Apologies for a slow start to our tracking of advanced league statistics. My hard drive crashed last fall, forcing me to rebuild the spreadsheet I use to track everything. I’ve finally had a chance to put it in order and should be able to update on a weekly basis from here on out. As always, see our updated Statistical Analysis 101 page for explanations of these stats.
Team ORtg Team DRtg ------------------- ------------------- Phoenix 111.6 Minnesota 92.1 San Antonio 109.3 Seattle 96.5 Indiana 106.2 Chicago 98.3 New York 105.4 Indiana 98.6 Los Angeles 104.6 San Antonio 100.5 Minnesota 104.5 Atlanta 101.7 Connecticut 103.4 LEAGUE 101.8 LEAGUE 101.8 Connecticut 102.5 Chicago 99.2 New York 103.2 Seattle 96.9 Phoenix 103.5 Washington 96.8 Washington 107.1 Atlanta 93.5 Los Angeles 107.3 Tulsa 91.1 Tulsa 110.0
The Lynx are doing some incredible things at the defensive end of the floor. Minnesota’s defense is allowing 9.7 fewer points per 100 possessions than league average, which is the third largest difference in WNBA history (trailing the 2002 Houston Comets, the 2005 Sacramento Monarchs, and the 2001 Cleveland Rockers). This is also the best we’ve seen the Storm play defense under Brian Agler. The Storm’s offense jumped up a couple of spots in the rankings with Saturday’s big output against Los Angeles, but the team is still relying heavily on defense.
As usual, the opposite formula is being used in Phoenix. However, this is the highest the Mercury’s defense has ranked in a while. It’s also the best Indiana Fever offense we’ve seen in some time, more than making up for the fact that the Fever defense has not been quite as stingy as usual.
Los Angeles is another offense-first unit, which is probably part of why we saw a coaching change yesterday. Jennifer Gillom consistently coached teams that could put the ball in the basket but struggled to stop opponents. Back-to-back blowout losses dropped the Sparks to 11th in the WNBA in per-possession defense. During Joe Bryant’s lone full season at the helm (2006), Los Angeles ranked fifth and was in the upper echelon of defensive teams. We’ll keep an eye on whether a change in scheme can help the Sparks overcome offensive-minded personnel.
EXPECTED WINS STANDINGS
Team Exp. W% Team Exp. W% ------------------- ------------------- Minnesota .796 Indiana .645 San Antonio .747 Connecticut .569 Phoenix .717 New York .486 Seattle .540 Chicago .472 Los Angeles .411 Atlanta .359 Tulsa .017 Washington .289
The East closed up the gap a little bit for a while there, but Minnesota’s blowout win over Connecticut helped the Western Conference reestablish its superiority in terms of point differential. The top three West teams all have better differentials than East-leading Indiana, while the Storm would be close to Connecticut for second. We do see the two conferences beginning to shake out a little with separation between the top four teams and the rest of the group, though how the coaching change and Candace Parker’s eventual return could change that in the West is unclear.
Player Tm Win% WARP ------------------------------------- Sylvia Fowles CHI .711 2.8 Tamika Catchings IND .731 2.6 Penny Taylor PHO .735 2.4 Cappie Pondexter NYL .692 2.4 Katie Douglas IND .754 2.3 Epiphanny Prince CHI .638 2.2 Sue Bird SEA .667 1.9 Becky Hammon SAS .697 1.9 Renee Montgomery CON .684 1.8 Diana Taurasi PHO .643 1.8
After flirting with the top spot in our ranking of individual player value, Sylvia Fowles has ascended atop the list by increasing her role in the Chicago offense. After using 23.9 percent of the Sky’s possessions last year, Fowles is up to 26.1 percent this year without any drop in her efficiency. Annual favorite Tamika Catchings is a close second, but it’s her teammate Katie Douglas who has been best in the league on a per-minute basis. Only injuries that limited Douglas’ playing time have knocked her down to fifth.
Penny Taylor is off to a terrific start. In addition to her usual efficient scoring (her .652 True Shooting Percentage ranks fourth in the league), Taylor has also become a top-notch playmaker. On a per-possession basis, Taylor is handing out slightly more assists than Sue Bird (who has, statistically, been excellent in her own right).
This list is much heavier than usual with guards. Epiphanny Prince has used the league’s best steal rate to earn a spot in the top 10, while Renee Montgomery has emerged as a standout thanks to more efficient scoring. Add in fixtures Becky Hammon and Diana Taurasi and that’s seven guards in the top 10.
If you were picking All-Star starters strictly by WARP (though I want to be clear I don’t endorse such a thing), the East would have Douglas and Cappie Pondexter at guard, Fowles in the middle and Catchings at one forward. Finding a second top forward in the East this year has been challenging. Angel McCoughtry, off to a slow start by her standards, is next at 0.8 WARP. In the West, you’d have Bird and Hammon at guard. At forward, a pair of Mercury players, with Candice Dupree (1.7 WARP) just edging out Swin Cash (1.5) to play alongside Taylor. Despite her injury, Candace Parker (1.4) still tops the West centers on the ballot.
You might be wondering about Rebekkah Brunson, who has been dominant on the glass and efficient as a scorer. Brunson’s relatively small role in the Minnesota offense and a lack of steals and blocks hold her back. At 1.3 WARP, she ranks third on her own team behind Lindsay Whalen (1.4) and Maya Moore (1.3).