Versatile small forwards Swin Cash and Penny Taylor have done a lot of things well during their careers, but apparently not quite enough to be selected for the WNBA's Top 15 Players of All-Time list. Photo by Kailas Images.
But it's not for a lack of nominees that are deserving of mention either.
So returning to the Hall of Fame probability rater, a look at five additional nominees who are probably worthy of an honorable mention.
Some might consider the following players "snubs" because they have among the most impressive statistical profiles in league history, but there's obviously a mix of statistical and non-statistical factors that go into figuring out a player's "influence", as embodied by the WNBA Top 15 selections of a player like Teresa Weatherspoon. And talking about snubs is tough with this type of top 15 list any way because all of those selected were certainly worthy of selection in their own ways.
But for your reference, click here for a full list of the Top 37 WNBA Players of All Time by Hall of Fame probability as a starting point for both the the top unselected nominees and some of the major snubs from the list of 30 nominees. The top 8 players on that HOF probability list should have been considered "locks" based on their statistics alone. It would have taken some elaborate argumentation to leave Sue Bird off the list, as she is widely regarded as the best point guard in the world. After that, things get a little murkier, but the top 11 by HOF probability ended up making the final list of Top 15. So perhaps you could say there were somewhere between 4 to 6 truly "debatable" spots that reasonable people could disagree on.
So splitting the difference, here's the five unselected players that might have had a pretty good shot at the final 15.
An unofficial honorable mention list (in alphabetical order):
Swin Cash, F, 2002-present
Career statistics: 12.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.8 apg
Key accomplishments: All-WNBA second team twice (2003, 2004), three WNBA titles (2003, 2006, 2010), top 25 all-time in a number of statistical categories.
If only the voting for the Top 15 had occurred after the 2011 WNBA All-Star Game in which Cash became both the second player (behind Lisa Leslie) to win two All-Star MVPs and arguably the best WNBA All-Star intro shadow dancer in league history.
But seriously, despite the Western Conference's loss this weekend, Cash seems to bring that winning mentality everywhere she goes. And it shows up in a number of different ways, from making the "blue collar" plays inside to defending some of the best players in the league at the 3. She is one of the toughest players in the league to defend because she can drive by bigger players and post up smaller players. She made plays to re-energize the Storm during lulls on countless occasions, even if teammates Bird and Lauren Jackson got the lion's share of the spotlight.
Given the broad definition of "influence" put forth by the WNBA, some consideration also has to be given to what Cash has done off the court, both with her Cash for Kids organization and visiting the White House to promote President Barack Obama's Fatherhood Initiative in addition to celebrating championships.
Perhaps the "problem" when looking at Cash's profile as compared to the list of 15 is that while she has done a lot on and off the court, there might not be one defining feature of her legacy that some of the other players have. It's an argument that can - and perhaps should - elicit a what more can she do? response, to which the answer is unclear.
Cheryl Ford, F, 2003-2009
Career statistics: 10.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 1.0 apg
Key accomplishments: All-WNBA Second Team (2003, 2006), WNBA All-Defensive Team (2006), best career rebounding average (9.7 per game) and total rebounding percentage (20.5%), WNBA All-Star MVP (2007), three WNBA titles (2003, 2006, 2008*)
Cheryl Ford has the unglamorous distinction of being arguably the most dominant rebounder by percentage in WNBA history. That claim might require a bit of context to support fully.
She hasn't always led the league in rebounding average, although she does have the best career average in league history. But averages are influenced by things such as how many possessions a team has and how well a team both shoots and defends. What's far more impressive is Ford's rebounding percentages, the estimated proportion of available rebounds that she pulls in while on the court.
Ford has led the league in total rebounding percentage a league-high five times; only Yolanda Griffith has even done that twice. In addition, Ford is the only player to lead the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage in the same season (2006). Her averages (although stellar) don't necessarily demonstrate just how dominant she has been on the boards because the Detroit Shock typically played at a below average pace. There's no question that her league-high total rebounding percentage in 2003 (21.0%) is what helped her become the only player to have won the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award and a WNBA championship in the same year.
Yet the reasons not to include Ford in the Top 15 might be clear to some.
Her relatively short career has been shortened by injuries (and maybe, some might say, the Shock's move to Tulsa), causing her to actually miss out on the playoffs during one of those three championship teams she was a part of. She sat out last season rehabbing another knee injury and has yet to return to the WNBA, despite rumors of interest in a return.
On top of the injury history, is "most dominant rebounder by percentage in WNBA history" really compelling to the average person voting on this honor? Maybe not. But if you think there should be a spot reserved for the top distributors (Ticha Penicheiro), scorers (Cynthia Cooper), and rebounders of all time, then Ford might deserve top consideration.
Chamique Holdsclaw, F, 1999-2007, 2009-2010
Career statistics: 16.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.5 apg
Key accomplishments: All-WNBA Second team three times (1999, 2001, 2002), first all-time in career usage percentage (28.4%), seventh all-time in points (16.9) and rebounds (7.6) per game.
You could easily argue that Chamique Holdsclaw was among the most recognized names in women's sports around the time the WNBA launched while she was at Tennessee. She might not have had quite the hype of fellow Tennessee alumnus Candace Parker, but she was someone that mainstream sports fans at least knew about, paid attention to, and still associate with women's basketball today.
