Monday, August 20, 2007

Final WNBA Stats

Ah, there's nothing quite like the day after the end of the season for the statistical analyst. All the numbers are final and in the books. Let's take a look, shall we?

League Level

The final WNBA Offensive Rating of 98.5 points per 100 possessions was essentially unchanged from last year's 98.6 mark. However, the league pace went up from 75.9 possessions per game to 77.8, which meant average scoring was up from 74.9 to 76.6 points per game.

One thing I never touched on here was the stunning improvement in league-wide free-throw shooting. The WNBA's FT% went from 74.3% to 77.5%. Three-point percentage was also up from 33.5% to 34.8%, while two-point percentage was down from 45.0% to 44.3% (more physical play in the paint).

Turnover percentage went up from 17.6% to 18.2%; I bet if you had the numbers tracked like this, you'd find the entire difference was attributable to an increase in traveling/palming violations.

UPDATE: Paul Swanson contributes these numbers and confirms my suspicion. Traveling/Dribbling turnovers increased from 1.4% of possessions in 2006 to 2.4% in 2007.

Offensive Rating

Team          ORtg
Phoenix 106.5
Seattle 104.9
Detroit 100.7
Connecticut 100.1
San Antonio 98.4
Minnesota 97.5
Sacramento 97.5
Washington 97.0
Chicago 96.6
Indiana 96.2
Houston 95.9
Los Angeles 94.4
New York 94.2
The two best offenses in the WNBA square off at KeyArena on Friday. Think this is going to be a fun series? ... It's hard to believe Indiana was third in the WNBA in offense at the time Tamika Catchings was injured; the Fever's offense was already sliding a little, but went off a cliff without Catchings. Indiana's defense, as we'll see, was not as affected by the injury. ... Usually when the worst offensive team in the league makes the playoffs, it's on the strength of defense, but the Liberty isn't that good on D.

Defensive Rating

Team          ORtg
Indiana 91.4
Detroit 94.6
Sacramento 95.2
San Antonio 97.1
Connecticut 97.2
New York 97.2
Washington 99.4
Houston 100.2
Chicago 100.3
Seattle 100.6
Phoenix 101.1
Los Angeles 101.8
Minnesota 104.2
Places where you will be hearing the phrase "defense wins championships": Indiana, Detroit, Sacramento and San Antonio (though the Silver Stars are more good than great defensively). Places where you will not be hearing the phrase "defense wins championships": Seattle, Phoenix. Whoever wins the Storm-Mercury series will have point differential on their side (as you'll see in a moment), but a substantial defensive disadvantage.

Pythagorean Standings

Again, the standings based on expected wins (as calculated from point differential):

WEST          ExpW   EAST          ExpW
------------------ ------------------
Phoenix 21.0 Detroit 22.2
Seattle 19.9 Indiana 20.6
Sacramento 18.5 Connecticut 19.7
San Antonio 18.1 Washington 15.2
Minnesota 13.2 Chicago 14.2
Houston 13.1 New York 14.1
Los Angeles 11.2
Based on point differential, the Phoenix-Storm series should be the Western Conference Finals, not an opening-round series. The Silver Stars saw their differential take a hit playing reserves in yesterday's 26-point blowout loss at Minnesota, but even if we take out that game San Antonio only improves to 18.9 expected wins.

In the East, the last team in differential made the playoffs, but New York wasn't significantly behind Washington and Chicago.

Worth noting: the league-wide parity by differential. Detroit isn't nearly as dominant in terms of differential, not anywhere near some of the league's best teams of all times, while even the league's second (or third) division was competitive.

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