In his book Stumbling On Wins, Dave Berri found that three traditional box score statistics had more significance than anything else for NCAA draft prospects: 2-point percentage, rebounds, and steals.
The same wisdom can be easily applied to WNBA draft prospects, albeit varying by position of course. And for college power forwards, a player's offensive rebounding rate becomes a particularly valuable way to figure out which players were just pushing around college kids in the paint and who actually has that combination of athleticism and skill that makes for a strong pro prospect.
The value of offensive rebounding
A few years ago when ESPN's John Hollinger first formulated his NBA draft rater, he described the value of offensive rebounding as follows.
Boards, especially offensive boards, are a good indicator of future pro success as well...The correlation isn't quite as strong with big men, oddly enough, because you get one-dimensional types muscling in on the action (a lot of marginal players like Reggie Evans). But big men who can rebound and show some skill in other areas tend to fare very well in the pros.
NBA fans are currently witnessing the wisdom of the value of offensive rebounding for draft prospects in the form of 6'8" Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, who was a monster rebounder at Morehead State and at times appears to know where the ball is going to come off the rim before it even gets to the basket.
As perhaps a stronger example of the idea, 6'9" Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, who was among the top offensive rebounders in the nation during his lone year at UCLA, immediately became one of the NBA's top offensive rebounders, and now he has at least one of our SB Nation colleagues thinking that he can save the world.
I bring those two up for a specific reason, not only that they've been strong on the boards in this year's lockout-shortened NBA season but also because both players faced concerns about whether their size - or relative lack of it - would limit their ability to contribute in the NBA.
Last summer in the WNBA we saw something similar in San Antonio Silver Stars forward Danielle Adams, whose combination of offensive rebounding (12.83% in her senior year) and all-around skill developed at Texas A&M helped her overcome concerns about her size; she ended up making her an All Star and top candidate for Rookie of the Year prior to being injured. In the previous summer, a combination of offensive rebounding and overall skill was also a positive indicator for another prospect, albeit in a very different way: Kelsey Griffin, whose offensive rebounding ability at Nebraska was just one of many signs of her basketball instincts.
Just as not every offensive rebounder in men's college basketball will become recently-inducted Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman - as some analysts projected for Faried - a strong women's college basketball offensive rebounder could result in an All Star career, a marginal rotation player, or a one year flash in the pan who is too one-dimensional to stick around long-term in a league with 11-player rosters.
But all of that is to say that among the best indicators of a power player's success in the WNBA is offensive rebounding, even separate from defensive rebounding where simply being tall and around the basket will yield big numbers.
Interior rebounding forwards among 2012 WNBA Draft prospects in the NCAA
In the 2012 WNBA Draft in particular, there are a number of power forwards who weren't necessarily big scorers but put up some impressive rebounding numbers that earned them accolades. To help figure out which ones have the best chance of contributing in the pros, we'll take a look at those numbers Berri recommended for the set of prospects designated "interior rebounding forward" (think the opposite of the interior scorers presented yesterday or just players with usage rates under 25%).
|Name||Height||School||TS%||2p%||Usg%||Oreb%||Stl%||Stl + Blk/PF|
|Devereaux Peters||6'2"||Notre Dame||57.3||54.4||23.84||17.31||4.51||1.52|
|Lykendra Johnson||6'1"||Michigan State||49||47||24.66||13.10||3.83||0.98|
|Laura Broomfield||6'1"||North Carolina||47||46.1||22.66||15.97||2.26||1.38|
1. Glory Johnson
The consensus is that Glory Johnson might be the most athletic post in the draft and that plus her 6'3" stature make her an appealing prospect. Yet another thing that comes up when discussing Johnson is control and, as Chris Pendley of Rocky Top Talk put it, that " she has really worked to harness that" athleticism (interestingly posed in juxtaposition to Lady Vols teammate Shekinna Stricklen).
What doesn't necessarily show up well in the statistics is Johnson's developing footwork and scoring ability around the basket and her ability to hit shots further from the basket more consistently. Similar to what was said about Nneka Ogwumike, there's something to be said for a player who expands their offensive game and remains almost equally efficient.
If there's one thing that stands out about Johnson's efficiency over her junior and senior seasons, it's that her offensive rebounding percentage went from 16.22% last season to 13.06% this season. One potential explanation for that is who she was playing with: Vicki Baugh and Kelly Cain missed a combined 18 games last season, leaving Johnson with greater opportunity to rebound. Nevertheless, if she continues rebounding at the rate she did over the last 10 games of her career - averaging around 11 rebounds per game including a career-high 21-rebound effort against DePaul in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament - she could be an immediate presence in the post.
For more on Johnson, see the full conversation with Rocky Top Talk about her, Baugh, and Shekinna Stricklen.
2. Devereaux Peters
Although Peters is not typically mentioned among the top three prospects that could be selected after Stanford Cardinal standout Nneka Ogwumike, you can also see that her numbers are comparable to Johnson's and that she's an even better offensive rebounder.
