Now that the regular season is complete, let’s take a look at how teams fared in a variety of statistical categories and how those compare to their performances last year.
This chart shows offensive rating in blue and defensive rating in red for each team and is sorted by points per 100 offensive possessions. The difference between the two is the net rating as all four non-playoff teams had negative net ratings and all eight playoff teams had positive net ratings. Defense was a common thread among the worst teams in the league as the five with losing records had the five worst in the league. The two teams that were worst on offense ended up struggling the most as their porous defenses also did not help them pick up wins. The two teams that ended up with the best records had different approaches. Seattle’s dominance was built at both ends of the court, ranking second at both types of efficiency. Atlanta had the league’s best defense, getting just enough on offense to win a number of close games.
Change from 2017:
Teams are ranked by their offensive improvement as the blue bar represents the change in offensive rating and the red bar represents the change in the defensive rating. Team win totals changes are listed next to the team name. A negative change in defensive rating is good because it means fewer points were given up per 100 possessions. Even though Bill Laimbeer has a reputation as a defensive coach, it was the offensive change that was in the right direction for the Aces as they had a greater improvement in that category than any team. Seattle’s improvement was on both ends of the court, especially defensively and Atlanta’s similar improvements showed why both increased their win totals the most. Washington and Dallas also improved in both categories even though Dallas did not improve their record. The three teams that had the best net ratings a season ago all saw them drop drastically, contributing to the three worst drops in wins. The Liberty had the third best defense a year ago, but ended up with the third worst this season and their offensive efficiency also decreased. Minnesota was the leader in both categories last year and saw large drops while Los Angeles still maintained the second best defense even with a decrease while watching their offense suffer as well.
Defensive rebounding is shown on the y-axis while offensive rebounding is shown on the x-axis and both are expressed in percentages of opportunities available. Separating the two is especially important in evaluating defensive rebounding as different teams show different levels of interest in offensive rebounds compared to getting back on defense. Minnesota featured two of the top rebounders of all time and as a result were the best in the league at limiting their opponents’ opportunities. Chicago was the only team to fail to even grab 70% of their opponents’ misses, which may have contributed to their league-worst defensive efficiency. Connecticut and Dallas were among the league leaders in both categories, but were especially dangerous on the offensive end. The Sparks were average on the defensive end, but were the only team to grab less than 22% of their own misses, which may reflect a strategic decision. Phoenix was second worst in both categories.
Change from 2017:
The x-axis represents change in offensive rebound percentage and the y-axis represents change in defensive rebound percentage. Both are measured in absolute terms and not as a percentage change. Three teams improved in both categories with Seattle’s new look frontcourt clearly helping them on the glass with the biggest gains in both categories. Four teams decreased in both categories, but none as severely as the Liberty as their general downfall was shown quite clearly as they were the league leader in both categories last season, but fell back into the pack this year. The Sun had a big jump to become the league’s best offensive rebounding team while Minnesota shored up their defensive rebounding even though they had a similar decrease on the offensive end.
There were few other interesting team stats changes this year in other categories. Minnesota was the only team to not improve their assist to turnover ratio this season. The biggest improvement was shown by Las Vegas, which saw the amount of possessions ending in a turnover drop by five and a half percentage points, which had to be a factor in their improved offensive efficiency. Free throw rates dropped for most teams, leading to a decreased reliance on the stripe as a source for points while most teams got a higher percentage of their points from the behind the arc with the Aces as a notable exception due to finally having a post presence. New frontcourt players also changed the rates at which teams block shots as Seattle and Dallas had the biggest jumps.
Points by Type and Opponent Stats:
The chart on the left shows how teams got their points while the chart on the right shows how they gave them up on the defensive end. The bottom of each bar is two pointers, the middle is three pointers, and the top is free throws. Las Vegas was the team that was least reliant on generating offense behind the arc, 7 percentage points below the next closest team and the only team to not score at least 20% of their points from distance. Unsurprisingly they were first in percentage on points from inside the arc and second in percentage on points from the line. Phoenix was the only team to score less than half their points from inside the arc while Seattle was the only team to get more than 30% of their points from long range. There was much less variation on the defensive end, but the Liberty gave up the highest percentage of opposition points on three pointers and free throws.
Looking at the stats put up by opponents can also be useful in other categories. The Sparks forced a greater percentage of turnovers than any other team, helping their opponents have a worse collective assist to turnover ratio than any individual team. The Sky were in the middle of the pack when it came to forcing turnovers so the high assist to turnover ratio of their opponents should be attributed to a large number of assisted field goals. Los Angeles was the best team at avoiding having their shots blocked while Chicago had the worst percentage. The Liberty gave their opponents the most free throws compared to field goal attempts while the Lynx and Storm gave up the lowest free throw rates.
Home vs. Road:
The blue bars represent the difference in offensive rating on their home court and on opposing courts and the red bar represents the difference in defensive rating on their home court and on opposing courts. A negative number for defensive rating means that the team has a more efficient defense at home and teams were sorted in order of the biggest difference in offensive rating. Each team the difference between home wins and road wins next to their name. Four teams were more than three wins better on their home courts and they were better on defense on their home courts. Dallas and Connecticut were five wins better at home as they had the two biggest offensive advantages while Washington was the only other team to be more efficient on both ends of the court. Los Angeles and Atlanta, on the other hand, had the two biggest defensive improvements at home, but both had less efficient offenses. Indiana and Phoenix were the only teams to win more games on the road than at home and it appears that worse defense should be blamed as both teams were better offensively at home. All teams were better on at least one end of the court at home.
The y-axis shows the difference in defensive rebound percentage at home compared to the road while the x-axis shows the difference in offensive rebound percentage at home compared to the road. Scale is based on absolute percentage points and not the ratio between the two. Five teams grab a higher percentage of misses at both ends of the court at home while Indiana is significantly worse at home on both ends and Minnesota less so. The Sun are the best team overall at offensive rebounding, but that advantage seems to come primarily on the road where their percentage is more than five and a half points higher than their closest competition. The Sky and Mercury are the two worst defensive rebounding teams in the league, but that should be blamed more on their inability to secure rebounds on the road than at home.
Seattle and Los Angeles turned the ball over more at home than on the road, leaving them as the only two teams with a worse assist to turnover ratio at home while Chicago managed to avoid a similar fate despite difficulties hanging on to the basketball at home. There was no overall trend for block percentage, but the league’s best shotblocking team Atlanta made sure to give their home fans a little extra to cheer about defensively while Connecticut was more likely to be silencing the opposing fans. Free throw attempts as a ratio of field goal attempts was a little higher at home, but not dramatically so.