With every team save San Antonio having played at least three games and the Storm with five – more than 1/7 of the season – already in the books, it’s time to take our first check of the advanced statistics for the 2009 WNBA season. There are some surprises in the early going. Let’s start, as usual, with Offensive and Defensive Ratings – points scored and allowed per 100 possessions.
Team ORtg Team DRtg ------------------- ------------------- Minnesota 113.9 Detroit 88.5 Phoenix 110.8 Washington 91.1 Sacramento 105.0 Connecticut 92.8 Chicago 101.3 Atlanta 92.9 Seattle 100.4 Seattle 94.7 Washington 99.9 New York 95.7 AVERAGE 98.1 AVERAGE 98.1 Indiana 97.3 Los Angeles 98.5 San Antonio 94.2 Indiana 99.0 Detroit 92.0 San Antonio 99.1 Atlanta 90.1 Minnesota 100.9 Connecticut 89.1 Chicago 101.8 New York 87.5 Sacramento 107.7 Los Angeles 85.6 Phoenix 107.9
Now, opponent is a big factor this early in the season, and I suspect two games against Phoenix help explain why the Sacramento Monarchs are 12th out of 13 teams in defense. Still, there are some interesting early trends. My WNBA projection system (to be unveiled shortly) indicated Atlanta could be dominant on defense, and the Dream has been awfully good in the early going for a team that had one of the worst defenses in league history a year ago. The Minnesota Lynx seem poised to emerge as the league’s best offense behind their young stars.
It’s interesting that few teams have been balanced thus far. The Storm and the Washington Mystics are the only teams who are better than average on both offense and defense. There’s a lot of talent near the bottom of the Offensive Rating rankings. I don’t think anyone expected the L.A. Sparks to struggle to score as they have so far, while Connecticut, New York and Detroit have also been amongst the league’s best offenses in recent seasons. We’ll see if that evens out as we get a larger sample to consider.
Next, let’s take a look at the fastest and slowest teams in terms of possessions per 40 minutes.
Team Pace ------------------- Phoenix 80.3 Minnesota 79.1 Atlanta 77.7 Washington 77.5 Los Angeles 76.9 New York 76.6 Detroit 76.3 AVERAGE 76.2 Chicago 75.8 San Antonio 75.5 Sacramento 75.5 Connecticut 74.0 Indiana 73.8 Seattle 71.9
Would you look at that? The Mercury, playing at the league’s fastest pace. Who would have thunk it? Minnesota isn’t far behind. Meanwhile, the Storm is playing by far the league’s slowest pace thus far. Veronica e-mailed a couple weeks ago to ask about the Storm’s pace and wondering whether it would be faster this season. I don’t think that will be the case, and obviously it hasn’t been so far. Brian Agler is most comfortable playing a half-court game, and it works well with the Storm’s terrific defense. The team will be opportunistic in looking for chances to run, but will generally favor a controlled pace.
Team Exp. W Team Exp. W ------------------- ------------------- Minnesota 26.2 Washington 26.0 Seattle 22.1 Detroit 18.1 Phoenix 19.8 Chicago 16.3 Sacramento 13.6 Indiana 15.9 San Antonio 12.5 Atlanta 14.8 Los Angeles 8.0 Connecticut 14.0 New York 9.9
The expected Wins (based on point differential, prorated to a full 34-game schedule) standings look bizarre in the early going. 2008 playoff teams hold the last two spots in the East and the bottom three places in the West. Surely we’ll see things settle down, but Minnesota, Washington and the Storm have stood out so far. Based on schedule strength (with four of five games on the road), the early Hollinger Power Rankings tracked by Petrel at the RebKell boards have the Storm a close number two behind Washington.
Let’s finish up by looking at some player stats. This year, instead of using the PER rating, I’ll be tracking my own WARP system, which includes both a per-minute Winning Percentage (which attempts to measure what a team with four average teammates plus the player in question would play like) and Wins Above Replacement Player to measure total value. The early leaderboard features a Lynx player at the top, but not Player of the Week Seimone Augustus (just off the list at .704 winning percentage and 0.9 WARP).
Player Tm Win% WARP ------------------------------------- Charde Houston MIN .821 1.0 Alana Beard WAS .798 0.7 Diana Taurasi PHO .794 1.1 Nicky Anosike MIN .774 1.0 Lauren Jackson SEA .768 1.5 Janel McCarville NYL .768 0.7 Lindsay Whalen CON .766 0.9 Nicole Powell SAC .765 1.0 Matee Ajavon WAS .756 0.4 Sancho Lyttle ATL .746 0.9
Charde Houston was something of a surprise starter for Minnesota, but she’s been terrific in the early going, posting a .696 True Shooting Percentage. Nicky Anosike has also been effective for the Lynx at both ends of the floor. Lauren Jackson is just a hair behind the leaders and has the most WARP thanks to the Storm’s busy schedule, while 2008 WARP favorite Sancho Lyttle is again amongst the top 10.