Orange and Oatmeal: Picking the All-Star Reserves
Good morning, afternoon, and evening everybody and welcome to the second edition of Orange and Oatmeal, the WNBA Internet exchange between Kevin Pelton, interactive marketing coordinator for the Seattle Sonics and Storm, and John Maxwell, director of public relations for the Detroit Shock. Be sure to check back for infrequent postings and general East vs. West musings with a statistical bent on the W throughout the season and beyond.
Kevin Pelton: Well, John, with the starters picked by fans, it's time for us to give our thoughts on who should round out the rosters for Saturday's All-Star Game. How nice of new WNBA President Donna Orender to bestow that kind of power on little old us. What's that you say? This is all just for fun? Oh.
To start out, I wanted to post a chart of the WNBA's leaders in both conferences in PER, John Hollinger's rating system that many people consider the best for rating players. Here they are (through July 1), minimum 250 minutes, starters in all caps:
Player Team PER Player Team PER ------------------------ ------------------------- McWilliams-F CON 27.5 JACKSON SEA 27.1 Dydek CON 24.3 Holdsclaw LAS 25.1 Nolan DET 21.5 GRIFFITH SAC 25.0 Wauters NYL 21.3 Walker SAC 25.0 Sales CON 20.9 SWOOPES HOU 23.3 CATCHINGS IND 20.8 TAURASI PHO 22.5 Whalen CON 19.6 Whitmore LAS 20.4 Johnson WAS 19.4 Lovelace MIN 19.8 HAMMON NYL 18.9 Smith MIN 19.6 Douglas CON 18.9 Burse SEA 19.3 Melvin WAS 18.1 Snow HOU 19.1 Christon NYL 17.5 Palmer-Daniel SAS 18.6 Miller IND 17.0 Leslie LAS 18.3 Sutton-Brown CHA 16.7 Feenstra SAS 17.8 White IND 15.0 Ferdinand SAS 17.6 Jones CON 15.0 BIRD SEA 17.0 Wyckoff CON 14.9 Ohlde MIN 17.0 Milton-Jones WAS 14.9 Thomas SAS 17.0 STALEY CHA 14.8 Powell SAC 16.2 Ford DET 14.7 Hayden MIN 15.6 Beard WAS 14.7 Lennox SEA 14.9 Bevilaqua IND 14.6 Dixon LAS 14.4 Powell DET 14.5 Williams MIN 14.0
Quickly, I'll note two things: Connecticut has seven of the 17 best players in the Eastern Conference, and there are a lot of really good players starting the season really slowly (for example, Anna DeForge doesn't even make this list).
However, since this season's performance is a factor, I think it's smart to start out relatively on the same page with regards to what that performance has been. For example, Tamika Catchings' selection has been criticized by some who have noted that she's shooting the ball poorly right now. But Catchings is so versatile that her PER is still the second-best of the players listed at forward on the East ballot.
The voters made my first four selections easy. I had Margo Dydek, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Deanna Nolan and Nykesha Sales as starters. No reason to change now. For my second guard, I'm going with Lindsay Whalen. Whalen is running the offense that's far and away the best in the league and ranks third amongst all point guards in both scoring and assists per game.
That leaves me with two more spots to fill. The host Connecticut Sun may not have had any players voted in, but I'd send their entire starting five. Katie Douglas is having a great season even before you consider that she's arguably the best perimeter defender in the league. There are a lot of candidates for my last spot should it become necessary to replace Swin Cash. I wish I had something more creative to offer, but I don't think I can pass up Liberty center Ann Wauters in the midst of a career year.
How about the West, John?
John Maxwell: Don’t book a plane ticket for Wauters just yet, Kevin. Cash participated in two full practices over the weekend, and could come off the Injured List at any time now.
As far as the Western Conference is concerned, I had Chamique Holdsclaw as a starter, so she makes it as a reserve forward, and I have to add DeMya Walker from Sacramento as well. Holdsclaw is dropping in her workmanlike 20 and 8 every night while shooting a phenomenal 52 percent from the field and getting to the free throw line as often as anybody. Walker is having the best season of her six-year WNBA career, posting career highs in scoring, rebounding, steals and field goal percentage, and is one of the big reasons behind the Monarchs outstanding start this year.
Even though her counting stats are down somewhat this season, Minnesota’s Katie Smith goes in as a guard for my Westerners -- one of the hardest working players in the game can still light it up.
I need another point guard on my roster, but the usual suspects are having some difficulties this season. Sacramento’s Ticha Penicheiro is playing fewer minutes than she ever has in her career, and her assist and steal numbers are at career lows. The Sparks Nikki Teasley, who came into the 2005 season with a career Effective Field-Goal Percentage of 51.4 percent, is posting a 45.9 eFG% this year. She’s not getting to the free-throw line at all, and is averaging a career low 4.1 assists.
But nobody else is blowing me away out West, so I’m going with Penicheiro. Her open-court style of play is tailor-made for events like the All-Star Game.
That leaves me with one more spot to fill. The question is, ‘where do I want the depth?’
And I’m going to go with Leslie. Does she deserve to be there? Perhaps not if you are looking at this season alone. There are a handful of players having better seasons, but the All-Star Game is still about star-power to a large degree, and Leslie has that in spades. I’m going to overlook the half-season of struggles and put the best center the WNBA has ever seen out the there and hope that Western Conference Head Coach Anne Donovan has fun with some of her rotations and gives us Leslie, Snow and Griffith as a post trio at some point during the game.
KP: Cash playing wouldn't be the first time I've jumped the gun. Here's hoping she has a great game to hush the talk that she shouldn't be there.
To me, there's no question Leslie has to be there. That's tough for me to say, given our rivalry with the Sparks. But I know that if the situation were reversed and it was Lauren Jackson who had slumped in the first half of the season, I'd still want her on the team. Years of MVP-caliber play outweighs five bad weeks in my book.
I would strongly consider going with two backup shooting guards in the West, since this is just an All-Star Game and there are two point guards in the starting five. I'm partial to Betty Lennox, but you could make a case for Tamecka Dixon, Marie Ferdinand or Anna DeForge as well.
JM: The league just released the names of the reserves, so congratulations to Deanna Nolan, Cheryl Ford, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Ann Wauters, Alana Beard, and Nykesha Sales for the East and Chamique Holdsclaw, Lisa Leslie, DeMya Walker, Katie Smith, Marie Ferdinand and Michelle Snow for the West.
Should be a fun weekend at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena. We’ll see everybody there at 1 p.m. this Saturday, July 9, on ABC.
Oh, and we activated Swin today, so look for her on the floor of the Mohegan Sun as well.
KP: Don't get into too much trouble in Connecticut, John. I'll be watching at home with everyone else and eagerly awaiting our next round of discussion so we can actually explain to people what Orange and Oatmeal is all about.