Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

June 18, 2009

A SCHOENE for the WNBA

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:27 am

After introducing the SCHOENE projection system last fall for the NBA, one of my goals this year was to come up with a WNBA equivalent. It’s as yet unnamed, and completing it took until a week and a half into the season, but I laid out my WNBA projection system today on stormbasketball.com, my other online home.

From a projection perspective, the WNBA presents some different challenges from the NBA, in large part because there is not as much history with which to work. SCHOENE draws comparable players from nearly three decades, starting in 1979-80 (when the NBA introduced the three-point shot). It’s a pool of more than 7,000 players. By contrast, the WNBA projection system chooses from fewer than 1,000 players because there’s only 12 years’ worth of history and about half as many teams as the NBA. This makes it much harder to create a reasonable sample size of players who are truly similar to the player whose development they are being used to project.

Additionally, while the overall level of talent in the NBA can be reasonably assumed to be fairly steady over the last three decades (benefiting from the influx of foreigners, somewhat offset by expansion), the WNBA’s level of talent has jumped around quite a bit between the death of the rival ABL, rapid expansion, contraction and the ongoing rise in athleticism. This tends to punish older players, especially guards, quite severely.

Along with the other inherent issues that make SCHOENE a work in progress, these factors produced some head-scratching outcomes in my 2009 WNBA projections, which suggest both a worst-to-first scenario in the Eastern Conference (with the Atlanta Dream, in just its second season) and a first-to-worst one in the West (the defending conference champion San Antonio Silver Stars). One aspect of the projections that makes sense subjectively is the expectation of league-wide parity. With the league’s weaker teams loading up on a top-heavy draft and through the dispersal of the former Houston Comets, the WNBA should be wide open this season.

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