February 19, 2022
Charting WNBA imports one week from the EuroLeague postseason
Which WNBA imports are a notch above the rest in EuroLeague play? And which WNBA teams have seen their players perform the best?
It’s been the longest EuroLeague season ever. COVID-19-related delays forced it to go down that way, and we’re still one week away from the final regular-season game of the year before the postseason. In other words, it’s about time we check on how WNBA players have fared in the EuroLeague this season.
Before that, though, it makes sense to cover the only game that took place during the international break.
MBA trounced BLMA, but both teams kept postseason hopes alive
Final score: MBA 98, BLMA 78. How’s that for a do-or-die game? Russian side MBA needed to win last Thursday in order to remain in the hunt for fourth place in Group A and a chance at the postseason … and you bet they got it done.
The victory over French side BLMA allowed the Russians to make up some of the distance on their rivals, and the group now boasts three teams with chances at qualifying: BLMA (18 points), TTT Riga (17 points) and MBA (16 points). All of them have 12 games played and two still on the schedule for the next six days.
There aren’t a lot of stories surrounding the development of this game, though. MBA used a super-deep 11-player rotation compared to BLMA’s seven-player lineup. No player from the Russian squad logged more than 30 minutes, while the French went top-heavy with four players at 34-plus minutes. BLMA just couldn’t hold MBA at all in what turned out to be a rather bad look for a team still vying for the postseason.
As far as individual performances go, Sydney Tamara-Nicole from BLMA finished with the highest efficiency (29). The three next-best players were all from MBA: Mariia Krymova (27), Zhosselina Maiga (24) and Nina Glonti (20). Kudos to Tamara-Nicole on her massive-yet-wasted 30-point, five-rebound, five-steal outing, with a steal on top of everything!
I already covered what is at stake a couple of weeks ago, and with only one game played last week, not a lot has changed. There are still eight games on the schedule, though, and we will have almost nonstop basketball from today through next Thursday (with just a one-day hiatus on Monday). Bring it on!
WNBA imports state of affairs
It’s been a while since we last took a proper look at how WNBA players were doing in the EuroLeague. It’s also been a while since we last had some fun with charts. So I figured it would be nice to get back to the good old days and combine both things this week.
Please note that the data are from the current EuroLeague season, but players are linked to the last WNBA franchise they played for or were signed with as of the last WNBA Finals (in October). That means Gabby Williams is linked to Los Angeles, not Seattle, for example.
Let’s start by looking at the season from the widest possible angle. That, to me, screams minutes played vs. overall production (represented here by average efficiency).
The farther to the right a player is on the chart, the more minutes they have played. The higher a player is, the more efficiently they have performed on a per-game basis. Thus, the usual suspects are located in the top right: Natasha Howard, Brionna Jones, Kayla McBride, Elizabeth Williams, Alyssa Thomas, Bernadett Hatar, Emma Meesseman, Megan Gustafson and Kennedy Burke have all balled out overseas.
For the lower-minute players thriving (farther left; most notably, Jonquel Jones, Kahleah Copper and Satou Sabally), there is a very solid case to add them to the list of the best imports this offseason. None of those three players has appeared in more than 10 games, so they never got to play as many minutes as the likes of Howard’s 421 in 14 games. They have performed so incredibly well, though, that just an uptick in those minutes could have thrown them headfirst into the MVP race.
Performance by WNBA franchise
It also makes sense to look at how players from each WNBA team have performed. Surprisingly, things align relatively nicely with what we could have expected given the most recent WNBA season.
WNBA champion Chicago Sky sits at the top of the accumulated efficiency leaderboard for players competing in the 2022 EuroLeague season. That’s not surprising, though, as Chicago is one of only two teams with six EuroLeague players, which is a feat all by itself. (And we could say that the Dallas Wings only truly had five, as Chelsea Dungee barely played over four games.)
The Connecticut Sun, though only semifinalists in last year’s WNBA playoffs, are a close second, with an up-and-coming Wings group in third. Now, that’s encouraging for folks in Texas!
This is how things look in more detail:
You can see how the trio of Brionna Jones, Jonquel Jones and Thomas carried Connecticut all the way to second in the first chart; how Chicago has spread its accumulated efficiency across the board; and how Dallas, while not on par with the Sky, still has very strong performers, led by the phenomenal and still-super-young Sabally.
Teams with fewer players—the Minnesota Lynx, New York Liberty, Indiana Fever and Atlanta Dream—all sent the cream of the crop to the other side of the pond. Every player from those franchises except Marine Fauthoux (New York) has posted an efficiency of 18 or higher in the EuroLeague.
Now that we have looked at an all-in-one metric (efficiency), let’s examine each statistical category, starting with the WNBA franchise perspective. In the chart below, the number of players who are overseas for each franchise is represented by the thickness of the bars—the fatter the bar, the more players that franchise has overseas.
Spend a good minute or two analyzing that chart if you wish, because it has tons of information baked into it. For example, Minnesota has the highest scoring average in the EuroLeague, while Atlanta leads by a mile in blocks and Connecticut leads in assists.
I also took the risk of plotting every WNBA player in a single chart similar to the one above, sorted from high to low efficiency. You will get lost in it, but it’s still fun to look at outliers in different categories (Courtney Vandersloot! Those steals, Epiphanny Prince!).
The best thing about this chart, though, is that I also built an interactive version! Hover over the bars to see the full breakdown of statistics for the selected player. Select a bunch of names and isolate them from the field. Pit some players against each other, play with the data, and have fun. But don’t blame me if you spend the entire weekend toying with the little tool!
I hope you enjoy all of that and what is to come. Next Saturday will be the final regular-season update before the postseason, which could start as soon as March 2. Can’t wait.