Monday, September 1, 2008

Post-Olympic Break Stats Highlighting MVP Candidates

We're back from the Olympic Break and most teams have no more than six games left in the regular season. Yet the numbers still continue to fluctuate, especially with teams affected by injuries, deals and more. Let's take a look.

How do things stand in terms of point differential? Here are the standings using expected full-season wins based on differential.

Team          ExpW    Team          ExpW
------------------ ------------------
San Antonio 20.1 Connecticut 23.2
Seattle 19.9 Detroit 20.4
Minnesota 19.7 New York 18.2
Los Angeles 18.7 Indiana 17.2
Sacramento 16.7 Chicago 16.0
Houston 16.3 Washington 11.2
Phoenix 15.9 Atlanta 4.6
The Lynx improved their differential in their first game back from the break. If they maintained it and missed the playoffs, only the 2003 Storm and 1998 New York Liberty would have better differentials amongst lottery-bound team. By the way, Phoenix's record overstates how much the Mercury has struggled this year.

In the East, Chicago is creeping up on Indiana for the last playoff spot. Surprisingly, the Sky's differential has yet to improve much since the break; it was already much better than Chicago's record.

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

Team          ORating     Team          DRating
--------------------- ---------------------
Phoenix 106.2 Indiana 92.6
Minnesota 103.7 San Antonio 93.8
Connecticut 103.4 Seattle 94.6
Detroit 102.0 Los Angeles 94.7
New York 100.3 Connecticut 96.8
Seattle 99.3 Houston 97.5
AVERAGE 98.5 Detroit 97.7
Chicago 98.1 Sacramento 98.0
San Antonio 98.1 AVERAGE 98.5
Sacramento 97.5 Chicago 98.7
Los Angeles 97.5 New York 98.9
Houston 95.3 Washington 99.9
Indiana 93.1 Minnesota 100.0
Atlanta 92.5 Atlanta 106.8
Washington 91.7 Phoenix 108.0
Not a lot of major movement. On the strength of Saturday's defensive slugfest in Los Angeles, the Silver Stars moved up into second place in the league in Defensive Rating ahead of the Storm. Chicago's post-break improvement has come on the defensive end thanks to Sylvia Fowles' shot-blocking presence in the paint.

With MVP voting underway at, I'm going to focus on the numbers in the MVP race the rest of the season. Here's a look at the two stats I lend the most credence: Wins Above Replacement Player by my rating system and Net Plus-Minus rating, as tracked by Paul Swanson of the Lynx. I've included the top 10 by WARP as well as a few other players that deserve to be part of the discussion in no small part because of their excellent net plus-minus ratings. Their WARP rank is in parentheses.
Player              Tm   WARP  Net +/-  Rk
Candace Parker LAS 8.2 +12.6 5
Diana Taurasi PHO 7.3 + 8.8 18
Lindsay Whalen CON 7.0 + 0.4 65
Lisa Leslie LAS 6.5 + 4.2 44
Sophia Young SAS 6.3 +15.8 2
Lauren Jackson SEA 5.6 +12.8 4
Candice Dupree CHI 5.5 + 8.3 20
Jia Perkins CHI 5.4 +10.0 12
Becky Hammon SAS 5.4 + 3.6 48
Candice Wiggins MIN 5.1 + 9.1 17

Player Tm WARP Net +/- Rk
Asjha Jones (11) CON 4.9 +10.2 11
S. Augustus (16) MIN 4.1 +15.5 3
Sue Bird (22) SEA 3.4 +20.3 1
Some thoughts:
  • We'll see how much the silly notion that a rookie shouldn't win hurts Candace Parker, but statistically there's no argument against her candidacy.

  • Lindsay Whalen is an interesting case. Her individual numbers are terrific, and I've been her biggest supporter. However, the Sun has played nearly as well without Whalen as with her, as evidenced by yesterday's win over the Storm. Asjha Jones has been Connecticut's most important player from this perspective, and stepped up yesterday. I'm not sure I'm ready to put Jones on my ballot, but I've dropped Whalen.

  • The other player who suffers by contrast to her teammate in this analysis is Becky Hammon. It's hard to justify that Hammon has been more valuable to the Silver Stars than Sophia Young this season.

  • Don't write off Jia Perkins, who comes out very well by both measures. If the Sky makes the playoffs, I could see a fifth-place vote for her.

  • Sue Bird's individual stats still aren't terrific, but net plus-minus reveals how valuable she has been to the Storm. Lauren Jackson's net plus-minus was actually better when she first left the team, but the Storm's play without her has lowered this number.
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