Photo courtesy of WNBA.com.
Starting to approach the quarter way point in the season we have enough of a sample size that a random game will change much, but a stretch of two or three games can definitely lead to some funny looking stats.
Based on recent results above all else, also a quick way to laugh at me when a lower ranked team beats a higher ranked one
1) Connecticut Sun (8-1): A surprising amount of tight games.
The Suns have been the top team early in the season and have reeled off six straight wins since losing to the Sparks. Jonquel Jones deserves a large share of the credit, but for a team that has built a three-and-a-half-game lead in the standings, they have played a lot of tight games. Defining clutch games as those within five points in the final five minutes, the Suns have played six of their nine games with some clutch time, having won five of those.
Outscoring opponents with a dominating net rating of 49.5 can only be done due to their ball movement. Their defence has also stepped up in these moments, forcing turnovers on a third of their defensive possessions, while allowing opponents an EFG% of 31.6, second best in clutch time. Connecticut is bound to slow down a little in these situations throughout the season, but they have enough talent that they should be able to avoid playing too many of these games moving forward.
2) Seattle Storm (5-4): Jordin Canada is a steals master.
No Sue Bird… Oh well… Just means the Storm are apparently now able to unleash a master thief in Jordin Canada. The second-year guard is now firmly in the starting lineup and has taken advantage, averaging 2.9 steals per game. After averaging just under one per game last season in her debut, Canada has been hounding opposing players all season looking for any chance to get her hands on the ball, with her standout performance coming against Courtney Vandersloot, leading the league in assists, with seven steals in the Storm’s lost to the Sky.
With seven of their next eight at home, and after starting with seven of nine on the road, the Storm are facing an opportunity to climb in the standings and build some stability. Playing at home should help role players such as Sami Whitcomb, Crystal Langhorne and Shavonte Zellous to become more comfortable.
3) Washington Mystics (4-3): Mystics offence being led by a surprising player.
A team with the best offensive rating in the league, watch five minutes of their game and you’ll see how fluid and dynamic everyone on the team is. They should have some of the top individual offensive ratings in the league. The top spot belongs to a bench player averaging a career high in points and assists as she blossoms in her fourth season.
The player is none other than Aerial Powers who was acquired via trade from Dallas last season and has had a bit of a breakout year this season in Washington. After missing the first two games of the season Powers has become an integral part, helping the Mystics 116.7 per 100 possessions — the best mark for any player playing at least 10 minutes and over five points better than the next best mark. The depth of the Mystics is what powers their offence (pun not intended but still great).
4) Chicago Sky (4-2): Secretly have the most effective shooter in the league.
The most effective shooter in the league resides in the Windy City as Stefanie Dolson has an EFG% of 67.5, adjusting for the fact that she continues to slowly add a three-point shot to her repertoire. If you like round numbers her stat line of 10 points on four field goals, including one three, and exactly one free throw made per game, should make you happy. Having someone like Vandersloot set her up helps as 91% of her shots have been assisted on, but Dolson still has to make the shots, which she has done 60% of the time, including 50% of the time on the two long-range shots she attempts per game…
5) Indiana Fever (4-4): A rookie shooting the lights out.
A year after Kelsey Mitchell and Victoria Vivians were setting records for threes as rookies, the Fever have found another long-range bomber in the 2019 draft. Kennedy Burke wasn’t drafted by Indiana. Instead she was picked up as a free agent after being waived by Dallas, who took her 22nd overall. Burke is leading the league shooting 53.8% per cent from three, tops for any player with a minimum of two attempts per game.
6) Los Angeles Sparks (4-3): Struggling to stop people down low.
For a team with a pair of all-stars in the frontcourt, and a third expected to return this week in Candice Parker, the Sparks have struggled on the boards and from preventing easy buckets. The Ogwumike sisters were supposed to be able to play together to dominate the paint instead they have played a major role in Sparks opponents scoring 38.3 points per game in the paint, tops in the league.
7) Las Vegas Aces (4-3): Dearica Hamby has the biggest impact of any player.
If you thought the person carrying the Aces at this point in the season would be coming off the bench and filling the role of either the MVP runner up or reigning Rookie of the Year, then you are a liar. Dearica Hamby has been putting up solid performances night in and night out for a team that everybody thought would be reliant on their stars to win this year.
Other than Liz Cambage, sitting at 18.5, nobody on the Aces has a better on/off net rating better than five, and then at the top you have Hamby with a rating of 37.4! The difference is on both ends of the court. She improves the offence by 17+ points per 100 possessions and limits opponents by just under 20 points per 100 possessions than her team does without her on the court. If she can keep up this level of play Hamby could be one of the favourites for sixth woman of the year, especially if Cambage and A’ja Wilson can get going with the starters.
8) Minnesota Lynx (4-5): Can’t stop turning over the ball.
With all the new faces in Minnesota it’s not a surprise that they are struggling with turnovers. It’s that everyone is part of the problem and it’s one they’ve yet to fix. In eight of their nine games so far this season the Lynx have turned the ball over at least 15 times. They lead the league in both turnovers and TOV% with a turnover on 22.5 per cent of their possessions.
They have four players in the top 28 in turnover ratio, amount of possessions that end in a turnover per 100 used by a player, with a minimum of three games played and 10 minutes per game. They also have four players in the top 16 in terms of turnovers per game. The old Lynx were reliable and would grind you out and if Head Coach Cheryl Reeve’s wants to return to that style, she will need her team to slow down
9) Phoenix Mercury (2-4): Bonner and Griner are shooting everything.
