Weekly WNBA stats update: The L.A. Sparks defense, the Tulsa Shock's offense, and the N.Y. Liberty's turnover problems

USA TODAY Sports

A look at the highlights from the WNBA's latest advanced statistics, which we'll begin taking a look at weekly.

In the past Kevin Pelton of StormBasketball.com has kept up with the WNBA's advanced team statistics.

With Pelton having moved on, Ed Bemiss of National Sports Rankings has stepped in to provide some of those on his site where they will be updated weekly as he does his player rankings. You're certainly free to go to his site and check those out yourself, but for those who aren't statistically inclined I've just picked out a few of the highlights below.

Team

Adj Ortg

Team

Adj Drtg

Phoenix

1.072

Los Angeles

0.889

Minnesota

1.065

New York

0.891

Los Angeles

1.033

Atlanta

0.892

Tulsa

1.012

Chicago

0.966

Chicago

0.997

Connecticut

0.972

Seattle

0.988

WNBA AVG

0.977

WNBA AVG

0.976

Washington

0.981

Atlanta

0.966

Indiana

0.986

San Antonio

0.946

San Antonio

0.987

Washington

0.945

Minnesota

0.991

Connecticut

0.918

Tulsa

1.031

Indiana

0.892

Phoenix

1.057

New York

0.875

Seattle

1.081

Offensive and defensive ratings for the WNBA through games on 6/23/13. Click here for full statistics via National Sports Rankings.

The one thing that immediately stands out is seeing Los Angeles at the top of the defensive list. It might strike some as surprising given how they've played at times but it's easy to explain when you take a closer look at their overall performance this season.

As Zack Ward described in his preview of last night's game in Los Angeles, the Sparks have been a very up and down team so far this season. And it just so happens that the highs have been really high at home and the lows have been really low on the road.

The Sparks, on the other hand, have had people hailing them as the best team in the league after three of their wins, one a 33-point win over the Storm to open the season, and the other two by 36 and 28 points over the Silver Stars and Lynx, respectively.

In the three other games L.A. has played this season they have not been quite as impressive...

One of those other three games were a difficult overtime win against the Tulsa Shock, but the other two were road losses – the Sparks are winless on the road at this point in the season. In short, those blowouts are heavily influencing the Sparks' defensive numbers. They'll be an interesting team to watch moving forward.

On the offensive side of things, Tulsa's offensive rating might be mildly surprising, especially when you consider that they've been without their two primary post threats. But playing at a moderate pace, generally avoiding turnovers has helped them tremendously, and hitting threes the way they do makes them tough to deal with. Given how injured center Liz Cambage started the season and Tiffany Jackson-Jones played when she was last in the league, this is a team that only stands to get better as coach Gary Kloppenburg works out his rotation and rookie point guard Skylar Diggins continues to get more comfortable leading the team. “Exchanging” Kayla Pedersen for Courtney Paris also figures to help this team improve their rebounding, which has been their biggest weakness.

Yet the New York Liberty might be another team that sees improvement over the course of the season on the offensive end.


eFG%

TO%

OReb%

FT Rate


Net

Net

Net

Net

Indiana

-7.2

-4.6

-6.7

-5.9

San Antonio

-7

-3.9

-1.5

-3

Los Angeles

7

-3.6

2

4.9

Atlanta

4

-3.6

-0.1

4.4

Tulsa

-5.3

-2.2

-5.7

1.1

Connecticut

-1.9

-0.9

-0.7

-8.9

Minnesota

2.9

0.3

11.2

0.4

Phoenix

3.1

2

-9.3

2.4

Seattle

-3.7

2.2

0.6

-6.3

Washington

0.4

2.7

-3.1

3.9

New York

4.5

5.4

0.1

2

Chicago

4.5

6.5

13.5

4.4

Avg

0.11

0.03

0.03

-0.05

Four Factors differentials through 6/23/13 (ordered by turnover differential). Green=league-high, Red=league-low. Click here for full numbers via National Sports Rankings.

If you had a hunch that a pattern is unfolding in Ray Floriani's articles about the Liberty, you're not imagining things: every game seems to be about turnovers. But it's not his fault: the Liberty's performance this season seems to be about turnovers.

The Liberty are not only the most turnover prone team in the league right now (20.9% turnover rate), but they also turn the ball over 3% more often the 11th place Washington Mystics. Three percent might not sound like much on the surface, but bear in mind that the range between the league's least turnover prone team (Minnesota) and the 11th place team (Washington) is 4.1% - in other words, New York being 3% below Washington puts them in a distant 12th place.

As coach Bill Laimbeer pointed out after their first home loss yesterday, it's really hard to win that way.

"I have to instill a sense of urgency regarding turnovers to the team,” Laimbeer said, as quoted in Ray's article. “In our system we can't turn it over 21 times and hope to win."

Ray has already documented just how outstanding the Liberty can be when they stop turning the ball over, they've struggled to keep possession of the ball consistently.

What has kept the Liberty in – and winning – games is their defense: you'll note that despite being the most turnover prone team in the league by a significant margin, their margin isn't the worst because they force turnovers at an above average rate. And, of course, the Chicago Sky are sitting at the bottom of the league in turnover rate differential.

The Sky both have a turnover problem as they're barely ahead of the Mystics in 10th (17.4%) and they also force turnovers the least often (10.9%, 5% below league average). What Chicago has that New York doesn't is three All-Star caliber scorers and the league's best offensive rebounding differential, meaning they can not only score in waves but also extend possessions significantly more often than opponents.

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