The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, June 26, 2019

The surprising early stats — Kayla McBride interview — Must-click women's basketball links

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The surprising early stats

We are around 1/3 of the way through the WNBA season — early enough that plenty can and will change, late enough that some clear trends have emerged. So what’s new and unexpected?

Well, let’s start with the Minnesota Lynx, who rebuilt on the fly this offseason. While their defense got early attention, they currently sit fifth in the WNBA in offensive efficiency, and even that undersells what they can be offensively. Their turnover problem is enormous, as Jenn Hatfield details in a link below, but also a sufficiently outlier-like number that a regression seems likely. All of which means their offensive potential is even higher — they are second in the league in true shooting percentage and third in effective field goal percentage. A combination of this full offensive potential and the defense they’ve been playing so far will make the Lynx very dangerous come playoff time. Better yet, it looks like this team is set to fully capitalize on it, should Maya Moore return in 2020.

Obviously, the other big surprise is the Atlanta Dream, who are not only struggling offensively, but rank eleventh in the league in defensive efficiency, too, just ahead of the New York Liberty. Nicki Collen’s crew struggled offensively early on last season, too, but their defense kept them in games. Recently, the offense has picked up — a more than respectable 104.4 offensive rating in their last three games — but the defense over that span is a disturbing 112.4. This feel fixable, and Collen is certainly up to the task. But it gets late early in a 34-game season.

My last, and favorite number: the Dallas Wings, who lost Liz Cambage, lead the WNBA in rebounding percentage. A big part of that is Imani McGee-Stafford, who has two top-ten finishes in rebounding percentage in her young career, and is well on her way to a third. But it’s a true team effort, a Brian Agler special, finding what they can do collectively and then doing it well.

The playoffs will be tough. But the Wings are obviously on their way up.

This Week in Women’s Basketball

Here’s that excellent Jenn Hatfield story on the Minnesota Lynx and turnovers.

Enjoy this jam-packed Around The Rim, which includes Lindsay Gottlieb.

Over at High Post Hoops, we put together our top ten WNBA players list.

Angel Reese has narrowed her college list to five.

Sue Favor caught up with Reshanda Gray.

Michell C. Clark has a terrific interview with Imani McGee-Stafford.

I wrote about the Mystics, who are not surprising me by being great.

Ian Levy gets granular on the Atlanta Dream’s struggles.

Geno Auriemma is thrilled about UConn returning to the Big East. (So am I!)

Matt Ellentuck highlights the leap forward by the Chicago Sky so far.

Strong Ashley Bastock piece on Toledo product made good Natasha Howard.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Kayla McBride, Las Vegas Aces

(I caught up with Kayla when the Aces came through New York recently.)

HOWARD MEGDAL: As far as, where this team is, where does it need to be?

KAYLA MCBRIDE: I think our energy and our effort has to be consistent. We have a lot of talent, but it’s just figuring out how to get this talent to play together efficiently, and for 40 minutes every game. That’s hard. We’ve added pieces. People have gotten the year older. But, it’s hard league, it’s a tough league. It’s the best league in the world, so we have to know that we’re going to get everybody’s best and be prepared for that. We’re still learning, top to bottom, one through eleven. I mean, give credit to New York. They played a great game. They needed to win, and they took it from us, for sure.

HOWARD MEGDAL: You guys are managing to play at the highest pace in the league, with Liz here. That integration has already happened even though she’s still didn’t do 100%. I just, I wonder, what you think 100% Liz, and 100% of fully integrated with Liz, looks like for this team?

KAYLA MCBRIDE: It’s going to be an immediate impact when she’s 100% obviously. We’re working her in. She’s done a great job. She’s really jelled with our team, especially inside the locker room. Now it’s just taking it onto the court, right? Obviously she’s a huge presence, great player, MVP runner up. We know everything she can do. And now it’s being able to integrate her into our system and making everybody the best versions of themselves, with her.

HOWARD MEGDAL: So, right away it seems like this is, and Bill [Laimbeer] talked about this just now, it’s not a team with a setup guard per se. You guys are all looking to push… You kind of feel like nobody’s the point guard and everybody’s the point guard at once for this team?

KAYLA MCBRIDE: Kinda. Because everybody can bring it up. You know? I think the number one thing for us, like I said, it’s pace, pushing the ball, and getting inside play and inside out. That’s, obviously who we are. We all have to get on the same page.

So as a shooter and a scorer, anybody can bring the ball up, throw it in, or move and cut it. But it’s about reading each other too, and that takes time. It takes time to build chemistry, especially on the offensive end. I think defense is always energy and effort, but on the opposite end on knowing what your other team would like to do with the ball and things like that, that comes with time.

HOWARD MEGDAL: You have obviously no shortage of winning in your history, but not so much at the WNBA level. There’s a lot of players who are kind of learning how to win. So how do you impart that onto your teammates. Is that something that goes on on the court? How do you do it?

KAYLA MCBRIDE: It takes time, and it’s practice really. Because you have to figure out how to win together. There’s five people on the court at one time. It’s not track. It’s not as swimming relay. It’s not anything like that. So you have to be able to gel and integrate with four other people at the same time.

And that’s really hard. Obviously I won a lot at Notre Dame, but it’s different at this level. Everybody’s a little bit more talented. They come from different backgrounds. Now you have to be able to integrate all five of these players together. But I think once we do, once we figure out how to do it in our own way… because I feel like every team is going to be different… We’re going to be different. But once we find our way, the sky’s the limit.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.