Regular Season Stats Round-Up
There have been too many record-breaking moments to count this season.
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The WNBA has witnessed a truly historic year, with records tumbling all across the court. From remarkable individual displays to an unprecedented surge in 40-point games and triple-doubles across the league, this season has been a showcase of the best the league has to offer.
Still, there’s never enough time in the regular season to cover everything. With the playoffs in full swing, it's only fitting that we pause for a moment and look back on some of the most remarkable statistical showcases of the regular season.
Race for the Scoring Record
When the Seattle Storm and Los Angeles Sparks faced off during the final game of the regular season, nobody in Climate Pledge Arena was thinking about the playoffs. For a fanbase used to extended postseason runs, the Storm rallied behind a new goal last Sunday: Jewell Loyd setting a new regular-season scoring record.
Loyd, Breanna Stewart, and A’ja Wilson, all three averaging career-high points per game, had easily surpassed Diana Taurasi’s record of 860 earlier in the season. Now, on the last weekend of games, they only had themselves to compete against.
Loyd, trailing Stewart by a mere nine points at the start of the game, wasted no time in thrilling the Seattle crowd. She drained a 3-pointer just four minutes into the first quarter, surpassing Stewart and etching her name in WNBA history with a season total of 939 points.
But as impressive as it is that four of the WNBA’s five highest individual scoring seasons came this year, just taking those numbers at face value is missing some important context. Taurasi set her single-season points record in 2006 when the season was just 34 games, while this year’s trio of scorers had an extended 40-game season to work with (though Loyd only played 38). Taurasi’s 25.3 points per game is still a record, though Loyd gave Taurasi a run for her money with 24.7 PPG this season.
The fact that nobody was able to break Taurasi’s record this season only emphasizes how impressive of an achievement it was, especially in 2006. The landscape of the W is very different now than it was 15 years ago, and many of the factors that drive higher scoring today were less prevalent then.
In particular, 3-point shooting and pace have increased league-wide, giving players more opportunities in which to cash in on higher-value shots. This season was the second-fastest played in league history and had the second-highest 3-point rate to match.
Those factors were particularly important for Loyd, a sniper from deep who posted the league’s highest usage rate (32.7%) in eight years. With so much of a lackluster Storm offense resting on her shoulders, she stepped up to match. Of the league’s top-five single-season scorers, Loyd contributed to the highest percentage of her team’s points.
Scoring isn’t the only place where an extended season and conditions favoring fast pace and three-point shooting has toppled records. On the assists side, Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Vandersloot both broke Vandersloot’s previous record of 300 assists, with Thomas dishing out a new-high 317 assists to her teammates.
But unlike in the scoring race, the total assists record has been much more in flux over the past decade. Before this season, only one member of the top-five in single-season assists (No. 5, Ticha Penichiero in 2000) was from earlier than 2018. On the scoring side, the previous top-five were entirely players from the early-mid 2000s, with Maya Moore (No. 3, 2014) being the most recent addition. Given the factors incentivizing higher scoring have been gradually increasing across the league’s history, it’s truly impressive that they stood for so long.
Taurasi set her single-season scoring record in a league that was averaging just 75.2 PPG and 77.6 possessions per game. While the Mercury played to Taurasi’s strengths, playing faster than average and taking more threes, the overall league environment wasn’t as conducive to her playing style. And while Taurasi’s usage rate of 31.1% was the highest on her team, it’s still lower than Loyd’s this season.
For Loyd to come close to Taurasi’s points per game record, it took league-wide trends favoring high scoring, a player who could capitalize on that style of play, and a team without a true secondary-scoring threat. Without a similar perfect storm, it looks like Taurasi’s record will continue to stand.
Dallas’s Offensive Rebounding
If you’re looking at all-time records, the Wings’ offensive rebounding isn’t that impressive. Their offensive rebounding rate of 32.8% ranks 68th all-time and doesn’t come close to the top-tier Sacramento Monarchs, who hold the four highest offensive rebounding rate seasons in league history.
