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Diana Taurasi: Scoring Machine

In Friday’s win over the Washington Mystics, Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi became the third player in WNBA history to eclipse the 7,000 career-point plateau.

She joined some elite company with the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer Tina Thompson (7,488 career points) and Tamika Catchings (7,142 and counting) as the only members of the 7K Club. Taurasi needed only 348 games to reach the exclusive club, far fewer than both Catchings (428) and Thompson (460).

While Taurasi currently ranks third on the all-time scoring list, there is little doubt that she is the greatest scorer in the history of the WNBA and is on pace to rewrite the record book by the time her playing days are done.

Let’s take a closer look at some of her scoring achievements.

all-time-scoring-leader--totals-

* Active player

There are seven players in WNBA history that have scored at least 6,000 career points, including three active players: Taurasi, Catchings and Chicago Sky guard Cappie Pondexter.

Catchings leads Taurasi by just 112 points while she has played 89 more games than Diana. On the other hand, Taurasi has played 11 more games than Pondexter, but holds a 952-point lead over her former Mercury teammate.


scoring-leaders-by-average

* Active player

That’s because when it comes to scoring average, Taurasi ranks second all-time behind the legendary Cynthia Cooper. And it is Taurasi’s combination of consistency and longevity that have her near the top of the all-time lists in both total points and points per game.

Above is a look at the same seven players who have scored at least 6,000 points, ranked by their scoring average rather than their scoring total. Thompson and Catchings are helped greatly by their longevity — Thompson ranks second in career games played (496) and Catchings ranks ninth (438) — while Taurasi has surpassed 7,000 points in just 349 games, which ranks 34th all-time.


taurasi-scoring-average

* WNBA scoring leader
** WNBA assist leader: first player to lead league in both scoring and assists in career

Taurasi has won a WNBA-record five scoring titles, picking up her first in 2006 and pulling off a run of four straight from 2008 to 2011. She holds a career average of 20.1 points per game and has averaged greater than 20 points in seven of her 12 WNBA seasons. That includes this season, as Taurasi ranks second in scoring at 20.5 points per game.


taurasi-scoring-breakdown

What makes Taurasi one of the best players in the game is the fact that she can beat you from just about anywhere on the court. If you play off of her, she’ll drain a three-pointer with Steph Curry-like range. If you play her to shoot the three, she can drive past you and either hit a pull-up shot from mid-range or get all the way into the paint for a layup or floater. And if you get frustrated trying to slow her down and foul her, she’ll beat you from the free throw line as well, where she shoots 85.7 percent for her career.

Shot Type FGM-A FG%
2-Point 1408-2823 49.9%
3-Point 856-2334 36.7%
Free Throw 1646-1920 85.7%

 

Taurasi ranks second all-time in both three-pointers made and free throws made and while she may not catch Catchings from the charity stripe, Katie Smith’s lead in three-pointers made is getting smaller by the day.


career-leaders-3pointers-made

* Active player

This season, Taurasi is averaging 3.0 three-pointers per game, which is higher than her 2.45 career average. If Taurasi can keep up her current pace, she’ll pass Smith’s career three-point total of 906 before the close of this season. There are only two other active players that have made at least 500 three-pointers in their career: Catchings (584) and Taurasi’s college teammate, Sue Bird (691).


taurasi-scoring-season-totals

* Played only 8 games due to injury
** Missed entire WNBA season
*** Current season, 15 games played

While Catchings has announced that this will be her final WNBA season, Taurasi doesn’t appear to have plans to call it a career anytime soon. Considering she’s scored at least 500 points in every WNBA season in which she’s played at least 10 games, it’s only a matter of time before Taurasi catches Tina Thompson for the all-time scoring title.

The real question is how high of a bar will Taurasi set for the next generation of players to strive for? In the 10 complete seasons in which she has played at least 10 games, Taurasi has averaged 661 points per season. If she plays the rest of this seasons and all of next season, she should become the first player to ever surpass 8,000 points. And with continued health and a drive to compete, she could set marks that won’t be touched for years.

Three young players that can eventually challenge some of Diana’s offensive numbers are Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore and Elena Delle Donne — owners of the WNBA’s last four scoring titles.

McCoughtry has led the league in scoring twice (2012, 2013) and has a career scoring average of 19.5 points. The Atlanta Dream forward already has 4,627 points in her eighth season out of Louisville. Moore won the 2014 scoring title and holds a career average of 18.5 points per game in her sixth season out of UConn.

Player GP MIN FGM-A FG% 3PM-A 3P% FTM-A FT% PPG
Taurasi 349 31.8 6.5-14.8 43.9 2.5-6.7 36.7 4.7-5.5 85.7 20.1
Delle Donne 90 31.3 6.6-14.8 44.5 1.4-3.7 36.9 5.6-6.0 93.7 20.1

 

Then there is Delle Donne, who has career averages that are eerily similar to Taurasi’s — they have matching scoring averages (20.1), nearly identical three-point percentages, shot attempts, minutes played and more. The biggest difference is that Taurasi averages one more three-pointer per game, while Delle Donne averages nearly one more free throw per game and shoots them at a higher percentage.

Could EDD be the heir to the throne?