In a pre-game chat before last night's 75-59 loss to the Seattle Storm, Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson told Seattle media that he probably would not be making any more trades before the deadline suggesting instead that he wanted to spend the remainder of the season helping this group gel.
Then the game happened.
And then he traded guard Alexis Hornbuckle to the Minnesota Lynx to Rashanda McCants.
If we can set aside the notion that Richardson was attempting to purge Tulsa of Detroit players, it's actually interesting to think about what the trade means to both teams. While the dominant assumption seems to be that this trade is simply a last minute effort to get rid of Hornbuckle it might turn out to be at best a win-win and at worst irrelevant, similar to the Plenette Pierson trade earlier this season.
What Hornbuckle is known for is her defense and that would appear to be a need of sorts for the Minnesota Lynx who are 10th in the league in opponents field goal percentage (45.3%) and 8th in opponent points/possession (101.57). Hornbuckle has a steal percentage near the elite level of 5% and is a strong build to stay with players through contact. Then again, Monica Wright could also grow into the role of perimeter defender.
However, it's also interesting to point out that Minnesota is currently 11th in opponent points of turnovers and last in opponent fast break points. Although Hornbuckle has a much higher assist rate, she is also a guard with a turnover percentage right around 17% whereas McCants is closer to the 11% range, which is a fairly significant difference for perimeter players.
Where the issue of fit might become even more interesting looking ahead is the issue of rebounding. The assumption is that because of their relative builds and per game averages that Hornbuckle is a much better rebounder, but looking beneath the surface might be a more nuanced story.
First, Hornbuckle's higher average could be partially attributed to getting more minutes - the two are separated by less than 2% in overall rebounding percentage. But second, while Hornbuckle is the much better defensive rebounder by a wide margin, McCants is actually the better offensive rebounder by a few percentage points. Neither team is particularly strong on the offensive rebounding end, whereas Minnesota is third in defensive rebounding. So assuming McCants gets minutes - and although a guard should not be expected to remedy an offensive rebounding deficit - she could in fact contribute in that regard.
But in addition to offensive rebounding and turnover percentages, McCants also has a much higher 2 point percentage than Hornbuckle - which, is considered a strong indicator of a player's impact in the WNBA and perhaps an indicator of shot selection - as well as a slightly lower usage percentage meaning she uses up slighter fewer possessions while on the floor at a more efficient scoring clip.
Overall, the point here - similar to comparing Tiffany Jackson to Plenette Pierson - is not that McCants is the better player than Hornbuckle. And I admit this is an optimistic look at McCants (that she potentially contributes more to the all-important Four Factors). Hornbuckle will be a valuable defensive addition to the Lynx, if nothing else. But if there was friction between Hornbuckle and Richardson for any reason and Richardson is trying to bring cohesion to a unit of supporting cast members in building for the future, McCants may well be a fit who is able to contribute more than she's shown in limited minutes on the Lynx.
Perhaps the very fact that Tulsa has now cut all ties with Detroit -- and whatever tension that might have created -- will allow them to move forward. Or maybe this trade is ultimately irrelevant to the fortunes of either team and be nothing more than addition through subtraction of a situation that wasn't entirely positive for coach or player.