Who are Y'all Dallas??
By Roni Schwartz
The first half of the Dallas Wings season has been so inconsistent that I’m left wondering if this team is ready to make the jump.
Just a couple months ago, the Wings were an afterthought. The season started with dozens of intriguing storylines around the league getting more attention outside of DFW. Sure, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Glory Johnson were talented enough to for the Wings to be pesky, but not good enough to make the playoffs.
The season opening win over Phoenix was more than just a great way to start the season, it showed the potential of their deep roster. In the next game, good games by Diggins-Smith and Allisha Gray (dropping a nice 15 points in 27 minutes) kept the Wings step-for-step with the Lynx before losing on Seimone Augustus’ buzzer beater. Moral victories don’t get recorded in the standings, but keeping up with two star-studded lineups as they put on a show isn’t something Dallas fans see every day.
Twenty games in, their 9-11 record is 8thh in the league. Half way through, the Wings have had their share of signature wins and surprisingly disappointing losses.
· In five games against the four teams atop the standings, (Connecticut, Los Angeles, Minnesota and Phoenix), the Wings have outscored their opponents by 11, Dallas 421 - CT/LA/MN/PHX 410.
· They are tied for 3rd in in the league in scoring, notching 84.3 points a game.
· They give up 86.8 points a game, worst in the league
This is the season that Diggins-Smith has cemented her place in the league as a bonafide star. Remember her 2014 All-Star season? It was everything fans from her Notre Dame days had hoped for. The point guard finished the season 2nd in scoring with 20.1 points per game, fourth in assists with 5.0 and tenth in steals with 1.5. The next year, Diggins’ season ended just 9 games in with the point guard writhing in pain on the Seattle court. A year rehabbing to get back on the court was followed by a 2016 campaign with stats that reflect how difficult it is to regain rhythm even after being cleared to play. An ACL tear is considered a two-year injury, especially for twitchy guards. A fully recovered Diggins-Smith has regained her place among the best point guards in the league while mirroring her 2014 season with even better advanced stats on both sides of the ball. She’s scoring nearly 18 points and dishing out 5.8 assists a game. That’s why she has her own sneakers!
The Wings franchise player having the career year everyone hoped for explains the powerful offense but defining this half season is harder than that. Dallas has lost 3 of their last 4 to Chicago, Indiana and Atlanta. This team can keep up with elite opponents but can’t sustain that effort against the teams they need to beat.
The Wings have two glaring holes that prevent them from making the leap into contention. As a team, Dallas is shooting an abysmal 27.6 from beyond the arch. Only Kaela Davis and Theresa Plaisance shoot above the league average. Despite having the 4th worst 3pt%, the Wings trail only the Mystics and he Mercury in attempts. They average 1.2 fewer threes in games they win, and when they lose, their 3pt% is 6.5 points lower (27.6%). They are literally shooting themselves out of games. There are far too many teams that rely more on downtown scoring in their offense yet attempt fewer shots. In this recent losing skid, they averaged even more threes than usual but shot a dismal 23.9%. Until President/GM Mike Bibb can acquire more outside shooters, this team must reign in their impulse to shoot from behind the line.
"Johnson leads a front court along with Allisha Gray and Plaisance that is dominating the offensive glass"
The other thing surprisingly holding Dallas back is their rebounding. At first glance, the team ranks 7th in rebounding. Better yet, Glory Johnson’s 8.5 rebounds a game are the fifth most in the league. Johnson leads a front court along with Allisha Gray and Plaisance that is dominating the offensive glass, grabbing 10.5 offensive rebounds a game. That 29.5% is the 2nd best rate in the league, However the team drops from the middle of the pack to 9th in defensive rebounds. Diggins-Smith grabs the third most defensive boards on the team and that isn’t acceptable for this team. The return of formidable rebounder and starting Center Courtney Paris from injury brings the front court to full strength. Is the fact that Dallas only grabs 72.6% of defensive boards (only 1.1% more than 10th ranked Indiana) a statistical anomaly or an alarming trend?
I find it interesting that such a physical team can’t be more imposing on defense. Not only do they give up the most points per game, but they allow opponents the second highest field goal percentage. Their aggressiveness leads to 8.1 steals a game (behind only the Sparks) but still allows a league-leading 19.9 assists a game.
If you were to only look at these defensive stats, you would think the Wings would be right there at the bottom of the standings with Chicago and San Antonio. This team, even this Dallas defense, is not in that tier. To make the jump from interesting rebuild to contender they need to become more consistent. Diggins-Smith has become the offensive crown-jewel Dallas needs to play into September. The roster is gritty enough to match her caliber of play. The question is…are they ready for that responsibility?