Thursday, April 26, 2007

Camp Guard Prospects

I took a look at the bubble guards in camp to see if their recent past performances might give any hints about how camp will look. The Storm have made it clear they can only afford 11 roster spots this year due to salary cap restrictions. They are so close to the cap that they had to cut players early from camp to avoid being stuck with salary for players injured in camp. Normally Coach Donovan would go with 7 perimeter players and 5 posts. This year they will have to sacrifice one of the two. That may only leave 2 perimeter player slots available given guarantees for Bird, Lennox, Castro-Marques and Turner. If the candidates were evaluated purely on past performance here is how they would line up...

Katie Gearlds
The Storms first draft pick of 2007 hasn't played her first professional game yet, but if we look at her 2006 numbers from Purdue, she would be a lock for the roster. She stands out in every category, and earns a stunning 99.85 rating using the player rating formula (offensive only) I stole from Kevin Pelton. She was by far the best shooter with a Floor % of 48% (how often did she score when trying to score) and and an Effective Field Goal % of 52% (weighted 2 point and 3 point shooting). Her Offensive Rating was 30 points per 100 possessions better than the remaining candidates at 111.76. Her Points Produced per game (scoring and assists) came in a 17.56 giving her a 14 point edge over her nearest competitor. My defensive rating formulas also gave her high rankings, though that is more likely representative of a tough Purdue team defensive rating than an indicator of individual ability. Currently tracked defensive statistics don't allow for realistic individual defensive ratings. Purdue had a dominant defensive rating of 80.73 which made all of their players look great. Based on the glowing talk out of camp from Anne Donovan, Kevin Pelton and Alan Horton, I would say that Katie is living up to her previous performances and will be a lock to make the roster. With her height, shooting and ball handling skills, she also can play any of the three perimeter positions which will increase her stock.

Francesca Zara
Zara didn't play in the WNBA last season after being injured in EuroLeague play, so I went back to her 2005 numbers with the Storm. She took a while to warm up to WNBA play, and definitely played better as a starter than as a reserve, but was starting to get the hang of her role by the end of that season and saw her minutes rise. Offensively, Zara was the closest to Gearlds with a 40% Floor Percentage, 43% eFG, and 84.68 Offensive Rating, producing 3.14 points per game. She scored the second highest Pelton rating at 74.69. If Zara picks up where she left off she should have a spot on the roster as well. If she has lost a step and Tanisha Wright's offseason efforts bring her back to her 2005 form, Zara might not make the cut. She can play both guard positions, she handles the ball well and showed the ability to hit the outside shot when paired with Sue Bird.

Tanisha Wright
I nicknamed her Tenacious Tenisha after her gutsy, spirited play at the end of her rookie season , but she came back last year out of shape and a step slow. Her shooting was off, she had a tendancy to turn the ball over and she was tentative out on the floor. She had a 38% floor percentage, 36% eFG, 80.88 offensive rating and produced 4.22 points per game last season. Her Pelton rating was a dismal 68.12. She knows the offense, has demonstrated chemistry with the core team, and she has apparently worked on her body and her game in the offseason. She has lost weight and Pelton and Horton say that she is having a strong camp. AD singled her out in the audio file from Tuesday. She has a chance to make the roster if AD keeps 7 perimeter players or if she steps up her game enough to cover the point and the 2 spot. If she does make the team it will likely be her last year as her minimum price tag will rise after three seasons in the league.

Yolanda Paige
I haven't seen Paige play, and she was out of the league last year, so I went back to her 2005 numbers in Indiana. She did not fare well there and has the poorest offensive numbers of the guards in camp. Unless she shows Coach Donovan something new, I don't imagine she sticks once Zara returns to camp. Her overall numbers were close to Wright's, but she lacks the intangibles like experience with the offense and chemistry with the core team. If she shows a knack for hustle defense and any ability with three point shooting she will compete, but not based on her previous WNBA output.

On a side note, Jenny Boucek tells the world she is feeling better. We look forward to crushing your Monarchs on May 11th stay healthy. We want to give you huge welcoming cheers followed by a Key Arena pounding you won't soon forget. We need you to know that you won't have any more victories in Key Arena to look forward to.

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