Saturday, May 16, 2009

Does the WNBA Have Fewer Close Games than the NBA?

There was an article in the New York Times called "The No-Stats All Star". The article is about Houston Rocket forward Shane Battier, and the fact that he has the ability to take great players and turn them into so-so players - usually by forcing them into areas of the court where they shoot less well. However, his ability to do this is not reflected well in traditional basketball statistics.

It was written by Michael Lewis, the author of "Moneyball", the book that brought advanced sports statistics to public attention. There was a line in the article that caught my attention.

A team scores on average about 100 points a game, but two out of three N.B.A. games are decided by fewer than 6 points — two or three possessions. The effect of this, in his mind, was to raise significantly the importance of every little thing that happened.

I was very surprised. I looked up the 2008-09 NBA regular season stats at Sure enough, the average team in an NBA game scored 100.0 points.

A team scored about 76.3 points in the average regular season WNBA game. However, in the 276 games that took place in the WNBA in 2008 from the start of the regular season to the end of the finals, only 66 games were decided by five points or less - that's only one out of four games. 25 percent of all games being close (WNBA) is a big difference from 66 percent of all games being close (NBA).

What can we take away from this? Is there an explanation for why this is true? I don't know one, but this might be one of the reasons that the WNBA is not seen to be as "exciting" as the NBA.

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