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WNBA advanced statistics: How strength of schedule might be influencing outcomes for Atlanta and San Antonio

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A look at the updated advanced statistics for games played through June 30th and why we might not want to read too much into the Atlanta Dream's early-season success or the San Antonio Silver Stars' early-season struggles.

The Atlanta Dream are off to a hot start, but will be put to the test over their next six games.
The Atlanta Dream are off to a hot start, but will be put to the test over their next six games.
Photo by Dale Zanine | USA Today

We've had some discussion in Sunday's game thread about which team was actually the best in the WNBA, which is hard to tell this early in the season with so many opponents suffering injuries or missing players but of course it's fun to discuss.

Today, I'll add some statistics to that discussion.

Ed Bemiss of National Sports rankings has updated his WNBA advanced statistics page since last week by adding a sortable interface for the team statistics as well as adding sortable players stats, both of which will serve as a great resource for women's basketball fans.

You can sift through all of those at your leisure, but for now we take a look at the offensive and defensive ratings across the league.

Schedule-adjusted team efficiency ratings

Team

Pts per poss O

ADJ PPPO

Team

Pts per poss D

ADJ PPPD

Phoenix

106.5

106.1

Atlanta

85.5

87.6

Minnesota

106.7

106

New York

88.5

89.3

Chicago

102

100.9

Los Angeles

91.1

91.6

Los Angeles

100.9

100.4

Chicago

93.5

94.8

Atlanta

100

97.8

Indiana

96.2

96.1

Tulsa

96.2

97.6

Minnesota

95.7

96.4

Average

96.7

Average

96.7

Washington

95.6

96.4

Connecticut

98.2

97.1

Seattle

94.7

93.8

Washington

98.8

98

San Antonio

89.6

92.1

San Antonio

101.5

99

Connecticut

90.2

91.3

Tulsa

104

102.6

Indiana

89.6

89.7

Phoenix

102.8

103.2

New York

88.8

88

Seattle

104

104.9

Offensive and defensive ratings (adjusted and unadjusted) for the WNBA as of 7/1/13. Click here for the full statistics.

  • Last week I only posted the adjusted ratings, which Bemiss put together using a strength of schedule adjustment. This week, I'm posting a) each team's points per 100 possessions to make the numbers cleaner and b) the adjusted and unadjusted numbers side by side to see how each team's respective schedule might be influencing their performance.
  • As a pleasant surprise to San Antonio Silver Stars fans, their team benefits the most by far from the schedule adjustment with a 5 point net change. As an explanation, half of their games have been on the road, four of them against the four highest rated teams in the league. Throwing in a home game against the Phoenix Mercury and they've played played 7 of 10 games against the leagues best teams (Chicago and L.A. twice). When you consider all the players they're missing, that's encouraging despite the 3-7 start - once they get healthier, their schedule will get weaker (they've already finished their season series with Chicago and just played their lone road game against Atlanta).
  • On the flip side, Atlanta gets hurt the most by the schedule adjustment with a -4.2 point net change. 7 of 11 games have been at home and their road games have been against teams with 2 of the 4 worst turnover differentials in the league (New York and Washington), which plays right into an obvious strength of the Dream's. Their other two road games were against Connecticut and Indiana, two teams who have struggled to get things going thus far. In short, we'll learn quite a bit about Atlanta after their upcoming stretch of six games: five of them are on the road against Western Conference opponents, including first meetings with Minnesota (7/9), L.A. (7/17), and Phoenix (8/3).

And while I hate to harp on turnovers so much, it makes sense to pay attention to that in the Four Factors numbers given the discussion above.

Team

eFG% NET

Tov% NET

Oreb% NET

FTR NET

Poss.

San Antonio

-7.5

3.8

-4

-5.9

80.5

Atlanta

6.4

3.4

0.5

5.9

81.1

Indiana

-5.6

2.5

-0.7

-6.2

75.7

Tulsa

-6.3

2

-6.5

0.3

80.7

Los Angeles

5

1.9

-2.2

2.8

81.6

Connecticut

-3.9

1.1

-0.3

-5.7

79.1

Minnesota

3.7

-0.2

12.2

0.4

78.9

Seattle

-4.4

-0.2

-4.6

-4.9

75.4

Washington

0.2

-1.7

-2

2.2

81.6

Phoenix

5.1

-2.9

-5.2

3.3

81.8

Chicago

2.5

-3.1

12.4

4.2

81.1

New York

5.2

-7.2

2.2

1.6

82.2

Four Factors numbers for WNBA teams ordered by "Net tov%" as of 7/1/13. Click here to see the full table.

  • It should be pretty clear what has kept San Antonio in games: the best turnover differential in the league, including forcing the highest rate of turnovers in Western Conference. Given major struggles scoring without Becky Hammon and Sophia Young in the lineup, being able to get easy points in transition and taking care of the ball is huge.
  • For Atlanta, we see that they've feasted on the transition scoring opportunities from some of the most turnover-impaired teams in the league. Another of their road games was against Indiana, who couldn't keep up with them on the boards. The last road game they played was close, but against a 2-7 Connecticut team.

NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barlkey recently said on an episode of NBA TV's full court that the idea that a team "isn't as bad/good as it's record" is ridiculous because, to paraphrase, you are what your record says you are. However, in the case of Atlanta and San Antonio, that might not be entirely true - while a schedule adjustment doesn't dramatically change the outlook for either team, there's reason to believe their performance in the first (almost) third of the season won't reflect where they are near the end.