Thursday, July 9, 2015

WNBA 2015: 4-week Ratings


Despite the traditionally mopey pace of the WNBA’s early-season calendar, Commissioner Ritchie and her schedule-maker are to be commended on their work for the 2015 season. Through 28 days and 60 games, on only three occasions has a fresh team caught an opponent on the tail-end of a back-to-back (all playing at home, to boot) – and tired legs emerged victorious one time. (Five other games have pitted two squads on second nights.)

The oft conflicting efforts of maximizing league exposure while moderating an individual franchise’s travel expense inevitably require players and coaches to manage playing on consecutive days. Three more double dead-leggers remain on the schedule, and ten “advantage” games are yet to be played. The Washington Mystics, who’ve already squandered a rest-edge game to Atlanta, will get three more cracks at doing better. Just Connecticut, Phoenix and Tulsa enjoy as many as two such opportunities for the season.

Here’s how the teams rate after a month. (All data reflects play through Thursday, July 2.)

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 current Sacramento Kings coach George Karl, 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 Minnesota Lynx (6)
[2-week Abacus rating: 2]

7-2, .778; 1st seed West / 1st overall                                              
KK:  +3; (4 Road Wins – 1 Home Loss) / No. 1 overall (tied)*
CQ:  +62; (.489 [2nd] - .427 [2nd]) / No. 1 overall
SPOR-t:  +90; (526 [3rd] – 436 [5th]) / No. 2 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Lynx take and make the fewest three-pointers in the league, yet rank in the top half in “Three-ficiency” – see below.

No. 2 Tulsa Shock (10)
[2-week Abacus rating: 1]

8-3, .727; 2nd seed West / 2nd overall
KK:  +3; (3 Road Wins – 0 Home Losses) / No. 1 overall (tied)*
CQ:  +20; (.472 [4th] - .452 [6th]) / No. 5 overall
SPOR-t:  +109; (549 [1st] – 440 [3rd]) / No. 1 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Shock stand No. 2 in per-game scoring despite having the second worst FG shooting (.395) in the league.

No. 3 Connecticut Sun (15)
[2-week Abacus rating: 3]

7-3, .700; 1st seed East / 3rd overall
KK:  +1; (4 Road Wins – 3 Home Losses) / No. 5 overall
CQ:  +33; (.466 [5th] - .433 [3rd]) / No. 3 overall
SPOR-t:  +53; (509 [4th] – 456 [5th]) / No. 4 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Sun remain the best in the league at forcing turnovers, nearly one in four (.225) opponent possessions.

No. 4 New York Liberty (16)
[2-week Abacus rating: 6]

6-4, .600; 2nd seed East / 4th overall (tied)
KK:  0; (2 Road Wins – 2 Home Losses) / No. 6 overall (tied)
CQ:  +34; (.454 [7th] - .420 [1st]) / No. 2 overall
SPOR-t:  +78; (470 [8th] – 392 [1st]) / No. 3 overall
Abacus Revelation: The rugged Liberty are best in the league at protecting their defensive backboard, limiting opponents to an Offensive Rebounding Percentage of .181.

No. 5 Chicago Sky (17)
[2-week Abacus rating: 3]

6-5, .545; 4th seed East / 6th overall
KK:  +3; (4 Road Wins – 1 Home Loss) / No. 1 overall (tied)*
CQ:  +30; (.499 [1st] - .469 [8th]) / No. 4 overall
SPOR-t:  +33; (540 [2nd] – 507 [8th]) / No. 5 overall
Abacus Revelation: The best shooting and highest scoring team in the league has been neglecting the three-point arc to its detriment – see below.)

No. 6 Washington Mystics (21.5)
[2-week Abacus rating: 5]

6-4, .600; 2nd seed East / 4th overall (tied)
KK:  +2; (3 Road Wins – 1 Home Loss) / No. 4 overall
CQ:  +12; (.462 [6th] - .450 [4th]) / No. 6 overall
SPOR-t:  -17; (490 [5th] – 507 [8th]) / No. 7 overall
Abacus Revelation: Mystic opponents made 30 FG’s per game during the third and fourth weeks, after being held to 23 a night during the opening fortnight.

