I skipped out on last week’s WNBA numbers in favor of a midseason Storm analysis. This week, we’re back, and the numbers reveal just how well the Storm has played during its six-game winning streak. The Storm now has the best point differential in the league at +4.3 points per game. To reflect that, let’s start our analysis with expected wins based on point differential projected to a full 34-game season.
Team ExpW Team ExpW------------------ ------------------Seattle 21.8 Detroit 20.8San Antonio 20.5 Connecticut 20.4Minnesota 19.4 Indiana 18.5Los Angeles 19.1 New York 18.4Phoenix 15.5 Chicago 15.8Houston 15.3 Washington 12.7Sacramento 15.0 Atlanta 5.0
While the top of the West has pulled away a bit, the battle for the fourth and final playoff spot is still tight. 1.5 games separate Minnesota and last-place Houston. In terms of differential, the Lynx are way, way ahead of the back. The other three teams have slipped over the last week or two. The Silver Stars are on pace for 24 or 25 wins and continue to outplay their differential, as they did last year. Interesting. A good differential bodes well for postseason success, but I’d rather have the wins and home-court advantage.
Alright, to the leaders in Offensive and Defensive Rating on a per-possession basis.
Team ORating Team DRating--------------------- ---------------------Phoenix 107.0 Indiana 89.8Minnesota 102.9 Seattle 93.3New York 102.0 San Antonio 93.5Connecticut 101.8 Los Angeles 94.4Detroit 101.4 Detroit 96.4Seattle 100.8 Washington 97.6Chicago 99.4 Houston 98.0 AVERAGE 98.6San Antonio 98.1 Connecticut 98.7Los Angeles 97.9 Minnesota 99.7Sacramento 97.8 Chicago 100.7Houston 94.3 New York 100.7Atlanta 93.1 Sacramento 100.9Indiana 92.0 Atlanta 107.2Washington 91.9 Phoenix 108.9
The Storm’s stifling defense on Saturday has moved the team into second in the WNBA in Defensive Rating. Wha’s interesting about these rankings is how little balance there is in the WNBA this season. The best offensive teams are not good on defense and vice versa. The Storm and Detroit are the only two teams who have been above-average at both ends of the floor so far this season.
Two really bad units on teams that dominate the other end: The Indiana offense and, of course, the Phoenix defense. Tamika Catchings‘ return hasn’t helped the Fever the way everyone figured it would. Clearly, Catchings is not 100 percent. After a nice run in early July, last week she combined for nine points on 3-of-17 shooting in two games. As for the Mercury, it’s not too early for me to put looking up the worst defenses in WNBA history on my to-do list.
To the individual stats. Here are the leaders by Player Efficiency Rating, minimum 250 minutes.
Player Tm PER----------------------------Diana Taurasi PHO 28.1Lauren Jackson SEA 27.4Lindsay Whalen CON 27.0Candace Parker LAS 26.7Sancho Lyttle HOU 26.2Sophia Young SAS 25.9Cappie Pondexter PHO 25.4Janel McCarville NYL 25.2Candice Dupree CHI 24.6Candice Wiggins MIN 23.7
Jackson’s run recently has her in position to potentially lead the WNBA in PER for the third straight season. Don’t forget Whalen in that race. She was brilliant yesterday against Washington even in a Sun loss; I don’t see how you could watch that game and come to the conclusion that anyone but Whalen is Connecticut’s MVP. While we’re talking MVP, don’t leave Young out of that discussion. Not only is her PER sixth in the league, she’s edged past Jackson and Storm teammate Sue Bird for the best net plus-minus rating in the league (as tracked by the indispensable Paul Swanson).
Lastly, I want to take a look at a miscellaneous statistic each week. We’ll start with rebound percentage, the estimated percentage of all available rebounds that a player grabs while on the floor. Here are the league leaders this season.
Player Tm Reb%----------------------------Sancho Lyttle HOU 19.1Cheryl Ford DET 18.9Yolanda Griffith SEA 18.3Tiffany Jackson NYL 17.7Katie Feenstra ATL 16.9Michelle Snow HOU 16.8Crystal Langhorne WAS 16.8Rebekkah Brunson SAC 16.8Lisa Leslie LAS 16.1Nakia Sanford WAS 16.0
Lyttle has averaged 9.1 rebounds per game as a starter. The Comets wisely have gone back to the big lineup with Lyttle, Snow and Tina Thompson in the frontcourt that was so successful for them a year ago.
I don’t think Griffith’s rebounding has gotten enough credit this season, especially from the people who like fixate on her age. What’s really impressive is that Griffith has changed her game to become a much better defensive rebounder because of the Storm’s need on the defensive glass. (Alternatively, maybe the white-line defense was keeping Griffith from establishing good defensive position.)
The one name on this list that was a surprise to me was Langhorne, who has been a force in the glass and an effective finisher in the paint as a rookie. Langhorne has been overshadowed by the depth of the rookie class, but she’s got a bright future in Washington.
Now the Storm by rebound percentage:
Player Tm Reb%----------------------------Yolanda Griffith SEA 18.3Shyra Ely SEA 12.8Lauren Jackson SEA 12.4Ashley Robinson SEA 11.7Sheryl Swoopes SEA 10.7Swin Cash SEA 10.6Camille Little SEA 9.9Tanisha Wright SEA 8.1Katie Gearlds SEA 6.5Sue Bird SEA 5.7
By definition, league average for rebound percentage is 10 percent (because there’s 10 players on the court at any time); six Storm players clear that mark with Little essentially at it. When the Storm rebounds well, as it has lately, it’s by committee. In particular, when Swoopes is at shooting guard her rebounding is a major asset for the Storm.