Loyd, Stewart Key Pieces To The Puzzle In Seattle
By Nicholas LeTourneau
Fewer teams have had a hotter start to the WNBA season than the Storm. Rookie Jordin Canada has helped turn Seattle into one of the top offenses in the league, but it is the play of former No. 1 picks Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart who have the Storm clicking on all cylinders.
The Storm are currently 4-1 and on a four-game winning streak that includes victories against some of the premier talent the WNBA has to offer. Seattle beat Phoenix by 16 points, Chicago by four, Las Vegas by seven and the previously undefeated Mystics by four.
As of May 30th, Loyd and Stewart are second and third, respectively, in points per game while Seattle has the second-best offense in the league. According to Synergy, Loyd and Stewart combine for 46.1 percent of Seattle’s production, while the Storm rank first in transition, pick-and-roll, post-up and isolation scoring, while also ranking in the top half of most other types of offense.
A little over 11 percent of Seattle’s total offense comes from their transition scoring. There are two things that have driven that scoring, Canada and Loyd. Canada has been picking pockets left and right, looking great early on in her WNBA career, but the real story is how effective Loyd has been.
She scores 2.25 points per possession (PPP) in transition. That’s a fancy and mathematical way to say that Loyd shoots a high percentage in transition and either converts a lot of and-1 plays or sinks a lot of threes while running. Let’s take a look at some of the footage.
Loyd is one of the best three-point shooters in the league and stays ready during transition plays. In this set of clips, we get a couple of examples. First, we see how she widens out in transition while Las Vegas focuses on preventing penetration, only to have Sue Bird kick it out to a wide open Loyd for three. Secondly, we see how dangerous Loyd can be off the dribble. She gets the pass after Seattle secures the rebound and then takes it the length of the court, cuts through the defense and lays it up at the rim. Lastly, Loyd get a quick three-point basket after Chicago scores. Bird brings it up the floor and sees that Loyd is wide open behind the three-point line for an easy basket.
This is where Stewart and Natasha Howard shine for Seattle. Stewart accounts for almost 40 percent of the production in the pick-and-roll, converting over 45 percent of her shots attempted. She scores 1.091 PPP, which ranks in the top third of players in the WNBA. Howard, on the other hand, has been virtually unstoppable in the pick-and-roll. In a small sample size, she has scored on all seven attempts (two of which were key in Seattle beating Chicago in overtime last week). Let’s take a look at what makes Seattle’s pick-and-roll so deadly.
Seattle’s halfcourt offense is predicated on a lot of screens, which you see early in these clips. Stewart sets three off-ball screens in the first clip before setting an on-ball screen for Loyd. After the defense commits to stopping Loyd, Stewart rolls to an open spot on the floor, then Loyd hits her with an easy pass for a layup at the rim. Next we see a crease in the defense open up for Stewart after she sets the screen for Bird. Bird hits her with the pass, Stewart dives at the rim, and before Chicago can fully rotate to contest the shot, Stewart has a basket at the rim. Finally, we see just what makes Stewart so dangerous because she is able set screens then pop out behind the three-point line. Against Chicago she does just that, stroking a three after setting a screen for Sue Bird.
A large portion of Stewart’s production comes from traditional post-ups and it isn’t hard to see why. Stewart stands at around 6-foot-4 with a legit 7-foot wingspan and a load of talent to go along with it. According to Synergy, about 50 percent of Stewart’s production comes from her post-up scoring. She has converted over 77 percent of her post up attempts, which is good for 1.417 PPP. Let’s see exactly how she goes to work in the post.
In the first clip we see a lot of movement from Stewart before she goes to work in the post. I love how she seals off the defense then goes right into a drop step where she can use a great hook shot up and in. On the second play, Stewart is matched up against A’ja Wilson, who is a formidable body in the post. Stewart backs her down then turns into the lane and uses her long arms to finish through Wilson’s tough defense. Against Chicago, Stewart goes from setting a screen to posting up with ease. She gets the ball on the low block, backs down her defender, spins away from the defense, and lays it up. In the last clip, we see Stewart set screen after screen before carving out a good position following a rebound. She positions herself below the rim for an easy basket that was crucial to the Storm in overtime.
The Storm are in a really good position to make a big splash this season. Everyone is healthy, they are led by two of the most dynamic scorers in Loyd and Stewart, and they have a great supporting cast that includes both youth and veteran talent. If they can keep this up while seeing the likes of Canada emerge and grow into the player she can be, this team is going to be at the top of the pile for a long, long time.