But figuring out Holdsclaw's basketball legacy in the WNBA - setting aside personal matters - probably begins with WNBA-high usage percentage.
To summarize, usage percentage is a metric that estimates what proportion of a team's offensive plays that a player "uses up" while on the court. Holdsclaw has three of the top five single-season highest usage percentages of all-time and was the league leader in four seasons in her career. That can be looked at in a positive or negative light.
On the positive end of things, she was a dynamic scorer who was able to create scoring opportunities for herself more often than any player in league history at her best. She still owns the highest single-season usage percentage of all-time (33.31% in 2002) in a year that she carried the Washington Mystics to the Eastern Conference Finals by averaging a double-double in the regular season, despite missing 12 games due to an ankle injury. For all of that, she was the highest player on our Hall of Fame probability list that was left off of the final list of 15.
But the flipside of that is that 2002 was the only year in her tenure that the Mystics made it above .500. In their two other playoff trips, they didn't make it out of the first round. It's unfair to peg the Mystics' mediocrity on Holdsclaw, but for all the shots she took she was also not the most efficient scorer at times. Had she made the Top 15 list, she would have been the only player without a WNBA Finals appearance.
Ultimately, Holdsclaw might have hurt by getting drafted by an organization that has been mired in disappointment for most of its existence. And as talented as she was, her omission could be attributed to that as much as any of the personal matters she's dealt with.
Deanna Nolan, G, 2001-2009
Career statistics: 13.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.6 apg
Key accomplishments: 2006 Finals MVP, All-WNBA First Team (2005, 2007), All-WNBA Second Team (2003, 2008, 2009), WNBA All-Defensive Second Team (2005, 2006, 2008, 2009).
A few years ago when I first started writing about the WNBA, a reader responded to something I wrote with a summary of why Deanna Nolan is his favorite player.
Work ethic, team player, bionic legs, deft passer, poetic, beautiful, best looking jump shot ever, elegant, committed, inspirational, a credit to the Shock, WNBA and humanity. She is where it's at.
That pretty much sums up my feelings about why Nolan is easily one of my favorite WNBA players of all time as well. So needless to say Nolan's omission was the biggest surprise to me.
As I commented elsewhere, I never really entertained the possibility of Nolan being left off the list. She was right behind Holdsclaw as the second-highest rated player left out of the top 15 by our Hall of Fame probability numbers, but it's much more difficult to justify her omission.
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Nolan's combination of athleticism, skill, and court sense made her one of the toughest WNBA players ever to guard even with her rather slight frame. Defensively, her quickness allowed her to guard most players her size. Although she might not have been what most people considered a "point guard", she was more than capable of assuming lead ball handler duties relative to her peers.
What Nolan doesn't have is the individual career statistics that easily back up her five All-WNBA selections. No statistics will capture her four All-Defensive team selections. And unfortunately, it takes a little digging to find her 17.8 points - including 40% three point percentage - 2.8 assists, and 1.8 steals per game that earned her the 2006 WNBA Finals MVP award.
That she eludes neat statistical measure, left the WNBA prematurely and doesn't have the huge persona that some of the others do are the only reasons I can imagine that she got left off.
Penny Taylor, F, 2001-2007, 2009-present
Career statistics: 13.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.8 apg
Key accomplishments: Two WNBA titles (2007, 2009), All-WNBA First Team (2007), 8th all-time career true shooting percentage (57.8%), 8th all-time free throw percentage (86.4%)
Similar to Holdsclaw, there might be one statistic that neatly summarizes Taylor's legacy in WNBA history.
No perimeter player has led the league in true shooting percentage in the last five years, which could probably be attributed to the combination of moving the three point back and implementing the 24-second shot clock. Only two players have led the league in true shooting more than once: Taylor (2004, 2005) and right after fellow Australian Lauren Jackson (2006, 2007). Taylor was second to center Crystal Langhorne last season.
Taylor is not only one of the most versatile scorers ever to play the game, she's among the most efficient ever and quite easily the most efficient small forward scorer ever. When you add to that her ball handling ability - also somewhat off the charts for a small forward last season and this season as well - and her defense, you have one of the WNBA's all-time great players at small forward.
The "problem" for Taylor in making this list might be most similar to Cash, though even more subtle - she can do so many things at once to influence a game that if you're not watching closely she just sort of blends in with the flow of the game. In addition, while her usage percentage usually hovers a tad above average in recent years, she has played with high usage players that "overshadow" her in Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi (and if we were to go strictly by the numbers, Kara Braxton). She's "only" been an All-Star four times, which also falls short of her star teammates and others on the list. Even with two Finals appearances, her Hall of Fame probability was substantially lower than others not even nominated for the top 15 (e.g. Andrea Stinson, Lindsay Whalen, Sophia Young).
There are just so many reasons to overlook Taylor, that perhaps it takes a concerted effort to notice what she's accomplished. But she's one of those players that just makes good things happen when she's on the floor and that's probably what matters most as a teammate.
If you vote in the poll and select "other", please feel free to say who you think should've been on the Top 15 WNBA Players of All Time list (and why!) in the comments.
Which of these players do you believe most deserved to be on the WNBA's Top 15 Players of All Time list?
Swin Cash (26 votes)
Cheryl Ford (3 votes)
Chamique Holdsclaw (21 votes)
Deanna Nolan (12 votes)
Penny Taylor (15 votes)
Other (6 votes)
83 total votes