Career WNBA Player Efficiency Ratings

I've written earlier on Swish Appeal about 2009 Player Efficiency Ratings for the WNBA. And now, I've finally figured out how to put PER on a career basis.

What I've done is I've weighted PER on the basis of minutes played per year. For example, if a player played 20 minutes in Year One and has a PER of 20.0 and played 15 minutes in Year Two and has a PER of 15.00 for Year Two, her career PER would be (20*20.0 + 15*15.0)/(20 + 15) = 17.86. Since the player had more minutes with a 20.0 PER than minutes with a 15.00 PER, you'd expect the final value to be between 15.0 and 20.0 but closer to 20.0. Weighted PER does that.

I decided to limit my final list to players who played at least 20 minutes a game. This removes players from the list like Sancho Lyttle or Maria Stepanova - great players, but who don't have the average game minutes to make this list.

Career WNBA PER Leaders
(minimum 20 min/game)

1. Cynthia Cooper, 28.73
2. Lauren Jackson, 28.55
3. Tamika Catchings, 26.67
4. Brandy Reed, 25.75
5. Yolanda Griffith, 25.49
6. Diana Taurasi, 24.67
7. Candace Parker, 24.54 (*)
8. Seimone Augustus, 24.48
9. Lisa Leslie, 24.24
10. Sheryl Swoopes, 24.24
11. Angel McCoughtry, 23.19 (*)
12. Chamique Holdsclaw, 22.32
13. Nicky Anosike, 21.92 (*)
14. Penny Taylor, 21.90
15. Cappie Pondexter, 21.63
16. DeWanna Bonner, 21.04 (*)
17. Sophia Young, 20.91
18. Charde Houston, 20.39
19. Janel McCarville, 20.31
20. Natalie Williams, 20.27
21. Margo Dydek, 20.17
22. Becky Hammon 20.06
23. Andrea Stinson, 19.95
24. Candice Dupree, 19.85
25. Lindsay Whalen, 19.78

(*) - Player has played only two seasons or less in the WNBA.

The list is interesting for a few reasons:

1. Those who argue that the best player of all time was not Lisa Leslie but Cynthia Cooper can be bolstered by the results. One of the weaknesses of a career PER list is the list rewards players who had great seasons but not longevity. A player who plays a handful of great seasons never has a sub-par season to drag her career PER down. Cooper played four great seasons, and the scrap of a season she played in 2003 doesn't really hurt her. Leslie, on the other hand, has multiple consistent careers. So who is better?

2. The category of "Strong MVP Candidate" correlates with a yearly PER of 27.50. Which means that Cynthia Cooper and Lauren Jackson have averaged MVP-Capable seasons year after year, if you believe PER. Cooper and Jackson's career PER ratings are actually higher than Michael Jordan's, who leads the NBA in PER with 27.91. So how come Cooper and Jackson have never got national accolades and television commercials? (I'll let you answer that one for yourself.)

3. I'm surprised to see "Planet Reed" so high on the list. Brandy Reed, the fourth best career PER in the WNBA? Reeeeeeallllly?

4. More surprising is not seeing Sue Bird on this list. (Her career PER is 18.03.) Like just about any basketball metric, PER doesn't appear to rate point guards well.

5. Based on the few seasons they've played, it looks like Candace Parker, Angel McCoughtry, Nicky Anosike and DeWanna Bonner are going to be the next generation of WNBA superstars.