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WNBA Stats Mystery Showdown: Who’s Your Pick?

ByQueen Ballers Club|@queenballers| January 3, 2021
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Today we’re going to compare two mystery WNBA players based on common stats. We’ll take a look at who wins the stat war. And what attributes about each player’s game enable them to hit those numbers. Plus, what makes their game unique. Ultimately we’ll pick which player we’d want on our team. Before we reveal the players to see if there are any surprises! So let’s jump right in.

Here are two anonymous players’ per game averages from the WNBA for the 2020 season for points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks per game. Plus their win shares, VORP, and PIE. At first glance, these players seem remarkably similar.

Two WNBA players' season stats for points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, win shares, VORP, and PIE

So which player would you rather have?

Based on stats alone, with higher scores in nearly every category, except rebounds and win shares, we’d pick Player A. She can produce and set her teammates up well, and turn the momentum of the game with steals. We’d be even more likely to pick her if we had a strong defensive rebounder to pair her with to complement each other. (We checked, it’s her defensive rebounding that Player B is beating.)

Player A’s player impact estimate (PIE), which is a metric to gauge a player’s all-around contribution to the game, shows she’s a star. Because the formula accounts for a player’s influence relative to each specific game, it helps eliminate statistical biases created by league, style of play, or even era.

Her value over replacement player (VORP), which shows how much better a player is than the kind of player that could be signed as a free agent from a lesser league, looks strong, too. Though, VORP generally ignores the quality of a player’s man defense.

As for Player B, she’s a slightly stronger defensive player as shown by more rebounding. Interestingly, when it comes to win shares, one of the best metrics for evaluating the offensive play of a single player, she looks great.

This stat accounts for almost everything, and scales the result so that one OWS is actually equal to one win added to the team’s cause. Player B’s team had only 12 wins for the 2020 season though, while Player A’s team had 18 wins. Which means Player B is making the bigger impact on her team.

Though one consideration, when it comes to win shares, is that there is still a clear benefit to players who are on the court for a lot of minutes. And to those who don’t have to share the limelight with a strong supporting cast.

Showing the same WNBA stats with boxes green where the player wins versus the other player. Player A has more green boxes.

Analyzing their playing styles

So how do both players achieve these remarkably similar stats? It turns out in very different ways.

Player A has a career effective field goal percentage of 47.8%, which places her in the 66th percentile of league players — really good. Meanwhile Player B’s career effective field goal percentage is 53.5% — the 93rd percentile!

When calculating EFG percentage, a made three-pointer is worth one and a half times as much as a made two-pointer. Which means Player B is sinking a lot of three-pointers – 40.8% of her points made are threes. In fact, she’s hitting so many she’s her team’s all-time leading scorer and one of the league’s top outside shooters at 34.6% in 2020 from three-point range.

What makes her three so effective is her ability to get shots up in a hurry. She’s lethal with the one dribble pull up. And Player B can catch and shoot faster than nearly anyone in the league. She has impeccable timing, ensuring she’s able to catch the ball while she’s already in her upwards shooting motion. So that all she has to do is stroke it through – it’s a technique Tyler Herro employs too.

What Player B does is uniquely helpful to her team, because it complements the skill sets of their other starting players. By being an outside shooting threat – particularly from both low corners – she’s able to create insane open spacing on the floor. That sets her point guard up more opportunities to drive the lane or to create with a big, always knowing she can get the last minute kick out to Player B if need be.

Meanwhile, of Player A’s points only 34.4% came from the three. Instead, she gets more of her buckets by the rim. Of course, her being a very real threat from beyond the three is what sets the defense up and essentially freezes them. With her accelerated first step, she’s able to blow by. And get the knock down with her creative finishing package, from floaters to under-handed scoops.

Her ability to get through the lane is topped only by her ability to also get the and-one on the way. Which is why free throws make up a relatively large portion of her earned points at 22%. What’s really interesting is these stats reveal how much Player B is a natural point guard. And yet due to her team’s deep bench and other starters, she’s found herself having to create in new ways.

Player A’s 2020 season points total (340) and season points average (15.45) make for an even more compelling argument to pick her up, as they’re a bit higher than Player B’s. And, it looks like she’s being underutilized on her current team judging by her Win Shares. Not necessarily in minutes but in terms of other talent touching the ball, especially in the last two years.

Charts via Across the Timeline

Based on their styles of play, we’re still going with Player A. Because we want the more versatile character.

Who are the mystery WNBA players?

Now that we’ve taken a look at how both players make their sats magic happen, it’s time for the big reveal.

What if we told you that Player A has won two WNBA Championships and played in the league for 6 years? Meaning she has some time to continue to develop. While Player B has won zero WNBA Championships and played in the league for 13 years. Meaning she’s got a vet’s IQ and probably a few more knocks to prove it.

Interestingly, Player A was only paid $119,500 in 2020 according to Her Hoops Stats Roster Sheet. While Player B was paid $200,000.

Today’s players are two shooting guards, which you might have guessed by their relatively high points per game. Player A is Jewell Loyd the Gold Mamba. Player B is Allie Quigley the three-point contest queen.

Same WNBA stats revealing the players' names. Player A is Jewell Loyd and Player B is Allie Quigley.

Check out Jewell’s smooth shot, and her defense as her offense with the steal that leads to a break away layup:

Check out Allie’s quick release and deadly three-point shooting:

The Seattle Storm wisely drafted Jewell Loyd in 2015, and have held on to her ever since. The Seattle Storm also drafted Allie Quigley in 2008, though later waived her. After a few stints with other WNBA teams, she found her home with the Chicago Sky in 2013 – where she’s one of their greatest players of all time.

Of course, neither is a free agent this year, so we’ll just have to wait our turn to pick them up. Up next, learn everything you need to know about WNBA MVPs.

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