Less Time at the Point Benefit Diggins-Smith?
By Nicholas LeTourneau
Let me start by saying Skylar Diggins-Smith is one of the most talented players in the WNBA and by no means is having a bad season. She is currently sixth in the league in scoring, averaging just under 20 points per game and the Wings are 2-3 after some tough losses. Despite her personal success, she is having a lackluster season shooting the ball.
Diggins-Smith is currently shooting only 36 percent from the floor although she is connecting on 38 percent from deep. A deeper look into her stats show that a good majority of her shots come from shooting out of the pick-and-roll as the ball handler or in isolation. Over one third of her shots come from pick-and-roll, converting 36 percent of those looks and almost 13 percent of her shots come from isolation where she scores only 22 percent of the time.
So what does all this mean? Diggins-Smith has the ball in her hands a lot of the time and isn’t capitalizing on what she does best from a scoring standpoint: shooting. Diggins-Smith’s most efficient scoring happens off of screens and as a spot up shooter, two play types that capitalize on her natural shooting stroke.
Shooting off screens
Diggins-Smith has always been a great shooter, so it isn’t a shock to see her thrive shooting off of screens. So far this season she is shooting 44 percent off of screens and has a nice adjusted field-goal percentage of 66 percent. She scores 1.333 points per possession, the highest PPP of all her play types. Let’s take a look at how she does it.
In the first clip, we see a well run play for Diggins-Smith. She passes to the high post opposite Liz Cambage then sets a screen on the low block before flashing out to the left wing. As she does all this, Cambage sets a great screen on Diggins-Smith’s defender to free her up behind the three-point line for an open shot.
In the next clip, we see Diggins-Smith pass to the right wing above the three-point line, then go to the low block again. This time she waits and lets her defender get lost in the shuffle before popping back out for an open shot while Cambage gets in the way of Lindsay Whalen.
Lastly, we see two clips against the Dream that feature simpler looks. In both plays, we see Diggins-Smith stay near the perimeter instead of going to the low post after passing, then she gets an off-ball screen from a teammate and strokes a three-pointer with ease given how much space she has.
Spot up shooting
Much like her success shooting off screens, spot up shooting also capitalizes on a player’s natural shooting ability (see Ray Allen’s entire career). Diggins-Smith is shooting almost 38 percent on spot-up looks with an adjusted field-goal percentage of almost 57 percent while scoring 1.25 PPP, her third highest PPP of all play types. A quick look at how she scores off of these looks will show you what I mean.
Against the Liberty, we see her go set a screen for Cambage in the paint before popping back out behind the three-point line. The defense doesn’t adjust in time and Diggins-Smith is able to rise up for three. In the second clip, we see a rare moment where Diggins-Smith plays entirely off-ball. She waits in the corner as the ball moves from the perimeter to the post and back before getting the pass and an open look from deep for an easy basket. Lastly, we see Diggins-Smith pass to a teammate then go to the low block next to Cambage. The defense gets sucked into defending Cambage when Diggins-Smith pops out to the corner and in their haste to defend Diggins-Smith, they foul her in the act of shooting and she knocks down a four-point play.
At this point, these shots account for less than 17 percent of her shot attempts. It makes sense why she takes so few of these attempts despite them being so good for her. Dallas has a point guard problem right now. They just waved Saniya Chong and signed Leticia Romero in hopes of getting more production out of their bench. It is abundantly clear that Diggins-Smith has the ball in her hands so much because she is really the only option for running the offense. Without the ball in her hands, who knows what would happen. For her to score more off screens and from spotting up, it means that someone else will have to be the one with the ball in their hands.
Creating these looks without another passing guard on the roster isn’t impossible, but it makes it a little harder. The Wings can create offense for Diggins-Smith by playing inside-out. More plays that involve passes to the interior to players like Cambage or rookie Azura Stevens and then a kick out to Diggins-Smith behind the three-point line. Another option is running a play that involves Diggins-Smith to get an off-ball screen from Cambage then a quick pass to Diggins-Smith could boost those numbers for her.