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The Numbers Game: Usage Percentage

Welcome to The Numbers Game, a weekly column examining some of the new statistics being offered on WNBA.com this season.

Each week, we will look at a new statistic, provide its definition, explain what it measures and why it is important in analyzing the game, and offer some examples to put the statistic to work.

With such a wide array of WNBA fans, we know that some will find this information helpful and others may already know all about these metrics and may not need an explanation. The goal here is to get everyone up to speed on the new stats and offer some analysis using these stats that all fans can find useful.

The topic this week is Usage Percentage (also referred to as Usage Rate), which can be found on the Player Advanced Stats page under the column titled USG% (click here).

The Definition

Usage Percentage is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player when she is on the floor.

What It Measures

Usage Percentage measures the amount of a team’s possessions that a player is responsible for ending with either a shot (field goal or free throw) or a turnover. While others may be involved in the possession, the only player designated to “use” the possession is the one that attempted the shot or committed the turnover that ended the offensive possession.

Why It’s Important

The higher a player’s Usage Percentage, the higher the impact they have on their team while they are on the court. Whether that is a positive or negative impact is determined by how efficient the player is given the number of possessions she uses.

Examining Usage Percentage is important when putting together a lineup to play together on the floor. If you put too many high-usage players on the court together, the team may not have the right chemistry and playmaking capabilities to run an efficient offense. There is only one ball on the court and you can’t have five players that are all looking to shoot it at the same time.

One of the limitations of Usage Percentage is that it does not account for players that make plays for their teammates. By only looking at the end result of the play (made shot, missed shot, turnover), Usage Percentage does not take into account the passes that led to the shot attempts.

There are plenty of stats that we’ll get into to help measure the effectiveness of the game’s playmakers; we’ll get into those in the weeks ahead. For now, let’s take a look at the leaders in Usage Percentage and give some examples of usage analysis.

Leaderboard

(All stats through games played on June 1, 2016, minimum 200 possessions used)

RANK PLAYER TEAM GP MIN POSS USG%
1 Candace Parker Sparks 5 29.8 302 32.8
2 Tina Charles Liberty 5 36.2 368 30.7
3 Kayla McBride Stars 4 30.4 239 30.5
4 Diana Taurasi Mercury 6 33.8 427 30.2
5 Odyssey Sims Wings 6 29.4 355 30.2
6 Angel McCoughtry Dream 6 31.1 394 29.6
7 Maya Moore Lynx 6 31.4 389 27.5
8 Allie Quigley Sky 7 16.5 244 25.7
9 Aerial Powers Wings 6 20.1 259 25.1
10 Jewell Loyd Storm 6 35.0 414 25.0
11 Kelsey Bone Sun 6 24.2 282 24.9
12 Tayler Hill Mystics 7 31.7 432 24.9
13 Alex Bentley Sun 6 28.5 346 24.5
14 Breanna Stewart Storm 6 35.5 424 24.3
15 Elena Delle Donne Sky 6 33.4 400 24.3
16 Camille Little Sun 5 21.8 225 23.7
17 Tiffany Mitchell Fever 6 27.7 347 23.2
18 Cappie Pondexter Sky 7 25.4 367 22.9
19 Penny Taylor Mercury 6 26.2 333 22.8
20 Seimone Augustus Lynx 6 28.8 359 22.7

 

Analysis

Candace Parker is far and away the leader in Usage Percentage so far this season, topping second place Tina Charles by more than two percentage points. Parker is the centerpiece of a Los Angeles Sparks squad that has started the season 5-0. (Note: They improved to 6-0 on Thursday night.)

Considering that Parker is among the league leaders in points (4th, 20.8), field goal attempts (4th, 15.4), free throw attempts (3rd, 7.0) and turnovers (12th, 2.4), it’s easy to see why she would land so high in Usage Percentage. What has made Parker so great this season is that she is combining high usage with high efficiency, which is a difficult task.

The normal trend is that the more possessions a player uses, the more their overall efficiency will tend to drop. And that is not happening with Parker, who in addition to being among the leaders in scoring and rebounding also ranks eighth in the league in assists (4.0). Parker is not only using her own possessions at a high level, she is also setting up her teammates to do the same.

It will be interesting to see if Parker can keep up this level of usage over the course of the season. We have data for this season and the past two, and in each of the past two seasons, Parker has finished fifth in Usage Percentage at 27.6% and 28.0%, respectively. Thus far this season she has carried a heavier load for the Sparks and her team has yet to lose. So perhaps being a player with a Usage Percentage north of 30% is where Parker needs to be in order for the Sparks to maximize their potential.

Usage Percentage Leaders (Last Two Seasons)

2015
1. Angel McCoughtry, Dream (32.5%)
2. Maya Moore, Lynx (29.9%)
3. Tina Charles, Liberty (29.2%)
4. Elena Delle Donne, Sky (27.9%)
5. Candace Parker, Sparks (27.6%)

2014
1. Maya Moore, Lynx (30.2%)
2. Tamika Catchings, Fever (30.0%)
3. Angel McCoughtry, Dream (29.7%)
4. Elena Delle Donne, Sky (29.1%)
5. Candace Parker, Sparks (28.0%)

Like Parker, New York’s Tina Charles has provided the perfect combination of maximum usage and maximum efficiency as the Eastern Conference Player of the Month leads the league in both scoring (23.4 ppg) and rebounding (11.8 rpg). No player has attempted or made more field goals than Charles, which is where the bulk of her usage comes from. She ranks in the 30s in both free throw makes and attempts and sixth in turnovers (3.0 per game).

Last year’s Usage Percentage leader, Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, ranks just outside of the top five this year, thanks in part to the rise of teammates like Tiffany Hayes and Layshia Clarendon, who have helped shoulder some of the load that Angel has typically carried for the Dream.

Reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne has ranked fourth in usage in each of the past two seasons, but currently ranks 15th in the league at 24.3%. The Sky have three players ranked in the top 20, led by reserve Allie Quigley, who uses 25.7% of the Sky’s possessions during her 16.5 minutes per game on the court.

Three players to keep an eye on are rookies Aerial Powers (9th, 25.1%), Breanna Stewart (14th, 24.3%) and Tiffany Mitchell (17th, 23.2%) as all three have made an immediate impact for their teams and have been relied upon heavily early in their pro careers.