5 main stories of the week:
1) Lynx are back: They may have started the season 3-6 but after four straight wins the Lynx have finally woken up from their hibernation (do Lynx even hibernate)? Impressive wins over the Wings and Mercury this week are nothing to get skeptical about as those are two veteran teams that should know what they are up against.
Over their last four games they have a league best net rating of 14.6 after being middle of the pack up until this point in the season. One big statistic they’ve changed during this time frame has been their turnover percentage, which has finally dropped to the second highest in the league and has been near the top the last few games. They’ve also gone from forcing a league low percentage of turnovers to one of the top marks during their recent streak. Limiting and creating turnovers is an easy way to get free possessions and is the sign of a team that is focusing more on the minor details of the game. Watch out for them the rest of the year.
2) Does anybody want to be on top of the league: Well that was an interesting week with the top three teams that were starting to form a power group out west all falling. The most concerning one was the Mercury losing two straight to end their winning streak including an abysmal performance against the Sky on Sunday. The bench was outscored 32-14 in what has become a constant weak spot for the team. In 43 combined minutes from Camille Little and Leilani Mitchell the two shot 4-12 and collected one rebound which simply isn’t enough.
The other top team with a terrible looking loss was the Seattle Storm who were taking down by A’ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces. A team like Seattle that relies on offence, especially three’s, is always going to have a few games like this a year but that’s even more reason to have some sort of backup plan. In the loss Seattle shot 4-26 from three and only collected 10% of their offensive rebounds while letting Wilson, and Dearica Hamby to dominate the boards as the Aces collected 35% of their misses! Seattle did right the ship with two wins to end the week though, including a win in a trip to Dallas.
3) Mystics have quiet, but strong week: It may have only been a pair of games against arguably the league’s worst team but going 2-0 is never easy and for a roster that has dealt with lots of variance it’s a good sign to see everyone healthy and playing well. Now the big difference between this team now and the one from two weeks ago is their star player has returned to from with Elena Delle Donne back to scoring 20 points like it’s nothing or going off for over 30 whenever she wants.
Having a starting rotation that has solidified, five consecutive games without a change, has helped the players on the team fill their role while still maintaining the flexibility needed to adjust within a game. No team in the league is as comfortable rolling through all 12 players on the roster with all of them averaging at least eight minutes per game, and only three players averaging over 22. Having the winningest coach in WNBA history doesn’t hurt with Mike Thibault having seen everything in his career and having a sense for what his teams needs and who he needs to play.
4) Is Chicago the worst team now?: Ignoring the standings for a second, if there was one base that is having the hardest season I think it would have to be the one in the windy city. The Sky have struggled in every facet of the game, they get outshot, outrebounded, commit more turnovers, the only area they are moderately successful is getting to the line. Even the advanced stats paint a pretty picture of a team with the worst net rating of -13.6, allow opponents to collect offensive rebounds at will, are more likely to commit a turnover than collect an assist which is helped by a league high 22.3 turnover percentage.
The strange part is when you look at the individual statistics they have some highly skilled players. Those players would be great if they had a star who could get easy points and if they could commit to defence. Allie Quigley is 16th in points with 15.8 per game, Cheyenne Parker is 9th in rebounds with 7.6, Courtney Vandersloot leads the league in assists with an average of 6.9 and Gabby Williams leads the league with 1.9 steals. Once you add in Diamond DeShields’ performance as a rookie the team looks like it could be good if they could play as a unit.
5) Unassuming league leaders: We’re a month into the season so I figure it’s time to give some credit to players who have started strong. Seattle’s Jewell Lloyd is tenth in points per game with a career high 18 in her fourth year. In their fourth year’s Indiana’s Natalie Achonwa and Chicago’s Cheyenne Parker are eighth and ninth respectively in rebounds per game, while Jessica Breland of the Atlanta Dream is having a career season and is fourth with 8.2 per game. Bria Hartley is having a career year with 4.1 assists per game in New York to sneak into the top 10 of the league. This last one is more of a random little stat but between Britney Griner, Diana Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner, the Mercury have three of the top 10 players in minutes per game, something to keep an eye on as the season goes on.
Other interesting pieces of information.
5) MVP update: It’s a close race this early in the season between Breanna Stewart, Brittney Griner, Liz Cambage, Skylar Diggins-Smith and A’ja Wilson. My vote would go to Stewart who is atop the league in many categories with 21.9 points (1st), 6.8 defensive rebounds (4th), 7.9 rebounds (6th), 1.43 steals (11th), 32.6 minutes (5th), 1.57 blocks (6th) and leads the league in efficiency.
