Natasha Cloud, Ariel Atkins named to WNBA’s All-Defensive First Team

Cloud, Atkins named to WNBA's All-Defensive First Team originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The backcourt duo of Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins were named to the WNBA’s All-Defensive First Team on Tuesday after leading the Mystics to the No. 1 defensive distinction in the league this past season.

It is the first time either guard was named to the first team in their careers. They are the first Mystics to be on the first team since Alana Beard in 2007. 

They join the Defensive Player of the Year A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart and Sylvia Fowles on the first team. Additionally, Cloud received two of the 56 votes for DPOTY. Here is a full list of the results:

First Team

A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm

Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx

Natasha Cloud, Washington Mystics

Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics

Second Team

Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun

Ezi Magbegor, Seattle Storm

Brittney Sykes, Los Angeles Sparks

Gabby Williams, Seattle Storm

Atkins has now been recognized for her defensive efforts in each of the first five seasons of her career. For Cloud, it is the second time (2019 2nd Team) that she made the talented 10-player grouping. 

Over the past two offseasons, the Mystics prioritized building their defensive prowess. Atkins and Cloud were the first two building blocks for that effort as they signed Alysha Clark in 2021, Elizabeth Williams in 2022 and then drafted one of the best defensive prospects in Shakira Austin at No. 3. 

The result was the Mystics being ranked first in the WNBA by multiple defensive metrics. At the point of that defensive attack were Cloud and Atkins. The hope was that the unit could carry the team as the offense did in 2019.

Cloud averaged 1.0 steals per game this season, marking the third straight season she’s reached that mark. Her 100 defensive rating and 1.9 defensive win-shares were the highest of her career, per Basketball Reference. While Clark typically took the toughest defensive assignment on the floor, Cloud would take the second. When Clark went to the bench, it was Cloud’s responsibility to take on that matchup. 

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Atkins registered in the top ten of the league with a career-high 2.0 defensive win shares – the sixth-best in the WNBA. She also set a career-best 99 defensive rating. Her 1.4 steals per game led the team.

This marks the first time in team history two Mystics received All-Defensive honors, regardless of first or second team. It is just the 14th time in WNBA history that two players from the same team made the first team.

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