Monday, October 31, 2005
Lauren Jackson skirts away from predictions on the 2005-2006 NBA season by claiming ignorance and blaming it on being in Australia all year. LJ, I know that Aussie TV carries ESPN and that you can get NBA League Pass via Satellite, and I even recall an Aussie Sonics fan calling Australian NBA rookie Andrew Bogut a "poor man's Lauren Jackson" on an NBA fan site. You could watch the games if you really wanted to....
Fortunately Sue Bird steps in to bail out the Storm's NBA brethren with a heart-warming but sadly misguided homer vote for the Sonics to win the west, the finals and earn Ray Allen the MVP. Sue, I am a huge Sonics fan, and even I know the chances of that happening are about as high as George Bush taking the podium this January for the State of the Union and apologizing for really screwing up the country.
The Sonics will be competitive, but I haven't seen that they have all the pieces to push past a team like the Spurs or a healthy Suns (the Suns in Phoenix, not Connecticut) in a seven game series to make it out of the west. Additionally, Ray Allen just simply does not have the ability to match the numbers of yearly MVP candidates like Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kevin Garnett. Nash made it last year because he had solid numbers, and his previously underachieving team exploded to lead the league with him added to the helm. Had Ray gone to the Clippers or the Hawks and turned THEM into division champions he would have a chance. Unless the Sonics beat all the odds and win 60+ games this year with Ray averaging 30+ ppg, 5 apg and 5rpg, no one will seriously consider voting for him as their top choice.
If you haven't been to a Sonics game yet, attendance is light in November and early December, the season kicks off on Wednesday (Tuesday for the league) and they have some good games on the early schedule this year. The Clippers, Timberwolves, Bulls and Kings are up in November and Lebron James brings his improved Cavaliers in to Key Arena to kick of December. The Pacers, Knicks, and Rockets are on tap in December along with the much improved Warriors and Wizards. Check out a game, you can get individual game tickets via TicketMaster or game packs online.
WNBA protected lists are due from teams by tomorrow...though we will never know who's on them...and the expansion draft is just around the corner.
Friday, October 28, 2005
As some may know, Lauren Jackson's microfracture injury may keep her out for the remainder of the WNBL season, which has led to the first season loss for Tully Bevilaqua, Carrie Graf and the Canberra Capitals. In Round 4 action the Capitals took the court twice without the world's best woman player. They held on for a 78-67 victory against the Perth Lynx. Tully had a solid game with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals. The Capitals were led by the scoring of Jennie Whittle (22), Eleanor Sharp (14) and Kellie Abrams (14). The Lynx were led by the 25 points of Deanna Smith. When the Capitals faced the Sydney University Flames, however, they saw their first taste what another season of league play without LJ may mean. They fell 92-68 to the Flames with Tully adding 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. They were led again by the scoring of Jennie Whittle (17) and Kellie Abrams (14), with Angela Marino adding 14 points of her own. Trisha Falon (22) and Michelle Musselwhite (19) led the scoring scoring charge for the Flames. The Flames took advantage of the Capitals lack of an inside presence, dominating the boards at both ends of the floor and outrebounding the Capitals 65-39. The Flames offense seemed much more in synch as well as they doubled up on the Capitals in the assists category, 26-13 which allowed them to overcome their 17 turnovers. Their scoring may be helped by the short term addition of Washington Mystics guard Alana Beard next round, but she will do little to help them on the boards. Someone besides Jenny Whittle is going to have to step up in the rebounding department if they want to salvage their season.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
I really have a hard time grasping why the personal life of an athelete is becoming such big news. I sincerely thought of this as a non-issue and had no intention of any deeper thought or musings on the story from ESPN The Magazine that hit the stands yesterday. For those that have not been innudated by the traditional media blitz on the topic and somehow managed to miss the several hundred blog entries in the past 24 hours, Sheryl Swoopes booked a trip on a lesbian cruise line, they saw her on the roster and asked her if she would be a spokesperson. She decided that it was time for her to stop "pretending to be somebody I'm not" and gave an exclusive interview to the ESPN print magazine and also announced her sponsorship of the Olivia Cruise Line. She was once the spearhead of the "we're not gay" marketing motion of the league in its early days when she was married and pregnant. She reportedly left UT for Texas Tech because of unwanted advances by players. After her divorce she had what she says were her first feelings towards a woman and she has been in a long term relationship with that woman since that time. Together they raise Sheryl's eight-year old son.
