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Expansion Draft Analysis

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Kevin Pelton, storm.wnba.com | Nov. 18, 2005
Six years after it was last attempted in the WNBA, expansion is a whole new ballgame this time around. When the Seattle Storm entered the WNBA for the 2000 season, the Storm and three other expansion teams had to share the fruits of the Expansion Draft. As a result, the six players the Storm selected combined for 21.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game the previous season in 79.9 minutes.

Given their choice of players after each team had protected six players apiece, the Chicago Sky got a much better group. Their top six players in terms of minutes per game last season (and 2004 in the case of surprise pick Stacey Dales-Schuman) combined for 30.4 points, 16.3 rebounds and 9.6 assists in 123.7 minutes.

While the Sky won't have one key benefit the Storm did have - six games against similarly untalented expansion teams - expect Chicago's path to respectability to be much quicker. Here's a breakdown of the 13 inaugural members of the Sky announced Wednesday.

Reading the player stat lines:
P40/R40/A40/B40 - Points, rebounds and assists (blocks for centers) per 40 minutes, allowing comparisons between players with different roles
TS% - True Shooting Percentage (points per shooting possession)
Reb% - Estimated percentage of available rebounds grabbed by the player
Pass - Assists per minute squared multiplied by assist-to-turnover ratio
Pos% - The percentage of team possessions used by the player
TO% - The percentage of possessions used by the player (including assists) that ended in turnovers
PER - John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating
Numbers in red boxes are player's rank amongst all qualifying players (minimum 250 minutes) at her position
For more, check out storm.wnba.com's stat primer

PG KIESHA BROWN

G
MPG
P40
R40
A40
TS%
Reb%
Pass
Pos%
TO%
PER
6
5.3
2.5
1.3
2.5
.500
2.2
0.10
9.7
50.0
2.9

Brown was Washington's backup point guard in 2003 and 2004, but lost her job when the Mystics drafted Temeka Johnson this April. She was waived by Washington in late June and signed by the Comets three weeks later, but played only 32 minutes all season between the two teams. Brown is a pretty good passer for a backup, handing out seven assists (and grabbing six rebounds) in the longest outing of her career (29 minutes) at Los Angeles in July 2004. She's also a 3-point threat who canned 46.4% of her tries from downtown in 2004. However, as one of two restricted free agents drafted by the Sky, Brown may not fit into the team's long-term plans.

PG ELAINE POWELL

G
MPG
P40
R40
A40
TS%
Reb%
Pass
Pos%
TO%
PER
29
23.1
9.4
4.8
4.6
.478
13
7.4
6
0.99
15
15.4
12
17.1
14
12.2
11

Powell has proven point guard cachet from her years in Orlando and from leading a championship team in Detroit, but at 30, those years are past her. Powell averaged 12.6 points per 40 minutes and posted a 52.9% True Shooting Percentage in 2003, but those marks dipped to 9.4 and 47.8%, respectively, last year. What's striking is how similar Powell's numbers are to Francesca Zara's (scroll down), expect in turnover rate. More of a game manager than a creative point guard, Powell is a strong option for an expansion team in its first year, but probably not the long-term answer for the Sky.

PG FRANCESCA ZARA

G
MPG
P40
R40
A40
TS%
Reb%
Pass
Pos%
TO%
PER
34
12.1
8.7
3.8
4.9
.478
14
6.1
11
0.95
17
15.5
13
22.0
19
9.6
18

As I've mentioned before, Zara had two seasons, one of eight games and one of 26 games. The first eight was Zara's adjustment period to the WNBA, when turnovers were a major issue. During this stretch, Zara's turnover rate was an incredible 37.5. After that, however, she settled down and played solid basketball off the bench, posting a 16.1 turnover rate the rest of the year - lower than Powell's. Her Pass Rating of 1.82 the rest of the season would have ranked her seventh in the WNBA. It was great working with Zara last season, and here's wishing her all the best in Chicago.

SG STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN

G
MPG
P40
R40
A40
TS%
Reb%
Pass
Pos%
TO%
PER
31
25.2
13.3
3.3
4.0
.504
9
5.2
22
1.05
4
18.1
18
10.1
3
13.7
12

Setting aside for a moment the issue of Dales-Schuman's unretirement, let's deal with Dales-Schuman the player. In Wednesday's teleconference, Dave Cowens indicated that he plans to play Dales-Schuman at guard, her preferred position. That plays to her strengths - Dales-Schuman has wonderful court vision and is a fine ballhandler - while minimizing her distaste for physical play. Dales-Schuman may not be the superstar expected out of Oklahoma, but she's a very nice piece for an expansion team.

SG CHELSEA NEWTON

G
MPG
P40
R40
A40
TS%
Reb%
Pass
Pos%
TO%
PER
34
21.0
8.3
3.7
3.1
.449
21
6.2
17
0.44
11
13.7
25
14.4
19
8.5
23

One of the best perimeter defenders to come into the league in recent years, Newton took advantage of an injury to Kara Lawson at the start of the season to claim a starting spot for the Monarchs. Second amongst rookies in minutes, Newton held the job all year, through Sacramento's run to the championship. It's not every day an expansion team gets to draft a 22-year-old who started every game for the league champions, but I'll put a little damper on the Newton hype by noting that players of her ilk often have relatively limited ceilings. Where most young players improve is by adding to their understanding of the game and refining their natural athletic talents. Newton came into the league a relatively finished product, and while she is capable of improving her 3-point shooting (24.0% as a rookie) to make opponents think twice about leaving her, it's doubtful Newton will ever be a big-time scorer. That said, Newton was a great pickup, and the Sky should be happy to have her.

SG JIA PERKINS

G
MPG
P40
R40
A40
TS%
Reb%
Pass
Pos%
TO%
PER
30
15.5
12.9
3.8
2.8
.457
20
6.6
13
0.24
16
21.5
7
14.0
17
13.9
14
31
19.7
13.5
4.2
3.5
.484
15
6.6
14
0.50
8
19.7
12
13.1
12
13.5
15

No, the two lines above are not there by mistake. Instead, we're playing a little comparison game. The first line belongs to Perkins, the second to Player X, also a shooting guard in her second season last year. Without saying anything about their defense or intangibles, we can agree they're of pretty similar value, right? Well, Player X is Chandi Jones, who was the centerpiece of Detroit's trade for Katie Smith at the deadline. That makes Jones pretty valuable, and for the Sky to get a similar player for nothing is a major coup. Perkins has plenty of work to do with her game, but she's a natural scorer who showed few signs of rust despite missing almost all of her rookie season after giving birth. When Perkins got minutes, she often shined, including a 21-point effort here in Seattle against the Storm. Perkins has to be more consistent and shoot a higher percentage, but on a team filled with complementary players, she stands as a potential star. Newton is the more polished player, but I think Perkins has the brighter future of Chicago's young off guards.

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