In the past few years, the WNBA has made more statistics available to the public on its website. While these statistics have been available in the past and some of them have been released, the ability for anyone to access it and use it for their own work allows for new levels of insight. This season, several new options are available. In addition to some of the individual statistics made available in the past few years, statistics can be searched for on specific two, three, four, and five player lineups. Also widely released for the first time are teams’ on/off ratings, which are a quick way of measuring how teams perform when certain players are on or off the court.
With on/off rating, it is possible to see a team’s efficiency when a player is on or off the court, making it possible to tell the difference in efficiency when a player is off the court. It is not a perfect measure of a player’s impact because it is reliant on many other factors, including the other players on the court, but it can provide unexpected observations. The 107 players who played at least 340 minutes with a single team are included in this sample with stints with different teams not combined in these statistics.
25 players had their team score 6 or more points per 100 possessions more when they were on the court than when they were not on the court and they are shown in the image above in order of the size of the difference in offensive efficiency. It is no surprise that Chicago’s offense was much better with Courtney Vandersloot on the floor as both a facilitator and scorer as they tried many solutions to deal with the minutes that she was not on the court, but she was not the top player on the list. That honor goes to Natasha Howard as Seattle’s offense was absolutely dreadful when she was off the court, but 22.4 points per 100 possessions better when she was on the court. This type of statistic is also useful for trying to figure out whether a player might deserve more playing time. Some of the players with lower minutes percentages played less due to working their way back from injury, but one name that stands out on this list is Marine Johannes, an offensive spark for New York in a number of games. After joining the team late, it took her a little bit of time to settle in her role, but in 45% of available minutes, the Liberty’s offensive was scoring over 8 points more per 100 possessions.
The first measure penalizes players on teams with strong offenses overall so here are the top 25 players in terms of how efficiently the offense was with them on the court without comparing it to the offense without them. Washington’s dominance is clear here as they hold the top eight places and Courtney Vandersloot prevented them from being the top nine. The Los Angeles Sparks should be excited about having Candace Parker available for full minutes in the playoff as they have played well with her on the court.
The 20 players above were the ones whose teams played better defense by the most with them on the court than with them off the court. The surprise players at the top of the list did not play that many minutes overall, but New York’s defense was better with them playing, giving up 12.6 points per 100 possessions less with Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe on the court. Right behind Rebecca Allen was a more expected name in Natasha Howard as Seattle would have been the league’s best defense by several points if they played the way they did while she was on the court, but played like the worst defense in the the league when she was not on the floor. Right behind her was Ariel Atkins as she helped Washington defense and their offense when she was playing.
The 23 players above had their teams give up less than 94 points per possession when they were on the court. Many of the players at the top of the list were not playing starters’ minutes over the course of the season. Las Vegas had the league’s toughest defense and they were particularly stingy during the minutes that Sydney Colson played as she beat the next player on the list by three and a half points per 100 possessions. Not surprisingly, she was not the only player from the team on the list with four teammates joining her. While their teams played poor defense overall, Camille Little, Maite Cazorla, and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe all made the overall list and it may be worth trying to figure out what those teams did differently with them on the court for the future.
20 players had their teams have higher net ratings by at least 10 points per 100 possessions with them on the court. No player had a higher difference than Natasha Howard as Seattle outscored their opponents by 7.4 points per 100 possessions when she was on the court, but were outscored by 26.6 points per 100 possessions with her off the court, a total swing of 34 points per 100 possessions. While the players on the top half of this list played heavy minutes, there are a number of players below them with lower minutes totals, especially on struggling teams that could merit additional study for additional playing time.
24 players had their teams outscore their opponents by at least 6 points per 100 possessions while they were on the court. Washington dominated this category with the top seven places. Connecticut was the next team to get on the list as they played well with the players in their starting lineup. 30 players had their teams play better both on offense and defense when they were on the court.
Not only is it now possible to easily find out how a team performs with a particular player on the court, detailed lineup data is also available. The information is only one tool in the process of evaluating player performance, but it can be useful, especially in finding combinations that teams should try more often.
57 different lineups have been on the court together for at least 40 minutes. Given their play as a team, it is no surprise that a Washington lineup had the best net rating as the combination of Ariel Atkins, Aerial Powers, Natasha Cloud, Elena Delle Donne, and LaToya Sanders played 91 minutes together in 9 different games and outscored their opponents by 35.6 points per 100 possessions during that time. The same Mystics lineup with Emma Meesseman instead of Powers played 82 minutes together in 7 games and also bettered their opponents by over 30 points per 100 possessions. The only other lineup to reach that mark was a fairly surprising Las Vegas lineup that plays very few minutes together, but has been played in many games as Dearica Hamby, Sugar Rodgers, Sydney Colson, Liz Cambage, and Tamera Young have been very strong in 60 minutes of play over 20 games. In terms of continuity, no lineup can beat Connecticut’s starters, appearing in all but one game and playing 558 minutes, 225 minutes more than the next lineup. Courtney Williams, Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas, Shekinna Stricklen, and Jasmine Thomas have outscored their opponents by 8.7 points per possession during that time.
