January 14, 2022 

Seattle Storm season in review: Sue Bird

The Storm season reviews continue with the franchise cornerstone

Position: Point guard

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Age: 40

Base stats: 30 GP (30 GS), 27.7 min, 10.0 pts, 43.1% fg%, 41.9% 3p% on 5.3 3pa, 0.8 fta, 5.3 ast, 0.9 stl, 1.6 tov

Key advanced stats: +6.7 on-court plus/minus, +3.4 net plus/minus, 58.3% true-shooting (78th %ile), 9.8% FT rate (12th %ile), 30.4% ast% (95th %ile), 3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio (100th %ile)

Shooting splits: 21.2 ft. average shot distance (95th %ile); 6.5% of attempts at rim (13th %ile), 3.3% of attempts from 3-10 ft. (eighth percentile), 16.7% “long twos” (77th %ile), 65.0% 3PA rate (93rd %ile); 75.0% fg% at rim (88th %ile), 25.0% fg% from 3-10 ft. (19th %ile), 41.5% fg% on “long twos” (77th %ile); 25.6% of twos assisted (17th %ile), 86.6% of threes assisted (28th %ile)

Pre-/post-Olympic splits: Pre — 10.9 pts, 46.3% fg%, 43.5% 3p%; pts — 7.9 pts, 34.8% fg%, 37.8% 3p%

Play-type stats: 0.688 points per PnR as a scorer (23rd %ile), 0.876 points as a PnR passer (64th %ile), 1.315 points per spot-up (68.8% eFG, 97th %ile); 0.87 points defending PnRs (26th %ile), 0.842 points defending off-screens (65th %ile)

Key quote:

She’s amazing. She’s meant everything to me as her friend, teammate, now present coach. She does not cheat the game, she does not cheat the grind, she honors the game in every way possible. She studies the game, she watches film, she works on her body, she prepares in every way that you can possibly prepare in order to be at her best. And I always talk about 2018, because I was alongside of her in her journey. And she was stretched so much that I didn’t know how much more great she can be, but, man, she just showed me that even though you are an elite athlete and you’re [in the] upper echelon of our game, there’s still room to grow and improve. And she constantly does that.

For our game, specifically, to have longevity, she’s the blueprint for that. Her and Diana [Taurasi], they’ve had long careers, and they’ve set the tone and they’ve set the stage for that. It is amazing to be a part of her journey. I don’t take it for granted. She’s helped me in so many ways, and I will continue to lean on her and lean in with her, especially on my journey and our journey and trying to continue to be the best version of myself within this job in this role. I will forever be grateful for just having the opportunity just to be in the same room as her, to be on the same team as her. Playing alongside of her was amazing. But now, as I grow, get a little bit wiser in what I’m trying to do, she’s just been the ultimate teammate for me. I will always go to bat for her.

Head coach Noelle Quinn

Best game: May 20, @ Minnesota — 21 points, 8-for-12 FG, 5-for-9 3pt., five rebounds, eight assists, two steals, one block, two turnovers, 31 min

Bird entered 2021 coming off a 2020 campaign in which she quite purposely played only 11 regular-season games, and only 23.4 minutes in those 11. It was her first action since missing the 2019 season with a knee injury. She bumped that up to 26.5 minutes in all six of Seattle’s Wubble playoff games, and hit the ground running in 2021, stringing together 30-plus-minute nights the first week of the season. She still finished the year with a career-low in minutes per game — her mpg decreasing each of the past four years — but she was still one of the best in the game during those minutes.

Bird remained one of the best shooters in the world, as even the full-season play-type stats attest. Her combination of elite playmaking and elite shooting with a complete lack of rim pressure or contact-drawing continued to pair excellently with Jewell Loyd’s ability to star both on and off the ball. To say her individual defense has declined with her athleticism would be an understatement; but her team defense, both in positioning and help and in directing teammates and calling switches and plays, is among the most impactful in the league.

But there was a huge problem. Bird’s per-game minutes belie reality: the point guard totaled her second-highest minutes of basketball since 2011 thanks to the Olympics. And the resulting drop-off was stark: her true-shooting dropped by 12.9% from before the Olympics to after. That’s a drop from the 94th percentile to the 32nd. With a full offseason to rest up and a 2022 slate in which the Storm can plan and control her minutes with no international medals on the line, it’s safe to say Seattle will get the benefit of the best Bird possible in 2022.

Random highlight:

Current contract: Unrestricted free agent

Offseason outlook: Will return

The 20-year veteran announced she would return for a record 19th season via Instagram last Friday, and followed up on Jan. 13 teasing a documentary that would be filmed throughout the 2022 season. The Storm got a bit ahead of themselves, but briefly followed suit. Get hype.

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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