Becky Hyman led the Las Vegas Aces to the WNBA Championship, with a roster pretty much the same as before. What can NBA teams learn from their development?
On Sunday, the Las Vegas Aces defeated the Connecticut Suns in four games to win their first championship in franchise history. It was a fitting coronation from start to finish for the most influential team of the WNBA season.
But he entered the season with a lot of questions. The Aces made some changes after finishing in the semifinals for two of the last three seasons, and losing to the Seattle Storm in the 2020 final. The first was breaking up with Liz Cambage and the second was hiring Becky Hyman to take over as head coach. Those two moves dramatically changed the identity of the team, even though the rest of the roster remained largely the same.
Hyman actually made two big changes to the Aces system this season, and they were extremely relatable. The most obvious was the massive increase in his 3-point efforts, from 13.5 per game in 2021 (by a huge margin last in the league) to 26.4 per game this year (third in the league). The second major change was moving away from the traditional Big One lineup.
In 2021, the Aces played at least 54 percent of their minutes on the floor with two of the Cambays, Kia Stokes and Eja Wilson. Those lineups dominated during the regular season, especially defensively, but suffered in the postseason. The Aces used two big lineups to account for 68 percent of their post-season minutes and were outscored at an average of 6.3 points per 100 possessions.
Moving on from Cambage cleared the way for a very different structure. The Aces used two large lineups featuring Stokes and Wilson to account for about 13 percent of their regular-season minutes and better spacing was key to Jackie Young’s breakout season and a big jump ahead of Kelsey Plum. As you can see below, his numbers this season were no different from what he produced when he played alongside a big one in 2021.
The Aces made great use of Stokes and Wilson together during the latter part of the season, but still a small percentage of their minutes compared to playing two-big during the previous season.
In terms of actionable insights specific to NBA teams, shooting more 3-pointers and reducing frontcourt rotation to add spacing aren’t exactly revolutionary ideas. However, there are many teams that could benefit from some aces-motivation in a less specific way – just being prepared to try using the same personnel in different ways, repeating a strategy, and expecting different results. Deliberately side-stepping the madness of.
Will the Sacramento Kings be comfortable with a three-guard lineup? Kings are not exactly in the same boat as Aces in terms of roster consistency. Domentas Sabonis played just 15 games in Sacramento after being traded to Indiana on the time limit, and Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk were both acquired this summer and playing heavy backcourt minutes. But that group creates the potential to create an advantage for the Kings by going ultra-small in the backcourt.
The Kings played a bit well last year, using stretchy hybrid forwards like Harrison Barnes and Trey Lyles in the 4. Rookie Keegan Murray should take a lot of minutes in a similar role this season, but finding minutes for Hutter and Monk with current guard Davian Mitchell and D’Aaron Fox means we see the Kings heavily into the three-guard lineup. You can look down. This will require Huerter and potentially Fox to spend some time guarding the 3s, but keeping those three players on the floor simultaneously maximizes the Kings’ speed, shooting, on-ball build, and defensive disruptiveness. Sabonis is an excellent archer from the elbows and can give a dynamic to the Kings’ offense by taking advantage of dribble hand-offs, cuts and baseline screens, keeping that group in constant motion they have been decreasing for the past few years,
Can the Lakers Separate Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis? The Lakers are saying the right things about Westbrook, but it’s clear they would have preferred to move on from him this season. If he refuses to adapt in terms of his shot selection, off-ball movement and willingness to come off the bench, that’s all the Lakers can do to him. However, trying to connect your minutes with LeBron James as much as possible is probably to the benefit of Los Angeles.
Neither combination worked particularly well for the Lakers, but their minutes would have to be somewhat staggered and anchoring Westbrook and LeBron together was the best of the worst choices last season. At the risk of going into pseudo-psychology, Westbrook is probably ready to defer LeBron and let the Lakers play the essential role in that configuration. With Davis, the ball is more often in Westbrook’s hands and his decision making becomes a bigger issue. For example, Westbrook’s utilization rate was 28.6 when he played only with Davis, compared to 24.3 when he played only with LeBron. Davis posted an effective field goal percentage of 51.5 when playing just with Westbrook, compared to 58.2 percent in all minutes played without Westbrook.
Can the Chicago Bulls place the floor better?
As noted above, even the most 3-point-opposite NBA teams are still ahead of where the Las Vegas Aces were before the arrival of Becky Hyman. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some low-hanging fruit for a team like the Chicago Bulls.
Last season, the Bulls were dead-last in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game at 28.8. That number is a reflection of their entire set of personnel and tactics, but an easy opportunity for improvement is simply to spread out their floor-spacing. The Bulls lead the league in catch-and-shoot 2-pointers jumps last season at 4.3 per game, one of only four teams averaging 3.0 or more per game. Nikola Vucevi was the biggest offender of all time, attempting 216 catch-and-shoot 2s on the court of the season.
The issue isn’t just that 3-pointers have a higher expected value, it’s that opening Vusevic beyond the inside of the arch brings another defender closer to the paint and into the spacing and driving lane for Demar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and the Bulls. Brings convulsions. ‘ Other creators. A lot of these spot-ups are coming from a 2nd pick-and-roll, but even when there’s an opportunity to place on the 3-point line and either get a shot-off or hit the rim defender pulls, then its tendency is to drift towards the mid-limit.
Running some of these pick-and-rolls a little higher so that Vucevic is closer to the line as he breaks apart can help a lot, not to mention give LaVine and DeRozan more runway to attack. To be fair, Vucevi is a good mid-range shooter and after hitting 40.0 percent last season, he hits just 31.4 percent from last season. But even if he is more accurate to the basket, the Bulls’ offense may be better if he is playing a few steps ahead.
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The NBA and NBPA are in early discussions about the next CBA
Shams Charaniya reported on the NBA and the NBPA’s opening discussions on the next CBA (subscription required). what you should Know:
- The NBPA and the League Office have a cooperative working relationship, thanks to on-the-fly CBA updates that were needed to work during the coronavirus pandemic.
- The draft eligibility age is set to be lowered from 19 to 18, opening eligibility to high school prospects for the first time since 2005.
- There is a mental health injury designation for players at the table, which would be the first professional North American sports league to offer such an official injury distinction.
- Work in the NBA has come to a halt in 1995 (three months), 1998 (six months) and 2011 (five months) due to the lockdown.
- There has been no lockout since Adam Silver was appointed commissioner in 2014.
- The most recent non-lockdown work halt was due to the coronavirus pandemic. Provisional CBA changes were made to end the 2020 NBA season in “The Bubble” at Walt Disney World and continue games into the next season.
JE Crowder is available, hungry for the ring
Brian Windhorst pointed out that JE Crowder is still very much available. In response to a statistic about his playoff win, He said he’d have the championship he didn’t win, He cited Anthony Davis and Juri Holiday as “taking” from him on Twitter. Interesting that he didn’t mention Giannis Antetokounmpo.
why it matters:
- Last year, Crowder was in the top-10 in the defensive box plus/minus. He has a two-way ability and can be a piece in helping push things to the top for the finalist contestant.
robert sarwar update
Last week, an investigation into the workplace conduct of Robert Sarver resulted in the punishment.
What you need to know:
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