss season-ending accolades, Marina Mabrey is a front-runner for the league’s Most Improved Player. The fiery and physical guard has taken significant strides across the team sheet and, more importantly, has become one of her team’s most consistent players through the first nine games of the regular season.

Mabrey played for Notre Dame from 2015 to 2019, leading the Irish to two Final Four appearances and the 2018 National Championship. (Source: Notre Dame Athletics, USATSI)

The 5-foot-11 guard arrived in the W after a highly successful career at Notre Dame, where she won the 2018 National Championship. During her time in South Bend, Mabrey made a name for herself alongside a talented unit of teammates, including Arike Ogunbowale, Jackie Young, and Brianna Turner. She developed into one of the country’s best defenders and showed her ability to take on new roles, like when she was thrust into the point guard position for Muffet McGraw’s team during their 2018 national title run. Mabrey left Notre Dame as the program’s top three-point shooter and was drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks as the No. 19 pick in 2019.

Mabrey’s time in LA was only a season long. She averaged 12 minutes of action per game and was good for 4 points per contest with the Sparks. Los Angeles traded Mabrey to Dallas before the 2020 season—and now, Mabrey is finding her footing in the league.

The move to Dallas proved brilliant for the New Jersey native. In her second season, she returned to Ogunbowale’s side in the backcourt and meshed well with a young Wings team. Mabrey’s minutes per game nearly doubled compared to her time in Los Angeles. It took her six games to reach double figure scoring in 2020 and after doing so, she finished the season by scoring double figures in 12 of the last 13 games, capped off by a 24-point performance in the season finale.

It seemed that Mabrey got into a groove in Dallas, but she was just getting her feet wet. With one season in Dallas under her belt and with the bulk of the young roster returning from last year, Mabrey picked up from where she left off at the end of 2020.

Mabrey is playing in her third WNBA season, and second with Dallas.
(Source: @Sean_Daniel01, @wslam, Twitter)

She scored a career high of 26 points just two games into the 2021 season and has already scored 20-plus points five times this season—five times more than the previous two seasons combined.

Through nine games, Mabrey’s scoring has almost doubled, going from 10.6 points per game in 2020 to 18.8 points this season. She has also just about doubled her rebounding contributions, increasing her 2020 total of 3.3 rebounds per game to 6.1 rebounds in 2021. And even though her scoring output is increasing, she is also getting teammates involved and her 3.7 assists per game ranks in the league’s top 15.

Mabrey has become a stalwart on this Wings team, and her play this season must make her a top priority on opposing teams’ scouting reports. She has scored in double figures every game this season and has flirted with double-doubles on several occasions. Mabrey ranks second on the team in scoring, minutes, and assists. Last season, she ranked fourth in scoring, fifth in minutes, and fourth in assists. It’s clear that Mabrey’s improvement has been one of the bright spots for head coach Vickie Johnson’s club.

If Mabrey keeps going at this rate, she will make it difficult for the league to vote against her. It should be fun to see how her improvement shapes a developing Wings squad.

Marina Mabrey and the Dallas Wings next play the Minnesota Lynx on Thursday, June 17 at 8 P.M. ET on CBS Sports Network. To follow Mabrey’s play this season, Dallas’ full schedule is available here.

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