Apparently this is all big news. I just don't understand why. I read an excellent article by Mechelle Voepel that made me reconsider my stance, but I still lack the understanding that makes it all clear to me. Perhaps I have a hard time grasping the importance of Sheryl's decision to go public with what is truly private because I lack the appropriate perspective. I have unfortunately never had the opportunity to be a woman, gay, famous, an athelete or for that matter to be a famous, gay, woman athelete (wouldn't life be so much more rich if we all could easily slide into and out of the perspectives of others). I am not blind to, nor ignorant of the pervasive poison of fear and hatred of those that are different that permeates modern society. I personally try to fill my life with people who are not tainted by that fear or that hatred and remain tolerant of but distant from those are thus tainted. I endeavor to make clear that I do not agree with the voices of fear and hatred when I am confronted by them so as to avoid the dangers of implied consent, and I stuggle with my own intolerance of the intolerant.
Personally, I am glad that one who has given so much to others is able to give a little something to herself and those she loves. I am thrilled that she is able to live up to the WNBA slogan "This is who I am." I am ashamed that we as a species have been unable to purge fear and hatred of ourselves from our society. I am saddened that people around the world live lives in shadow, secrecy and misery because of the fear created in them by the fear expressed by others.
It is impossible for me to imagine a world where I could not talk about the person I love with anyone with whom I felt like sharing personal conversation. I cannot imagine being self conscious about what I say or do when in front of others with regard to how it might impact my job or any other aspect of my life.
I understand that Sheryl will serve as a role model in a different way than she already does, and that is a great thing. Every child, even the grown up ones, needs quality role models. Sheryl is certainly a person to be admired for who she is as well as for what she has accomplished.
In the end, I guess while this may not be big news for me, I will stop my rant that it should not be big news at all.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
In other news, I am currently considering an in-depth expose on the rampant propagation of vegetarianism in the NBA. In addition to the openly veggie Bill Walton, I have recently uncovered some details of the dietary plans of current and former NBA players including Anthony Peeler, Jacques Vaughn, and Robert Parish. Currently their employers and former sponsors have declined to comment on how this dietary choice impacts their continued associations with these players.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
2005 WNBA bottom dwellers Charlotte and San Antonio continued their year long string of bad luck as they were surprising beat out by Minnesota and Phoenix for the top two spots in the draft lottery.
Phoenix only missed the playoffs because they played on sloppy half against Seattle in their last game of the season. Had they had Maria Stepanova for a full season that game may not have mattered as they would likely have secured the final post-season berth long before that game. They get a HUGE benefit in the number 2 position
Minnesota gave up Katie Smith and is intent on leaning on their youth. Now they get to build on that existing youth with the top spot in the draft. If they can grab a few veterans in the offseason the West could look different next season and VERY different in a few years. Houston, LA and Sacramento are aging. Seattle, Phoenix and Minnesota could be the next reigning Western Conference teams.
The lottery teams were those teams that missed the playoffs, and include Minnesota, Phoenix, Charlotte, San Antonio and Washington. The remaining draft order is determined by record.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Thanks to someone else's careful reading, I have discovered up and cleaned up a couple of important errors in my original computations. I had two games with errors in the scoring columns that cascaded down those games into their +/- numbers skewing the results, and found around 25 games where Ashley Battle and Mandissa Stephenson were given incorrect calculations which threw off the totals. I used the overall team +/- to sanity check the data and got all 34 games to line up. Strangely I seem to be off by a single point when they roll up to the final numbers, but I haven't been able to track that down yet. My previous post has been updated with the correct numbers for raw +/-.
Per 40 Minute +/- Ratings (edited 10/24 to reflect corrections to player minutes and net40 Off Court computations)
It is difficult to assess the actual potential value of a big minute player from a minor contributer with the raw +/- ratings. A better view is to see how a contribution might play out over a 40 minute contribution (playing one full game.) This still does not adjust so much for players who get most of their time in garbage time, but gives us a little better perspective.
