Saturday, July 12, 2008

CP3 by the Numbers

With the Los Angeles Sparks and Candace Parker coming to KeyArena tomorrow (7:00 p.m., FSN, 1150 AM KKNW, TIX), I was curious whether Parker's strong start has her on pace to post the best rookie season of all time. This is the kind of question my WARP rating system is well-equipped to answer, estimating how valuable a player is to their team in terms of the wins they offer as compared to a replacement-level player.

Before 2008, these were the top 10 rookie seasons in WNBA history.

Player              Year  Team  WARP
Tamika Catchings 2002 IND 11.2
Lauren Jackson 2001 SEA 6.4
Diana Taurasi 2004 PHO 6.2
Betty Lennox 2000 MIN 5.5
Sue Bird 2002 SEA 5.2
Alana Beard 2004 WAS 5.1
Chamique Holdsclaw 1999 WAS 5.1
Swin Cash 2002 DET 5.0
Tamika Williams 2002 MIN 4.4
Cappie Pondexter 2006 PHO 4.4
Considering the Storm has two of the top five rookie seasons ever, it's strange that the team has never had a Rookie of the Year. Sue Bird had the misfortune of going up against the best debut season the league has ever seen, when Tamika Catchings finished as the runner-up for MVP as a rookie. As for Lauren Jackson, well, there's no way to sugercoat it. She was robbed. Portland's Jackie Stiles won the award with 1.8 WARP, a figure dwarfed by Jackson's 6.4 WARP. Ah, well - LJ's never been in it for the awards.

Anyways, how do this year's top rookies compare? Here's the top six, projected to a full 34-game season.

Player              Team  WARP
Candace Parker LAS 9.4
Candice Wiggins MIN 6.0
Nicky Anosike MIN 4.7
Alexis Hornbuckle DET 2.9
Crystal Kelly SAC 2.2
Sylvia Fowles CHI 1.8
It's unlikely Parker will quite catch her fellow Tennessee alumna, but her rookie season has certainly been outstanding. Wiggins has been great in her own right and would have a chance for the second-best rookie season in league history were it not for Parker. Anosike has been legitimately outstanding and is having the best rookie season ever for a non-first-round pick (a title previously held by Michelle Brogan or, if you want to limit to college players, Tammy Sutton-Brown).

As for Fowles, on a per-minute basis she rates better than Wiggins, but her knee injury has naturally limited her total value.

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