The NBA Playoffs are in full swing, and the MVP race has been heating up. Who is your favorite player so far?
The mlb playoff format is a question that has been asked many times. The answer to the question is Mookie Betts.
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Kevin Pelton is a British actor.
Senior Writer for ESPN
- Pro Basketball Prospectus series co-author
- Previously, he worked as a consultant with the Indiana Pacers.
- WARP rating and SCHOENE system were created.
Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel
- Mechelle Voepel is an espnW reporter that covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports. Voepel has been with ESPN since 1996 and has covered women’s basketball since 1984.
There’s nothing like coming up big when it matters the most.
Brittney Griner and Brianna Turner of the Phoenix Mercury and Courtney Vandersloot and Kahleah Copper of the Chicago Sky have yet to earn an MVP award, but they have been the stars of the 2021 WNBA playoffs, with the Mercury and Sky each one victory away from the WNBA Finals.
The semifinals will continue with a doubleheader on Wednesday (8 and 10 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App), with the top-seeded Connecticut Sun and the No. 2-seeded Las Vegas Aces, both boasting 2020 MVP A’ja Wilson, on the brink of elimination.
With a defeat, Connecticut will become just the sixth team in league history to miss the WNBA Finals while having the best record. If both the Sun and the Aces miss the playoffs, it will be just the second time in league history that the Finals do not include at least one of the league’s top two teams in terms of record.
In these Game 4s, what else is on the line? Which guys have been stepping up to the plate? And which players are still required to do so?
So far, the MVP of the postseason
WARP continues in the WNBA playoffs through Game 3 of the semifinals. pic.twitter.com/BAvkblu2YW
October 4, 2021 — Kevin Pelton (@kpeltonWBB)
The revised playoff leaderboard in my wins above replacement player (WARP) statistic (see above) differs dramatically from the regular-season ranking.
That was, in some ways, unavoidable. Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm, who led the league in WARP for most of 2021 before ending fourth in the regular season, was injured and never played in the playoffs. And Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx, who leapfrogged Stewart to finish second behind Connecticut’s MVP Jones, was ejected after only one game, knocking her out of a leaderboard based in part on volume. (WARP graded Fowles’ lone game approximately as good as her average regular-season game.)
Even yet, some of the WNBA’s top players during the regular season haven’t performed as well in the postseason. Jones, despite missing five games to play in EuroBasket, remains the clear leader in WARP. Jones’ WARP average in the playoffs (.16 per game) is less than half of her regular-season norm. Jones, in particular, is having trouble making shots away from the hoop. According to WNBA Advanced Stats, she made 43 percent of her 2-point shots beyond the restricted area surrounding the hoop during the regular season. This has fallen to 3-of-16 in the playoffs (18.8 percent ).
Despite not getting accurate shooting from Skylar Diggins-Smith, who is making 31 percent of her 3s and 44 percent of her 2s so far in the postseason (down from 37 percent and 49 percent in the regular season), the Phoenix Mercury are one win away from becoming the first team to advance from the first round of the playoffs to the WNBA Finals (something Chicago can also do). Diggins-Smith, who leads perimeter players in WARP and is sixth overall, is one of just three Mercury players to make the postseason top 10.
Instead, Phoenix has put a greater emphasis on its frontcourt. Griner, who finished third in the regular season in WARP, has been the league’s most valuable player in the playoffs, commanding and navigating nightly double-teams. Turner, who is second in the league after placing sixth on the Mercury during the regular season, has benefited from this assistance.
Finally, there’s one noteworthy club absent from the WARP leaderboard: Las Vegas has yet to win a game. Wilson, who was sixth in the regular season, is shooting 38% from the field and 9-of-18 from the foul line versus Phoenix, which is astounding for an 88 percent shooter this season. After battling a breakthrough case of COVID-19 late in the regular season, Liz Cambage’s modest playoff output (11 PPG, 4 RPG in 19 minutes) was more expected.
The Aces will need their frontcourt players to play a lot more like they did all year on route to the No. 2 seed if they are to recover after losing their past two games by a combined 53 points. Pelton’s words
Is it possible for Wilson to make things simpler in Las Vegas?
Wilson is accustomed to fighting for buckets, but Phoenix has upped the ante. Wilson has just two transition goals in the three games in the Aces-Mercury semifinal series, according to ESPN Stats & Info, and 25 of her 32 half-court field goal attempts have been disputed.
When Turner or Griner is the main defender on her, she is 10 of 29 (34.4%). And when Wilson gets open looks, it’s from the Mercury’s preferred shooting locations: On uncontested attempts, she is 9 of 25 (36 percent).
Meanwhile, neither Griner’s scoring nor passing have been slowed by Las Vegas’ defense. Griner’s assists have resulted in a 70% success rate for the Mercury. Voepel’s
Is it possible for the Sun to make the Sky pay for Jones’s doubling?
Sending several defenders at Jones has proven to be effective for Chicago thus far, particularly when one of them is Candace Parker.
When Parker is the main defender against Jones, she shoots only 27 percent (3 of 11). Parker, on the other hand, is 6 of 12 versus Jones’ defense. When the Sky has doubled Jones throughout the series, it’s understandable that she’s had fewer scoring opportunities. Jones had just four field goal attempts on 25 half-court situations with multiple defenders, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
For the Sky to collapse on Jones, the Sun’s perimeter shooters must make it difficult for them. In Game 4, Jasmine Thomas may try to do more of that, but she’s just 1 of 6 on 3-point tries when Jones is doubled. Voepel’s
What else is on the line on Wednesday?
The Sun (26-6) are attempting to avoid joining a select group of teams who have had the best record in the league but failed to advance to the WNBA Finals: the Los Angeles Sparks (28-4) and 2004 (25-9), Connecticut in 2006 (26-8) and the New York Liberty in 2015. (23-11).
Those four occurred under the pre-2016 playoff system, when the Eastern and Western Conferences were paired instead of the top eight clubs being seeded. For example, the Sparks and Houston (27-5) met in the conference finals in 2000, and five of the West’s teams had better records than all but one of the East’s teams that year. (At the time, each conference contained eight teams.)
The only time the Finals did not include at least one of the league’s top two record-setting teams occurred in 2006, when both the 26-8 Sun and the 25-9 Sparks were eliminated before the championship series. Instead, the title was decided by a game between 23-11 Detroit and 21-13 Sacramento, which was won by the Shock.
Meanwhile, Chicago is attempting to become just the third club in WNBA history to reach the Finals with a record of.500 or worse. The Sky did it when they were 15-19 in 2014, and Atlanta did it when they were 17-17 in 2013. In the Finals, both of those teams were swept. Voepel’s
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