Suddenly the biggest contribution on the team come from Natalia Vodopyanova. She had very a strong line, but played considerably less minutes this past season than did raw leaders Sue Bird and Betty Lennox. Tanisha turns positive in this scenario, making her potential contribution to the team with increased minutes next year even more clear. Simone also turns up positive strengthening my case that she returns AGAIN next season. I struggle understanding why LJ turns negative numbers in this scenario. I simply cannot believe that the team would actually play better without her.
Judging by these numbers we could have had a very dominant lineup if we had played a starting five of Bird, Lennox, Vodo, LJ and JB. Press reports at the end of the season said that AD was not likely to bring Vodo back because of her inability to defend the SF position effectively in the WNBA. These numbers seem to contradict her assertion. We don't have insight into all that goes on in practice or on the bench, but these numbers seem to indicate that her value to the TEAM may outweigh her particular weakness. This alone may warrant Vodo another look, if not by Seattle, perhaps by another team...perhaps the Chicago Sky should be eyeing her for the expansion draft.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
I have finally finished the +/- ratings for the Storm this past season. For those who are not familiar with this rating, it is a fairly commonly used measure of what impact a player has on their teams play. You calculate the number of points scored by the team while the player is on the floor and you also calculate the number of points scored by the opponent while the player is on the floor, and their rating is the difference between those numbers. A positive rating shows how many points their team outscored the opponent when they were on the floor.
The second set of ratings is how well the team plays when the player is off the floor. The same two numbers are calculated for the team and the opponent when the player is off the floor and the difference shows how the team performed against opponents without the player. A negative rating here shows that the team was outscored by their opponents when the player was not on the floor.
The final set of ratings is sometimes known as the Roland Rating for Roland Beech who calculates this number for NBA players at 82games.com. This rating computes the per 48 minute ratings and then computes the difference of the first two ratings together. A player with a positive on floor rating and a negative off floor rating earns a high Roland Rating since the team performs well with them on the floor and poorly with them off the floor. I will be posting the per 40 minute numbers as well as the Roland Rating later this week.
2005 Storm Player Ratings (Edited 10/24 to fix errors)
I was really surprised by the final numbers. I was not as surprised by Zara being at the bottom of this list, but the huge gap in performance between Bird and Zara reinforces for me how much the Storm need to strengthen their backup point guard position next season.
Suzy's ratings also surprised me. Obviously she was not a problem offensively, her other numbers are too strong in that area to lead me down that path. Clearly her defense could use even more work than I had originally thought. Granted, since she is generally substituting for Lauren and JB, I expect the her to not show fantastic off-court numbers since the players she is replacing are such high quality, however, she will need stronger on court defense to raise her overall rating.
The other big surprise for me was how poorly Tanisha shows over the full year. While she is a solid defensive player who has grown her offense over the course of the season, her numbers were hurt by some seriously poor showings in a number of games. Despite some assertions that Betty hurt the Storm defensively, these numbers say the team did much better offensively with Betty and without Tanisha, moreso than the other way around. Her rating actually dropped as she earned more minutes in the second half of the season.
Vodo's strong showing compared to Izzie's makes me wonder why she saw such limited minutes, though her strong numbers were during a solid midseason stretch and dropped considerably over the remaining season.
Among the expected results were a strong showing from JB. She more than stepped into the role vacated by Kamila Vodichkova's exodus to Phoenix. Her importance to the team offensively and defensively is clear. Her ratings dropped off in the last few weeks of the season, but she was dominant in the early in the season. Sue was the inverse, starting off strong, but falling off early and ending the season with some amazing numbers.
I am not fooled by LJ's middle of the pack numbers. For one, the post was the strongest that it has been for the Storm off the bench. JB would often sub in for LJ with Suzy already on the floor, leaving less of a whole in the front court than we have ever seen. Additionally, she is almost NEVER off the court, so her on-court numbers are clearly skewed by the other players on the floor with her, moreso than a player who actually rotates out for more than a minute per game.
As far as AD's cuts for the season...there were only three players who presented a negative on-court statistic in their limited minutes, and they were Zara, Ashley Battle (-1) and Mandissa Stevenson (-6), two of whom were cut early in the season. I am not sure we see Francesca back next year for this very reason.