No. 7 Phoenix Mercury (29.5)
[2-week Abacus rating: 7]

5-5, .500; 3rd seed West / 7th overall
KK:  0; (1 Road Win – 1 Home Loss) / No. 6 overall (tied)
CQ:  +1; (.452 [8th] - .451 [5th]) / No. 7 overall
SPOR-t:  -59; (446 [11th] – 505 [7th]) / No. 9 overall
Abacus Revelation: Mercury opponents make 3.6 three-pointers per game, fewest in the league.

No. 8 Indiana Fever (32)
[2-week Abacus rating: 10]

5-6, .445; 5th seed East / 8th overall
KK:  -1; (3 Road Win – 4 Home Losses) / No. 8 overall
CQ:  -9; (.475 [3rd] - .484 [10th]) / No. 8 overall
SPOR-t:  -46; (489 [6th] – 535 [11th]) / No. 8 overall
Abacus Revelation: The league’s best three-point shooting team also attempts the most free throws, over 23 per game.

No. 9 Atlanta Dream (33.5)
[2-week Abacus rating: 8]

4-6, .400; 6th seed East / 9th overall
KK:  -2; (1 Road Win – 3 Home Losses) / No. 9 overall (tied)
CQ:  -25; (.431 [12th] - .456 [7th]) / No. 9 overall
SPOR-t:  +30; (483 [7th] – 453 [4th]) / No. 6 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Dream corral almost five more offensive rebounds a game than their opponents.

No. 10 Seattle Storm (40.5)
[2-week Abacus rating: 9]

3-7, .300; 4th seed West / 10th overall
KK:  -2; (1 Road Win – 3 Home Losses) / No. 9 overall (tied)
CQ:  -40; (.435 [11th] - .475 [9th]) / No. 10 overall
SPOR-t:  -105; (399 [12th] – 504 [6th]) / No. 11 overall
Abacus Revelation: Despite struggling to score, the Storm have the third best FG shooting percentage (.428) in the league.

No. 11 San Antonio Stars (45.5)
[2-week Abacus rating: 11]

2-8, .200; 5th seed West / 11th overall
KK:  -3; (0 Road Wins – 3 Home Losses) / No. 11 overall (tied)
CQ:  -57; (.444 [9th] - .501 [11th]) / No. 11 overall
SPOR-t:  -132; (453 [10th] – 585 [12th]) / No. 12 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Stars are the poorest three-point shooting team in the league.

No. 11 Los Angeles Sparks (45.5)
[2-week Abacus rating: 12]

1-7, .125; 6th seed West / 12th overall
KK:  -3; (0 Road Wins – 3 Home Losses) / No. 11 overall (tied)
CQ:  -74; (.438 [10th] - .512 [12th]) / No. 12 overall
SPOR-t:  -64; (454 [9th] – 518 [10th]) / No. 10 overall

Abacus Revelation: The Sparks increased their per-game scoring by over 20 points in their last five games.


You Asked For It (Well, I Did)

Kristi Tolliver returned from an overseas commitment to give the Sparks a 43-point game. Elena Della Donne often has a double-double – maybe a fist full of blocks as well – by halftime. Catchings, Griner and Ogwumike the Elder are adapting from age, suspension and ailment. And Maya Moore is, well, starting to play like Maya Moore.

All that skill and savvy has me fantasizing about a WNBA One-on-One Tournament. Imagine the match-ups. No one would want to play Rebekkah Brunson or Sancho Lyttle.

With that in mind, let’s look at the best and worst shooting and scoring teams.

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]
[2-week rating: 1]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
84.6 [1st] – 1.217 [1st] –1.021 [1st] – 1611 [2nd]

No. 2 Minnesota Lynx [11]
[2-week rating: 2]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
76.3 [5th] – 1.216 [2nd] –0.997 [3rd] – 1627 [1st]

No. 3 Indiana Fever [15]
[2-week rating: 5]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
77.8 [3rd] – 1.212 [3rd] –0.967 [5th] – 1563 [4th]

No. 4 Tulsa Shock [17]
[2-week rating: 3]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
78.6 [2nd] – 1.110 [8th] –1.001 [2nd] – 1558 [5th]

