August 27, 2023 

Sunday Notes, Week 13: It’s time to remember some gals

Welcome back to Sunday Notes, your weekly journey into trends and analysis around the WNBA for week 13

Welcome back to Sunday Notes, your weekly journey into trends and analysis around the WNBA. Today we’re changing things up because this week was almost entirely chalk: four of this week’s 16 games featured a win by the team with the lower net rating, per Positive Residual, and three included the Lynx! I’ll touch on that later. (For reference, since this notebook comes out on Sundays, I define “this week” as the prior Sunday through last night.)

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But for the rest of this weekly installation, let’s look at some odds and ends from WNBA history. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have been going through dozens of late-2000s and early-to-mid-aughts games for our WNBA Retrospect series. Regular readers were rewarded in Week 8 with a previously unsung clip of Becky Hammon that might be the best pass I’ve ever seen. We’re not going to quite dive as deep into these points as the usual blurbs on 2023 Stuff, but we will have quite a bit of teams included.

Tankathon Check-in

To be clear, no one in the WNBA is currently tanking on purpose. That being said, let’s see where our teams are right now in the lottery standings and where they project to end up (chart vaguely organized by rightmost column):

Team:Games back in lottery:Games back of No. 8 seed:Strength of schedule remaining (out of 12)*:Likely finish:
Indiana———0.57th-strongest (sixth-easiest)Top lottery odds
Phoenix9.561Second-best lottery odds
Seattle170.55Third-best lottery odds
Los Angeles13.5———4No. 8 seed
Chicago242.56Either worst lottery odds
Minnesota16-1.59No. 7 seed
* Per Massey

It is the official position of Sunday Notes that Atlanta and Washington are not in real danger of missing the playoffs, but we will revisit this next week.

Indiana Fever

Marissa Coleman was ahead of her time. Despite taking more 3-pointers than twos only in the three years she spent in Washington, the combo forward was a shooting specialist in an age that had next to none of them. She shot 36.2% on the first 669 threes of her career, a seven-year span from 2009-15. The only players to shoot at least well on that many 3-pointers in that time, per Sports Reference, were either Hall of Famers (Becky Hammon, Tina Thompson), will be Hall of Famers (Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Sue Bird, Kristi Toliver), should be Hall of Famers (Katie Douglas, Kara Lawson), or are renown shooters. Ivory Latta and Nicole Powell were well-established shooters by this point in time.

Importantly, Coleman was not just hitting open jumpers:

Coleman was at least five years ahead of her time, considering how shooters are slowly making a comeback as an emphasized archetype. (And yes, part of this blurb’s reason for existing is to justify getting a couple wild Briann January passes in here.)

Los Angeles

There has never been a professional basketball player better at running the full-court break than Candace Parker. All due respect to Magic Johnson, but he didn’t have these handles:

Parker did have those passes, though:

Minnesota Lynx

This week, the Lynx won two games in which they were facing an opponent with a better net rating (both against Dallas), lost a game by 14 in which they were the favorite, and lost a game by 35 in which they were heavy underdogs. Those first three are a bit odd! But Minnesota has been a weird team all season.

Friend Of The Notes Lincoln Shafer wrote the Lynx were “inching closer to a season where they have a .500 record with a net rating of -5. If my math is right, the Lynx have now achieved the very impressive feat of being fifth in the standings and eleventh in point differential. After losing by 35, they should now be at a -181 for the season and the Storm are -177.” (“Sunday Notes” can confirm his math is right.)

Just four teams in WNBA history have finished 11th in the overall standings and made the playoffs. Just two did so since the league contracted back to 12 teams. The closest historical comparison is the 2016 Atlanta Dream, who finished No. 10 in net rating and No. 6 in the overall standings. (They would beat the young No. 7-seed Storm in the first round behind an efficient 37 points and seven assists from Angel McCoughtry and 12 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two blocks from Layshia Clarendon; Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd combined for an auspicious 43 points on 28 shots, 12 rebounds, five assists and no turnovers. Atlanta then got eliminated by third-seeded Chicago, despite a 30-piece from Tiffany Hayes, because Courtney Vandersloot put up 21 points, 13 assists and four steals.)

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San Antonio Stars

The most accomplished shooter in WNBA history is Allie Quigley. (“Shooter” as in the majority of their role was simply to work off the ball and make shots.) But the best shooter in WNBA history, for my money, was Shanna Zolman. Zolman played just 119 games in the W, thanks to a pair of ACL tears suffered in her left knee during her mid-20s that significantly diminished her explosiveness.

That explosiveness was key to probably the most impressive shooting reel I can put together of someone who effectively only played three full seasons in their career:

For her career, Zolman shot 40.8% from three on 488 attempts, across 2006-10. She was the only player in the league to shoot north of 40% on at least 300 3-pointers in that span, per Sports Reference, despite having missed a season and a half of it. The next-best shooter on that much volume shot 22 percentage points worse, per Sports Reference. Only two players in WNBA history have ever shot at least 40% on nine 3-point attempts per 36 minutes in a single season, per SR: Zolman in her second year in the league and Sabrina Ionescu this year.

Seattle Storm

Have you ever watched Breanna Stewart from her brief time in the WNBA before her Achilles tear? I am not intimately familiar with our readership demographics, but I’m willing to bet there is a fair number of you who haven’t. Below are some examples of what she was doing in that span:

Stewart, since her Achilles injury, has still been one of the greatest players of all time (I personally have her third, behind herself before the injury and Candace Parker). But the above clips are simply not being performed by a human.

Washington Mystics

Here it is, your moment of zen:

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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