Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Liberty Leading the Way as WNBA Heats Up the Summer


Bill Laimbeer and his now-top-ranked New York Liberty are the Memphis Grizzlies of the WNBA – they play as if there’s no three-point line. They both make and attempt the fewest shots from distance; they sport the league’s poorest shooting percentage from behind the arc; their opponents are No. 1 in makes and No. 2 in takes; they don’t even defend the shot well, ranking third from the bottom (.342) – despite ranking first in overall FG defense (.389).

Now, in spite of the 2.17 point per game disadvantage Tina Charles and Company face each game because of that doggone line, there is one way in which the long ball works to their advantage. The opposition misses 11.13 treys each game, the Libs but 8.13. Long shots tend to create long rebounds, some of which lead to easy opportunities in transition – valuable commodities for a contender wallowing in the bottom third of the league when it comes to shooting and point production.

Curiously, New York is one of only two squads not to be averaging at least four treys a game – most curious because the other is the league’s highest scoring team. 


[NOTE: All data reflects play through Sunday, Aug. 16.]

Shooting and Scoring: 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%.)

We’ll rank the teams from 1 to 12 in all criteria and simply add up the rankings.

No. 1 Chicago Sky [8]
[ASB rating: 1
6-week rating: 1
4-week rating: 1
2-week rating: 1]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
83.0 [1st] – 1.172 [3rd] –1.016 [1st] – 1598 [3rd]

No. 2 Indiana Fever [12]
[ASB rating: 4
6-week rating: 2
4-week rating: 3
2-week rating: 5]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
78.3 [2nd] – 1.196 [1st] –0.985 [3rd] – 1567 [6th]

No. 2 Minnesota Lynx [12]
[ASB rating: 2
6-week rating: 2
4-week rating: 2
2-week rating: 2]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
77.3 [4th] – 1.168 [5th] –0.994 [2nd] – 1612 [1st]

No. 4 Phoenix Mercury [19]
[ASB rating: 3
6-week rating: 4
4-week rating: 6
2-week rating: 6]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
76.3 [7th] – 1.185 [2nd] –0.977 [6th] – 1594 [4th]

No. 5 Washington Mystics [24]
[ASB rating: 6
6-week rating: 9
4-week rating: 5
2-week rating: 8]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
74.0 [9th] – 1.169 [4th] –0.982 [4th] – 1559 [7th]

No. 6 Los Angeles Sparks [25]
[ASB rating: 7
6-week rating: 6
4-week rating: 9
2-week rating: 12]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
72.9 [10th] – 1.159 [6th] –0.968 [7th] – 1603 [2nd]

No. 7 Tulsa Shock [27]
[ASB rating: 5
6-week rating: 5
4-week rating: 4
2-week rating: 3]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
77.5 [3rd] – 1.126 [9th] –0.977 [5th] – 1502 [10th]

No. 8 Connecticut Sun [34]
[ASB rating: 8
6-week rating: 7
4-week rating: 7
2-week rating: 4]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
76.4 [6th] – 1.120 [12th] –0.958 [8th] – 1528 [8th]

No. 9 Seattle Storm [35]
[ASB rating: 9
6-week rating: 10
4-week rating: 10
2-week rating: 10]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
70.9 [12th] – 1.152 [8th] –0.922 [10th] – 1570 [5th]

No. 10 New York Liberty [36]
[ASB rating: 10
6-week rating: 7
4-week rating: 8
2-week rating: 7]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
74.7 [8th] – 1.158 [7th] –0.941 [9th] – 1494 [12th]

No. 11 Atlanta Dream [37]
[ASB rating: 12
6-week rating: 11
4-week rating: 12
2-week rating: 9]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
76.7 [5th] – 1.125 [10th] –0.920 [11th] – 1501 [11th]

No. 12 San Antonio Stars [43]
[ASB rating: 11
6-week rating: 12
4-week rating: 11
2-week rating: 11]

PPG  /  PPS  /  PPP  /  S(H)UM
71.2 [11th] – 1.122 [11th] –0.907 [12th] – 1519 [9th]

The Elite Decide to Compete

The 3-4 Phoenix Mercury have gone 12-5 since the late June return of Britney Griner.

