Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Final Stats

The postponement of the Houston-Sacramento game delayed us by a day, but now we have the final stats for all 14 WNBA teams and can take a look. We start, as usual, with point differential as sorted by Expected Wins.

Team          ExpW    Team          ExpW
------------------ ------------------
San Antonio 21.2 Detroit 21.9
Seattle 19.9 Connecticut 21.9
Los Angeles 19.5 New York 18.2
Minnesota 18.5 Indiana 17.5
Phoenix 17.0 Chicago 15.7
Sacramento 16.1 Washington 9.3
Houston 15.5 Atlanta 5.6
Once upon a time, point differential was a perfect predictor of the WNBA champion. The team with the top differential won the first eight league championships. Since then, the team with the best differential has fallen short three straight years, with the No. 2 team winning the championship. Perhaps the Connecticut Sun knew that and intentionally finished just behind Detroit. The Sun had the best differential and lost in both 2005 and 2006, while the Shock had the best differential last year and lost in the Finals. The difference between Detroit and Connecticut was a single point over the course of the season.

There is less separation for the top teams in the Western Conference. If you take out the Storm's 17-point loss on Sunday, the Storm would cut the gap with San Antonio about in half. The outcome was worth more than a win in terms of the difference between the Storm and the L.A. Sparks. In terms of differential, on paper the matchup between Sacramento and San Antonio is easily the first-round's biggest mismatch.

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

Team          ORating     Team          DRating
--------------------- ---------------------
Phoenix 106.2 San Antonio 93.7
Connecticut 103.0 Los Angeles 93.7
Minnesota 102.9 Indiana 94.5
Detroit 102.6 Seattle 94.7
New York 100.2 Detroit 96.4
San Antonio 99.5 Connecticut 97.9
Seattle 99.2 Sacramento 98.5
AVERAGE 98.9 Chicago 98.8
Chicago 98.1 AVERAGE 98.9
Sacramento 97.6 New York 99.1
Los Angeles 97.2 Houston 99.2
Houston 96.7 Minnesota 101.0
Indiana 95.3 Washington 102.1
Atlanta 93.3 Atlanta 106.4
Washington 91.5 Phoenix 107.0
For much of the season, Indiana was threatening to post one of the best defensive seasons in WNBA history. After a late slide, not only is the Fever's defense not historic, it did not even lead the league. That honor belongs to the Silver Stars, though the top four teams were all very close defensively throughout the season and have clearly separated themselves from the pack. The "defense wins championships" believers can take solace in this: New York was the only below-average defensive team to make the playoffs and Chicago the only above-average team to miss them, and in neither case was much far from average. Meanwhile, a pair of elite offenses (Phoenix and Minnesota) were completely done in by terrible defenses.

Los Angeles, despite the superstars, ended up 10th in the WNBA in offense. I'd have to double-check, but I can't imagine there has ever been a champion who has struggled so much to score.

As far as individuals, a pair of leaderboards featuring Wins Above Replacement Player from my rating system and per-minute PER. Don't forget that Paul Swanson also offers year-end net plus-minus ratings. While Sue Bird saw her net plus-minus take a bit of a hit when the Storm's second unit played well against Atlanta, she still finished as the league's leader.
Player              Tm   WARP
Candace Parker LAS 10.7
Diana Taurasi PHO 9.0
Lisa Leslie LAS 7.5
Lindsay Whalen CON 7.1
Jia Perkins CHI 6.6
Sophia Young SAS 6.5
Candice Dupree CHI 6.0
Janel McCarville NYL 5.9
Becky Hammon SAS 5.8
Tamika Catchings IND 5.7
Candace Parker becomes the second rookie to lead the league in WARP, joining Tamika Catchings. More surprising is that Lisa Leslie finished third in the league. There's been no MVP talk for Leslie, and that's understandable given she plays alongside Parker and her plus-minus numbers are not particularly strong. However, the notion that she's lost a step ... maybe a tiny drop-off on offense, but otherwise it's not justified. Leslie would be my Defensive Player of the Year.

Jia Perkins deserves some mention in All-WNBA voting. Under the radar, she really had a terrific, terrific season. The other surprise in the final WARP numbers is that Catchings snuck into the top 10. On a per-minute basis, Catchings was as effective as Diana Taurasi.

Player              Tm    PER
Diana Taurasi PHO 29.3
Candace Parker LAS 27.2
Sancho Lyttle HOU 27.2
Lauren Jackson SEA 27.0
Lindsay Whalen CON 25.2
Janel McCarville NYL 24.7
Sophia Young SAS 24.2
Asjha Jones CON 23.5
Jia Perkins CHI 23.0
Candice Wiggins MIN 23.0
The differences in the lists reflect both per-minute versus total value and the differences in the two systems. For example, Sancho Lyttle rates as an elite, elite player either way, but she played so few minutes she was not amongst the league's most valuable. Jackson, naturally, is another player hurt by minutes.

The other differences are more subtle. PER prefers Taurasi's high usage rate; WARP likes Parker's defensive numbers. It's hard to go wrong either way.

No comments: