Indeed, injury to key performers has stolen headlines and created dangerously short-handed rosters for several teams. The Seattle Storm’s Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, the San Antonio Silver Stars’ Sophia Young and Becky Hammon, the New York Liberty’s Essence Carson, Indiana Fever player Katie Douglas, and Connecticut Sun Olympian Asia Jones got the ball rolling by deciding to rehab rather than play this season.
But fret not, you hoop junkies out there. The best women’s basketball league ever continues to serve up a poo-poo platter of heady vets spiced with increasingly gifted young up-and-comers. Saturday’s feature attraction offers a talent for every taste. A dominant center, try another Olympian, Sylvia Fowles. A preference for a classic post player, none better than (yet another gold-medalist) Tina Charles. A hot-shot gunner? How ‘bout LA’s Kristi Toliver? A bit of nostalgia? There’s future Hall of Famer Tina Thompson.
Oh, and for the dismissive “they’re just a bunch of girls” crowd? Check out the youthful strength and athleticism of some kids named Nneka, Glory and Zellous as well as the skillful savvy of a set of guards named Cappie, Angel and Prince (all three voted as starters for the East).
For all its struggles through the years to create a sustainable business model, this “summer league” has never failed to attract, entice and inspire the very best women ballers in the world.
The competition has always been intense, the performances (from Cooper to Catchings) epic, the championships meaningful, even if the SportsCenter moments have been few and fleeting.
And it would be unwise to count out Harvey Catchings’s little girl Tamika and her defending champion Indiana Fever. By at least one standard, Coach Lin Dunn’s troops play the best defense in the WNBA.
Currently, through 105 games, the most efficient offensive team in the league has been the Lynx, converting 51.6 percent of their possessions. The least efficient have been the Fever and New York Liberty, with conversion rates of 43.0 percent.
Conversely, the most efficient defensive team in the league has been the Chicago Sky, allowing conversions on but 40.0 percent of their opponents’ possessions. The least efficient, at 50.1 percent, has been the Phoenix Mercury.
In only six of 105 WNBA games has the team which converted a higher percentage of its possessions than its opponent managed to lose. Here’s how the teams rank by Conversion Quotient (CQ):
TEAM (W-L) – CQ [Eff.– Opp. Eff.]
Chicago Sky (12-5) – +82 [.482 - .400]
Minnesota Lynx (14-3) – +72 [.516 - .444]
LA Sparks (12-6) – +56 [.506 - .450]
Atlanta Dream (11-5) – +31 [.473 - .442]
Washington Mystics (9-9) – +12 [.469 - .457]
Indiana Fever (8-9) – -13 [.430 - .443]
Phoenix Mercury (9-9) – -15 [.486 - .501]
New York Liberty (7-11) – -19 [.430 - .449]
Connecticut Sun (4-12) – -28 [.430 - .443]
Tulsa Shock (6-14) – -37 [.452 - .489]
Seattle Storm (7-10) – -46 [.431 - .477]
San Antonio Silver Stars (6-12) – -50 [.435 - .485]
Now, let’s get back to those title-holdin’ Indianans and their ability to induce opponent miscues.
A so-called stop can occur only through an opponent error, either a missed shot or a turnover. In order to measure a team’s defensive proficiency, perhaps we can subtract the percentage of their opponents’possessions lost to a turnover from the opponents’ field goal percentage. The lower the score the better, of course.
Fever opponents have shot at a .430 clip, but they commit a turnover on a whopping 22.9 percent of their possessions. Thus, they grade out at 430 – 229 or 201. As a comparison, Chicago’s preeminence measured by opponent efficiency drops to eighth position by this calculation, with a score of 248.
So what have we got? Healing teams, up-and-coming squads, perennial powers…and 99 games over six weeks for the best players in the world to sort out the playoff picture.
Let’s hope that WNBA President Laurel Richie and her team likewise break ground in sorting out the league’s off-court issues, beginning with a Collective Bargaining Agreement that will accommodate a reasonable roster size.