Executive Privilege: How The W Has Tried — And Mostly Failed — To Stop Nneka Ogwumike

If you’re looking for the WNBA’s queen of consistency, look no further than Nneka Ogwumike. Across her 11 WNBA seasons, per Basketball Reference, Ogwumike has never shot below 52 percent from the field. Additionally, the seven-time All-Star has averaged double figures in scoring her whole career, never below 13.0 points per game (PPG). The 2012 Rookie of the Year and 2016 MVP and WNBA champion is also a career 36.5 percent from distance on 312 total attempts. Lest we forget, she ranked 17th among forwards last season in assists per game (APG), according to Basketball Reference. All told, what can’t the president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association do?



Just because she’s consistent, though, doesn’t mean she’s predictable. Ogwumike has somehow had incredibly strong seasons throughout her career while also improving. That’s in a tier with Breanna Stewart, Candace Parker, and Diana Taurasi, to name a few. This stretch big can punish you with a bevy of post moves that will confuse and bewilder even the most sensible post defender. Ogwumike can step back and drain a three in your face faster than you can say Los Angeles. Someway, somehow, there has to be a way to stop her…right?

Fat chance.

Believe it or not, these are what nearly all of Ogwumike’s shot charts look like—a literal model of consistency! The 6’2” Ogwumike is as sharp as they come on the block, evidenced by her exceptional footwork, resulting in easy looks at the rim. Overall, Ogwumike had over a point per possession (PPP) last season in the half-court, within the 88th percentile.



While she can play in the half-court, it’s her transition game that makes Ogwumike so deadly. Last season—and again, for nearly her whole career—Ogwumike has been a fastbreak fiend. Ogwumike’s 1.436 PPP last season ranked her in the 93rd percentile. It seems nearly hopeless to stop her, but there may just be a way.


Get Her to Cut

For a player that has as much athleticism as Ogwumike, it’s intriguing to see this weakness in her game. On cutting plays last season, Ogwumike was only in the 34th percentile with a 1.098 PPP, designated as “average.” While defenses can simply open the lane for Ogwumike to cut into, it might be wise to not front her, nor prevent the initial pass as she cuts, so long as she isn’t right at the rim.



Force Her into Catch-and-Shoot Situations

The catch-and-shoot type of shots tend to be of  higher quality because they’re more in rhythm for shooters to take.  This, however,  is not Ogwumike’s strong suit. Nowhere is this truer than on guarded catch-and-shoot shots—I know, not much of a surprise. Nevertheless, her 0.90 PPP (45th percentile) last season means it’s a shot type you can certainly live with. 



Play the Mid-Game

See Also

It’s no surprise that a player of Ogwumike’s talents has similar long and midrange stats. Her midrange game has improved drastically over her career, and even though she has a “very good” distinction on these types of shots, according to Synergy Stats, Ogwumike’s work from that area of the floor still has room to grow. If you can push her into the midrange for a decent portion of the game, you might just be able to slow her down. Hey, we’re just trying for small victories here.



If She Has to Shoot from Deep, Make It from Below the Break

What’s clear from the graphic above is Ogwumike loves her three points from above the break, or any spot that isn’t the corners. Furthermore, Ogwumike loves the three-pointer from the point,  where she can be square to the basket. In this vein, it makes sense that opposing defenses should try and force her out to the corners as much as possible—slim as that chance may be—to ensure she’s taking a lower-percentage shot, especially in the left corner. 


Can You Force the More Nuanced Situations?

Unlike Stewie, getting Ogwumike into specific dribble handoff situations isn’t likely to help you, but there are places where you can take advantage. Pick-and-roll action where she’s the ball handler? Take those all day, even if they are few and far between. She also struggles with dribble jumpers and hook shots; so, by limiting her shot selection, you’ll live to fight another day.

Ogwumike is a rare breed in the league, so crafty and athletic that you’re just hoping for the smallest of victories. Force her teammates to beat you as best you can, and hope your defenders don’t find themselves one-on-one against her.

Good luck.


All stats as of 3/27/23 and, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of Synergy Sports.

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