Hoffman, Leslie expected to earn WNBA honors Friday

Updated: September 19, 2008, 12:41 PM ET
ESPN.com new services

The WNBA is expected to name Indiana Fever forward Ebony Hoffman as the league's most improved player of the year and veteran center Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks as the defensive player of the year on Friday.

The league will announce both winners around 5 p.m. ET.

Hoffman, who is in her fifth season in the WNBA, more than doubled her 2007 scoring average (4.2) to 10.4 points per game and increased her rebounding to 7.8, both career bests. Hoffman's rebounding average ranked fifth in the league in the regular season. "Hoffman stepped forward as a more dependable player, especially while the Fever waited for Tamika Catchings to get back to full strength," ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel has said.

Leslie is a three-time WNBA MVP who sat out the 2007 season while on maternity leave. Two years ago, she became the first player in league history to reach the 5,000-point plateau, but this season, Leslie's defense stood out. Her 8.9 rebounds per game (including 6.3 on the defensive end) rank second in the league. The 11-year pro also averaged 1.5 steals and a WNBA-best 2.9 blocks. "When it comes to being the enforcer inside and understanding all the nuances of playing game-changing defense, Leslie is still in top form," Voepel added.

Indiana hosts Detroit, the Eastern Conference's top seed, at 7 p.m. ET Friday in Game 1 of their conference semifinals matchup. Third-seeded Los Angeles hosts West No. 2 seed Seattle at 10:30 p.m. ET Friday.