After a wild week, the WNBA now heads into the Olympic break, giving us a month to think about how things are going to shake out down the stretch. The Eastern Conference has tightened up at the top, with a half-game separating Connecticut, Detroit and New York and the Shock without Cheryl Ford for the rest of the season. There’s a little separation after San Antonio and the Storm in the West, but Houston, Los Angeles, Minnesota and Sacramento all have either 12 or 13 losses fighting for two playoff spots.
How do things stand in terms of point differential? Here are the standings using expected full-season wins based on differential.
Team ExpW Team ExpW------------------ ------------------San Antonio 19.6 Connecticut 21.5Seattle 19.5 Detroit 20.1Minnesota 19.2 New York 19.3Los Angeles 18.0 Indiana 17.6Houston 17.6 Chicago 15.2Phoenix 16.8 Washington 11.6Sacramento 16.7 Atlanta 5.3
The Minnesota Lynx continue to be the anomaly by differential. Their differential is virtually the same as the Storm’s and San Antonio’s, yet the Lynx are on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Sacramento’s seven-game winning streak did surprisingly little for the team’s differential, which remains worst in the West.
Connecticut looks strong in the East, though the Sun’s differential got an artificial boost with a 26-point win over Los Angeles on Thursday with Lisa Leslie, DeLisha Milton-Jones and Candace Parker all suspended. Something tells me that game goes a little differently with them active, though I still would have made the Sun the favorites. New York still lags a bit in terms of differential.
Alright, to the leaders in Offensive and Defensive Rating on a per-possession basis.
Team ORating Team DRating--------------------- ---------------------Phoenix 107.4 Indiana 91.7Minnesota 103.3 Seattle 94.7Connecticut 101.9 San Antonio 95.1Detroit 101.9 Los Angeles 95.7New York 100.9 Connecticut 97.6Seattle 99.4 Detroit 97.7AVERAGE 98.7 Houston 97.8San Antonio 98.6 New York 98.4Chicago 98.3 Sacramento 98.4Sacramento 97.9 AVERAGE 98.7Los Angeles 97.8 Washington 99.0Houston 96.6 Chicago 99.6Atlanta 92.8 Minnesota 100.3Indiana 92.7 Atlanta 106.1Washington 91.5 Phoenix 108.1
For the most part, things have settled in here. A couple of notable changes: Sacramento has surged up the defensive rankings during the winning streak, while the Lynx have slipped down ahead of just Atlanta and Phoenix.
To the individual stats. Here are the leaders by Player Efficiency Rating, minimum 250 minutes.
Player Tm PER----------------------------Diana Taurasi PHO 28.4Sancho Lyttle HOU 27.2Lauren Jackson SEA 27.1Lindsay Whalen CON 27.0Candace Parker LAS 25.7Sophia Young SAS 25.2Candice Wiggins MIN 24.6Janel McCarville NYL 24.5Cappie Pondexter PHO 23.3Candice Dupree CHI 23.2
Not much movement at this point of the season. Lyttle topped out at 23 minutes last week, and she needs more time on the court.
We continue our look at a miscellaneous statistic each week. This week we’ll highlight turnover percentage, which is pretty simply the percentage of a player or team’s possessions that end in a turnover. I calculate this as TO/(FGA + (.44*FTA) + TO). Others will subtract offensive rebounds from the denominator, but I like the idea of a team’s possessions being divided into those that end in shots from the field, trips to the free-throw line and turnovers and having those three add up to 100 percent.
Here’s a look at how teams rate this season in terms of lowest turnover percentage (left) and highest opponent turnover percentage (right).
Team TO% Team TO%-------------------- --------------------Phoenix 14.5 Sacramento 20.1Minnesota 15.0 Indiana 19.6Detroit 15.4 New York 19.3Connecticut 16.0 Washington 18.9Seattle 16.9 Detroit 18.9Chicago 17.5 Minnesota 18.3New York 18.0 Houston 18.3Sacramento 18.4 San Antonio 17.4San Antonio 18.7 Seattle 17.2Atlanta 18.9 Atlanta 16.9Houston 19.1 Chicago 16.5Los Angeles 19.2 Connecticut 16.0Indiana 19.5 Los Angeles 15.8Washington 21.0 Phoenix 15.2
Everyone thinks high-paced games mean lots of sloppy play and turnovers, but really that’s not the case for teams that shoot it before they have a chance to commit a turnover. San Antonio coughs it up more often than you would like for a contending team. In general, teams that really struggle with turnovers have issues at point guard.
For the most part, you have two different types of defenses – those that sit back and defend the shot and those that aggressively play for turnovers. The Storm, San Antonio and L.A. generally fit into the former group, while Sacramento and New York rely on turnovers. It’s possible to be successful either way. Of course, the strongest defenses combine both, and Indiana is the best example of that this season.
How about at the individual level. Here are the players that turn it over least often.
Player Tm TO%----------------------------Kelly Mazzante PHO 7.5Seimone Augustus MIN 8.5Raff. Masciadri LAS 8.9Cheryl Ford DET 8.9Katie Gearlds SEA 9.4Alison Bales ATL 9.5Lauren Jackson SEA 9.6Jia Perkins CHI 9.7Sophia Young SAS 10.2Diana Taurasi PHO 10.3
Again, Mazzante, Masciadri and Gearlds are examples of the “shoot it before you turn it over” philosophy. Many of the league’s top players are very surehanded given how much offense they’re creating. The outliers on this list are Ford and Bales.
Which players are most prone to turnovers?
Player Tm TO%----------------------------Nancy Lieberman DET 66.7Kasha Terry ATL 31.7Shannon Bobbitt LAS 31.5Loree Moore NYL 31.0Brooke Wyckoff CHI 30.6Kristin Haynie ATL 30.1A'Quon. Franklin SAC 28.1Ruth Riley SAS 27.7Kerri Gardin CON 27.5Erica White HOU 26.9Noelle Quinn MIN 26.8
OK, Nancy Lieberman’s 11 minutes don’t really qualify her. Here you see a lot of point guards, which is not surprising. One adjustment many people make is to include assists with possessions used to account for the extra ballhandling done by point guards. I’m not a huge fan of doing so, but this explains wh it makes sense. That being said, I’m surprised how often Moore has turned it over. Her turnover rate was 23.9 percent a year ago, which is much more reasonable for a point
We’ll wrap things up by looking at the Storm’s turnover rates.
Player Tm TO%----------------------------Katie Gearlds SEA 9.4Lauren Jackson SEA 9.6Sheryl Swoopes SEA 11.8Swin Cash SEA 15.2Sue Bird SEA 17.2Shyra Ely SEA 20.0Tanisha Wright SEA 21.3Yolanda Griffith SEA 21.4Camille Little SEA 22.0Ashley Robinson SEA 30.4
Aside from Robinson, who rarely handles the ball on offense, the Storm doesn’t have anyone who has regular problems with turnovers. Little is another type of player hurt by this analysis – she can’t get any credit for setting screens, but can pick up offensive fouls that go in the books as turnovers.
A big part of Wright’s improvement this season has been slashing her turnover rate from 27.9 percent last season.