Silver Stars Will Need Stronger Chemistry Than Normal To Be Successful In 2012

After an impressive rookie season, San Antonio Silver Stars guard Danielle Robinson will play a key role in helping the team's offense remain fluid in 2012 as one of the league's top shot creators. Photo by Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE

Wednesday night's loss to the Chicago Sky pretty much represented a problem that the San Antonio Silver Stars appeared to have on paper before the season given the tendencies of their current personnel as well as who they lost.

Nevertheless, what still stands out as intriguing about this team's offseason decisions is that they essentially decided to punt on ameliorating their biggest weakness, instead choosing to reinforce a relative strength.

2011 Season in Review

Click here for an explanation of this framework and here for our statistics glossary.


eFg% Tov% Oreb% Fta/Fga
San Antonio Silver Stars 47.96% 0.15 20.30% 28.43%
Opponent 46.70% 0.18 27.46% 29.18%
Weighted Differential 0.13 0.29 -0.30 -0.02

2011 Four Factors for the San Antonio Silver Stars.

The Silver Stars had the lowest rebounding percentage in the WNBA last season, with a total rebounding percentage of 26.4%. Although their defensive rebounding percentage (72.5%) was third in the league - they allowed the second least second chance points in the league last season behind the Lynx - their league-low offensive rebounding forced them to shoot extremely efficiently to win games because they had the third least second chance points per game (8.18) in the league and the least points in the paint per game (29.53).

The Silver Stars' strength was their trademark synergy and obviously with a player like guard Becky Hammon, they have the capacity to score. But, as their performance against the Sky demonstrated in the early-going this season, they were also a perimeter-oriented team in 2011 that settled for a lot of mid-range jumpers, which could lead them to go cold against stronger defenses. With the loss of one of their interior players the post scoring and rebounding situation could get worse.

Key personnel departure

Wnba_2011silverstars_stats_html_6e6ea8ba_medium

The loss of Ruth Riley is not just significant because she was their fifth biggest contributor last season, but because she was the team's second best defensive rebounder (19.3%).

Given that Riley only played 19 minutes per game, it's not a major loss but it certainly doesn't make them a better rebounding team by any means. But that only makes the Silver Stars' offseason moves even more interesting: rather than make moves to improve upon their biggest statistical weakness, they sought to reinforce an area of strength relative to opponents.

Key veteran additions for the 2012 Silver Stars

New veterans

SPI Style

Min/G

VCR

TS%

Tov%

Oreb%

FTR

Usg%

Value Added

4-yr RAPM

Tangela Smith

S

21.53

0.69 <

47.23 <

12.25 <

4.84 =

14.35 <

19.33

-1.38

-1

Shameka Christon

S

31.18

1.24 >

57.35 >

9.99 >

3.39 <

33.42 >

23.06

-3.25

1.3

2011 statistics for Tangela Smith, 2009 statistics for Shameka Christon

Despite being a below average rebounding and scoring team in the paint, the Silver Stars were around average from further out and about average from the 3-point line (35.6%). Their new veteran additions figure to add to their 3-point shooting ability more than anything else.

Smith has been on the decline in recent years - she had a career-low defensive rebounding percentage last season (12.7%) - but is a career 34.4% 3-point shooter and shot about that last season. In her last full season in the league in 2009 - during which she was named an All-Star - Christon shot 38.2% on the third-most attempts (204) to become one of the league's top 10 scorers. And with her VCR of 1.24 - well above average for a scorer - Christon likely still has the ability to score efficiently after two years of dealing with injuries, if nothing else.

Last season, the Silver Stars struggled when Adams missed 11 games due to injury because they missed her perimeter shooting that helped to spread the court for players like Hammon or Robinson to drive to the basket. With the way the Silver Stars move the ball, having two additional average-usage scorers like Christon and Smith around the 3-point line could make them a more efficient offensive team despite the obvious rebounding and post scoring deficiency.

2012 Silver Stars rookies

Rookies

S

P

I

Projected WNBA Style

Shenise Johnson

24.40%

81.60%

45.00%

M

Ziomarra Morrison *

2011-12 NCAA statistics for Silver Stars' rookies.
* Did not play in the NCAA.

Although they might have been expected to target an interior player in the 2012 WNBA Draft, rookie Shenise Johnson was a can't-miss prospect at the fifth pick and she's a perfect fit for the Silver Stars' style of play - she can do a little bit of everything from defending to passing to rebounding to scoring and will give the Silver Stars a versatile wing that allows them a little more freedom in mixing up the lineups once she adjusts to the WNBA game.

Returning Silver Stars players

Returners

SPI Style

Min/G

VCR

TS%

Tov%

Oreb%

FTR

Usg

Value Added

4-yr RAPM

Danielle Adams

S

20.88

1.20 >

54.74 >

8.96 >

8.41 >

30.87 >

27.72

-2.72

1

Jayne Appel

IU

14.57

1.03 >

49.50 >

15.54 >

10.22 >

28.09 <

12.57

2.81

0.1

Tully Bevilaqua

DU

14.53

0.78 <

55.05 >

14.71 >

2.34 =

21.95 <

10.74

1.42

-1.8

Becky Hammon

DS

31.81

1.21 >

58.60 >

15.66 >

0.55 <

27.75 <

24.98

-1.61

0.8

Jia Perkins

S

25.05

1.08 >

51.10 >

7.27 >

2.98 <

19.29 <

23.55

-2.07

2.9

Danielle Robinson

DU

23.12

1.06 >

55.14 >

13.46 >

3.52 >

43.66 >

18.44

1.28

1.1

Sophia Young

M

31.61

1.13 >

46.47 >

8.57 >

5.31 <

39.35 >

22.98

0.23

0.9

2011 statistics for returning Silver Stars players.