Not exactly breaking news but without their leader on and off the court this duo has stepped up and managed to fill her shoes, almost by themselves, unfortunately. A struggling Mercury team won’t be able to blame either DeWanna Bonner or Brittney Griner for their tough start as the two lead the team in almost every category.
The two carry a heaven burden as they both have on/off rating above 20 and are the two league leaders in minutes per game with Griner at 35.3 and Bonner playing 34.8. Unfortunately, until Taurasi returns, this two will need to be playing at career best rates, especially considering the only players younger than those two, who are not young themselves with Bonner 31 and Griner 28, are three rookies that barely see the court.
10) New York Liberty (3-5): On/Off numbers can look misleading.
I LOVE advanced stats as much as the next nerd typing away on their laptop but sometimes the numbers just don’t seem real. Ask anyone around the league and Tina Charles is a legend who is doing everything she can to try and help the Liberty get back to the playoffs. She deserves none of the blame for their rough year last year or 0-3 start, yet somehow the Liberty play better with her off the court?
Looking at the on/off numbers for the Liberty it takes a bit of scrolling before Charles pops up as the eighth name on the list with a surprising rating of -2.9. For a team that struggled early the bench putting up good numbers could explain some of that away, but Kia Nurse has played almost the exact same number of minutes yet is +19.6 on the season. The numbers become even more noisy when looking at the top lineups for the Liberty and most of them include Charles and Nurse. Regardless of the reason, this shows not to believe one number specifically, especially this early in the season.
11) Dallas Wings (1-5): Doing a great job keeping opponents out of the paint.
Dallas has had a rough start to the season to make the playoffs again — this time though without their top two players from last season. One area that usually gives away a bad team structure is a high amount of points in the paint as teams fail to rotate or provide proper support for each other, especially young inexperienced players.
Although they are all very much learning to play together, just look at the various rotations they are trying every game. The Wings continue to pack the paint and force their opponents to hit jumpers as they allow the fewest points in the paint across the league. When Skylar Diggins-Smith returns from her pregnancy the offence should improve and make Dallas a tough place to play.
12) Atlanta Dream (1-5): Lead league in blocks per game.
Not much has gone right in Atlanta since they opened with a win over the Wings. They have dropped five straight, including giving Dallas their lone win of the year. The one aspect of their success that has carried over from last year is an ability to swat opponent’s shots. With 6.8 per game the Dream average over one more per game than the second-best team as they scare opponents to outside shooting.
Elizabeth Williams, Brittney Sykes and Jessica Breland continue to form a strong trio of shot blockers that all average at least one per game. The newest addition to the club is Marie Gulich. The 2018 first-round pick was acquired from Phoenix in the offseason for 11th overall 2019 pick Brianna Turner. Gulich is the fourth member of the Dream with one block per game to rank in the top 19 league wide, while all are 25 except for Sykes at 31, meaning fans in Atlanta should get used to all the basketballs flying away from the rim.
Team of the Week
A starting line-up with one bench player who were the best over the last 6 days. Amount of games has an impact.
G: Kia Nurse (Liberty): The second-year guard was one of many who stepped up in New York for the Liberty to turn their season around and win three of four. Putting up 26 points in both of New York’s wins, Nurse found ways to make an impact in different ways in each game. Against Minnesota she put on a shooting clinic going 9-15 and 4-9 from beyond the arc, while against the Sparks she scored 15 from the free throw line and grabbed seven rebounds to help get the win.
G: Kelsey Plum (Aces): In a bit of a bounce back week Plum was the standout player in the sin city, putting up 21 and 19 points across her two games last week, thanks to shooting lights out from deep going 8-13 combined.
F: DeWanna Bonner (Mercury): She has gone from the third wheel in Phoenix to possibly the MVP favourite this year without Diana Taurasi in the mix. She put up an average of 25 points, eight rebounds and 4.5 assists while playing 36 minutes a night for a struggling Mercury team.
F: Jonquel Jones (Sun’s): Two double-doubles, a 24-point game on 9-11 shooting in the third means the other MVP favourite kept up with Bonner and is making sure the Suns stay at the top of the league. With Jones shooting above 50 per cent all week the Suns were able to collect three wins, especially when she is collecting so many boards when not scoring herself.
C: Amanda Zahui B (Liberty): What a performance from Zahui B as she prepares to play for team Sweden. She leaves New York Wednesday. A career-high 37 from Zahui B helped the Liberty win against the Sparks. Zahui was on fire shooting 13-18 from the field, including connecting on seven of her eight threes, after never hitting more than three a game in her career.
Bench: Aerial Powers (Mystics): The fourth-year forward put up back-to-back double-digit games this week with 14 against Connecticut and 16 in a win over Seattle. Stepping into a bigger role when Kristi Tolliver was ejected for arguing with the refs, Powers shot 3-7 from three-point range and also collected five rebounds in 25 minutes, which was the most she’s played since 2017.
A few games worth checking on over the next six days, all times are eastern standard time.
Washington @ Los Angeles Thursday 10:00 p.m. ET CBSSN: A pair of dynamic matchups with Elena Delle Donne going against Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Tolliver facing off against Chelsea Gray. Prepare for a fun, fast game.
Connecticut @ Chicago, Sunday 6:00 p.m. ET NBA TV: The early-season surprise team has had success at home this year and will get a chance to face what is the clear top team early in the season.
Indiana @ Seattle, Sunday 7:00 p.m. ET League pass: Indiana lost by two last week at home and will get another chance to prove they are a threat to the contenders when they visit the defending champs.