Tuesday, June 23, 2015

WNBA 2015: 2-week Ratings


It’s been a tough couple of years or so for the WNBA. As Cheryl Reeve’s 2013 Minnesota Lynx were finishing off a season for the ages, the world’s best women’s pro league was facing a variety of off-court issues: poor attendance, inadequate roster size, the absence of a collective bargaining agreement with its players’ association. And then the Los Angeles Sparks’ ownership situation went into limbo, briefly sparking (bad pun; I’m sorry!) concerns in some quarters over the league’s very existence. (This season’s Dolan-Thomas saga pales in significance, if not media hubbub.)

Soon enough, the LA franchise was Magically owned – the financially-strapped league and leverage-less players even took baby-steps toward roster relief. Sandy Brondello’s Phoenix Mercury (with an all “six-footer” line-up-of-the-future) basically lapped the field on their way to a title, and the WNBA bid a fond adieu to legendary Indiana Fever “Sister Superior” Lin Dunn in a season rife with debilitating injury.

A relatively calm off-season was spiced up by some surprising early entrants to the WNBA draft, but the societal scourge of domestic dispute has found its way to Ms. Ritchie’s neighborhood, exacerbating the instances of player “absence” inherent in the global world of women’s pro hoops.

Nonetheless, June 5 marked the opening of Season 19 for what remains the epitome of this brand of ball.

Early judgments are subject to schedule imbalances and small sample size, yet early data analysis can portend trends. The following rankings reflect play through Thursday, June 18.

Power Rankings --The Measurement Instrument

Our team-ranking tool utilizes four elements. Two scales are based solely on team wins and losses; the others are measures of the efficiency of team performance in comparison with the competition. First, we’ll simply use win-loss record irrespective of conference.

The second criterion will be the difference between a team’s road wins and its home losses. Since this cute little metric is said to be a personal favorite of long-time NBA coach George Karl (now at ESPN), let’s call this the Karl Kount (KK).

Criterion No. 3, Conversion Quotient (CQ), involves the rate at which a team converts its possessions into a successful field goals or free throw attempts. Like the KK, the computation is simple subtraction—a team’s rate of offensive efficiency minus that of the opponent.

Lastly, please allow Abacus to introduce the “SPOR-t” score. SPOR-t stands for “Shooting Plus Offensive Rebounds minus turnovers.” Add a team’s FG percentage and its offensive rebounding percentage (o. boards divided by missed FG’s). Then subtract the percentage of a team’s possessions lost to turnovers. For example, a team shoots field goals at a .488 clip, its offensive rebounds account for .199 of its missed field goals, and .143 of its possessions result in a turnover. So its SPOR-t is (488+199-143) or 544. Once again, our measurement will be the difference between the SPOR-t scores of a team and its opposition.

We’ll rank the teams from 1 to 12 in all criteria and simply add up the rankings. Low score wins, naturally.

No. 1 Tulsa Shock (7.5)
[2014 Abacus rating: 11]

4-1, .800; 1st seed West / 1st overall (tied)*
KK:  +1; (1 Road Win – 0 Home Losses) / No. 2 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +76; (.492 [2nd] - .416 [4th]) / No. 1 overall
SPOR-t:  +215; (603 [1st] – 388 [2nd]) / No. 1 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Shock rank No. 1 or 2 in: Off. Rebounding, Turnover %, 3-point offense and 3-point defense.

No. 2 Minnesota Lynx (9.5)
[2014 Abacus rating: 2]

4-1, .800; 1st seed West / 1st overall (tied)*                               
KK:  +2; (2 Road Wins – 0 Home Losses) / No. 1 overall
CQ:  +57; (.491 [3rd] - .434 [5th]) / No. 2 overall (tied)
SPOR-t:  +91; (537 [3rd] – 446 [5th]) / No. 4 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Lynx’s No. 3 standing in preventing offensive rebounds (.181) is offset by a No. 12 ranking in forcing turnovers (.126).

No. 3 Chicago Sky (14.5)
[2014 Abacus rating: 10]

2-2, .500; 4th seed East / 6th overall (tied)
KK:  +1; (1 Road Win – 0 Home Losses) / No. 2 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +57; (.523 [1st] - .466 [9th]) / No. 2 overall (tied)
SPOR-t:  +104; (591 [2nd] – 483 [7th]) / No. 2 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Sky have neither shot (.275) nor defended (.357) the three-ball particularly well, ranking ninth at both ends of the floor.

No. 3 Connecticut Sun (14.5)
[2014 Abacus rating: 9]

4-1, .800; 1st seed East / 1st overall (tied)*
KK:  +1; (2 Road Wins – 1 Home Loss) / No. 2 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +46; (.454 [5th] - .408 [2nd]) / No. 4 overall
SPOR-t:  +54; (484 [4th] – 430 [4th]) / No. 5 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Sun’s pesky defense forces a turnover on nearly one in four (.229) opponent possessions.