Strengths:

  • Complementarity: The Silver Stars have done something really interesting here and perhaps it's obvious why I enjoy watching them so much. They've put together a team almost entirely made up of scorers and distributors. Shenise Johnson figures to fall somewhere in between as a more versatile player and Sophia Young had been a scorer for the previous 3 seasons because she was a higher usage rate (scoring) lower rebounding rate (interior) forward. That their two primary distributors - Becky Hammon and Danielle Robinson - were also their most efficient scorers last season only adds to the potential for this approach to work: they demand attention from defenses as both distributors and scorers.
  • Turnover rates: Although it hasn't been the case early in this season having dealt with Tulsa's defense and struggling to force turnovers on a Sky team that has generally had a turnover problem, the Silver Stars are returning their primary ball handlers and should be able to continue keeping those turnover rates down. You'll note that nearly their entire roster had above average turnover rates last season - they have some room for error.
  • Synergy: Robinson's creation ratio of 2.68 was 16th in the league last year, meaning that she is one of the biggest threats to create a scoring opportunity with the ball in her hands. Hammon was one of the league's top scorers last season. For much of the season, the Silver Stars had 6 players with above average pure point ratings, which is quite a feat - for context, the Minnesota Lynx finished the season with a league-best six players with above average pure point ratings. They had the second highest synergy rating last season and with at least two additional 3-point shooters this season - who figure to play as much or more than those that departed - it wouldn't be difficult to imagine their shooting efficiency going up a bit as they start hitting shots and spreading out defenses.
  • Internal improvement: Something else that really stands out about this roster is that nearly all of their returning players had above average VCRs, which means they can be expected to maintain or improve upon the number of quality minutes they offered last season. That's especially important for their younger players - Adams and Robinson - but impressive for their returning veterans.

Questions:

  • How will their roster changes affect their shooting efficiency? Surprisingly, shooting efficiency isn't as big a strength as one might assume for the Silver Stars, perhaps in part because they are such a perimeter-oriented team. Although it's likely that they remain more efficient than their opponents in the long run, it will be interesting to see how well a roster full of scorers and efficient ball handlers can make a perimeter-oriented approach work.
  • How much can Shameka Christon give them after two years battling injuries? Christon fits not only because she's such a great shooter, but also because she's an efficient ball handler for an above average usage wing. Again, when you think about how the Silver Stars move the ball to get shots, adding another standout scorer who can make good decisions with the ball could only make them more potent.
  • Are they too reliant on ball movement to score? This is a legitimate question for the Silver Stars in the past few years. What really separates them from the Minnesota Lynx (or the NBA's San Antonio Spurs, for that matter) is that they haven't had either the balanced scoring (interior and perimeter) or the dominant trio of scorers that can make their beautiful ball movement really dangerous; in other words, they haven't had the diversity of threats (dominant offensive rebounders, slashers, or scorers all over the floor) that elite teams that play a similar style of ball might have. Statistically, it shows up in the fact that they don't have a lot of players who can create their own scoring opportunities - although Robinson was 16th in the league last season in creation ratio, she and Hammon are the only two Silver Stars players on the 2012 roster among the top 50 players in the league in creation ratio. That means their roster is heavily dependent on their distributors to set up for shots in order to score. Of course with that being the case, it's a good thing that they have a lot of efficient ball handlers on their roster. But there are times when they can struggle to take advantage of their ball movement due to a lack of balance.
  • Does Becky Hammon need to be more of a scorer? The biggest problem with their reliance on ball movement is that Hammon is best when she's free to be a scorer or rather the Silver Stars are best when Hammon is scoring and others are able to play off of that.
  • Do they need to make a move to improve their rebounding? There are two simple ways to look at the Silver Stars rebounding situation from last year: they've proven capable of winning in spite of that, so they could just focus on reinforcing everything else or it's such a big problem that they had to address it in order to win. Obviously they've made the playoffs without rebounding well, but when you look across the Western Conference - particularly with the prospect of players like Lauren Jackson returning to the Seattle Storm - it's hard to say whether they can advance past the first round without becoming a better rebounding team.

Breakout player

One player who might be looked upon to help on the boards is Jayne Appel, who is also really the only candidate for a breakout player (especially if you take 2011 Rookie of the Year candidates out of that mix). The fact that Jayne Appel has a VCR well above average suggests that she could offer the team more productive minutes than she has thus far in her career. But we also have to take into consideration that Appel has not completed a full training camp in her two previous seasons, which has clearly hampered her. One thing that bodes well for her continuing to be a productive player is her offensive rebounding percentage, an obvious area of need for the Silver Stars and something that could help them take a step forward if someone in the lineup can put in some work on the glass.

2012 Outlook: Playoff contender

The San Antonio Silver Stars had every reason to be optimistic about their chances to finally advance past the first round of the WNBA playoffs for the first time since 2008.

They return the majority of the 2011 unit that was the only one to pick up a playoff win against the defending champion Minnesota Lynx and return their two talented rookies that can expect to get better - forward Danielle Adams was a frontrunner for the 2011 Rookie of the Year award prior to being injured and point guard Danielle Robinson seemed to get more comfortable with WNBA ball by the game.

This is probably one of the most cohesive rosters in the league, in that you can see how the pieces fit together and do complement each other even if they're not terribly balanced. But for all of that complementarity on paper and their success early last season, the thing that has held them back figures to continue to be a barrier this season: rebounding. It would require improvement from across the roster and a chemistry even stronger than that which they had in their 2008 playoff run to help them break through to the second round. That's certainly not impossible to imagine and it would be beautiful basketball to watch if they can get it done.

For a look at all these statistics on a single page, click here. For more on what all of these statistics mean, visit our statistics glossary.

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