On the offensive end, the lineup that has had the best efficiency is a Chicago group that could see more time together in a playoff setting as Diamond DeShields, Cheyenne Parker, Astou Ndour, Courtney Vandersloot, and Allie Quigley had an efficiency of 132.7 points per 100 possessions in 65 minutes together in 10 games. The Mystics had four of the next five most potent offensive combinations. On defense, the Aces lineup mentioned above was the stingiest, allowing only 73.8 points per 100 possessions. Seattle’s lineup of Mercedes Russell, Jewell Loyd, Natasha Howard, Alysha Clark, and Shavonte Zellous was next at 78.4 points given up per 100 possessions in 51 minutes over 10 games.
195 different 4 player groupings have spent at least 80 minutes on the court together. Again, with Washington’s overall statistical domination, it is no surprise that nine of the top ten combinations are from their team. Ariel Atkins, Emma Meesseman, Elena Delle Donne, and Latoya Sanders have been on the court at the same time for 90 minutes in 8 games, outscoring their opponents by a whopping 42.8 points per 100 possessions during that time. The only non-Mystics groupings that broke the 120 points per 100 possessions barrier were Chicago’s Diamond DeShields, Cheyenne Parker, Astou Ndour, and Courtney Vandersloot, who only played 80 minute together over 13 games, and Phoenix’s Brianna Turner, Brittney Griner, Yvonne Turner, and Leilani Mitchell, who featured in 12 games for 96 minutes. The Las Vegas combination of Dearica Hamby, Sydney Colson, Liz Cambage, and Tamera Young was the only group to allow less than 80 points per 100 possessions, doing so in 86 minutes over 23 games. They were followed by Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier, Lexie Brown, Danielle Robinson, and Sylvia Fowles, a group that played 115 minutes together in 26 games. Odyssey Sims replacing Brown in that lineup was the only combination that appeared in all 34 games with Chicago’s most frequent starters playing 33 games and five different Connecticut combinations also played all but one game, being the top five sets in minutes played.
Team building these days often revolves around star trios. 194 different trios played at least 200 minutes together this season. Washington again had the strongest combinations, boasting ten of the top eleven groupings in overall efficiency, led by Ariel Atkins, Elena Delle Donne, and LaToya Sanders, who outscored opponents by 31.3 points per 100 possessions in 496 minutes over 30 games. The only trio to break up the Mystics party was Sydney Wiese, Chelsea Gray, and Candace Parker, who played 206 minutes together in 19 games for Los Angeles. Washington’s lineups were particularly potent on offense, but Chicago groupings featuring Astou Ndour and two of Diamond DeShields, Courtney Vandersloot, and Allie Quigley were also quite efficient. There was much more variety on defense with different teams occupying the top three spots. Dearica Hamby, Sydney Colson, and Tamera Young were on the court for 211 minutes together over 29 games and gave up fewer points than any other trio per possession. The Sparks had the next entry with a trio of Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and the Ogwumike sisters and the Phoenix’s trio of DeWanna Bonner, Leilani Mitchell, and Camille Little also gave up very few points when they were on the court together. No trio played more together than Napheesa Collier, Odyssey Sims, and Sylvia Fowles of Minnesota, featuring in every game for a total of 754 minutes. Connecticut’s starting lineup showed their continuity again, being ten of the next fourteen most played groupings in various combinations. Chicago’s starting backcourt played 712 minutes together in 33 minutes while Seattle’s starting frontcourt played 663 minutes together in 31 games.
Lineup data can also be stretched out to duos as 166 pairings played at least 340 minutes together this season. Washington pairs made up the entire top ten in net rating, led by Elena Delle Donne and Ariel Atkins, who outscored opponents by 28.7 points per 100 possessions on the court together in 622 minutes over 30 games. A number of Connecticut pairings were efficient, led by Shekinna Stricklen and Jonquel Jones, but after them were two surprises as completely different Sparks lineups, Nneka Ogwumike and Riquna Williams and then Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Sydney Wiese, featured. Delle Donne and Atkins topped the charts when it came to offensive efficiency, followed by eleven other combinations of Mystics players before the Chicago couple of Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley checked in with 829 minutes played together in 33 games. The Ogwumike sisters were reunited this season and played on the court together for 363 minutes in 29 games, outscoring opponents by more than 10 points per 100 possessions during that time, which was fueled by their defensive rating being the strongest of any pairing. They were followed by the Delle Donne-Atkins duo and then the Minnesota newcomers Napheesa Collier and Lexie Brown. The other new duo that was considered worth watching before the season was the twin towers in Las Vegas and they ended up playing 429 minutes together in 25 games, outscoring opponents by nearly 3 points per 100 possessions during that time behind solid defense. The Minnesota combinations revolving around Napheessa Collier, Odyssey Sims, and Sylvia Fowles played in all the games with the one featuring Collier and Sims averaging over 27 minutes a game together for a leading total of 934 minutes.