Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekly WNBA Numbers, Featuring TS%

In the long run, I don't think the lopsided nature of the Storm's loss yesterday at Washington means much of anything. It does mean their numbers are no longer as dominant as we take our weekly look at WNBA advanced stats. Detroit has passed the Storm in expected wins based on point differential projected to a full 34-game season, though Seattle remains tops in the Western Conference.

Team          ExpW    Team          ExpW
------------------ ------------------
Seattle 20.1 Detroit 22.0
Minnesota 19.4 Connecticut 19.7
San Antonio 19.3 New York 18.7
Los Angeles 19.0 Indiana 18.6
Phoenix 16.8 Chicago 15.8
Houston 16.0 Washington 12.0
Sacramento 15.5 Atlanta 5.2
According to point differential, four teams have separated themselves in the West but are all tightly-bunched. In the real standings, Minnesota (11-11) would not make the postseason if it started today. The Lynx are only a half-game ahead of Phoenix and Houston and are a half-game back of Sacramento, which by differential has no business in the playoffs. I cannot emphasize enough how hilarious it is that the Monarchs were criticized in Sacramento a couple weeks ago for being unable to win close games. After yesterday's win in Detroit, Sacramento is now 5-3 in games decided by five points or fewer and 10-5 in games decided by single-digits. With DeMya Walker added to the mix, the Monarchs might improve their differential down the stretch to match their record. Still, Minnesota has to be considered the favorite for the last playoff spot in the West.

Washington had the weirdest differential week ever, losing by 21 and 37 and then winning by 32. The net result was the Mystics stayed just about the same in the expected wins standings.

Alright, to the leaders in Offensive and Defensive Rating on a per-possession basis.

Team          ORating     Team          DRating
--------------------- ---------------------
Phoenix 107.5 Indiana 89.7
Minnesota 103.6 Seattle 94.1
Detroit 103.0 Los Angeles 94.3
Connecticut 101.8 San Antonio 93.6
New York 100.7 Detroit 96.3
Seattle 99.4 Houston 98.1
Chicago 98.9 Washington 98.6
Sacramento 98.3 Connecticut 99.0
San Antonio 98.2 New York 99.0
Los Angeles 97.5 Chicago 99.9
Houston 95.1 Minnesota 100.5
Atlanta 93.0 Sacramento 100.5
Indiana 92.4 Atlanta 106.6
Washington 91.6 Phoenix 108.2
The Detroit offense got clicking last week, moving up from fifth in the league to third. Deanna Nolan was a big reason why, scoring 53 points on 22-of-38 shooting in games over the weekend against Washington and Sacramento. Still, why isn't Nolan mentioned more often as an inconsistent scorer? That output followed 16 total points in her previous three games.

To the individual stats. Here are the leaders by Player Efficiency Rating, minimum 250 minutes.
Player              Tm   PER
Diana Taurasi PHO 28.1
Lauren Jackson SEA 27.4
Sancho Lyttle HOU 26.5
Lindsay Whalen CON 26.2
Candace Parker LAS 26.2
Cappie Pondexter PHO 25.2
Sophia Young SAS 25.2
Candice Wiggins MIN 25.0
Tasha Humphrey DET 24.5
Janel McCarville NYL 24.4
At what point do we declare Lyttle legit? She's kept up MVP-caliber production for several weeks now. 378 minutes isn't a ton, but it's more than a fluke. Lyttle's net plus-minus (+10.1 points per 40 minutes) is 12th in the league. The newcomer this week is Humphrey, who now clears the 250-minute minimum and also improved her rating with 29 points and 17 rebounds in 55 minutes on 12-of-20 shooting.

We continue our look at a miscellaneous statistic each week. This week we'll highlight True Shooting Percentage, the best measure of a player's shooting efficiency. You can find TS% as PTS/(2*(FGA+(.44*FTA))). It's points per shooting percentage divided by two to be on the same scale as field-goal percentage. Here are the league leaders this season.

Player              Tm   TS%
Crystal Kelly SAC .656
Lisa Willis NYL .619
Sancho Lyttle HOU .619
Tasha Humphrey DET .611
Le'Coe Willingham PHO .607
Jamie Carey CON .604
Lindsay Whalen CON .595
Diana Taurasi PHO .593
Sidney Spencer LAS .591
Crystal Langhorne WAS .587
Naturally, this tends to favor role players who take advantage of open shots. It's very impressive for Whalen and Taurasi to make this list as go-to players for their teams. That's not to knock the role players on the list. Surely there are plenty of WNBA players who can't make those kinds of open shots.

Kelly has put up great numbers in limited minutes all year long as part of a deep Monarchs frontcourt. I hope Walker's return doesn't cut into her playing time too much. Willingham's presence shows part of why the Mercury hasn't missed the ├╝ber-efficient Penny Taylor as much on offense as we expected. Langhorne has shown up consecutive weeks, first for rebounding and now for shooting efficiency.

Why is True Shooting Percentage a better measure than field-goal percentage? Willis is a good example. She's shooting just 40.9 percent from the field, but about two-thirds of her attempts are threes, which she's hitting at a 48.3 percent clip, and she's 21-of-22 from the free-throw line this season. Add it up and she's been extremely efficient. I use the term "secondary percentage" for the difference between a player's TS% and their FG%. Willis' secondary percentage is the biggest in the league.

If we take a look at the top players using at least 20 percent of their team's possessions (league average), the list is different.

Player              Tm   TS%
Tasha Humphrey DET .611
Lindsay Whalen CON .595
Diana Taurasi PHO .593
Ann Wauters SAS .578
Janel McCarville NYL .577
Katie Feenstra ATL .574
Candice Wiggins MIN .571
Candace Parker LAS .567
Seimone Augustus MIN .566
Lauren Jackson SEA .564
These are the truly devastating offensive forces, players who shoot a lot and shoot efficiently. Jackson usually leads this list, though her inconsistent three-point shooting drops her down this year. Wiggins is another great example of a player who is underrated by field-goal percentage, in her case more because she leads the WNBA in free throws than because of threes. As for Feenstra, she has scored very well this year but is turning the ball over on a horrendous 26.7 percent of her possessions, which is why the Dream has gone elsewhere in the post.


Anonymous said...


Where's the feature on LJ winning the ESPY for best WNBA player on the Storm web site? I would hope that we would be celebrating this award for our star player.. Any thoughts?

Q said...


Thanks for the TS% analysis. I especially liked the piece about "secondary percentage" -- I hadn't thought of it that way but it's a great insight.

Tasha Humphrey is having an amazing season this year and I wonder if she'll get the credit she deserves when off-season awards come around. Her defense is still a work in progress, but she's been phenomenal over the last few games.

Kevin Pelton said...

Anon - We were embargoed from saying anything until the results were announced yesterday. As for today, my bad not getting anything up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kevin. ESPN had the list on their web site last week, which is strange since the show didn't air until last night.. Congrats to Lauren!