The Follow Through: Opening Weekend, Y’all!

Welcome to the first edition of The Follow Through! What is The Follow Through? It’s the weekly space where I’ll be talking about things that happened in the WNBA over the past week, except it isn’t necessarily about everything that happened, or even about the most important things that happened. It’s just about things I thought were worth talking about: surprising performances, fun plays, interesting trends, etc., etc., etc.

Teaira McCowan Tore Apart The Liberty Defense

Last season, Teaira McCowan should have been in the starting lineup in every single one of Indiana’s game. She wasn’t, as the Fever only put her in the starting unit 10 times out of 22 games.

But McCowan has started both games so far for Indiana, and she’s just going off. 14 points and 13 rebounds per contest, and she was able to consistently get deep position against the Liberty and their questionable inside depth.

Like this play, where she hits the offensive glass:

There are a bunch of defenders around McCowan here who could do up and get the defensive rebound, but McCowan plays the ball aggressively, positioning herself just outside the restricted area in a spot where she can use her size advantage to grab the carom.

When I write about football, there’s a lot of talk about catch radius. To put this in those kind of terms, McCowan has a significantly larger catch radius than the players around her do. But having that catch radius isn’t all that determines who gets a rebound; you also have to use your strength to get to the best spot. That’s where I’m already seeing a lot of growth from McCowan.

Here, she’s able to corral the ball, volleying it around for a second before bringing it back in. From there, she transitions into just the most destructive offensive weapon, backing down Kylee Shook, then twisting around and putting up the little jumper.

I don’t know how you defend her down there unless you also have someone with a lot of size, though Sami Whitcomb did block McCowan once this weekend, which was pretty wild.

Anyway, McCowan just needs to keep doing this, and as long as Marianne Stanley plays her consistent minutes, she should keep doing it. I’m interested to see her against someone like Sylvia Fowles because…well, Sylvia Fowles…but even then, McCowan should at least be able to stick on the floor.

(And even if she struggles in those matchups, PLAY HER ANYWAY SHE IS A HUGE HUGE PART OF YOUR FUTURE!!!!!)

Jonquel Jones Is Back

Hey, remember Jonquel Jones?

Yeah, she’s back, and she’s doing all kinds of Jonquel Jones things.

I don’t think your 6-6 center (or power forward, whatever, positions are fake) is supposed to do that.

When a player with Jones’ size is able to just effortlessly move down the floor like this in transition, things get incredibly tough for opposing teams.

Back in 2019, Jones wasn’t actually that great in transition, as her possessions resulted in 0.957 points per possessions, which ranked in the 38th percentile. So, if Jones can improve that part of her game, she’ll be virtually unstoppable, because the rest of her offensive game is just incredible.

For example, Jones’ 0.961 PPP in the half court ranked in the 84th percentile. She shot only 30.9 percent from three, but that came after two seasons shooting over 44 percent from deep.

Anyway, Jonquel Jones is going to dominate the league this year.

A’ja Wilson Made A Three

So, something wild happened in Saturday’s Aces/Storm game: defending MVP A’ja Wilson made a three-pointer.

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You’ve probably all seen the training camp video of her shooting from deep, but head coach Bill Laimbeer was pretty emphatic about the fact he didn’t actually want her shooting them:

Well, too bad Bill! Because A’ja did this on Saturday:

I’m not shy about the fact I have issues with the way the Aces play basketball. When your two best players are bigs, you’ve got to figure out how to space things out for those players, especially when the Aces starting lineup features Jackie Young, who isn’t much of a threat from long range. This all allows defenses to key in on A’ja and Liz Cambage, which is #NotGood. Teams should do whatever they can to make sure their best players can be as effective as possible.

So, having one of those bigs able to shoot from deep would be one way of maximizing things. And while I don’t think a catch-and-shoot three off of an inbounds play is going to shift anything about how teams defend this team, it was a cool thing to see. The Storm clearly weren’t expecting Wilson to shoot on this play, and Liz Cambage does a great job on the inside of occupying two defenders to give space for Wilson. Considering A’ja had never made a three-pointer, using Cambage to clear out room is ideal, because you probably don’t want Wilson taking a contested shot from out there. Katie Lou Samuelson does end up doing a good job closing out here, but Wilson gets the ball out quick enough to negate Samuelson’s effort.

Some Fun Stats And Observations

Let’s just talk about some random observations and some numbers from this week!

  • It’s super early, but Kayla McBride is currently second among qualifying players in points per possession. I really like her fit in Minnesota, because the Lynx are actually running plays for her!
  • Candace Parker had an assist rate of 44.4 percent in that first Sky game. For so long, the Sky have just consistently run things through Courtney Vandersloot, which is why she always blows away the rest of the league when it comes to assists. But with Parker, the ball’s going to be moving around differently, which will continue to make the Sky harder and harder to deal with.
  • Chelsea Dungee has a true shooting percentage of 150 percent! (LOL, I love small sample size stats, even if they’re completely meaningless.)
  • Ezi Magbegor needs to play more minutes for Seattle. Yes, they won handily in that first game, but Ezi is clearly a more versatile option than Candice Dupree at the five. Dupree is a legend, but she’s also 36 years old and I’m not sure how she’ll be able to consistently keep up with other bigs on the defensive end. Ezi can!
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