But therein lies what makes Dallas’s accomplishment so unique: the Monarchs folded in 2009, and the era of offensive rebounding died alongside them. Offensive rebounding rates have steadily declined in the WNBA since the league’s inception, with 2023 marking a new low of 23.3%.
There are a couple of reasons for this. As pace has increased, teams have begun to favor getting back and preventing the fast break over fighting for the rebound. Sacrificing a player to fight for an offensive board could get you an easy bucket, but it could also result in an easily exploitable 5-on-4 down the other end. That’s a gamble most teams have stayed away from.
The Wings, however, are built for rebounding. Teaira McCowan leads the league in offensive rebounding rate, and Dallas has two other players (Maddy Siegrist, Kalani Brown) in the top ten. No other team even has two. Brown has been especially important off the bench, allowing the Wings to continue their dominance on the glass even when McCowan needs a rest.
McCowan is also one of the slowest players in the league. Against fast-moving teams, the Wings could get caught in a 5-on-4 even if they do send everyone back. With that as the alternative, they might as well have her contest the offensive rebound.
So while the Wings aren’t an all-time great offensive rebounding team, they’re the best in recent memory. As Her Hoops Stats contributor Adam Vachon pointed out earlier this season, we can best contextualize Dallas’s dominance by looking at their offensive rebounding rate relative to the season average. The 2007 Sacramento Monarchs, the best offensive rebounding team in league history at 39.1%, outperformed the 2007 season average by 8.5 percentage points. This Dallas team outperformed the 2023 season average by 9.6 percentage points, far and away a new record.
Sabrina Ionescu From Deep
Earlier this season, I wrote about Sabrina Ionescu’s odd shooting year. Namely, while the guard was putting up career-best numbers from deep, her field-goal percentage inside the arc was among the worst in the league. While the sample size was limited so early in the season, Ionescu’s unusual shooting has persisted all year long.
It’s hard to overstate the remarkable season Ionescu is having from beyond the arc. Her 44.8% 3-point percentage was a new career best by more than 10 percentage points, good for 17th all-time. She also set a new single-season record for made 3-pointers at 128, just missing Diana Taurasi’s 3-pointers made per game record by just .003.
One major contributor to Ionescu’s success from deep is playing alongside a true point guard in Courtney Vandersloot. While Ionescu is a talented passer herself, Vandersloot is one of the best point guards in league history. With her running the offense, the Liberty posted the highest assisted shot rate (ASR%) in league history, at 75%.
Moving the ball so fluidly means Ionescu is open for easier shots than she’s had in past years. Assisted shots are generally less contested, and Ionescu’s triples were assisted a whopping 87.5% of the time this season, a 20 percentage-point increase from 2022. Her shot quality, a comprehensive metric that evaluates a player’s expected effective field goal percentage based on location and play context, has increased to match, and this year’s marker of 0.51 was the highest of her career. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Ionescu is now sharing the floor with two former (and current) MVPs, both of whom demand considerable attention from defenses.
Inside the arc, it’s been a different story. Ionescu shot just 38.3% from two this season, good for the 7th percentile league-wide. She stepped it up after the All-Star break, driving more in the lane and hitting 43.5% of her 2-pointers in the second half of the season, but even that couldn’t save her from a career-low in 2-point percentage.
Still, Ionescu’s odd shooting stats haven’t impacted her offensive effectiveness. As her 2-point shooting dropped off, Ionescu took triples on 62% of her field-goal attempts this season, more frequently than ever before. Her effective field goal percentage of 56.2% was a seven percentage point increase over her previous career-best, putting her in the 88th percentile league-wide.
The same trend appeared to manifest over the beginning of the postseason, when Ionescu hit 48.1% of her triples and just 31.3% of 2-pointers over the Liberty’s first three games. But last night, with her outside shot not falling, it was a different story.
In fact, Ionescu went 5-6 from two and was adept at drawing fouls, shooting a perfect 10-10 from the line. That’s the kind of aggressiveness and versatility the Liberty will need from their rising star as the semifinal series moves to Connecticut. New York has managed without Ionescu hitting within the arc all season, but this is crunch time. If there’s ever a time for her to step up consistently, it’s now.