The 3-13 Sparks are a .600 team and genuine playoff darkhorse with Candace Parker on board. (The calls for Brian Agler’s head have lessened, as well.)

Grizzled vet Tamika Catchings is gearing up for another run at the brass ring alongside a crew with plenty of “Been There, Done That.”

Oh, and Minnesota has added a fifth Olympian to its roster.

Here are the ratings with four weeks remaining.

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)
[ASB Abacus rating: 1
6-week Abacus rating: 1
4-week Abacus rating: 1
2-week Abacus rating: 2]

18-7, .720; 1st seed West / 1st overall                                            
KK:  +6; (8 Road Wins – 2 Home Loss) / No. 1 overall
CQ:  +45; (.483 [2nd] - .438 [2nd]) / No. 2 overall
SPOR-t:  +75; (529 [2nd] – 454 [2nd]) / No. 2 overall
Abacus Revelation: Little things mean a lot. The Lynx are NO. 2 in the league in limiting opponent second shots.

No. 1 New York Liberty (6)
[ASB Abacus rating: 2
6-week Abacus rating: 4
4-week Abacus rating: 4
2-week Abacus rating: 6]

16-7, .696; 1st seed East / 2nd overall
KK:  +5; (8 Road Wins – 3 Home Losses) / No. 2 overall
CQ:  +47; (.473 [4th] - .426 [1st]) / No. 1 overall
SPOR-t:  +109; (507 [5th] – 398 [1st]) / No. 1 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Liberty have improved their FG shooting to 46% (from 41%) in their six post-ASB games.

No. 3 Chicago Sky (17.5)
[ASB Abacus rating: 3
6-week Abacus rating: 2
4-week Abacus rating: 5
2-week Abacus rating: 3]

15-11, .577; 4th seed East / 6th overall
KK:  +2; (5 Road Wins – 3 Home Loss) / No. 3 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +20; (.496 [1st] - .476 [6th]) / No. 4 overall
SPOR-t:  +48; (550 [1st] – 502 [6th]) / No. 3 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Sky have not beaten a contending team on the road in six weeks.

No. 4 Phoenix Mercury (18.5)
[ASB Abacus rating: 6
6-week Abacus rating: 5
4-week Abacus rating: 7
2-week Abacus rating: 7]

15-9, .625; 2nd seed West / 3rd overall
KK:  +2; (5 Road Wins – 3 Home Losses) / No. 3 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +28; (.473 [6th] - .445 [3rd]) / No. 3 overall
SPOR-t:  -11; (473 [10th] – 484 [3th]) / No. 8 overall
Abacus Revelation: Here’s a head-scratcher. In their first nine games with their 6’9” rim protector, the Merc’s defensive numbers improved only marginally while their FG% (.379 to .475) and conversion rate (.441 to .496) took big jumps.

No. 5 Indiana Fever (20)
[ASB Abacus rating: 9
6-week Abacus rating: 7
4-week Abacus rating: 8
2-week Abacus rating: 10]

14-9, .609; 2nd seed East / 4th overall (tied)
KK:  +2; (6 Road Win – 4 Home Losses) / No. 3 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +1; (.481 [3rd] - .480 [7th]) / No. 6 overall
SPOR-t:  -+7 (513 [4th] – 506 [7th]) / No. 5 overall                
Abacus Revelation: With Tulsa’s Glory Johnson on the shelf, Shavonte Zellous might be the W’s most joyous player. I particularly enjoy watching her compete.