No. 5 Washington Mystics (19.5)
[2014 Abacus rating: 6]

3-1, .750; 2nd seed East / 4th overall
KK:  +1; (2 Road Wins – 1 Home Loss) / No. 2 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +35; (.430 [8th] - .395 [1st]) / No. 6 overall
SPOR-t:  +36; (451 [8th] – 415 [3rd]) / No. 6 overall
Abacus Revelation: Along with launching the most long balls (20 per game), the Mystics rank first in both Opponent FG% (.348) and Opponent conversion rate (.395).

No. 6 New York Liberty (22.5)
[2014 Abacus rating: 7]

3-2, .600; 3rd seed East / 5th overall
KK:  -1; (0 Road Wins – 1 Home Loss) / No. 8 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +40; (.452 [6th] - .412 [3rd]) / No. 5 overall
SPOR-t:  +104; (479 [5th] – 375 [1st]) / No. 3 overall
Abacus Revelation: The schedule-maker smiled on Bill Laimbeer’s Liberty – five of their first six games are at home.

No. 7 Phoenix Mercury (29)
[2014 Abacus rating: 1]

2-2, .500; 3rd seed West / 6th overall (tied)
KK:  0; (0 Road Wins – 0 Home Losses) / No. 6 overall (tied)
CQ:  -11; (.431 [7th] - .442 [6th]) / No. 7 overall
SPOR-t:  -78; (414 [9th] – 492 [9th]) / No. 9 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Mercury have been the most sure-handed team in the league, with a turnover rate of .132.

No. 8 Atlanta Dream (34)
[2014 Abacus rating: 3]

2-4, .333; 5th seed East / 9th overall (tied)
KK:  -1; (1 Road Win – 2 Home Losses) / No. 8 overall (tied)**
CQ:  -40; (.418 [9th] - .458 [7th]) / No. 8 overall
SPOR-t:  -1; (464 [7th] – 465 [6th]) / No. 7 overall
Abacus Revelation: The good news is the Dream rank second in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (.310); the bad news is they rank last in Turnover Percentage (.235).

No. 9 Seattle Storm (35.5)
[2014 Abacus rating: 12]

2-3, .400; 4th seed West / 8th overall
KK:  0; (1 Road Win – 1 Home Loss) / No. 6 overall (tied)
CQ:  -59; (.403 [11th] - .462 [8th]) / No. 10 overall
SPOR-t:  -155; (334 [12th] – 489 [8th]) / No. 11 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Storm are the poorest Offensive Rebounding team in the league, averaging fewer than five per game – and it’s not for lack of opportunity (183 missed FG’s in five games).

No. 10 Indiana Fever (36)
[2014 Abacus rating: 5]

2-4, .333; 5th seed East / 9th overall (tied)
KK:  -1; (1 Road Win – 2 Home Losses) / No. 8 overall (tied)**
CQ:  -45; (.464 [4th] - .509 [12th]) / No. 9 overall
SPOR-t:  -74; (479 [5th] – 553 [11th]) / No. 8 overall
Abacus Revelation: Only the Fever and Sparks allow opponents to convert more than half their possessions.

No. 11 San Antonio Stars (44.5)
[2014 Abacus rating: 8]

0-4, .000; 6th seed West / 12th overall
KK:  -1; (0 Road Wins – 1 Home Loss) / No. 8 overall (tied)**
CQ:  -77; (.417 [10th] - .494 [10th]) / No. 11 overall
SPOR-t:  -253; (390 [10th] – 643 [12th]) / No. 12 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Stars have surrendered 68 offensive rebounds in but four games.

No. 12 Los Angeles Sparks (45)
[2014 Abacus rating: 4]

0-3, .000; 5th seed West / 11th overall
KK:  -2; (0 Road Wins – 2 Home Losses) / No. 12 overall  
CQ:  -114; (.388 [12th] - .502 [11th]) / No. 12 overall
SPOR-t:  -119; (389 [11th] – 508 [10th]) / No. 10 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Sparks rank dead last in both shooting (.207) and defending (.360) the three-point shot.


Let’s Take Offense

Sports lore preaches that defense wins championships.

In basketball, the first step to good defense is making the other team retrieve the ball from the net before initiating its offense.

The Grading Scale

To rank the teams, we’ll consider Points per game, Points per shot (i.e. field goal attempt), Points per possession and S(H)UM. (That last category is simply the sum of a team’s FG%, 3FG% and FT%.)
Again, we’ll rank the teams from 1 to 12 in all criteria and simply add up the rankings.

