Now that everyone has played at least five games, some early season trends are starting to form. Connecticut could be finalist along with Seattle to join the Sparks. You may be asking why not the Lynx, well when you start 2-5 and are struggling to close out games as a veteran team you’re going to lose my vote of confidence for now. Phoenix and Dallas are both being lead by a pair of stars but may not have enough depth to challenge to truly elite teams, meanwhile Las Vegas and Indiana may not be much of a challenge for most team’s period.
1) Suns the last unbeaten:
Not only is Connecticut nearly unbeaten, they have been demolishing their opponents to start the year. Their average margin of victory has been 25 points. They’ve been mostly carried by their very efficient offence which has been rolling in every facet of the game leading to over 100 points in three of their five games. But don’t overlook their defence which has the lowest rating in the league allowing under 89 points per 100 possessions.
If you’re looking for a player to attack good luck, not one player on their roster has a negative net rating, and their top six players in minutes all have a net rating of above 20. They can come at you with depth with seven players averaging 15 minutes per game and nine averaging over 10. They have a spread-out offence with four players averaging at least 13 points per game and six are over 11. Four players are pulling in 5.8 rebounds per game on the few shots the team does miss since five players hit at least 50% of their shots and four are shooting above 40% from three. The Sun’s are not a team you want to get in the way of right now.
2) Lynx have become old:
Winning four of the last seven championships is quite the accomplishment, but with the way the Lynx are playing right now there won’t be any banners being lifted for a few years. The oldest team in the league as looked it in losing their last four to admittedly decent teams at worst, but still not what Minnesota is used to. They’ve been outscored in the second half of each game and have blown two fourth quarter leads, not the sign of a veteran team that should be in more control of a game.
The teams main struggle has been in their ball control as they lead the league in turnover percentage with just under 20% of their possessions ending up in one. Sylvia Fowles may be responsible for some of this problem but she’s still more than carrying her weight by leading the league in rebound percentage and is second in both minutes and points per game on the team trailing Maya Moore. While the rest of the team is on the wrong side of their peak years Moore can win enough games herself to still drag them to the playoffs, but even she can’t do enough to win them a championship unless her teammates are saving gas for the playoffs.
3) Dynamic duo causing a Storm:
When you have two players both scoring 20 in every game as they form two of the top three leading scorers in the league you can be sure there is a strong point guard getting them the ball. The storm definitely have that in veteran Sue Bird (6.3 apg) who may be sitting some games for rest but come playoff time the three headed monster of her, Breanna Stewart (22.3 ppg) and Jewell Loyd (21.6 ppg) will scare even the best defences. Even with Bird resting the team can turn to rookie Jordin Canada who has filled in well for her mentor Bird as she collected nine assists in the one game Bird rested.
If it weren’t for Connecticut destroying the rest of the league stats table Seattle would be in their place at the tops of many categories. The true talent of this team shines in their long-range shooting where they attempt more shots than anyone and connect on 30%, the second-best percentage in the league. With Sue Bird third in the league in assists with an average of 6.3 and tops in assist-turnover ratio at 7.6 it’s no surprise the Storm are second in both stats as a team. With Dan Hughes back in charge the defence should improve as he looks for his first WNBA title in his 18th season in the league.
4) When will Indiana win?
The easy answer would be sometime soon as they have lost four games by fewer than 10 points so far this season. Looking ahead on their schedule they play Las Vegas, New York and Atlanta twice over their next five games and I’d bet on them winning one if not two of those games. With Kelsey Mitchell, starting the last three games after being picked 2nd overall, now leading the team in points, including 20+ pints in three of four games, they may have realized she gives them their best shot to win.
The problem lies in the fact that beyond 12-year veteran Candice Dupree nobody is averaging over 10 points, so Mitchell must go off for them to have a chance. If you’re going to struggle to score it helps to get rebounds and the only person helping Dupree is Natalie Achonaw who in her third year is having a little bit of success pulling in a career high 6.5 rebounds per game so far. Overall though the Fever are a team that’s not good at anything while managing to avoid being the worst at anything at the same time.
5) Sparks quietly chugging along:
While the Lynx look to be feeling the affects of three straight finals, their rivals in Los Angeles are forging a path to a fourth straight, and that’s with Candice Parker missing the first two games along with some other key role players. Now a veteran team like this relying on six players to play over 25 minutes a night might be a bad recipe for long term success, but when those players are Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Odyssey Sims it can work out.
The one area I would be concerned about before locking them into another finals is their troubles collecting rebounds. They are getting outrebounded by sic per game and have collected a league low 45% of available rebounds. The way they cover for this is limiting turnovers, with a league low 14.4% TO% and forcing their opponents into a league 24.4 TO%. Those numbers are likely to increase and decrease respectively when they face elite teams but for now they have the make-up of a championship contender.