But it's that unquantifiable defensive ability that really stands out about Peters and that defensive versatility is embodied in both her block and steal percentage numbers. Again, it's not a matter of whether she'll continue to get those blocks and steals at the pro level at 6'2" but the fact that she has the combination of athleticism and instinct to make those plays. She has the ability defend anywhere on the floor and with shortened rosters that's a valuable skill.
In addition to rebounding offensively, Peters is a surprisingly strong passer with an assist ratio of 14.44%, which was better than teammate Natalie Novosel (10.82%) and a couple of other top guard prospects in this draft. Although her shooting efficiency (true shooting percentage) dropped about 5% between her junior and senior years, that's easily explained by an increased usage rate.
Nevertheless, what keeps coming up in analyses of Peters is those two ACL injuries she suffered in the first two years of her career. When making the comparison to an athlete like Johnson - if it were to come down to that for a GM - that injury history might break the tie if all else were considered equal. The other thing that stands out is that she was relatively foul prone at the college level, picking up fouls of over-aggression on occasion. The combination of that and her size as primarily an interior player could be a concern, but there's little question she'll be a contributor on a team that can fully utilize her defensive ability.
A player who Peters is remarkably similar to statistically is Tennessee alum Nicky Anosike, whose defensive prowess has become a defining feature for her in the WNBA. One significant difference: Peters has been a much more efficient scorer than Anosike was at Tennesee.
3. Vicki Baugh
You can't teach 6'4" and with Baugh finally fully healthy, the numbers she put up in her senior year at Tennessee were simply outstanding - she improved her scoring efficiency more than anyone among this set of players, simply by virtue of finally nearing full health.
Vicki Baugh's scoring efficiency in her junior and senior seasons.
The one major knock, by comparison, is that some of the other players were better rebounds and expected to bear a large part of the scoring burden for their teams whereas Baugh got more efficient while her usage rate - the rate of possessions she used while on the floor - declined. But the combination of her size and overall skill set make her someone that could contribute to a team looking for an interior presence.
4. Jasmine Lee
Lee might be the purest "power player" on this list and her offensive rebounding percentage is right in the range of a potentially successful prospect - for reference, Danielle Adams had an offensive rebounding percentage of 12.83% last season, albeit a much more versatile player offensively.
Although that rebounding is a good sign, two things stood out from the accounts of Queenie and Ray Floriani who saw Memphis play in two games at the Chartwells Holiday Classic in New York: great instincts but a concern about stamina and conditioning in their 86-67 win over Louisiana Tech and great positioning but an inability to finish against the aggressive defense of the St. John's Red Storm in a 64-60 loss. At 6'2", that combination of observations doesn't bode well for pro success and the 51% 2-point percentage that reflects the latter observation is marginal.
Nevertheless, in the right situation the problem of defenses collapsing on her should be alleviated in the WNBA as she won't be such a focal point. The fact that she was as efficient as she was at an above average usage rate and accounting for a team-leading 23.83% of Memphis' overall statistical production is actually promising - she was a player that shouldered a lot of responsibility as a rebounder and scorer and put up reasonable numbers. Her steal percentage combined with the offensive rebounding percentage also suggests athleticism to go with that power, rather than a slow, plodding player. Still, it's hard to know how well her game will transfer to the pro ranks as it stands now.
5. Adaora Elonu
The next three players on the list are all 6'1" and tough to sort out due primarily to low scoring efficiency. Both Laura Broomfield and Lykendra Johnson are better offensive rebounders and, for what it's worth, Broomfield is the best defensive rebounder (26.62%) of any of the power forward prospects we've looked at.
What separates Elonu is watching the games - Elonu is an athletic player capable of coming out to defend the perimeter, bring the ball up the floor on occasion, and drive to the basket to finish. Most of all, she is a player that always seems to be at the right place at the right time, whether it be to get steals, deflections, or easy scoring opportunities around the basket.
With Adams (last season), Kelsey Bone (13.46%) and Karla Gilbert (13.06% in 2012; 12.69% in 2011) doing so much work on the offensive boards, Elonu was squeezed out, so to speak - there are only so many rebounds available and playing with big bodies like Adams and Bone limits how much Elonu can do on the offensive boards.
Another advantage for Elonu is that her numbers improved between her junior in senior year in important categories whereas both Broomfield and Johnson's declined a bit. Elonu's 2-point percentage made a notable leap as her usage rate went up with Adams gone on to WNBA success. For what it's worth, she also increased her free throw production rate to right around 28%, the highest of these three.
Adaora Elonu's junior and senior year statistics.
As 6'1" players, deferring to the offensive rebounding rate as a sign of athleticism and attitude could arguably be better than focusing on the type of intangibles - athleticism, improvement, right place/right time - that Elonu offers.
For more of our coverage on the 2012 WNBA Draft, visit our "WNBA Draft 2012" section. For more on how these players compare to other prospects statistically, visit our full prospect list. For more explanations on all these statistics, visit our statistics glossary.