NCAA women's basketball wings whose primary function in college was to score have really struggled to make 11-player WNBA rosters in the last few years.
Part of the challenge is that most rookie perimeter scorers find themselves in a position where they're no longer the focal point of their team's offense. As such, they're faced with a challenge: either they have to be such an efficient scorer that they can score quickly in bunches with the few opportunities they're given or they have to find some other way to contribute.
That just sets up a whole lot of questions for this year's perimeter scoring prospects.
To break up this ongoing analysis of the prospects, I'm defining perimeter scorers rather narrowly, distinct from smaller scoring guards are that often converted to point guards in the pros or other big point scorers with gaudy averages but more versatile skill sets that allow them to do more on the court.
This group of players is a specific set with high usage rates above 24% and relatively low assist and rebound rates* relative to other similar perimeter players in the past three years. In addition, they have "value added" ratings - a player's Model Estimated Value minus points scored - below 0; it doesn't mean they have no impact outside of scoring, but that their net value of everything else that we can count on the court - including missed shots - has a negative impact**.
And similar to other players of the past who fall into this category, this group is not without some major red flags.
Many of the most highly touted perimeter scorers in this year's WNBA draft are faced with a challenge: most of their scoring efficiency statistics are so much lower than I expected that I crosschecked the numbers on multiple sites just to make sure what I was seeing was accurate. And as players who spent so much of their time scoring in college, that's somewhat surprising and might throw their WNBA potential into doubt: one of the things that seems to separate contributors from non-contributors is a 2-point percentage over the 46-48% range (which is a somewhat solid gray area).
For more on the criteria that seems to apply to scoring wings see last season's description here. The following is a list of players from this year with some of the most significant draft stats and how they compare to one another statistically. I've added "marginal victories produced" as a metric for overall production weighted for the player's individual contribution to team success.
|Tyra White||6'0"||Texas A&M||42.9||26.2||45.3||1.67||7.39|
|Keisha Hampton **||6'2"||DePaul||45.3||35.6||54.6||3.63||10.18|
|Brianne Ryan||5'10"||Eastern Washington||46.7||33.3||51.4||3.21||11.83|
Senior season statistics for NCAA perimeter scorers. Click here for explanations of these statistics.
Tyra White, G, Texas A&M Aggies
I'm giving White the benefit of the doubt here: one way to interpret the decline in her numbers is with the departure of Danielle Adams and Sydney Colson, leaving her with an increased scoring burden and caused her true shooting percentage to drop nine percent.
One way to interpret that observation is that she wasn't nearly as efficient as the focal point of the Aggies' offense. The other way to interpret that is that she's a potentially effective player as role player on a more talented team where she can pick her spots. John Hollinger once said that a NBA draft prospect having a down season before the one in the year a player is drafted could be a positive. It's not clear that's always true for WNBA prospects, but watching White play it seems like a distinct possibility.
More on White's season here.
Justine Raterman, G, Dayton Flyers
Raterman is a player who we've felt would be worthy of a second round pick for most of the season and it is our understanding now that a few teams have at least looked at her as a potential second round pick.
She's high on this list for two reasons. First, she's got a strong 2-point percentage for a player that took a lot of jumpers, the best of anyone on this list. Second, her ability to shoot threes suggests a player who could be used on the wing to spread defenses.
She also experienced a decline in her numbers between her junior and senior seasons and the answer is pretty obvious for her: she played in the NCAA tournament last season on an injured knee and might've been slowed this season.
For more on Raterman's season, click here.
Keisha Hampton, F, DePaul Blue Demons
Hampton has been out for the season with a reported ACL injury and will thus likely not play this WNBA season.
Hampton had a marginal 2-point percentage in her junior season, but she's on this list because she also had a free throw rate of nearly 40% which has helped players with marginal 2-point percentages make a roster and even get on the court (e.g. Karima Christmas last season).
Hampton's height and scoring ability could make her the type of player who a team with more picks than roster spots could select and wait on for next year. Of these players, she's also the one who's closest to being "more than a scorer" due to her ability to rebound (which is why she was on our "interior" list originally, but she's more of a wing at the next level). But with a usage rate over 30% last season, she falls in this category statistically.
Natalie Novosel, G, Notre Dame
Novosel presents a bit of a conundrum statistically.
You'll note that she's the best 3-point shooter of this bunch and she's the second-best in this draft. That - and her general toughness and ability to drive so effectively - could make her an enticing prospect.
But her 2-point percentage is low for a scoring guard, she was not a particularly efficient distributor this season, and her numbers declined a bit in her senior season as well. But similar to Hampton above, her high free throw production rate provides reason to believe that she could become a contributor in the league.
There's a number of things to like about Novosel despite the low 2-point percentage, as written previously.
The next five players
The reason I'm not putting numbers by these names is because while there's a vague ordering in my mind, it's not a particularly strong one. That especially true for the next five players on the list.
Brianne Ryan has impressive instincts and was one of the nation's top 25 scorers this season (19.3 ppg). I happened to see Ryan in person when she played Memphis in 2009 and I was able to watch game footage of her again this season against Gonzaga. She's got a great feel for the game on both ends and did a reasonable job containing Memphis Brittany Carter and Gonzaga's Katelan Redmon defensivelywhen she was assigned to them in those games. Whether she makes a roster or even gets drafted is another story, but she's bound to get a look just from being on the top scorer's list.
Speaking of Redmon, the reason she isn't higher on this list despite a 50% 2-point percentage is the low 3-point percentage and a tendency to go through scoring droughts at times. Similar to teammate Kayla Standish, her numbers dropped this season without the presence of star point guard Courtney Vandersloot who moved on to the WNBA. But she's one of the players I've seen the most of any prospect and she's aggressive at attacking the basket and created some major match up problems in college at 6'1".
Carter is as athletic as any guard in the nation and her 2-point percentage is solid despite a lower 3-point percentage. At 5'9", it might not be quite as easy to just rise over people for jumpers as she did in college, but not many players can claim that they dropped 49 points in a game anywhere on anyone. (Click here for more on Carter)
April Sykes is a guard with size, a solid 2-point percentage, and 3-point range, which very well could give her a shot at making a roster. Her low true shooting percentage holds her back on this list as she doesn't get herself to the free throw line all that often.
Kristen McCarthy's statistics don't do her justice. She's a talented, talented player who might have been restricted a bit by Temple not running plays for her at times - she would score in spurts, with an array of fadeaway and pull up jumpers and then just suddenly stop. She could be another player that gets a second round pick despite mediocre statistics and could very well impress a team in training camp. (Click here for our interview with McCarthy).
For more on the 2012 WNBA Draft visit our "WNBA Draft 2012" section.
For an explanation of these numbers, visit our statistics glossary.
* The low assist ratios are actually a major factor in what separates what I'm defining as "perimeter scorers" from the "combo guards" that are wedged into the point guard spot - as an example, Taylor Lilley had a higher assist ratio than any of the players above even though she was known primarily as a shooter in college.
** "Value added" was created for the NBA and I've applied it to the WNBA. The weights would be different for NCAA women's basketball, which is why I'm not listing the numbers here but the point stands - these are players for whom the majority of their value comes from their ability to generate points for their team, sometimes inefficiently. The "value added" rating is just another way to describe that.
*** These are Hampton's junior season numbers since she only played 12 games in 2011-12.