I finally decided to utilize the estimation formulas from Dean Oliver's book to look at individual defensive ratings. Unfortunately these formulas are truly estimates, and assumes that every player contributes equally to defense when they are on the floor. Without tracking of additional statistics in the defensive area it is impossible to accurately rate defense for individuals today. With that said, the numbers actually support my initial subjective thoughts on the difference in defense between the 2004 Championship team and the 2005 team that was eliminated in the first round.
Player in Rotation
|2004 Off. Rtg||2005 Off. Rtg.||Change|
As you can see, defense as a whole dropped for the team, totaling +68.49 points allowed per 100 possessions. The only improvements appear at the starting center position and the last spot on the bench (Vodo once again shows up positive for the team...hmmm). The defensive strength for both teams was in the post, and that improved in 2005. Unfortunately the perimeter has clearly suffered. The largest impacts are at the starting small forward position and the backup point guard position. I am very surprised at how well Suzy shows in the defensive statistics, since her defense was really suspect to those of us who followed the team closely last season. She is most likely benefitting from her pairings with either JB or LJ who are clearly the best defenders on the team. This is where the actual statistics would be most useful.
Looking towards next season, the best defenders should all be returning (with Vodo the only question.) LJ, Suzy and Janelle are likely cored or protected. Sue and Betty need to tighten up, and Tanisha will be back. I believe that Anne Donnovan needs to focus on shoring up the starting small forward and backup point positions this off-season, and this data just further confirms my assertion.
I think we will see a veteran in both spots with another guard and post drafted for the long term. Barring a trade, they have a solid young players in Sue, Tanisha, LJ, JB and Suzy. They need to fill their current gaps with veteran leadership and look for the eventual backup 2 guard and post to replace Betty and Simone down the road. Izzy and Vodo would be good bench players with Vodo serving a larger role than last year.