Hello, and welcome back to our weekly check-in on the WNBA’s advanced statistics. Because the season got off to such a slow start, with the Storm playing just two games through the first 13 days of the schedule, we’re starting this analysis a little bit later than usual. That should make the opening numbers a bit more reliable, though they are still subject to significant fluctuations and affected quite a bit by team schedules. For example, I doubt the San Antonio Silver Stars are quite the juggernaut their numbers make them out to be, though they are certainly the most positive surprise of the early season.
Team ORtg Team DRtg ------------------- ------------------- San Antonio 114.4 Minnesota 93.9 Connecticut 110.9 San Antonio 94.4 Los Angeles 108.4 Seattle 96.3 Minnesota 105.9 Los Angeles 97.5 Phoenix 105.1 Chicago 97.8 Chicago 101.7 Indiana 98.8 LEAGUE 101.4 Connecticut 99.5 Indiana 100.9 LEAGUE 101.5 New York 100.2 Atlanta 102.2 Washington 97.0 New York 106.1 Tulsa 94.5 Tulsa 107.0 Atlanta 93.9 Phoenix 111.5 Seattle 89.4 Washington 111.8
On offense, it’s the WNBA Finals curse, as both the Atlanta Dream and the Storm have struggled to score in the early going. I discussed the Storm’s situation in more depth today on StormBasketball.com. New York and Indiana are a copule of other teams that have gone from the top of the rankings last year on offense to near the bottom this year. Traveling in the other direction have been Connecticut, Los Angeles and Minnesota, the latter two after adding key pieces in a healthy Candace Parker and Maya Moore. The Silver Stars, a good offense last year, have been elite in 2011. If Danielle Adams is half as good as she’s looked so far, San Antonio will remain tough to stop.
On the other end, the Silver Stars have made huge strides defensively with Dan Hughes back on the sidelines. (Two games with Tulsa don’t hurt.) The Lynx showed defensive promise and now have Taj McWilliams anchoring their D and more size behind Rebekkah Brunson. Washington has tumbled dramatically on defense following a coaching change, while the Dream’s defense has yet to be as stout as in the past.
EXPECTED WINS STANDINGS
Team Exp. W Team Exp. W ------------------- ------------------- San Antonio 35.2 Connecticut 27.5 Minnesota 26.3 Indiana 17.6 Los Angeles 25.1 Chicago 16.8 Seattle 14.2 Atlanta 11.6 Phoenix 11.7 New York 9.8 Tulsa 5.4 Washington 7.8
This looks at the standings in each conference based on the average numbers of wins a team with the same point differential would be expected to have over a full season. I’ll boldly predict the Silver Stars are unlikely to win 35 games in a 34-game schedule. What this does show is the improve of the Western Conference, which boasts three of the league’s top four teams by differential. Right now, the bottom of the Eastern Conference appears very soft, though Atlanta figures to pick things up at some point.
Team Pace ------------------- San Antonio 81.6 Atlanta 80.8 Phoenix 79.8 Minnesota 77.4 AVERAGE 76.6 Tulsa 76.3 New York 76.0 Los Angeles 74.9 Chicago 74.7 Connecticut 74.6 Washington 74.6 Indiana 74.3 Seattle 74.1
Believe it or not, the Silver Stars’ fast pace has little to do with playing the Shock twice. Tulsa has actually slowed to below league average to take advantage of Liz Cambage’s half-court skills. With a smaller unit, San Antonio seems to be speeding things up. The rest of the leaders are fairly familiar, while the usual teams focus on executing in half-court games.
Usually, we’ll have player analysis in this space, but my spreadsheet still needs some work. I’ll try to add that in later in the week.