6) ROY update: A’ja Wilson is an MVP candidate for a reason and because of that work she is the clear favourite for Rookie of the Year while averaging 20.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists, which is the only one of the three she isn’t leading. Kelsey Mitchell is averaging 15.9 points and 2.5 assists, second best for rookies in both categories. Five rookies are averaging over 10 points, which is the most since a 2006 class that included Simone Augustus, Cathie Pondexter, Candice Dupree, and Monique Currie that are all still contributing this year.
7) Still no sign of Thomas return: Without their leader Connecticut has gone 1-3 over their last four games after starting the year 7-2. All we know is that it’s her shoulder and the Sun have provided no timetable for her return.
8) Anyone can win any night: Other than a four-game winning streak by the Lynx and a three-game losing streak by the Fever everyone else has been up and down over the last week.
9) Can we just start the playoffs now?: Having said that, now that the Lynx have sorted themselves out the playoff field has taken shape and I see no way Las Vegas, New York, Chicago or Indiana make the playoffs.
10) All-Star voting open: Fan voting for the All-Star game started last Tuesday and will run until July 12th. Fans will get 40% of the say with coaches, players and the media each getting 20%. Under the new format without conferences, fans will select 10 players regardless of conference or position.
11) Diamond DeShields article: Quite the article here about Diamond DeShields and her family’s athletic history. The focus is on the rookie’s path to the league and the obstacles she faced that her brother didn’t. ()
12) Another busy week: The Lynx play Seattle on Tuesday and cap the week with Dallas on Sunday as a test of their recent performances. Also, keep an eye on the Sparks as they visit Seattle on Thursday.
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- Angel McCoughtry (ATL): Easily the player of the week, McCoughtry scored 39 points against New York and added 25 against Connecticut in a win. She also did her work on the defensive boards averaging 11 rebounds this week and chipped in three assists.
G- Diana Taurasi (PHX): Just another week for the veteran as she averaged over 20 points a game and dished out seven assists on average to lead the Mercury. The team may have had a tough week, but you can’t blame Taurasi who shot 50% on the week.
F- Elena Della Donne (WAS): 30 points and 10 rebounds against anyone is an impressive stat line, even if it was only Chicago, as Della Donne continues her hot streak averaging over 24 points per game over her last four. If she remains healthy the rest of the year she’ll work her way back into the MVP conversation.
F- A’ja Wilson (LVA): The rookie sensation is showing no signs of slowing down after starting the week with a monster 25 points and 16 rebounds against Seattle before scoring 20 and collecting 14 rebounds in another win over the Liberty.
C- Brittney Griner (PHX): Two games and two double-double’s make Griner another innocent body in Phoenix after they went winless this week. 18 and 13 against the Lynx and, 19 and 10 against Chicago are outstanding for anyone let alone six combined blocks.
Bench- Brittany Boyd (NYL): She may have struggled with her shot this week (4-19), well all season really but let’s not focus on that, but averaging eight assists through three games is a good way to contribute in another form. If she can find her shot, she’ll prove to be useful off the bench for the Liberty.
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) Los Angeles Sparks (10-3): When all the top teams have a bad loss, I decided to give the top spot to the team with the best loss and that would be LA who lost to Dallas.
2) Seattle Storm (10-4): The league’s best offence continues to roll most games but every once in awhile they are going to have an off-shooting night resulting in a loss like they did with Las Vegas.
3) Phoenix Mercury (10-5): Consecutive losses brought the Mercury back down to earth as they struggled outside of Taurasi and Griner.
4) Washington Mystics (8-5): They’re starting to find their rhythm with wins in three of their last four, with their only loss being a close one to the Sparks.
5) Minnesota Lynx (7-6): This is a team that’s on fire with wins in their last four and have been crushing opponents as they have outscored them by 14.6 over 100 possessions.
6) Dallas wings (6-6): The good: they haven’t loss more than two consecutive games all season. The bad: they haven’t won more than two games in a row all season.
7) Atlanta Dream (7-6): They have the worst offensive rating in the league, the only reason they are this high is that they also have the leagues best defensive rating so far.
8) Connecticut Sun (8-5): They have completely come crashing down to earth without Alyssa Thomas. The team went from a league high net rating before her absence to a negative over their last five games.
9) Las Vegas Aces (5-10): Getting 12.4% of your points from three is terrible, especially when the league’s second lowest is 17.8%, a few more threes could help get their offence going outside of Wilson.
10) New York Liberty (4-8): Their three wins this month have been over Indiana twice, and Atlanta and that win took Atlanta to shoot under 30% from the field including under 20% from three.
11) Chicago Sky (4-9): They have the worst net rating in the league being outscored by over 10 points per 100 possessions and I just can’t see them getting better anytime soon.
12) Indiana Fever (1-13): Well they lead the league in assists and steals which looks great until you realize the column is organized the wrong way and they’re at the bottom of both stats.