Ezi Magbegor is having a breakout season. It might be just the start for the Storm’s budding star.

Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles, Liz Cambage and Candace Parker are still the top scoring centers in the WNBA and continue to dominate the league, as they have for the past decade or so. 

But the next 10 years might belong to Ezi Magbegor. 

At least that’s according to a handful of WNBA front-office executives who were given anonymity and asked: “If starting a team today and picking any center in the league, who would you choose and why?” 

Four of the six who replied chose Seattle’s budding star. 

“You take into account her age (22) and contract situation (she’s a reserved player and Seattle has exclusive negotiating rights in the offseason) and that makes her very attractive,” said a Western Conference exec. “But beyond that, she’s gone from (six points) and (four rebounds) to 12 and six in Year 3. … And her shot blocking is off the charts. 

“Not to sound hyperbolic, but her build and the way she plays reminds me of a young Lisa Leslie. … Keep in mind, Lisa was (24) when she entered the league back in (1997). Ezi is just 22 who should be a rookie or maybe even senior in college right now.” 

Another Eastern Conference exec added: “In 5-7 years, I’m not sure if we’ll see low-post oriented centers anymore. I just don’t know because the game is changing so fast. … But off the top of my head, I can’t think of anyone 22 or younger who has more promise than (Magbegor) other than (New York forward Michaela) Onyenwere.” 

Maybe it’s time to redefine the Storm’s power structure and expand their Big Three to include the soft-spoken Big Aussie. 

No doubt, Seattle still relies heavily on WNBA All-Stars Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird, but the third-year center and first-year starter has become indispensable for a veteran-laden team with championship aspirations. 

Not to sound hyperbolic, but her build and the way she plays reminds me of a young Lisa Leslie.

Take Sunday’s 84-79 road win against the Dallas Wings for example. 

Stewart and Loyd carried the offense with 25 and 22 points respectively, while Magbegor chipped in 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting, including 2 of 3 behind the arc. 

And Magbegor finished with more blocks (five) than Dallas (four). It was the sixth time this season the 6-foot-4 center with the 6-7 wingspan tied or had more blocks than the opposing team. 

“Good timing,” said Magbegor who leads the WNBA with 3.2 blocks per game. “Sometimes I tend to get blocks if one of my teammates gets beat. I’m kind of there to help them out. Just figuring out how to time the block. I always kind of like to block them hard. I just try to time it and hope it goes my way and is not a foul.” 

Magbegor is one of the league leaders with 3.2 fouls per game, but she’s also on pace to average the most blocks since Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner had 4.0 per game in 2016. 

“She plugs holes,” coach Noelle Quinn said when asked about Magbegor. “You think there’s a miss on a defensive assignment and she’s coming across and blocking shots or altering shots. A lot of times she’s defending the other team’s (top) post player and that shows a lot of growth.  

“We rely on her defensively. We know she’s going to be there to clean it up with rebounding and all of the things that matter on the defensive end. She does that for us. She does the little things.” 

Despite Magbegor’s interior presence, the Storm rank last in the WNBA in rebounding percentage (46.6%) and 10th in opponent points in the paint (36.8 points per game). 

“Because of my size, I know personally, (rebounding is) an area where I can get better at,” said the 176-pound Magbegor who averages 6.4 boards per game. “As a team, we have to do a better job of boxing out. That’s something I’ve been working on.” 

However, Magbegor’s most noticeable improvements have been on the offensive end where she’s averaging 12.2 points while shooting 51.5% from the field. 

Admittedly, she’s taken cues from fellow Aussie Lauren Jackson and is showing signs of developing a reliable outside jumper much like the legendary Storm star. 

“The game is growing and changing and as post players you don’t want to be stuck in a box for your career,” said Magbegor who has tied her career high with five three-pointers in a season while taking a career high 14 attempts behind the arc. “It’s just developing your game and extending out to the perimeter.” 

One of the subplots for Tuesday’s 6 p.m. PT game between the Storm (8-5) and the Minnesota Lynx (3-11) was supposed to be Magbegor’s rematch against Fowles. 

They clashed in the regular-season opener — a 97-74 Seattle win — and Fowles finished with 16 points and four rebounds while Magbegor had eight points, five rebounds and two steals. 

Last week the Lynx announced Fowles suffered a right knee injury and is out indefinitely. There’s growing speculation that she may not play again considering she said in February this would be her final season in the league. 

Parker, Charles and Cambage have also talked about retirement and all three signed one-year contracts that expire after the season.  

“With great players like Sylvia, who is retiring after this season, it creates new spots for new players,” said Magbegor who is one of three centers younger than 30 who is averaging at least 10 points. 

The others include: New York’s Han Xu (10.6) and Chicago’s Azura Stevens (10.3). 

Ezi is on the rise

Here’s a look at where the Storm’s Ezi Magbegor ranks among the WNBA’s top centers. 

Since taking Magbegor 12th overall in the 2019 WNBA draft, which also included Dallas’ Arike Ogunbowale and Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier, the Storm have raved about their young center who started just three games in her first two years. 

Still, Magbegor’s sudden emergence as a Most Improved Player of the Year candidate is a bit of a surprise considering she began the season as a replacement starter while Mercedes Russell recovered from an unspecified non-basketball injury that sidelined her for the first seven games. 

With the exception of a three-game layoff due to COVID, Magbegor has been a fixture in the lineup and Quinn isn’t planning on making any changes for now. 

And there’s a chance Magbegor could become a fixture in the WNBA for a decade or more like a few league executives predict. 

If Stewart, who is an unrestricted free agent for the second straight year and noncommittal about her long-term future in Seattle, leaves in the offseason, then the Storm could potentially rebuild with Magbegor and Loyd, who is signed through 2023. 

“Ezi is an amazing human being,” Quinn said. “She wants to continue to grow and get better. She’s always wanting more and always wanting the work. Always being a student of the game and that makes this what we’re seeing coming to fruition. That hard work makes it even more precious and special because she’s worked her tail off to be in this situation.” 

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