1) Cards falling in their favour? See what I did there? It’s Vegas, I included a reference to cards? Yeah, I won’t do that anymore. But it all seriousness they have quite the player in A’ja Wilson who is everything you want in a star player down low. If Kelsey Plum can master the point guard position, which always takes a few years, they could become a force by 2020.
2) Outsider perspective: I’m not going to lie I never watched the WNBA before this season, and with that I’ve had a few surprise’s. One of them has been the style of play compared to the NBA and the physicality of the game compared to the modern spread out NBA, it’s a nice change of pace.
3) The big apple draws the big stars: I’ll have more on her later but consecutive double-double’s shows why Tina Charles is the leader in New York.
4) Strong rookie class early: With five rookies averaging at least 10 points a game so far the class looks like it could slowly change the fortunes of some teams. A’ja Wilson leads in points and rebounds as the top overall pick, but Kia Nurse just scored 34 for the Liberty and could prove a challenger for ROY by season’s end.
5) New favourite jerseys: Those mint green home uniforms are beautiful, we need to add that colour to more teams across the sporting landscape.
6) Announcers are confusing sometimes: The announcers on JOE TV for Seattle Storm games keep calling Breanna Stewart “Stewie”, in my opinion it’s a little to informal for my taste.
7) Plan accordingly: The top two teams squaring off, yeah I guess I can try and watch that, Seattle visits LA on Thursday night.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
G: Skylar Diggins-Smith: The perennial All-Star had a big week with 23.5 points and 7 assists per game. In a showdown with the Storm Diggins-Smith scored 27 to give Seattle their second loss in seven games.
G: Kelsey Mitchell: I don’t like giving this to a player with only one game in the week, and in a losing effort, but the rookie scored 26 points while shooting 5-9 from three. Indiana may have some hope moving forward this year.
F: DeWanna Bonner: After missing last season to have twins, Bonner scored at least 20 in all three Mercury games this week. Bonner helped Phoenix win consecutive games after losing three straight.
F: Breanna Stewart: The Storm forward lead all players in Player Impact Estimate by over two points of players playing over 30 minutes per game. She also led all forwards in points per game with 24.7 and chipped in 6.7 rebounds.
C: Tina Charles: In two games this week the Liberty centre averaged 28.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. Her performance against Cambage with 34 points helped New York get their first win of the season.
Bench: Jonquel Jones: In only 18 minutes per game Jones is averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds over two games. Jones has played a large role for the Sun and helped them outscore opponents by almost 37 points per 100 possessions.
1) Connecticut Sun (5-1): To keep it simple here’s every category they’re leading in: FG%, 3p%, Rebounds, PPG, OFF RTG, DEF RTG, NET RTG, OREB%, EFG%, TS%. Anybody know why they remain undefeated?
2) Los Angeles Sparks (4-1): Candice Parker returned and their 2-0 with wins over Phoenix and Minnesota. Their only loss was to the Sun so we can forgive that for now.
3) Seattle Storm (5-2): Having the second and third leading scorers in the leagues helps with Stewart averaging 22.3 and Loyd putting up 21.6, Sue Bird is the key though averaging 6.3 assists, second highest in the league.
4) Washington Mystics (5-3): Elena Della Donne can not come back fast enough for a team that is 1-3 without her after starting 4-0.
5) Phoenix Mercury (5-3): Some early seasons they need to solve are collecting only 46% of rebounds, second lowest in the league, and allowing opponents to shoot 38.5% on three’s, second highest in the league.
6) Dallas wings (3-3): For a team with two of the top players in the league in Cambage and Diggins-Smith they have battled inconsistency flopping wins and losses all season… so their next game against Indiana should be fun.
7) Atlanta Dream (3-3): Atlanta has struggled to score this season, they have the lowest offensive rating in the league scoring 91.5 per 100 possessions which can be linked to their league low 37.5 field goal percentage.
8) Chicago Sky (3-3): Their only three wins have been over the three teams below them, other than that I guess Diamond DeShields is doing well as a rookie averaging over 15 points per game.
9) New York Liberty (2-3): An exciting win over Dallas combined with their win over Indiana has improved the mood in New York. A pair of 34-point games from Tina Charles and Kia Nurse show the talent this team does have.
10) Minnesota Lynx (2-5): Usually old teams struggle as the season goes on but maybe the oldest roster in the league is going to need extra time to get into a rhythm? Either way the defending champs are not as intimidating as years past.
11) Las Vegas Aces (1-5): THEY GOT THEIR FIRST WIN IN VEGAS! A’ja Wilson is a future star! Let’s ignore Kelsey Plum still struggling and their league low three points percentage while allowing their opponents the highest percentage in the league.
12) Indiana Fever (0-6): Well at least there not last in net rating thanks to the Aces. Kelsey Mitchell has also scored at least 16 in her last five game so there is a future for the franchise, just not this season.