Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, August 03, 2015

WNBA: A Logjam Exists in the Slide for Stewie

Guru’s note: The following post and ensuing posts to come on the topic are offered for entertainment purposes only and written tongue in cheek because, well, because the subject exists and so for those poised to look at things that way, this running commentary between now and the final standings are offered as an aide.

By Mel Greenberg

With each of the 12 WNBA teams having reached or just jumped over the mark of the halfway point at 17 or more of the 34-game regular season schedule and with another of those draft lottery years offering a premium prize – in this case Connecticut senior Breanna Stewart -- the time has come, while on one end of the standings the arrival of the stretch drive of the playoffs is under way, we begin with a snapshot in what this go-round can be labeled the Slide for Stewie.

Unlike the year when Tennessee’s Candice Parker was the reward for below mediocrity after the 2007 standings, Connecticut’s Maya Moore was the grand prize in 2011, and the Three-to-See Trio: Baylor’s Brittany Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne, and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins loomed in 2013, the picture is much murkier at the moment than in those previous situations.

Two teams each – the ones in each WNBA Eastern and Western Conference – who do not make the playoffs will then become the lottery field with a percentage of ping pong balls determining off worst record and moving backwards the best chance to land the number one pick in the following spring’s draft.

Lottery Fates - I: Three to See

It doesn’t always work that the worst will be cast in the best light. Three years ago the Washington Mystics emerged down the stretch in the final week at the bottom of the pile but when the moment of glory for the future arrived, with a chance at three great picks, to the dismay of the Washington fan base, the Mystics landed fourth.

But gloomy as that moment was, Washington hit an upturn several weeks later when the Connecticut Sun surprisingly cast aside Mike Thibault, the only coach in the 10-year of the franchise after its move from Orlando, and the Mystics welcomed him aboard.

With the fourth pick, Thibault took Ohio State’s Tayler Hill who has delivered value above being a consolation prize.

“The number one pick in the other draft,” he often jokingly refers to the former Buckeyes standout.

Lottery Fates - II: Los Angeles Absences Make the Pick Grow Fonder

In the summer of 2007 well before the hiring of Cheryl Reeve as the coach of Minnesota, the Lynx were a runaway at the outset for worst team in the league.

But farther West, Los Angeles had begun without the all-time great Lisa Leslie, who was bypassing the season due to pregnancy, but then the Sparks suffered another huge setback when in late June former Tennessee great Chamique Holdsclaw left the team.

The losses began and as the final week of the season arrived , Minnesota managed to due something the current NBA Philadelphia 76ers would never allow in winning several games.

And Los Angeles caught the Lynx at the bottom, landed the best percentage and made good to get the rights to pick Candace Parker.

Lottery Fates - III: Lady Luck Smiles on Minnesota

And in 2010 the Linx got a giveback from the fates.

It was Reeve’s first season and it was a struggle due to a rash of injuries. Other than Seattle, the West was a shambles with everyone else having a losing record.

But as the bottom of the West looks right now, somebody was going to have to go to the playoffs and not be involved with the lottery from a trio of the Lynx, Los Angeles and the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Though several games would be left to play afterwards, Los Angeles arrived for a key game with the Lynx which would seem to indicate baring any ensuing upsets the winner would be playoff bound and the loser would join the lottery field.

In the final seconds Minnesota took a lead and as the crowd rejoiced all-time great Tina Thompson, who had joined Los Angeles following making a name for herself with the former Houston Comets, sent a long-range dagger in the final moments to give the Sparks the victory.

Reeve will tell you it was a bummer at the moment, but it was not to be forever.

Minnesota had the next best shot behind San Antonio but when the time came to announce the order, the Lynx got the top pick, landed Maya Moore and then immediately won a title in 2011, finished runnerup to the Indiana Fever in 2012 and then won again in 2013 before finishing second in the West playoffs last season to the eventual champion Phoenix Mercury, who, by the way, after a summer of suffering in 2012 that included criticism whether their situation was entirely on the up and up, hauled the top pick and chose Griner.
Lottery Fates IV: To Be Determined

So that brings us to the current moment because we have to start somewhere and with an entire Eastern Conference in the playoff hunt, the converse is also true that an injury or sudden losing streak suffered by any of the front runners means they are as close to being in the lottery as being in the playoffs.

Because of the crowd, at some point some separation will occur. Following Sunday’s games, and, by the way, Monday is a good day to post this since the league schedule is usually at rest, the Seattle Storm, which got this season’s first pick, has the worst overall record at 5-16, while the Los Angeles Sparks is next at 5-14, followed by San Antonio at 6-14, good enough for the playoffs if the season ended right now.

And then the whole East comes in reverse order with Atlanta actually more clearly lottery-bound at the moment, followed by Connecticut, which would be a joy to many in that state since a lot of luck would mean getting Stewart after unable to land UConn jewels of the past when graduation time came for Diana Taurasi for and Moore – Sue Bird went in 2002 before the Orlando move.

