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Becky Hammon's Impact On The San Antonio Silver Stars' Balance From 2008-2010

An "outtake" from a July 1 piece titled, Silver Stars Rediscovering The Chemistry That Got Them To The 2008 WNBA Finals. The section below was originally placed after this section:

In 2010, Johnson was retired, Wauters chose not to play, Snell was released in favor of Chamique Holdsclaw - much more of a pure scorer - and Ruth Riley missed more than a third of the season. Jayne Appel, one of the best passing college centers to ever enter the WNBA and presumably someone who fit the mold, missed training camp due to injury and took some time to find any sort of rhythm in her rookie season.

So what happened?

In response to all that, Hammon became a more efficient ball handler averaging a career-high 5.4 assists per game and handing out assist on just over 25% of her touches, which was above league average and made her more of a distributor than a scorer. But she also had her lowest usage percentage (22.3%) - an estimate of the percentage of plays that a player "uses up" while on the floor - since 2001, two years before she even became a full-time starter for the New York Liberty.

Why might that have had a negative effect on a team predicated on chemistry?

What made Hammon arguably the best point guard in the league back in 2009 was not that she was a pure pass-first point guard but that she was a player for whom her scoring facilitated her passing. And in being more aggressive and drawing attention as a scorer, she not only found ways to set up others, but also created more high percentage scoring opportunities for herself: her free throw rate of 26.94% was considerably lower than her free throw rate with the Stars made the finals in 2008 and her lowest since her first year with the team.

With Hammon less aggressively creating scoring opportunities, it's no wonder that the team shot the most 3-point attempts (587) in Hughes' tenure (coach and GM) with the team at the second-lowest percentage (33.2%).

So why start with one individual's impact when discussing the team?

It's probably the clearest description of what happens when this team isn't quite functioning at their highest levels: less fluidity, settling for lower percentage shots, and unfortunately less wins. But it also points to what Hughes means when he talks about players blending together.

All of that's before discussing their rebounding problems: they entered the season without many strong rebounders and finished the season tied for the second-lowest offensive rebound percentage in the league (25%). One reason for that was star forward Sophia Young's career-low offensive rebounding percentage (5.2%) while also having the lowest usage percentage since her rookie year (24%).

So the 2010 Silver Stars paint an interesting portrait of the different ways in which "balance" operates: Hammon was as unselfish with the ball as she has been in her career, but for some reason it didn't work. And while an obvious rebounding deficiency was certainly part of that, the pieces didn't quite fit together the way they might have wanted either.