The Diamond DeShields Plan: Get Out In Space
By Brady Klopfer
Glance across the 22 players selected for this year’s WNBA All-Star Game, and you’ll quickly notice something: A’ja Wilson was the only rookie chosen. But look a little bit closer at voter explanations, and you’ll see another rookie’s name appear frequently, in the “honorable mention” section: Diamond DeShields.
While the Sky have struggled this season, the No. 3 overall pick has shown signs of stardom. There have been the usual rookie bumps and bruises - the 53.4 percent true-shooting isn’t exactly lighting the nets on fire, and the 0.80 assist-to-turnover ratio needs to be dramatically improved, but there have been signs.
And with a rookie on a subpar team, all you can ask for is signs, to prove that the future is brighter than the past.
For DeShields, those signs have come in space. Give her an open patch of hardwood, and she will find a way to dazzle. In the most open of space, transition scoring opportunities, she scores 1.22 points per possession, which is the 69th percentile. She’s even better when she can lose her defender behind one of the elite screens that Stefanie Dolson and Gabby Williams set: coming off a pick, DeShields averages 1.50 points per possession, good for the 94th percentile. And in that moment of separation found on a cut? 1.33 points per possession, or the 80th percentile.
Such success in open space is a testament to numerous elements in DeShields’ game. Like her fellow rookie Williams, DeShields has excellent footwork and fundamentals, which allow her to capitalize on such opportunities. Her instincts and quickness also allow her to get open in the first place.
But if her ability in space shines bright, it’s a drastic contrast to look at her in congestion. She ranks in the 15th percentile in handoffs, the 16th percentile in isolation opportunities, and the 28th percentile as the ball handler in the pick and roll. Even when spotting up, she ranks a pedestrian 46th percentile.
You don’t expect those elements of a player’s game to be present in their rookie year, and for Chicago, the excitement of the positives is much stronger than the pessimism of the negatives. DeShields’ ability to score in space showcases talent and technique that, over time, will almost surely translate to the more crowded areas of the court.