Thursday, August 20, 2009

Projecting the 2010 Draft Class: The Senior Prospects Metric

It can't be stopped. It can't be reasoned with. It barges into serious discussion like a drunk barging into a church picnic. The new 2010 Senior Prospects Metric (SPM) calculations are ready for the 2010 WNBA Draft!

The point of the SPM is to project future WNBA performance based on a player's junior year in college. Granted, a lot can happen between August 2009 and June 2010, but with that in mind, the SPM suggests players to keep your eyes on during the offseason.

Without going into the gory details, here's how the numbers are calcuated.

* The SPM is strongly based on a player's rebounding, shot blocking and stealing.
* Players who can shoot the 3-pointer get credit in the SPM. A guard might not be able to block shots, but she can (or should) be able to shoot the 3-pointer.
* An efficiency rating is created based on adjusted Wins Score per minute.
* The SPM doesn't like players who turn over the ball. The metric is subtractive instead of the traditional assist/turnover ratio.
* Players are penalized if they are older than the average player. Those players are probably better because they're further along in their physical development.
* The SPM loves players who can get 50 steals and 50 blocks in a season. Out of the 127 players studied, only two made that cut - Jessica Breland of North Carolina and Vivian Frieson of Gonzaga.
* The relative strength of a player's conference is taken into account.
* The SPM doesn't like players that are too short. Usually, those players get eaten alive in the WNBA.
* The SPM looks with a jaundiced eye at any player who is 6'6" or more. Generally, those players don't turn out to be that great.
* In addition to 3-point accuracy, guards should make a mininum number of 3-pointers.
* A player should rebound well for her position.
* The SPM gives bonuses to high-usage players - players that eat up a lot of their team's possessions - clearly, those players are generating a lot of their team's offense and beyond a certain point, it impacts their offensive efficiency because opposing teams are keying those defenses on those players. Likewise, low usage players are penalized.
* The Brittany Pittman Rule. This is an option rule, and stats will be presented with and without the rule. Brittany Pittman has the highest rank in the SPM, but she's a little known player from Morehead State. The rule: "Any player who is not from a major conference - the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10 or SEC - will have their score docked by half." In general, players from "mid-major" conferences are ignored at the WNBA Draft.

We take all of these stats from these 127 players and throw them into a blender. Everyone gets assigned a number by the SPM which indicates - or rather, should indicate - their potential.

First, let's look at the rankings without the Brittany Pittman Rule. (We expect Brittany Pittman to rise to the top.)

Free Image Hosting at

And now, we look at the stats with the Brittany Pittman Rule in effect.

Free Image Hosting at

So it seems that according to the SPM, neither Jayne Appel nor Tina Charles is the best player around even if we apply the Brittany Pittman Rule. That honor goes to Jessica Breland, a forward out of North Carolina. Appel comes in third behind Danielle Wilson, a center out of Baylor. Epipphany Prince, who will skip her senior year of college finishes eighth.

Tina Charles ends up in 12th place. Why? Not as many steals or blocked shots per game as some of the other contenders. She's a good player, and the SPM is just a number.

Some odd names appearing in the top 20: Brittany Pittman of Morehead State still stays in the Top 10 even after being docked for playing in the Ohio Valley Conference. Courtnay Pilypaitis of Vermont should be worth a look. There are other players from non-major conferences in the top 20 as well.

Which leads me to another conclusion. The 2010 Draft will not be as strong as drafts of the previous years. Comparing my values to the values of the 2008 class and the 2009 class, the values drop more quickly. There just aren't that many impact players coming out of the 2010 Draft.

This is good news for teams that do well in the 2009 season, and bad news for the lottery finishers. It is less likely that the acquisition of one player is going to turn a team around. There is no Candace Parker-like figure in this draft, or even an Angel McCoughtry-like figure. In any case, the 2009-10 off season will be interesting to watch. A lot of players are clumped which ones will break out of the pack?

Update: pilight's comment forced me to look up some information about Jessica Breland. As it turns out, she has Hodgkin's lymphoma and will be undergoing chemotherapy and will probably miss the 2009-10 season. However, Hodgkin's lymphoma is one of the most curable forms of cancer.


pilight said...

Jessica Breland's career is probably over.

Anonymous said...

What kills me is that over on Rebkell everyone has been talking about how deep the next draft will be, and yet most people inside the league feel the exact opposite (and your stats, albeit only one inexact metric, prove the point comparatively). I don't get why fans see this next draft as deep - there are only a few impact players and then the rest are simply not that impressive right now.

UTC said...

What happened to Jessica?

pt said...

She was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in June of 2009. She will definitely miss the 2009-10 season.

UTC said...

Oh. Very sorry to hear that.

Is there a way to send suggestions or ask questions about this blog.

e.g. If I wanted to ask you to post something about the steps followed to break ties in the WNBA standings for the playoffs how would I do that.

I know you can do that through comments, but the question could be totally unrelated to the post and perhaps asked several days after the the post...maybe getting lost.

pt said...

I can generally be reached at I generally look at that account at least once a day, and as soon as I get a question I'll try to turn around on it.

pilight said...

Fans always get baby happy when it comes to the draft. I don't think the 2010 draft will be anything special.

Anonymous said...

What about Moniquee Alexander the center out of UCLA? She has had a relatively quiet year, but she is tall and has some potential

Anonymous said...

Melanie Thornton- Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Horizon League is a player from a mid major that the WNBA should be taking a look at. She plays BOTH ends of the court and would be a gem for any WNBA to pick up.