Last season, the Los Angeles Sparks lost their first seven games and didn’t win their ninth until August 21. This year, however, they’ve already won their ninth game, defeating the Dallas Wings last night to move to 9-0 on the season. One big reason why? Candace Parker.
The two-time MVP sat out the first 16 games of 2015 in order to rest and make sure she was 100 percent healthy, and her absence was obvious in the team’s play. But with her on board from the jump this year, the Sparks are cruising, and so is Parker. The 6-foot-4 forward is averaging 15.6 points, 7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game.
Yet, the most impressive aspect of Parker’s start to the season, has been her three-point shooting. Only a career 32.7 percent shooter from behind the arc, Parker is knocking down triples at a 43.8 percent clip, good for seventh in the league, and the best mark of her career.
Let’s take a closer look at how Parker has had success from downtown this season.
|Pick-And-Pop||Catch And Shoot||Off The Dribble|
As you can see, Parker is far more successful when she shoots off pick-and-pop or catch-and-shoot opportunities. In fact, of the 14 threes she’s made this season, she has not dribbled before a single one. Meanwhile, she has missed all of the eight triples she has attempted off the dribble.
More specifically, six of the nine threes she has made off of pick-and-pop looks have been assisted by Kristi Toliver, the sharp-shooting guard who leads the league in three-point shooting at 47.9 percent.
Because of Toliver’s threat to make shots from anywhere on the court, she usually attracts both players when coming off a Parker screen. That, coupled with the multitude of other options Los Angeles has, including Nneka Ogwumike and Jantel Lavender, makes other defenders less likely to come help. Thus, Parker is often left wide open on these pick-and-pop opportunities.
In past years, that made sense, as Parker has not historically been a great shooter from deep. Over the last three seasons she’s shot just 27.9, 30.6, and 25.7 percent from behind the arc, respectively.
This year, however, Parker is making teams pay. Her improved shooting is a big reason why the Sparks are leading the league in three-point percentage at 40 percent and have the best offensive rating in the league, at 108.9 points per 100 possessions. With Parker knocking down shots from outside, and the rest of the Sparks healthy and confident, Los Angeles is showing they might just be unbeatable.