No. 6 Washington Mystics (23)
[ASB Abacus rating: 5
6-week Abacus rating: 8
4-week Abacus rating: 6
2-week Abacus rating: 5]

14-9, .609; 2nd seed East / 4th overall (tied)
KK:  +2; (5 Road Wins – 3 Home Losses) / No. 3 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +19; (.470 [7th] - .451 [4th]) / No. 5 overall
SPOR-t:  -40; (490 [7th] – 511 [10th]) / No. 9 overall
Abacus Revelation: At the All-Star break, Washington was holding opponents to 29% shooting behind the arc. In the subsequent eight games, they’ve allowed 38 makes in 99 tries.

No. 7 Tulsa Shock (27)
[ASB Abacus rating: 4
6-week Abacus rating: 3
4-week Abacus rating: 2
2-week Abacus rating 1]

11-14, .444; 3rd seed West / 8th overall
KK:  0; (5 Road Wins – 5 Home Losses) / No. 7 overall
CQ:  -13; (.473 [5th] - .486 [10th]) / No. 8 overall
SPOR-t:  +13; (523 [3rd] – 510 [9th]) / No. 4 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Shock have shot three-pointers at a 30% clip in their last ten games after posting a league best 36% in the first 15.

No. 8 Connecticut Sun (28)
[ASB Abacus rating: 7
6-week Abacus rating: 6
4-week Abacus rating: 3
2-week Abacus rating: 3]

12-12, .500; 5th seed East / 7th overall
KK:  -1; (5 Road Wins – 6 Home Losses) / No. 8 overall
CQ:  -7; (.459 [9th] - .466 [5th]) / No. 7 overall
SPOR-t:  +2; (493 [6th] – 491 [5th]) / No. 6 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Sun have topped the league in forcing turnovers all season.

No. 9 Atlanta Dream (35)
[ASB Abacus rating: 8
6-week Abacus rating: 9
4-week Abacus rating: 9
2-week Abacus rating: 8]

9-15, .375; 6th seed East / 9th overall
KK:  -3; (3 Road Wins – 6 Home Losses) / No. 9 overall
CQ:  -230 (.453 [10th] - .483 [9th]) / No. 10 overall
SPOR-t:  -2; (484 [8th] – 486 [4th]) / No. 7 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Dream have been surrendering 29 free throw attempts per game since the All-Star break.

No. 10 Los Angeles Sparks (40.5)
[ASB Abacus rating: 12
6-week Abacus rating: 12
4-week Abacus rating: 11
2-week Abacus rating: 12]

8-16, .333; 4th seed West / 10th overall
KK:  -5; (2 Road Wins – 7 Home Losses) / No. 11 overall (tied)
CQ:  -23; (.465 [8th] - .488 [11th]) / No. 9 overall
SPOR-t:  -23; (483 [9th] – 506 [7th]) / No. 10 overall
Abacus Revelation: Candace Parker has posted a near 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (54:19) in her first eight games back.

No. 11 Seattle Storm (44)
[ASB Abacus rating: 11
6-week Abacus rating: 11
4-week Abacus rating: 10
2-week Abacus rating: 9]

7-19, .269; 6th seed West / 12th overall
KK:  -4; (2 Road Wins – 6 Home Losses) / No. 10 overall
CQ:  -39; (.443 [12th] - .482 [8th]) / No. 11 overall
SPOR-t:  -105; (411 [12th] – 516 [11th]) / No. 11 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Storm have tracked down five or fewer offensive rebounds in over two-thirds of their games.

No. 12 San Antonio Stars (46.5)
[ASB Abacus rating: 10
6-week Abacus rating: 10
4-week Abacus rating: 11
2-week Abacus rating: 11]

7-18, .250; 5th seed West / 11th overall
KK:  -3; (0 Road Wins – 5 Home Losses) / No. 11 overall (tied)
CQ:  -44; (.447 [11th] - .491 [12th]) / No. 12 overall
SPOR-t:  -110; (439 [11th] – 549 [12th]) / No. 12 overall
Abacus Revelation: As players seem to grow bigger, faster and stronger by the day, the limited athleticism of the frontcourt (Appel and Adams) has gotten costly.




