As I was digging through some of our old college coverage in preparation for college season I wondered, Why not have a WNBA “All-Tournament team” for the playoffs?
The moment passed as the playoffs are sort of a weird beast given that people played anywhere between 2 and 8 games, but the thought was revived after a brief discussion in our Game Three game thread about who the 2011 WNBA Finals MVP should be: Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus or Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry?
And with so much attention paid to Augustus and McCoughtry during the finals, I came back to that passing “All-Tournament team” concept to look at who did more to get their team to the Finals using the same MVP framework I normally use that includes the player contribution metric that James Bowman described the other day.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Augustus was a candidate for WNBA playoff MVP heading into the Finals and she rose to the top by scoring 24.7 points per game on 58.7% shooting during the Finals to rise to the top of the list.
But McCoughtry’s contribution to the Dream is a bit more complicated, pretty much for the reasons I described in comparing Augustus and McCoughtry’s spectacular performances in Game Two of the WNBA Finals: McCoughtry scores a lot of points but does so by putting up a lot of shots at a low percentage. In contrast to Augustus’ highly efficient scoring, McCoughtry scored 31 points per game on 43.3% shooting and was actually less efficient entering the Finals – she scored only 18.4 points per game on 41.33% shooting.
If you recall, one of the more impressive things about the Dream’s playoff run up until the Finals was that they won more than half their games without McCoughtry having superstar-caliber games. Guard Izi Castro Marques stepped up with huge scoring performances in the Eastern Conference Finals and they used a well-rounded effort to advance past the Sun in the first round.
So not only was McCoughtry not a “one-woman team” during the 2011 regular season, but the pattern held in the post-season even more strongly – in fact, up until the WNBA Finals, McCoughtry wasn’t even the team’s MVP statistically. Lindsey Harding was; in fact, she was arguably the best point guard in the entire playoff field, averaging 6 assists and only 1.6 turnovers per game.
The 2011 WNBA “All-Playoff Team”
With Harding’s outstanding point guard performance in mind, I set about making “All-Playoff” selections by function, not traditional “positions” – one point guard, two perimeter players, and two interior players – to more fairly represent how teams actually play basketball.
S.A. Silver Stars
2011 WNBA “All-Playoff” First and Second Teams. Click here for explanations of the numbers.
Clearly one could make an argument for McCoughtry being one of the top two perimeter performers in the playoffs based on her Finals performance alone. However, we might need to reconsider the notion that McCoughtry is solely responsible for carrying the team to the Finals and Harding is the primary reason and that’s why she was on the second team here.
Seimone Augustus, Wing, Minnesota Lynx (MVP)
Obviously Augustus’ scoring is what contributed most to her being the top player in the playoffs, but the passing efficiency that was noteworthy in her first WNBA Finals performance is what really stands out about her playoff performance overall.
Augustus didn’t necessarily produce a ton of assists during the playoffs – her assist ratio of 15.83% was nothing spectacular. But her turnover ratio of 6.86% was outstanding considering how often she had the ball in her hands. Her pure point rating of 2.65 was the highest of any Lynx player, including Lindsay Whalen (whose 0.00 pure point rating was surprisingly low).
Nobody would depend on Augustus to be their primary distributor – she’s a scorer and a 60.10% true shooting percentage while using up a more than a quarter of Lynx possessions while on the floor makes her a highly efficient scorer at that. But when teams are sending double teams and collapsing on your top scorer, it at least helps for her to be able to pass out of it without turning the ball over.
Tanisha Wright, Guard, Seattle Storm
This one might seem odd considering the Storm lost a heartbreaker in the first round, but Wright’s 2011 playoff performance was still outstanding for similar reasons to Augustus – Wright had a true shooting percentage of 71.28% while using up about a quarter of the Storm’s possessions in her 28 minutes a game to lead the Storm with 18.7 points per game. That’s in addition to her standard role on the defensive end.
She wasn’t nearly as efficient distributing the ball in the Storm’s abbreviated postseason (pure point rating of -5.14), but had the top PER before Augustus and McCoughtry exploded in the WNBA Finals. Feel free to call me a Storm homer, but that’s not a bad performance overall even if it was only three games.
Lindsey Harding, Point Guard, Atlanta Dream
So why is Harding so high on this list when she contributed the second least on this list to their overall statistical production and didn’t do a whole lot of scoring? It’s not her plus/minus, stellar as it is – I wouldn’t put much stock in plus/minus over eight games when everyone else played so few.
And no, I’m not just putting her here because I thought she’d be a key player for the Dream entering the playoffs either.
Harding’s ball handling efficiency that steadily increased throughout the regular season continued its ascent during the playoffs, culminating with a 6.3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio in the Finals that was further punctuated by a pure point rating of 10.78 in the Dream’s final game. Over the course of the playoffs, Harding had a pure point rating of 6.07, highest among any starting point guard.