These numbers merely reinforce what we already know about this team. The biggest weaknesses for the year were at the SF position and the backup PG position. I expect these to be the two areas AD attempts to bolster in the offseason.
Monday I will take a look at the Net40 ratings, or the values per 40 minutes each player acheived. This will alter the ratings for players who see less time. We expect them to have smaller numbers than the big minute players in the raw ratings.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Women's Hoops blog points out an Australian article that indicates LJ has been diagnosed with stress fractures in her leg believed to have been suffered in WNBA play back in July/August. She hopes to be back playing in January and guarantees herself ready for the Commonwealth Games in March. She said that she is rethinking her commitments to the Seattle Storm in light of the recurring injuries and their impact on her ability to play for her country.
Let's hope this is just a moment of mental darkness for LJ or that the media is creating a story...the Storm fall to the middle of the pack in the league, if not worse, without LJ.
Monday, October 17, 2005
On my +/- journey, I have three games remaining. Sue Bird has taken over the lead from Vodo with JB right on her trail. I should have the final numbers up this week, though business travel is getting in the way of my analysis as I am presenting at a conference in Orlando all week.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Women's Hoops Blog and Rebkell both got cited by ESPN's Mechelle Voepel in her offseason wrap up as places on the web worth a fan's time.
Speaking of Voepel...she makes the grade over at Full Court Press for their all-WNBA awards. With her Best WNBA analyst (print) award, she joins Storm favorites Lauren Jackson (first team) and Sue Bird (honorable mention). Also of note to Storm fans is Trudi Lacey's award for Worst General Manager move (player). She gets picked on for signing Sheri Sam away from the Storm for far more than any other team even considered offering.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Some hints on what I'm seeing...
Well about halfway through the season JB is leading the +/- race averaging +48. The other big surprise...Batgirl is leading the other end, averaging a sad -35. I expect that Suzy's numbers have to improve as the season goes on. Also, despite her light offensive production at the start of the season, Tanisha is already in the positive at +19, thanks to her solid defense. This is even more impressive to me, since I am now at the low point of the season for the Storm, they have just slid to .500 for the first time.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Thanks to the She's Got Game blog for the pointer to another of Sue Bird's offseason activities. She will be joining former UCONN teammate Diana Taurasi back in Connecticut Friday, October 14th for the Women's Basketball Supershow. WNBA.com has posted the list of International team destinations for WNBA players in the offseason.
For the Storm, Betty Lennox will play for Beijing in the China league and JB will be playing in the Czech Republic for USK Blex Praha. Sue will return to the cold of Russia and join Vodo to play for Moscow Dynamo, and LJ is already playing in Australia for the Canberra Capitals. Suzy rounds out the list, gaining some more international experience playing against Sue Bird in the Russian league for Ekaterinburg. If you don't speak the languages...try translators from Google and Alta Vista.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
I believe that good teams tend to play to the capabilities of their opponents, rather than to the best of their own capabilities, which allows for some artificial parity in the team records over the course of the season. For this reason I wanted to take a look at the offensive and defensive ratings in the league since 1997, and see how the spread looked from those perspectives. I am only looking at the spread between the best and worst teams in the league and the standard deviation for that year.
Offensively we are looking at a spread of the number of points scored per 100 possessions. For example, in 1997 the best team (Houston) scored 14.07 points per 100 possessions more than the worst team (Utah). The standard deviation represents a number of points per 100 possessions a team is away from the average. In 1997, the standard deviation was 4.04 points per 100 possessions. The average rating for that year was 92.27 points per 100 possessions. Houston, which had a 99.43 point per 100 possession offensive rating was ~1.7 standard deviations from the league average. Utah, which had an 85.36 points per 100 possession offensive rating was ~1.7 standard deviations from the league average.
|Year||Offensive Rating Spread||Std. Dev.|
Offensively the league has essentially remained at the same parity it was since it was originated. The difference between the best and worst teams has changed drastically, but outside of the year 2000 when there was much less parity and the year 2004 when there was the most parity, the balance in the league has not changed much.