No. 1 Chicago Sky [5]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
87.8 [1st] – 1.254 [1st] –1.054 [1st] – 1610 [2nd]

No. 2 Minnesota Lynx [9]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
77.6 [3rd] – 1.209 [2nd] –1.008 [3rd] – 1613 [1st]

No. 3 Tulsa Shock [14]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
81.0 [2nd] – 1.104 [6th] –1.023 [2nd] – 1569 [4th]

No. 4 Connecticut Sun [17]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
74.2 [5th] – 1.114 [5th] –0.951 [4th] – 1572 [3rd]

No. 5 Indiana Fever [21]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
76.5 [4th] – 1.156 [3rd] –0.925 [5th] – 1445 [9th]

No. 6 Phoenix Mercury [25]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
72.0 [6th] – 1.075 [7th] –0.906 [7th] – 1521 [5th]

No. 7 New York Liberty [29]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
71.4 [7th] – 1.116 [4th] –0.897 [8th] – 1434 [10th]

No. 8 Washington Mystics [30]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
68.8 [9th] – 1.046 [9th] –0.911 [6th] – 1471 [6th]

No. 9 Atlanta Dream [34]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
70.3 [8th] – 1.039 [10th] –0.856 [9th] – 1466 [7th]

No. 10 Seattle Storm [37]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
63.8 [11th] – 1.074 [8th] –0.839 [10th] – 1456 [8th]

No. 11 San Antonio Stars [43]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
65.8 [10th] – 1.035 [11th] –0.838 [11th] – 1383 [11th]

No. 12 Los Angeles Sparks [48]
PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  Sum
55.7 [12th] – 0.903 [12th] –0.799 [12th] – 1234 [12th]

Three-ficiency
As basketball is evolving here in the 21st Century, “judicious accuracy” and “consistent challenge” seem to capture the offensive and defensive (respectively) philosophies for the more successful teams when it comes to three-point shooting.

Check out the who’s sitting atop the standings or playing deep into the playoffs and invariably these squads invariably hold high ratings in both utilizing and defending the “stripe.”

Let’s try ranking the teams by the difference between their own three-point shooting and that of the opposition. (Attempts and makes are presented “per-game” for ease of comparison.)

No. 1 Connecticut Sun   [+177]
.383 [2nd] – 6.2 [3rd] out of 16.2 [7th]
.206 [1st] – 2.8 [2nd] out of 13.6 [5th]

No. 2 Tulsa Shock   [+154]
.395 [1st] – 6.4 [1st] out of 16.2 [7th]
.241 [2nd] – 3.8 [5th] out of 15.8 [6th]

No. 3 Phoenix Mercury   [+71]
.315 [4th] – 5.75 [5th] out of 18.25 [4th]
.244 [3rd] – 2.75 [1st] out of 11.25 [2nd]

No. 4 Washington Mystics   [+54]
.313 [5th] – 6.25 [2nd] out of 20.0 [1st]
.259 [4th] – 3.5 [3rd] out of 13.5 [4th]

No. 5 Minnesota Lynx   [+4]
.302 [7th] – 3.8 [10th] out of 12.6 [10th]
.298 [5th] – 5.6 [7th] out of 18.8 [11th]

No. 6 Seattle Storm   [-11]
.304 [6th] – 5.6 [6th] out of 18.4 [3rd]
.315 [6th] – 5.8 [8th] out of 18.4 [9th]

No. 7 Indiana Fever   [-13]
.346 [3rd] – 6.0 [4th] out of 17.33 [5th]
.359 [11th] – 4.67 [6th] out of 13.0 [3rd]

No. 8 San Antonio Stars   [-60]
.258 [10th] – 4.25 [8th] out of 16.5 [6th]
.318 [7th] – 3.5 [3rd] out of 11.0 [1st]

No. 9 Atlanta Dream   [-70]
.287 [8th] – 4.5 [7th] out of 15.67 [9th]
.357 [9th] – 6.67 [11th] out of 18.67 [10th]

No. 10 Chicago Sky   [-82]
.275 [9th] – 2.75 [11th] out of 10.0 [12th]
.357 [9th] – 6.25 [10th] out of 17.5 [8th]

No. 11 New York Liberty   [-102]
.228 [11th] – 2.6 [12th] out of 11.4 [11th]
.330 [8th] – 6.8 [12th] out of 20.6 [12th]

No. 12 Los Angeles Sparks   [-153]
.207 [12th] – 4.0 [9th] out of 19.33 [2nd]
.360 [12th] – 6.0 [9th] out of 16.33 [7th]


?Coaching Queries?

Was Bill Laimbeer’s momentary relief from his duties a sign of organizational indecision, or a clever cost-cutting tactic?

 Will either new LA leader Brian Agler or long-time San Antonio maestro Dan Hughes claim a victory prior to their teams’ SoCal showdown on the season’s 28th day?