One exception was a trade with Minnesota for the 2010 draft that sent All-Star Lindsay Whalen home for the number one pick in Tina Charles, who was dealt a year ago to the New York Liberty.

The Guide to the Charts

So to get you ready for the road to Breanna for some lucky team, here are some tables below which will be updated as we go. It is possible some changes will occur along the way – adding the Dallas-bound (2016) Tulsa Shock, which has been struggling since the injury to Diggins earlier this season and jettisoning East teams as they seem probable for the playoffs.

For example, New York is having a renaissance season but as the first standings show, the Liberty are only 3.5 games from dropping into the lottery mix if fortunes were to reverse.

The first set shows won-loss records of the eight teams in our field, GBO, which is the overall games behind Seattle, and a second GBL for games behind to hit the lottery with losses as just explained with New York as the example.

Also, while Los Angeles is part of the mix off its record, that could change rapidly now that Parker, who took the front part of the season off to rest, has returned.

Because of the nature this time with the three worst all in the West the # placement indicates which team would instead be in the playoffs, Tulsa notwithstanding as just explained, at the moment the rest of the West is solidly in postseason contention, while in the East the # next to Indiana is the cutline for who is in the postseason.

Next, to start the compilation in case a need is necessary for later in the lottery storyline, such as the Tina Thompson game discussed above, there is a list of every game involved by the eight-team Stewie group that was decided by five points or less.

A special ! denotes if that game involved any two of the eight. This will be useful to mine in the event a team just misses the playoffs and then lands the number one pick and we can see how influential were any of these games in setting up the final order and also to see if any key moments came from the games against each other.

Since we are doing this in reverse fashion, thus we use a L-W record, there is an order of what the record for each of the eight was in the five-point games, more losses, less wins gets you higher, and then record against each other in those games, and finally, the overall records against each other counting results of five points or more.

Any questions or comments, feel free to weigh in.

Slide For Stewie Standings
(Thru Sun., Aug. 2)

Team W L *-GBO *-GBL

Seattle 5 16 -- --
Los Angeles 5 14 -- --
#San Ant. 6 14 1.5 0.5
Atlanta 7 13 2.5 – --
Conn. 9 9 5.5 -- --
#Indiana 11 8 7.0 1.5
Chicago 12 8 7.5 2.0
Washington 11 7 7.5 2.0
New York 13 6 9.0 3.5

*- GBO is Overall Games Behind Worst Record. GBL is Games Behind Lottery Slot
#-Top Team Below Lottery Cut in Each Division

Results Five Points Or Less
Most Recent at Top
!-Games Against Other Lottery Contenders

!-Chicago 71, Washington 68
!-Los Angeles 80, San Antonio 78
Phoenix 71, Atlanta 68
!-Connecticut 67, Seattle 66
Phoenix 89, Chicago 87, ovt.
Connecticut 78, Minnesota 77
!-Indiana 75, Connecticut 73
New York 81, Seattle 77
!-Chicago 97, Atlanta 92
Los Angeles 75, Phoenix 70

!-Atlanta 76, Los Angeles 72
Indiana 83, Tulsa 80
!-New York 79, Washington 76
New York 75, Phoenix 73
Phoenix 94, New York 91
Los Angeles 98, Tulsa 93
!-Chicago 77, Connecticut 74
Tulsa 93, Seattle 89
!-San Antonio 73, Seattle 71
!-Atlanta 72, Washington 79

!-Connecticut 80, Los Angeles 76
San Antonio 76, Phoenix 71
!-Chicago 100, Atlanta 96
!-Washington 84, Los Angeles 80
!-Atlanta 74, Chicago 73
!-Atlanta 64, Washington 61
Indiana 77, Phoenix 74
!-Connecticut 67, Chicago 65
!-Atlanta 72, San Antonio 69
!-Connecticut 75, Atlanta 70
!-Washington 67, New York 62
!-Washington 73, Connecticut 68
Phoenix 76, San Antonio 71

Reverse Overall Performance in Close Games
Remember Losses Are Good Here

Team L W

Seattle 4-0
Los Angeles 4-3
Washington 4-3
Atlanta 4-5
San Antonio 3-2
Connecticut 3-3
Chicago 3-4
New York 1-3
Indiana 0-3

Reverse Close Game Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W

Washington 4-2
Seattle 3-0
Los Angeles 3-1
Connecticut 3-3
Atlanta 3-5
San Antonio 2-1
Chicago 2-4
New York 1-1
Indiana 0-1

Reverse Overall Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W
Los Angeles 10-3
Atlanta 9-7
San Antonio 8-4
Seattle 8-5
Indiana 8-7
Connecticut 7-7
Washington 6-9
Chicago 5-11
New York 4-10

That’s it for now.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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