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posted by Swish Appeal
Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 11:20am EST
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During the media conference call with the Minnesota Lynx about their signing of Taj McWilliams-Franklin today, someone asked where she ranked among the available free agents in the league.
"We valued her very highly, as did other teams," said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve.
And indeed McWilliams-Franklin was among the most valuable players on the market and particularly to the Lynx who had something of a weakness in terms of scoring efficiency from their post players last year (click here for more on how McWilliams-Franklin helps in that regard).
But this also begs a question of how teams might determine the value of a player on the free agent market. Certainly team need is involved and obviously some assessment of how good a player was last season - somehow intermixed with their reputation - has some bearing on "value". But so does some measure of supply and demand: how many similar players are available and what might they contribute to a new team?
So with a rather coveted free agent signed, who else is left and who might be particularly valuable to a team?
Quantifying qualitative playing styles
I've referred to this idea of "playing styles" multiple times and the off-season is when they're most useful as we try to project not only who's good, but who fits where as well as supply and demand for certain types of players.
For more on that, you can refer back to last year's post about free agency which describes all of this at length.
WNBA Free Agent Playing Styles: The Beginning of Figuring Out Who Fits Where - Swish Appeal
It has been proven time and time again in professional sports that simply loading up on all-star talent is not a formula for success, nor can a team win merely by being one-dimensional – building a successful team requires bringing together the right combination of players, not necessarily the best players.
One way to look at player combinations is in terms of a player’s style or function on a team. For example, knowing whether a player tends to be more of a scorer or a player who can influence the game without scoring or more interior than perimeter.
David Sparks’ playing style spectrum can be quite useful for looking at player combinations.
Playing styles of 2011 WNBA free agents
So building off of last year, I'm going to use the same numbers except that I'm going to use a metric called "valuable contributions ratio" instead of "Boxscores" (the difference is described here). David Sparks describes them as follows:
The Arbitrarian: Individual Contributions To Team Success | Hardwood Paroxysm
Another useful measure, especially for comparing players on poor teams, or those who played limited minutes, is what I call the Valuable Contributions Ratio (VCR). This is a pace- and playing time- adjusted metric of productivity assessed at the per-minute level. As above, this calculation is straightforward and intuitive. Merely take each player’s PVC (MEV/team MEV) and divide it by each player’s percent of team minutes played (min/team min). Thus, we are dividing a percentage by another percentage (which is why I call it a ratio–units are somewhat meaningless). This statistic controls for team pace and playing time, and is independent of team quality–it captures productivity relative to the time allowed for production.
This is useful for comparing bench players, players who miss a substantial number of games, and rookies. Bench players get a "fair shake" by this statistic, because they often have less time on the floor in which to accumulate MEV toward a larger cumulative share of team success...VCR is useful for comparing rookies, as well, since they often play relatively few minutes, and since their teams often win very few games. Rookies with high BXS are the most impressive, but more often than not, rookies don’t produce many wins. Rather, they may produce MEV efficiently, and we can see this in VCR.
The reason for the switch should be clear: if we're comparing individual players' potential to contribute to different teams in which their spot in the rotation or role could change, knowing how efficiently they produced in their time on the court is quite helpful.
To help put VCR in perspective, the average VCR in the league last year was .76. So perhaps the best way to think about VCR is as a way to understand how many "quality minutes" a player might give you: a player with an average VCR probably gave you about as many quality minutes as they're capable of, a player with an above average VCR could probably give you more quality minutes, and a player with a below average VCR should probably have played less minutes. In other words, VCR gives us a way to project players as starters, rotation players, and bench warmers, which further helps us define their value on the market in terms of how many quality minutes they might provide you.
For some additional perspective on ValPct, the best in the league in 2010 (and the reason she was a strong contender for MVP throughout the season) was Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles at 28.97 with Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings not far behind at 27.35. The average was 8.4. So again, that helps us get a sense of how much they contributed to the team's overall statistical production.
The SPI numbers used to define a player's style are the same as last year.
So now we can approximate a player’s style, how valuable that style was to their team, how many quality minutes they're capable of, and get a feel for what's left on the market.
Unrestricted Free Agents
(See full free agent list at WNBA.com)
Player 2010 Team S% P% I% Type MPG ValPct VCR Current status?
Svetlana Abrosimova Seattle 52.17 73.18 37.68 P 20.17 7.97% .80 will not play
San Antonio 60.86 2.17 80.43 IP 6.99 00.10% .19
Tully Bevilaqua Indiana 13.04 92.02 44.92 DU 19.36 6.7% .70
Kiesha Brown Tulsa 52.89 84.05 24.63 D 17.81 5.59% .79
Swin Cash Seattle 64.49 26.08 61.59 M 30.75 12.52% .82
Helen Darling San Antonio 5.79 98.55 34.05 D 11.85 2.77% .48
Marie Ferdinand-Harris Los Angeles 90.57 36.95 33.33 S 24.27 8.03% .75
Ebony Hoffman Indiana 55.07 38.4 57.97 M 23.96 9.34% .78 signed by LA
Chamique Holdsclaw San Antonio 69.56 44.92 50.72 S 28.97 15.31% 1.23
Betty Lennox Los Angeles 65.21 68.84 36.95 P 11.61 1.8% .98
Taj McWilliams-Franklin New York 28.98 55.07 66.66 IU 29.22 17.07% 1.18 signed by Minn
Nicole Ohlde Tulsa 46.37 27.53 69.56 IP 16.36 5.07% .66
Ticha Penicheiro Los Angeles 00.72 1 42.75 DU 26.35 14.72% 1.19 re-signed by LA
Ashley Robinson Seattle 3.62 26.81 97.82 IU 8.17 2.14% .60
Nakia Sanford Washington 24.63 28.98 83.33 IU 17.89 7.32% .82
Katie Smith Washington 84.78 72.46 10.86 SP 30.78 10.03 .67 cored
Tangela Smith Phoenix 58.69 13.04 72.46 IP 29.18 8.56% .59 signed by Ind
Christi Thomas Chicago 7.97 2.89 98.55 IU 8.44 0.46% .25
Erin Thorn Chicago 50 81.88 29.71 P 20.85 7.98% .80
Tan White Connecticut 71.01 76.81 20.28 PS 25.19 12.07% .97 re-signed
So with McWilliams-Franklin out, which players are the best on the market now?
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