2004 WNBA Preview

With the kind of turnover and parity produced by strong Amateur Drafts and Dispersal Draft, the WNBA has become very difficult to predict the last two seasons. How tough? Last year's Seattle Times staff picks - at least in the Eastern Conference - provide a reminder.

All three Times writers had New York, Washington and Indiana in the playoffs. Those three teams, you'll recall, were the only teams to miss the playoffs in the East. Only Storm beat writer Jayda Evans had Detroit - the eventual WNBA champion - in the playoffs, and the fifth seed at that. This is no indictment of the Times; anyone else would have done as poorly. Be glad your picks weren't saved for posterity.

This year shouldn't be quite that bad. There is near-complete consensus that the Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks, who met in last year's WNBA Finals, are again the class of their respective conferences, with the Sacramento Monarchs and Charlotte Sting, amongst others, nipping at their heels.

The middle of both conferences is muddled, and at this point no team can safely be ruled out of the playoff race. That should set up yet another fantastic WNBA season - as long as your predictions aren't saved on the Internet.

storm.wnba.com's Team-by-Team Analysis:
Western Conference
Eastern Conference

Awards Picks

MVP: Lauren Jackson, Seattle
The media may be hesitant to give Jackson a second straight MVP and Tamika Catchings, Chamique Holdsclaw and Lisa Leslie will all give Jackson strong competition. However, her 29-point effort on Sunday against Phoenix lent credence to Anne Donovan's contention that Jackson would be better this year. If the Storm makes the playoffs, Jackson's got a good shot at repeating.

Rookie of the Year: Diana Taurasi, Phoenix
Both Alana Beard and Taurasi are sure to make impressive WNBA debuts, but the edge currently goes to Taurasi because of her exposure and because of their respective teams. While Beard will be competing with several teammates, notably Holdsclaw, for shots, Taurasi should get plenty of looks on the points-starved Mercury.

Defensive Player of the Year: Sheryl Swoopes, Houston
This is Swoopes' award; the WNBA just gives it out. Nobody has yet given a compelling reason not to keep giving the award to Swoopes, though Catchings could mount a charge, especially if her team improves defensively.

Most Improved Player: Asjha Jones, Connecticut
Out of Holdsclaw's shadow and given a chance to start regularly, Jones could show the ability that made her the fourth pick in the 2002 Draft. Returning to Connecticut should help her confidence as well.

Coach of the Year: Richie Adubato, New York
Well regarded for his Xs and Os, Adubato should get some of the credit if the Liberty returns to contention, and playing in New York won't hurt his PR efforts.

Storm Analysis

  • WNBA.com
  • ESPN.com

    Statistics Explanation
    Breaking down some of the terms and numbers you'll see in the team-by-team analysis:

    Off (Offensive Efficiency) - Also called points per 100 possessions. The formula is PTS/(FGA + (.44*FTA) + TO), all of them for the team. This is slightly different from the version used by WNBA.com, which subtracts offensive rebounds.
    Def (Defensive Efficiency) - Same formula, except for opponent statistics.
    OReb% (offensive rebounding %) - Used for teams. OREB/(OREB + Opponent DREB).
    DReb% (defensive rebounding %) - Used for teams. DREB/(DREB + Opponent OREB).
    Rebound % - Generally used for players, this approximates available rebounds when the player is in the game based on (Team REB + Opponent REB)/(Team MIN/5) * MIN; the team's average available rebounds per minute times the player's minutes. The player's rebound total is divided by this. League average is 10%, since there are 10 players on the court.
    True shooting percentage - The best measure of a player's shooting efficiency, which takes into account three-point and free-throw shooting. The formula is PTS/(2 * (FGA + (.44 * FTA))