No. 5 Washington Mystics [23.5]
[2-week rating: 8]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
73.3 [7th] – 1.154 [5th] –0.971 [4th] – 1537 [7th]

No. 6 Phoenix Mercury [25]
[2-week rating: 6]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
74.8 [6th] – 1.139 [6th] –0.936 [7th] – 1557 [6th]

No. 7 Connecticut Sun [30]
[2-week rating: 4]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
77.5 [4th] – 1.099 [10th] –0.958 [6th] – 1498 [10th]

No. 8 New York Liberty [31]
[2-week rating: 7]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
72.3 [9th] – 1.166 [4th] –0.915 [9th] – 1525 [9th]

No. 9 Los Angeles Sparks [34]
[2-week rating: 12]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
68.4 [12th] – 1.094 [11th] –0.924 [8th] – 1575 [3rd]

No. 10 Seattle Storm [35.5]
[2-week rating: 10]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
69.8 [11th] – 1.135 [7th] –0.910 [10th] – 1537 [7th]

No. 11 San Antonio Stars [41]
[2-week rating: 11]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
71.7 [10th] – 1.101 [9th] –0.906 [11th] – 1475 [11th]

No. 12 Atlanta Dream [44]
[2-week rating: 9]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
72.8 [8th] – 1.041 [12th] –0.872 [12th] – 1433 [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 Phoenix Mercury   [+106]
[2-week rating: 3]

.333 [3rd] – 5.2 [6th] out of 15.6 [7th]
.267 [1st] – 3.6 [1st] out of 13.5 [3rd]

No. 2 Tulsa Shock   [+75]
[2-week rating: 2]

.369 [2nd] – 7.18 [1st] out of 19.45 [1st]
.294 [3rd] – 4.27 [4th] out of 14.55 [5th]

No. 3 Indiana Fever   [+53]
[2-week rating: 7]

.390 [1st] – 6.09 [3rd] out of 15.64 [6th]
.337 [9th] – 5.18 [7th] out of 15.36 [6th]

No. 4 Washington Mystics   [+43]
[2-week rating: 4]

.332 [4th] – 6.4 [2nd] out of 19.3 [2nd]
.289 [2nd] – 3.7 [2nd] out of 12.8 [2nd]

No. 5 Minnesota Lynx   [+11]
[2-week rating: 5]

.316 [7th] – 3.33 [12th] out of 10.56 [12th]
.305 [4th] – 5.56 [8th] out of 18.22 [10th]

No. 6 Connecticut Sun   [+9]
[2-week rating: 1]

.323 [6th] – 5.4 [5th] out of 16.7 [4th]
.314 [5th] – 4.3 [5th] out of 13.7 [4th]

No. 7 Seattle Storm   [+2]
[2-week rating: 6]

.324 [5th] – 5.5 [4th] out of 17.0 [3rd]
.322 [7th] – 5.9 [9th] out of 18.3 [11th]

No. 8 Los Angeles Sparks   [-9]
[2-week rating: 12]

.310 [9th] – 5.0 [7th] out of 16.13 [5th]
.319 [6th] – 4.75 [6th] out of 17.0 [9th]

No. 9 New York Liberty   [-42]
[2-week rating: 11]

.311 [8th] – 3.7 [11th] out of 11.9 [11th]
.353 [10th] – 7.1 [12th] out of 20.1 [12th]

No. 10 San Antonio Stars   [-62]
[2-week rating: 8]

.271 [12th] – 4.2 [8th] out of 15.5 [8th]
.333 [8th] – 3.7 [2nd] out of 11.1 [1st]

No. 11 Chicago Sky   [-74]
[2-week rating: 10]

.297 [10th] – 3.73 [10th] out of 12.45 [10th]
.371 [12th] – 6.27 [11th] out of 16.91 [8th]

No. 12 Atlanta Dream   [-78]
[2-week rating: 9]

.280 [11th] – 4.2 [8th] out of 15.0 [9th]
.358 [11th] – 5.9 [9th] out of 16.5 [7th]

Home Court Advantage

The Home team has won 34 of the league’s first 60 games (57%). The Stars and Sparks are the only squads yet to win on the road. Tulsa navigated through its first month without a home loss, the only team to reach Week 5 so unscathed.

Week 2 Ratings and Data available here.