Three-ficiency

For the NBA’s 2014-15 season, seven teams finished in the Top Ten in both shooting and defending the three-point shot – all qualified for the playoffs, including three of the four conference finalists.

The 12-team WNBA’s proportional equivalent (upper third) is a Top Four finish. The Fever (tops on both scales) and Mystics currently reside in this neighborhood.

We’ll rank 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 Indiana Fever   [+44]
[ASB rating: 1
6-week rating: 1
4-week rating: 3
2-week rating: 7]

.357 [1st] – 5.35 [4th] out of 15.0 [6th]
.313 [1st] – 4.57 [5th] out of 14.61 [6th]

No. 2 Washington Mystics   [+32]
[ASB rating: 2
6-week rating: 3
4-week rating: 4
2-week rating: 4]

.352 [3rd] – 6.13 [3rd] out of 17.43 [3rd]
.320 [3rd] – 4.26 [2nd] out of 13.3 [3rd]

No. 3 Connecticut Sun   [+22]
[ASB rating: 7
6-week rating: 5
4-week rating: 6
2-week rating: 1]

.354 [2nd] – 6.42 [1st] out of 18.13 [2nd]
.332 [9th] – 4.42 [3rd] out of 13.29 [2nd]

No. 4 Minnesota Lynx   [+19]
[ASB rating: 2
6-week rating: 4
4-week rating: 5
2-week rating: 5]

.333 [5th] – 4.16 [9th] out of 12.48 [10th]
.314 [2nd] – 5.48 [10th] out of 17.48 [12th]

No. 5 Phoenix Mercury   [+9]
[ASB rating: 5
6-week rating: 6
4-week rating: 1
2-week rating: 3]

.337 [4th] – 4.88 [6th] out of 14.46 [7th]
.328 [6th] – 5.04 [7th] out of 15.38 [8th]

No. 6 Seattle Storm   [-1]
[ASB rating: 6
6-week rating: 7
4-week rating: 7
2-week rating: 6]

.331 [7th] – 5.04 [5th] out of 15.23 [4th]
.332 [8th] – 5.38 [9th] out of 16.23 [10th]

No. 7 San Antonio Stars   [-4]
[ASB rating: 10
6-week rating: 12
4-week rating: 10
2-week rating: 8]

.317 [8th] – 4.0 [10th] out of 12.6 [10th]
.321 [4th] – 3.92 [1st] out of 12.2 [1st]

No. 8 Los Angeles Sparks   [-10]
[ASB rating: 9
6-week rating: 9
4-week rating: 8
2-week rating: 12]

.311 [11th] – 4.38 [8th] out of 14.08 [8th]
.321 [5th] – 4.46 [4th] out of 13.88 [4th]

No. 9 Tulsa Shock   [-13]
[ASB rating: 4
6-week rating: 2
4-week rating: 2
2-week rating: 2]

.333 [5th] – 6.36 [2nd] out of 19.08 [1st]
.346 [2nd] – 4.88 [6th] out of 14.12 [5th]

No. 10 Atlanta Dream   [-14]
[ASB rating: 8
6-week rating: 8
4-week rating: 12
2-week rating: 9]

.316 [9th] – 4.79 [7th] out of 15.17 [5th]
.330 [7th] – 5.08 [8th] out of 15.42 [9th]

No. 11 New York Liberty   [-35]
[ASB rating: 11
6-week rating: 11
4-week rating: 9
2-week rating: 11]

.307 [12th] – 3.61 [12th] out of 11.74 [12th]
.342 [10th] – 5.78 [12th] out of 16.19 [11th]

No. 12 Chicago Sky   [-61]
[ASB rating: 12
6-week rating: 10
4-week rating: 11
2-week rating: 10]

.311 [10th] – 3.96 [11th] out of 12.73 [9th]
.372 [12th] – 5.62 [11th] out of 15.08 [7th]


Prior Ratings and Data are available through Week 2, Week 4, Week 6 and the All-Star break.