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Five WNBA Stats Stories to Watch

Two weeks into the 2021 WNBA season a number of teams and players have made strong first impressions. While the sample size is still relatively small for most teams, there are some statistical trends and achievements that we need to highlight and more that we need to watch for, and don’t forget to check out Stats.WNBA.com for all your WNBA statistical information.

Note: All stats through games played on Friday, May 28.

1. Tina Charles on a Scoring Tear

With Elena Delle Donne still recovering from offseason back surgery, the Mystics have had to lean on Tina Charles early in the season and the former MVP has responded. Through two weeks, Charles is averaging a league-high 26.7 points over six games. There have been five 30-point games in the WNBA so far this season – Charles accounts for three of them. Charles has more 30-point games in her first six games with the Mystics than she had in any of her first 10 WNBA seasons. She had 13 career 30-point games heading into this season and is steadily adding to that total. She does still have some work to do if she wants to join this list:

Most 30 Point Games, Single Season

  • 12: Maya Moore (2014)
  • 10: Diana Taurasi (2008)
  • 9: Lauren Jackson (2007)
  • 8: Cynthia Cooper (1997), Diana Taurasi (2010)
  • 7: Diana Taurasi (2006)
  • 6: Seimone Augustus (2006), Angel McCoughtry (2011, 2013), Brittney Griner (2017), Liz Cambage (2018)

2. Courtney Vandersloot Gets Some Assist Competition

Courtney Vandersloot has not only won the assist title in each of the past four seasons, she’s broken the assists per game record each time. In 2020, Vandersloot became the first player in league history to average double-digit assists (10.0); Julie Allemand finished as the runner-up at 5.8 assists per game.

Vandersloot’s margin for the assist title has grown from 1.5 in 2017 and 2018, to 3.2 in 2019 and 4.2 in 2020. But this season could be different with the emergence of New York’s Sabrina Ionescu, who is averaging 7.8 assists per game, just 0.2 agp behind Vandersloot for the league lead early in the season. Of course, there is plenty of time remaining before this really becomes a race later in the season, but it is great to see another elite passer enter the picture. And thanks to a 12-dime effort in Las Vegas’ win over Indiana on Friday, Chelsea Gray is up to 7.0 assists per game early in the season.

Ionescu already has three double-digit assist games in her first six games of the season, including one triple-double on May 18 against Minnesota (26 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds). She became only the ninth player in WNBA history to record a triple-double – a list that also includes Vandersloot and Gray.

3. New York is On Fire from Deep

The Liberty have gotten off to a 5-1 start – making their 2-20 season from last year in the bubble seem like a distant memory. There are several reasons behind the turnaround: the return of Sabrina Ionescu after she was lost for the season just three games into her rookie season in 2020; the addition of last year’s Most Improved Player, Betnijah Laney, who currently ranks third in the WNBA in scoring at 22.7 ppg; and the play of Michaela Onyenwere, who leads all rookies in scoring at 9.3 ppg, just to name a few.


2020 (27.7 3P%)

2021 (43.7 3P%)

 

The play of those three players, as well as newcomer Sami Whitcomb, have helped the Liberty go from the league’s worst 3-point shooting team in 2020 (27.7%) to its best in 2021 (43.7%). New York has four of the top 20 3-point shooters in the entire WNBA: Laney (52.2%, 4th), Ionsecu (48.6%, 9th), Onyenwere (45.0%, 14th) and Whitcomb (41.7, T-19th).

4. Jonquel Jones is Back

The Connecticut Sun opened the 2020 season in the bubble 0-5 before rallying to finish 10-12 and qualify for the playoffs as the No. 7 seed; they survived two single-elimination rounds to advance to the semifinals against Las Vegas; the Sun and Aces went the full five games, with the Sun coming just one win shy of a return trip to the WNBA Finals.

While reaching the Finals and competing for the title remains the destination the Sun look to reach, the path will definitely be different in 2021 as the Sun opened the season 5-0 before dropping their first game on Tuesday in Seattle, and improving to a league-best 6-1 with a win over Washington on Friday. A key to Connecticut’s fast start has been the play of Jonquel Jones, who missed the 2020 season with a medical exemption, but has returned in full force in 2021. Jones holds the record for double-doubles in a single season and already has six in her first seven games of 2021. She ranks seventh in scoring (20.0 ppg), first in rebounding (11.3 rpg), eighth in steals (1.7 spg) and seventh in field goal percentage (54.6%).

5. Watch the All-Time Leaderboards

As the league celebrates its 25th anniversary, keeping an eye on the history books is especially important to see how today’s stars stack up against the league’s all-time greats. Here are a few milestones to watch for over the next few weeks:

Scoring

  • Candice Dupreee (6,780) needs 32 points to pass Cappie Pondexter (6,811) for fourth place on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list. Once she passes Cappie, Dupree will only trail two Hall of Famers (Tamika Catchings and Tina Thompson) and a future Hall of Famer in Diana Taurasi.
  • Taurasi needs only six points to become the first player to reach 9,000 career points. She is expected to miss the next four weeks, however, with a chest injury, so this milestone will have to wait a while.
  • Tina Charles (6,142) needs 122 points to pass Lisa Leslie (6,263) for eighth place on the all-time scoring list.
  • Sue Bird (6,332) needs 121 points to pass Katie Smith (6,452) for sixth place on the all-time scoring list.

Assists

  • Taurasi needs 32 assists to become the fourth player in league history to reach 2,000 career assists. Again, with the chest injury, this milestone will be delayed, but with a career average of 4.3 assists, Taurasi should only need about eight games to get there.
  • Courtney Vandersloot should beat Taurasi to the 2,000 assist club as she is 55 dimes shy of the milestone and owns the highest assist average in league history (6.5 per game).
  • Every playmaker is chasing Sue Bird, who owns the all-time assist mark at 2,921 and is on pace to become the first player to reach 3,000 career assists. She is averaging 5.5 assists through her first six games; if she maintains that pace, she’ll get to 3K in 15 games.

Rebounds

  • Candace Parker is 90 rebounds away from becoming the ninth player in league history to reach 3,000 career rebounds. Parker grabbed eight boards in her debut with the Chicago Sky on May 15, but has been out with an ankle injury since. She is expected back soon, so collecting those 90 boards this year should not be an issue. When Parker reaches 3K rebounds, she’ll join Tamika Catchings as the only players in league history with at least 5,000 points, 3,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. I’m sure to rope to that club is colored Tennessee orange.

3-Pointers Made

  • Sue Bird is already the WNBA’s all-time leader in games played (525) and assists (2,921), but she also ranks in the top 10 in scoring (6,332, 7th), steals (663, 4th) and 3-pointers made (892, 3rd). Bird needs 15 triples to pass Katie Smith for second place all-time and trail only Taurasi, who has 1,173 3-pointers and will add more to raise the bar for future generations to chase once she returns from injury.