After a week’s break to deal with Sue Bird content, we’re back with WNBA advanced stats. As always, see our updated Statistical Analysis 101 page for explanations of these stats.
Team ORtg Team DRtg ------------------- ------------------- Phoenix 111.2 Minnesota 95.8 Minnesota 107.0 Chicago 96.3 Indiana 104.7 Indiana 96.9 Los Angeles 103.9 Seattle 97.7 New York 102.0 San Antonio 98.3 San Antonio 101.3 New York 98.7 Connecticut 101.1 Connecticut 99.4 LEAGUE 100.8 Atlanta 99.6 Atlanta 98.0 LEAGUE 100.8 Washington 97.9 Washington 105.0 Seattle 97.0 Phoenix 106.3 Chicago 96.5 Los Angeles 108.1 Tulsa 88.5 Tulsa 108.3
The most interesting note this week might relate to the league average, which is down from 101.6 points per 100 possessions two weeks ago. Typically, offense tends to get better as the season goes on, possibly because of defensive fatigue and possibly because of improved continuity on offense. That hasn’t been the case this year, and certainly not for the Storm, which has struggled to score the last week and a half or so. Fourth place in defense is also about as low as the Storm has been in the rankings all season.
Offensively, the big movers were the Sparks, who are now fourth in the league without the benefit of Candace Parker (more on her in a second). If Los Angeles can get anywhere close to average defensively, the team’s offense is good enough to win games. The defensive tiers we saw previously no longer exist, at least at the top, where there’s a gradual progression among the first nine teams before a huge gulf between above-average Atlanta and the struggling Mystics.
EXPECTED WINS STANDINGS
Team Exp. W% Team Exp. W% ------------------- ------------------- Minnesota .783 Indiana .674 Phoenix .615 Connecticut .570 San Antonio .580 New York .541 Seattle .500 Chicago .493 Los Angeles .371 Atlanta .486 Tulsa .015 Washington .345
For the most part, differential tends to mirror the actual standings right now. The lone exception is Atlanta ranking behind Chicago in the East, though the difference between the two teams in negligible. The Dream has made up a lot of ground lately, especially with two wins against the Storm that dropped Seattle’s point differential.
In case you were curious, the Lynx’s differential is better right now (+8.6) than the Storm’s was in 2010 (+7.9), though that dropped significantly late in the season when Brian Agler rested starters. It was +9.9 through the team’s first 29 games.
Player Tm Win% WARP ------------------------------------- Tamika Catchings IND .766 6.5 Sylvia Fowles CHI .715 6.4 Penny Taylor PHO .724 5.3 Becky Hammon SAS .687 4.8 Epiphanny Prince CHI .643 4.4 Sue Bird SEA .638 4.3 Diana Taurasi PHO .649 4.1 Lindsay Whalen MIN .649 3.9 Cappie Pondexter NYL .610 3.8 Katie Douglas IND .654 3.8
The same 10 players, though in a slightly different order. Sue Bird has slumped a bit recently, while Becky Hammon and Lindsay Whalen have surged.
In 30th place with 1.8 WARP, still tops on the Sparks, is Parker – who has been out since June 26. As she prepares to return, I wanted to take a look at how much different Los Angeles has been with her in the lineup. I adjusted the scores in each Sparks game for the quality of the opposition (based on season-long differential, for better or worse) and location.
Doing so shows that Los Angeles was 5.2 points per game better than average with Parker, which is more impressive than the 4-3 Sparks record would indicate. All seven of those games were against teams with above-.500 records and L.A. scored impressive blowouts of Phoenix and the Storm with Parker, as well as one of just five defeats the Lynx have suffered all season. A +5.2 differential would put the Sparks even with Indiana as the league’s second-best team.
Without Parker, Los Angeles has been about as bad as you’d assume. Their -6.7 differential is improved slightly by playing nine out of 15 games on the road, but the Sparks have still been 5.7 points per game worse than average since Parker’s injury.
The interesting part of this exercise is looking at L.A.’s remaining schedule. Because it’s home-friendly, an average team would go 7-5 the rest of the way. If the Sparks can get to +5.2 points per game – which might not be possible with Parker working her way back to 100 percent – we’d expect them to go around 9-3 in their last 12 games. That would require the Storm to go 6-4 the rest of the way to finish with a better record and guarantee a playoff spot.