January 15, 2022 

Seattle Storm season in review: Breanna Stewart

The Storm player reviews close with their all-world superstar

Position: Power forward (80%), center (20%)

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Age: 26

Base stats: 28 GP (28 GS), 33.4 min, 20.3 pts, 42.0% fg%, 37.6% 3p% on 5.6 3pa, 5.6 fta, 9.7 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.2 stl, 1.7 blk

Key advanced stats: +11.3 on-court plus/minus, +20.7 net plus/minus, 55.74% true shooting (74th %ile), 27.4 usage (94th %ile), 35.5 FT rate (83rd %ile), 16.6% reb% (90th %ile), 8.3% tov% (95th %ile), 4.3% blk% (91st %ile)

Shooting splits: 27.1% of attempts from 3-10 ft. (71st %ile), 16.5% of attempts from 10-16 ft. (79th %ile), 5.4% of attempts are “long twos” (30th %ile); 67.1% fg% at rim (72nd %ile), 50.0% fg% on “long twos” (94th %ile)

Pre-/post-Olympic splits: Pre — 45.0% fg%, 36.6% 3p%; post — 40.4% fg%, 22.6% 3p%

Play-type stats: 1.113 points per roll (80th %ile), 1.066 points per post-up (85th %ile), 0.864 points per pick-and-roll as a ball-handler (71st %ile); 0.632 points defending layups (95th %ile)

Key quotes:

Seattle has always been my home. It’s where I’ve grown up; it’s where my career has continued to blossom. I plan on being back unless something crazy happens. We have more things to do here … Obviously each decision is an individual decision, but Jewell [Loyd] and I have talked about us being on the court together, appreciating and enjoying playing on the court together, and knowing from where we started to where we are now and hopefully where we want to continue to go, we hope to play as many games together as we possibly can.

Breanna Stewart

Stewie’s a machine, man. At this point, it’s just what she does. She lives her life the way she wants to, point blank … So she’s really a role model in that sense. And then she plays the game the way she wants to. And she has the skill set to do that … Her impact when she steps on the floor, it changes everything for every team she’s on, whether it’s the Storm, USA Basketball, obviously Connecticut, overseas, you name it. And I think, for her, she’s just going to continue to get better, because when you figure out who you are off the court, it just lends to a happy place on the court. It really does. And she’s only going to get better; she’s only going to mature within her game. And the sky’s the limit. I mean, it’s crazy. The kid — I don’t even know how old she is. I think she’s like turning 27 … and she’s already accomplished everything you could hope to accomplish in a career. And she’s only going to get better. So I’m just so happy she’s living her life. I’m so happy for her and [her wife Marta Xargay] —[their newborn] Ruby is the cutest. And I’m obviously happy she’s on the Storm.

Sue Bird

Best game: June 26 @ Las Vegas — 35 points, 14-for-26 FG, 4-for-9 3pt., 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals, three blocks and two turnovers in 38 minutes

Another year, another season of Breanna Stewart being a sensational basketball player. The big wing came off a year in which she finished second in MVP voting — a victim only of Seattle’s meticulous load management of her (and Sue Bird) — and finished 2021 third in the MVP race, despite ending the year injured and logging full minutes in the United States’ Olympic slate. Stewart has now finished second and third in MVP voting in her first two years since tearing her Achilles, formerly the death knell of basketball players.

With a two-year sample of a post-Achilles Stewart, we now have a firm idea of what this version of her looks like. With less burst, she can’t get to the rim as often and takes more shots from the 3- to 10-foot range; her footwork and timing on those finishes is only getting better with experience, though. She’s taking fewer mid-range shots, no longer able to create her previous level of separation in isolation. She’s taking a bunch more threes to supplant the absence of long twos and a chunk of her prior at-rim attempts, and she’s hitting them at a notably lower rate. As a result, her true shooting percentage has dropped from an otherworldly 61.1%* in 2017-18 to a merely excellent 56.5% the past couple years. Defensively, she’s no longer vertically challenging Brittney Griner at the rim, but her defensive acumen has approached a pinnacle, becoming one the best help defenders and weakside rim protectors in the league. And she’s smart enough to make up for less explosiveness and retain much of her one-on-one guarding in space.

Stewart’s efficiency in 2021 notably declined, for three clear reasons:

  1. The Wubble was a juiced environment for scoring — 20 players had a 60.0%+ true shooting percentage in 2020 whereas just nine reached 60.0% in 2021.
  2. The Olympics killed Seattle’s Olympians, with Stewart being no exception. She shot 4.1% worse from the field and an astounding 14.0% worse from three.
  3. Seattle’s roster got worse. As a result, Stewart set career highs in attempts per game in her highest minutes per game since her rookie year.

In spite of that last point, Stewart’s usage rate was right in line with her prior three seasons. That’s thanks to a much lower assist rate — mostly from deferring to Jewell Loyd’s evolved playmaking — and an easily-career-low turnover rate. Much like with her defense, as Stewart advances through her career, her game is only growing more polished.

Random highlight:


Current contract: Unrestricted free agent

Offseason outlook: 99% chance to return

Stewart has been the best player in the world over the past four years. Her place within Seattle sports history is already ingrained. She just married her partner, Marta Xargay, this past summer, and shortly thereafter, they welcomed their first child. For every reason, on and off the court, it would be ludicrous to watch Stewart leave. With her providing every indication that she’d love to stay in the Pacific Northwest, it’s hard to construct a feasible scenario in which the 2018 MVP does not continue her prime with the Storm.

*Otherworldly given her volume and difficulty of shots. Jonquel Jones just had a 61.4% true shooting percentage in one of the better all-time MVP seasons.
Position data per WNBA Advanced Stats, shooting splits per Basketball-Reference, play-type data per Synergy.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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