2022 WNBA Early Season Trends
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As we pass a third of the way through the WNBA season, it seems like an excellent time to mark league-wide statistical trends. The league we love is changing all the time, and analyzing the numbers is one of our best tools for taking a bird’s eye view of these shifts. League-wide averages can be found on our site here while team-by-team statistics for this season are available here. All stats were evaluated on Thursday, June 9.
The three point revolution continues apace, largely because of Becky Hammon
For the eighth season in a row, the WNBA three point rate has increased (so far), and this would be the fifth season in a row that the league has broken its record in this category. The Las Vegas Aces, long laggard in this category under Bill Laimbeer, have nearly doubled their three point rate under new coach Becky Hammon while leading the league in three point percentage. Seattle, Atlanta, and Indiana have also increased their three point rates notably this season while Los Angeles, Washington, and Minnesota have opted to go inside more often.
Despite teams shooting more threes, fouls are slightly up
As teams have shot more three pointers, fouling has declined across the WNBA, albeit much less sharply or consistently. However, the league-wide foul rate this season is at its highest since 2017, and the current league-wide free throw rate has not been eclipsed since 2008! However, this latter mark is by such a slim margin that it could easily fall below the levels from 2016, 2010, and 2009. Young teams in Atlanta, Indiana, and Dallas lead the league in foul rate while the experienced groups in Chicago, Washington, and Seattle rank near the bottom.
Teams are assisting more of their field goals than ever before
Another trend that has generally accompanied the increase in three point shooting is an increase in assisted shot rate, the percentage of made field goals which have an assist attached to them. This change makes sense because three point shots are much more likely to be attempted off the catch rather than off the dribble. Currently, the league-wide assisted shot rate is 66.1% and on pace to break the record of 64.7% set in 2019. Assisted shot rate has had an interesting trajectory throughout the league’s history. It remained stable and solidly above 60% from 1997-2005, dipped below 60% from 2006-2017 with a couple of notably low values in 2009 and 2013, and most recently rose significantly in 2018, staying well above 60% ever since. There is significant variation between how often teams ask their players to create their own shots or to rely on their teammates and their offensive system to set them up. Seattle and Chicago have league-leading assisted shot rates of 74.6% and 72.1%, respectively; Atlanta, the only team in the league below 60%, is at 57.9%.
Offensive rebounding remains in its trough
Offensive rebounding has been gradually deemphasized throughout the history of the WNBA, with the league-wide record for offensive rebound rate being set in the inaugural season of 1997 (33.9%) and the league-wide low being set last season (23.4%) with a gradual and steady decline in between. While this year’s value of 24.5% is marginally higher than last season’s mark, the overall trajectory is by no means in any danger. Connecticut is the one team in the league that wins by dominating the offensive glass, and their offensive rebound rate of 33.7% would have surpassed the league average in all but that inaugural season. While Las Vegas’s offensive rebound rate in recent years may not have been quite as high as one might expect given their predilection toward playing many post players, it is still shocking to see them join Phoenix as the only teams this season below 20% (18.9% and 18.6%, respectively).
Some more team-specific quick hitters
The Las Vegas Aces are on the pace for the second-most efficient offense in league history behind only the 2019 Washington Mystics.
While it is still early, Indiana’s 42.7% two point percentage and Los Angeles’s 52.4% two point percentage are both more extreme values than last year’s basement-dwellers and league leaders.
Minnesota Lynx not named Sylvia Fowles have a two point percentage of 41.0%. On a related note, the Lynx have their lowest three point rate since 2018; it is possible that the team’s relative lack of floor spacing may be making it more difficult for their players to get to the rim and/or finish their lay-ups once they get there.
Last year, New York led the league in three point rate and was third in three point percentage. So far this season, they still lead the league in three point rate but are dead last in three point percentage, more than a full percentage point behind Chicago.
Despite only having the sixth-highest foul rate, Los Angeles concedes the highest free throw rate.
Atlanta is on pace to be the first team since 2012 to have a turnover rate above 20% and could potentially be the first team since 2013 with a .500 record and an assist to turnover ratio below 1. In fact, Las Vegas’s Assist to Turnover Ratio of 1.72 is more than twice that of Atlanta, 0.84.
Atlanta could also be the first team with a foul rate above 23% since 2017.
Thanks for reading the Her Hoop Stats Newsletter. If you like our work, be sure to check out our stats site, our podcast, and our social media accounts on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.