Here we are looking at how many points per 100 possessions a team allows. The best defensive team in 1998 was the Houston Comets, allowing only 88.22 points per 100 possessions. The weakest defense in 1998 was run by the Washington Mystics, allowing 104 points per 100 possessions. This created a spread of 15.77 points per 100 possessions between the best and worst teams defensively in 1998. The average defense in 1998 allowed 94.70 points per 100 possessions and the standard deviation was 4.40 points per 100 possessions.
|Year||Defensive Rating Spread||Std. Dev.|
Here again we see more change in the difference between the worst team and the best, than we do in the standard deviation. There was less parity in the league defensively to start with but it moved more quickly to parity before drifting apart, returning and drifting apart once more. In general it looks like there is more parity in the league defensively, with last year representing the largest difference since the first two years of the league. 2004 is once again a year of the greatest parity with only 1999 representing a small amount more.
The differential relates to the difference between a teams offensive rating and its defensive rating. In other words, if the best team scores 105.76 points per 100 possessions and allows 92.49 points per 100 possessions (as Houston did in 1999), then it has a differential of 13.27. It will outscore its opponents by 13.27 points per 100 possessions. Compare this team to the worst team which scored of 88.74 points per 100 possessions while allowing its opponents to score 97.69 points per 100 possessions (as Cleveland did in 1999) earning a differential of -8.29. This gives the year 1999 a spread of 22.63 points in differential between the best and worst teams. The average differential for 1999 was -0.02 (it was a bad offensive year) and the standard deviation was 6.12.
|Year||Differential Rating Spread||Std. Dev.|
Now we have something that follows Kevin's numbers in terms of trending, though the standard deviations are broader. The league shows an approach towards greater parity with 2004 offering the greatest parity. This past season has shown a wider gap, returning to the gap more like the earlier years of the league.
Is there parity in the league? For the most part, there is. What remains to be seen is whether the widening gap of 2005 is an abnormality or the start of a new trend. With the addition of the new Chicago Sky there may be some dilution of talent, and less parity than 2005, unless the influx of talent from the draft outweighs that impact. Whether the league decides to adjust its season to accomodate FIBA's conflicting schedule may also impact league parity. There is a great deal of International talent in the league, and their absence could dilute the league further and create less parity as well. For this, we shall have to wait and see.WNBA
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Saturday, October 01, 2005
The Canberra Capitals started their season with a dominant 91-47 win over the Australian Institue of Sport (AIS) team. LJ dominated the game with 39 pts, 9 rebounds and 5 steals. Tully added 5 pts, 7 assists and 5 steals. Kellie Abrams (15 pts) and Jenny Whittle (12 pts) rounded out the scoring for the Capitals. Canberra shot 40% from the field, 40% from behind the arc, had 23 steals and harrassed AIS into 40 turnovers.
2006 WNBA Free Agents
The league has posted the 2006 free agency list. I took a stab at the offensive ratings for the available agents. I have sorted them and selected the top 10 offensive ratings, though the number of scoring possessions should be considered since some of the players put in very few, albeit quite effective, minutes.
|Player||Off. Rtg.||2005 Poss.||Pts. Prod/G|
I know I am biased towards our last Storm original, but she makes the top of the list because of her efficiency this year, not because she is still my favorite Storm player. This alone makes me think she gets signed again next year. Katie Smith and Becky Hammon are going to go for big money, and are not really on the table for the Storm next year. Most of the rest won't be in the Storm's price range either. Andrea Stinson might be a veteran steal at the guard spot, and comes from a solid defensive team in Detroit.
Other notables on the top of the list are Dawn Staley, Janeth Arcain, Lakeshia Frett and Tamecka Dixon. Of course, the Storm are looking for veteran leadership in a backup point and to shore up the small forward position. Defense is more important from the point, but offense would be useful at the three.
I left some excellent names out from the restricted list, since I doubt we see any movement from those players, at least as far as the Storm are concerned. They won't be bidding high enough for these players to avoid teams matching the offers.
It will also be interesting to see how teams' needs change after the expansion draft. Chicago may decide to pursue some of these more high profile free agents for more cash than other teams, since Chicago has no big salaries on their roster to start with.