Having already played 13 games, the Storm has moved well past the first third of its season, but this is the closest we’ll get for the league as a whole, which has completed 34.3 percent of the schedule thus far. By this point, things should be shaking out a little, yet the standings remain muddled in both conferences – aside from the Storm leading the West.
Team ORtg Team DRtg ------------------- ------------------- Seattle 111.6 Indiana 92.9 Phoenix 110.4 Connecticut 96.2 Connecticut 103.9 Washington 96.4 Atlanta 103.0 Seattle 97.7 LEAGUE 102.2 Atlanta 98.9 Chicago 101.8 LEAGUE 102.2 Indiana 101.1 Chicago 102.3 New York 101.0 New York 104.8 Los Angeles 100.4 Tulsa 106.4 Washington 99.8 San Antonio 106.7 San Antonio 98.7 Minnesota 106.8 Minnesota 97.5 Los Angeles 108.2 Tulsa 95.4 Phoenix 108.7
The first thing worth taking note of here is the league rating, which has surged to 102.2 points per 100 possessions. As we’ve discussed in the past, offenses tend to get better over the course of the season, so for the league to be scoring so efficiently overall this early is really quite remarkable. Last year, the league’s final Offensive Rating was 100.4, which was a WNBA record that might be very short-lived.
The Storm remains the class of the league offensively, but is getting heat from the Phoenix Mercury. The Mercury’s last five games are remarkable statistically. Phoenix is averaging an off-the-charts 122.4 points per 100 possessions on offense, but the Mercury’s Defensive Rating in that span is an incredible 114.7. You’ll remember that not long ago Phoenix actually ranked better on defense than on offense. Not anymore. The Mercury is nearly back to its familiar place atop the league’s offenses … but an equally familiar worst in the league in defense. That combination won Phoenix the championship last season.
As for the Storm, after battering San Antonio on the offensive glass last night, Seattle is now collecting 39.5 percent of its own misses. That would be the best offensive rebounding percentage in league history, eclipsing the 38.6 percent mark of the 2007 Monarchs.
There’s a huge gap between the Storm and the Mercury and everyone else in the league on offense, but Connecticut has emerged as one of the most balanced teams in the WNBA on both ends of the floor along with the Storm. Indiana, meanwhile, has gotten its offense going during a 6-1 stretch.
EXPECTED WINS STANDINGS
Team Exp. W% Team Exp. W% ------------------- ------------------- Seattle .846 Indiana .704 Phoenix .530 Connecticut .678 Los Angeles .319 Washington .625 San Antonio .286 Atlanta .582 Minnesota .266 Chicago .460 Tulsa .220 New York .414
After the Sun’s pair of road victories out West this weekend, the Eastern Conference is now 16-5 in interconference play this season (with three of those five West wins coming from the Storm). The dominance is no less great in terms of point differential. The other four West teams are separated by just 1.5 games in the current standings, but the Mercury’s differential separates Phoenix from the rest of this back. The Mercury has outscored its opposition on the season, while Phoenix’s last three losses have come by a combined six points, which has left Phoenix below .500 at 5-7.
The Sky has been the hard-luck team in the East, winning 1.5 fewer games than an average team with the same point differential. Either way, though, Chicago trails the four playoff favorites in the East. Separating among this group is a little trickier. Atlanta’s point differential doesn’t match the team’s record, but the Dream has played nine out of 13 games on the road so far and should fare better as the schedule evens out.
Player Tm Win% WARP ------------------------------------- Lauren Jackson SEA .780 3.7 Tamika Catchings IND .820 3.5 Sylvia Fowles CHI .755 3.2 Monique Currie WAS .756 2.7 Sue Bird SEA .676 2.7 Camille Little SEA .729 2.6 Tina Charles CON .708 2.3 Penny Taylor PHO .681 2.3 Diana Taurasi PHO .636 2.1 Katie Douglas IND .660 1.4
The three players at the top of the WARP leaderboard may be separating themselves from the pack, as they appear in the same order as they did in our last update two weeks ago. That means a potential MVP showdown at KeyArena when the Fever visits Friday. Tamika Catchings has been slightly better than Lauren Jackson on a per-minute basis, but the odd thing about that is they’ve reversed their usual patterns. Catchings is shooting 48.1 percent from the field this year, while it’s Jackson who is down at 42.0 percent, largely because nearly a third of her attempts have been beyond the arc.
11 games into the season, it’s becoming clear Monique Currie is in this leaderboard to stay. Currie’s 50 percent three-point shooting is somewhat fluky, but even if we take her down all the way to 33.3 percent she’s still among the league’s best players because she’s maintaining a solid True Shooting Percentage while using more than a quarter of Washington’s possessions as the go-to player for the Mystics in Alana Beard’s absence.
Interesting question posed to me by Dick Fain before yesterday’s Storm game: Was Sue Bird’s five-game stretch before Sunday, when she averaged 17.2 points and 6.6 assists on 53.3 percent shooting, better than her performance as the Storm’s lead scorer when Jackson was injured late in the 2008 season? I’d say yes, because of the combination of scoring and playmaking Bird has maintained lately – not to mention an assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly five during that run.
This is the first appearance in the top 10 this season for Mercury teammates Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor, driving the team’s recent offensive efficiency. Meanwhile, we wave goodbye to Candace Parker for good after season-ending shoulder surgery. While her team was struggling, Parker was off to a strong start to the year. We’ll hope to see her back at 100 percent to start 2011.