While the Storm has already opened up a healthy lead in the Western Conference, the East remains a mess as we approach the end of June. The top four teams are separated by just a game and a half, and advanced statistics do little to help us make distinctions between these teams. Still, let’s take a look. As always, see our updated Statistical Analysis 101 page for explanations of these stats.
Team ORtg Team DRtg ------------------- ------------------- Seattle 111.5 Indiana 94.0 Phoenix 108.9 Washington 95.9 Atlanta 102.8 Seattle 98.1 Connecticut 102.8 Connecticut 98.3 New York 102.0 Atlanta 98.4 LEAGUE 101.8 Chicago 101.0 Chicago 101.7 LEAGUE 101.8 Indiana 101.7 New York 102.6 Washington 100.5 San Antonio 105.0 San Antonio 99.8 Tulsa 105.8 Los Angeles 97.7 Minnesota 106.5 Minnesota 97.2 Los Angeles 107.1 Tulsa 94.9 Phoenix 109.3
For the most part, we’re starting to see Offensive and Defensive Ratings stabilize, so let’s consider some interesting teams.
Chicago and New York are the two closest teams to league average this season. The Sky ranks an identical sixth in both offense and defense on a per-possession basis, while the Liberty is fifth and seventh, respectively, but also just above and just below the league as a whole in both categories. In this year’s Eastern Conference, that has proven an unsuccessful combination, as Atlanta and Connecticut offer similar balance at a higher level at both ends of the floor and Indiana and Washington have won with a defense-first mentality.
The Lynx continue to lag everyone save Tulsa in Offensive Rating, which is surprising because the Lynx had the league’s second-best offense most of 2009 – even without Seimone Augustus. Minnesota’s two-point percentage (40.8 percent) almost looks like a typo; nobody else in the league is shooting worse than 44.4 percent inside the arc. All three Lynx shooting guards – Hamchetou Maiga-Ba (39.4 percent), the injured Candice Wiggins (32.1 percent) and inconsistent rookie Monica Wright (31.7 percent) – have shot under 40 percent on twos, while Nicky Anosike (42.9 percent), Charde Houston (43.9 percent) and Lindsay Whalen (40.9 percent) have all shot far worse than their career marks. You have to figure this will turn around, but right now it is proving costly for Minnesota.
On a more positive note, the Mystics have emerged as one of the league’s best defenses. Fifth a year ago, Washington has taken another leap and now ranks behind only the Fever in terms of Defensive Rating. Washington is doing it without any players, save newly added Katie Smith, considered great individual defenders, and even Smith is no longer the defensive force she once was. The Mystics are last in the league in shot blocking and only average in terms of steals, but Julie Plank’s defensive system puts players in the right place and they have executed very well.
EXPECTED WINS STANDINGS
Team Exp. W% Team Exp. W% ------------------- ------------------- Seattle .833 Indiana .678 Phoenix .497 Washington .642 San Antonio .342 Connecticut .602 Los Angeles .289 Atlanta .602 Minnesota .283 Chicago .490 Tulsa .207 New York .474
Here’s where the Eastern Conference continues to tighten up. The difference between first and fourth in terms of expected wins based on point differential is less than three games over a full 34-game season. The Sky and Liberty are both playing well from this perspective. The Hollinger Power Rankings, which take schedule into account, do suggest that Indiana is clearly the No. 1 team in the East. The Fever has played a hard slate, including two games apiece against the Storm and the Sun.
The biggest difference between actual record and expected record now has to belong to the Mercury, which is 5-9 after dropping four consecutive games but has barely been outscored on the season. After playing in Atlanta on Tuesday, Phoenix has four of its next five games at home, so don’t be surprised if the Mercury gets rolling sooner rather than later.
Player Tm Win% WARP ------------------------------------- Lauren Jackson SEA .784 4.4 Tamika Catchings IND .812 4.0 Sylvia Fowles CHI .730 3.7 Tina Charles CON .714 3.1 Sue Bird SEA .669 2.8 Monique Currie WAS .695 2.8 Crystal Langhorne WAS .650 2.7 Katie Douglas IND .681 2.7 Diana Taurasi PHO .660 2.7 Camille Little SEA .678 2.6
It’s not even the midpoint of the season, but I think we can safely say that – barring injury – Tina Charles has Rookie of the Year wrapped up. The No. 1 overall pick has been the league’s fourth-best player in terms of WARP, while no other rookie has posted more than 1.4 WARP (Chicago’s Epiphanny Prince is second). The more pressing question is how historic Charles’ debut campaign might be. Just two true rookies in league history have surpassed 6.5 WARP: Tamika Catchings (11.2; she was a year older because she missed her first season out of college with a torn ACL) and Candace Parker (10.5). Lauren Jackson (6.4) ranks third on the list; it’s kind of amazing in hindsight that she lost out on ROY honors to Portland’s Jackie Stiles (1.7).
Elsewhere, Crystal Langhorne breaks into the top 10 for the first time since the end of June on the strength of a performance that earned her Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Phoenix’s Penny Taylor drops out, though it was hardly much of a slide. She’s currently 11th in WARP.