Came across this interesting research study in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine looking into discrepancies between starters and non-starters in the WNBA. What they found was that 2-point field goals, free-throws, and assists were the the three most powerful variables discriminating between starters and nonstarters. In comparing to men's basketball, the researchers point to the athletic and skill differences between men and women which seeks to highlight the importance of shooting and passing ability in women's basketball.

I think the shooting percentage is an obvious statistic, if you improve in all of your other areas (passing, forcing turnovers, etc..), your shooting percentage should rise. But the assists statistic is interesting. In the NBA, certainly top assist teams like the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers prove the value of assists -- the setup pass that leads to the made shot. But you look at the bottom half of the league and you will see such top teams like the Orlando Magic (second to last from the Grizzlies), the New Orleans Hornets, and even the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trailblazers are in the bottom half.

I think it highlights some of the important differences between the women's and men's game. In the women's game, because athleticism is less of a factor, and skill is more of a factor, the setup to a good shot is as important as the shot itself. As such, according to the statistical analysis, good offensive schemes are vital in the women's game which means coaching tactics have a much higher value as well. The implications are far reaching. So for example, given equal athleticism between two women's teams, the team playing a motion offense will probably have the edge over a team that uses ISO plays. Zone defenses are more effective in the women's game which thus makes zone offense all the more important.


  1. Lightning Dave Bolton  

    June 18, 2009 at 8:55 PM

    and this probably translates to other levels of basketball that don't feature elite athletes (whether men or women) -- setting up the score is important.

    good post

  2. bruchu  

    June 19, 2009 at 1:05 PM

    Good point, the lower the level, the less athletic, the more important passing becomes.