Fifteen games into the 2022 WNBA season, the Dallas Wings are 7-8 — a record that would be good enough for a playoff appearance if the postseason began today (Dallas is currently in seventh place in the WNBA standings), though is ultimately a tad underwhelming for a Wings team that was expected to take a major step forward.
Simply looking at the team’s record and place in the standings, though, doesn’t tell the whole story. Even on the most mediocre basketball clubs, there will be one or two things that stand out statistically and give deeper insight into how the team is playing.
One way to assess a team’s performance is through the “Four Factors.” The Four Factors are described by the WNBA website as “four important advanced statistics that winning teams excel at” and are defined by the NBA Stat Glossary as follows:
- eFG% (Effective field goal percentage): Measures field-goal percentage adjusting for made 3-point field goals being 1.5 times more valuable than made 2-point field goals
- FTA Rate (Free throw attempt rate): The number of free throw attempts a team shoots in comparison to the number of field goal attempts that team shoots
- OREB% (Offensive rebounding percentage): The percentage of available offensive rebounds a team obtains
- TOV% (Turnover percentage): Percentage of plays that end in a team’s turnover
The Four Factors are featured on the WNBA stats page and can be sorted by both team and opponent statistics. Let’s see how the Wings stack up against the rest of the league using these stats.
Effective field goal percentage
Dallas Wings: 48.1 percent (9th)
Though the Wings currently rank fourth in the WNBA in offensive rating (103.3 points scored per 100 possessions), they’ve struggled to score efficiently from the field. Interestingly, it’s been their 2-point shooting (44.7 percent; 11th in the WNBA) that has held them back; from 3-point range, the Wings have been excellent, shooting 36.1 percent, which is second in the WNBA to the Connecticut Sun’s 37.2 percent — albeit on much higher volume.
That shouldn’t be too surprising. In Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale and Allisha Gray, the Wings have a trio of perimeter players who are taking (and making) a lot of long balls. Mabrey, in particular, is having an outstanding shooting season; among guards who play at least 15 minutes per game, she ranks sixth in effective field goal percentage (56.6 percent). Gray is not far behind her at 55 percent.
Opponents: 51.2 percent (8th)
The Wings’ defense, meanwhile, has been mediocre, allowing 103.5 points per 100 possessions (eighth in the WNBA). It’s also reflected in their opponents’ effective field goal percentage.
Dallas’ transition defense, in particular, is a major culprit. According to Synergy Sports, the Wings have been surrendering transition possessions at a higher frequency (14.8 percent) than all but two other WNBA teams (Indiana and Los Angeles), and have been defending those possessions poorly, allowing opponents to shoot 58.3 percent in transition — the highest such number in the WNBA. Teams typically score more efficiently in transition than they do in the halfcourt, so placing a stronger emphasis on keeping opponents out of transition would likely improve the Wings’ defense overall.
Free throw attempt rate
Dallas Wings: 0.270 (6th)
The Wings have been decent at getting to the free throw line in 2022 — no better and no worse. In terms of sheer volume, Arike Ogunbowale has attempted the most free throws of any Wings player (53), with Isabelle Harrison (47) and Allisha Gray (46) attempting the next-most. Ogunbowale, Harrison and Gray rank 16th, 23rd, and 24th, respectively, among all WNBA players in free throw attempts.
Free throw attempt rate, however, takes into account how often a player attempts free throws relative to field goals. Harrison (0.359) and Kayla Thornton (0.318) lead the way for the Wings in this metric. Teaira McCowan, as was the case for her during her time in Indiana, is putting up a monstrous free throw attempt rate of 0.579, but she’s only played 125 total minutes for the Wings so far in 2022, which has kept her from strongly affecting the team’s free throw attempt rate as a whole.
Opponents: 0.296 (9th)
While Dallas has been about average at getting to the free throw line, keeping opponents off the free throw line has been a different story. A negative free throw attempt rate differential is generally not a recipe for success, and the Wings simply must get better at not fouling their opponents. It would help if they kept their opponents out of the paint, where most shooting fouls occur; Dallas is allowing the second-most points in the paint per game (39.3) in the WNBA, and Wings opponents are shooting an astounding 70.5 percent in the restricted area.
Offensive rebound percentage
Dallas Wings: 34.9 percent (2nd)
Here’s where the Wings have excelled. Dallas was great on the offensive glass in 2021, and that’s continued this season, ranking below only Connecticut (37.2 percent) in offensive rebound percentage.
At first glance, the Wings may seem a little over their heads in this department, given their relative lack of size in the frontcourt. Nearly a season and a half worth of data suggests that Dallas’ consistently strong offensive rebounding is not anomalous, however, and that there’s more to rebounding than just height. Not only is Isabelle Harrison (9.0 percent offensive rebounding percentage) one of the WNBA’s most active frontcourt players, she’s often joined by players like Kayla Thornton (8.0 percent) and Allisha Gray on the glass, who are both among the best in the league at their respective positions at chasing down loose basketballs.
Opponents: 27.8 percent (5th)
Interestingly, the Wings aren’t quite as good at securing defensive rebounds as they are offensive rebounds, but they’ve still done a better-than-adequate job on the defensive glass. While the techniques for defensive and offensive rebounding are not the same, it’s not typical to see a team excel on one end of the glass and struggle on the other. Thus far in 2022, the Indiana Fever have been the exception, ranking third in the WNBA in offensive rebounding percentage (32.5 percent) and 12th in opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage (32.5 percent).
Dallas Wings: 18.7 percent (8th)
The Wings haven’t been very good at taking care of the basketball, though there isn’t much room between them, the Indiana Fever (18.5 percent turnover percentage) and the Los Angeles Sparks (18.7 percent). In particular, the Wings have turned the ball over more than any other WNBA team on post-ups (including passes): 17.8 percent, according to Synergy Sports.
On the bright side, Dallas doesn’t have many players who commit lots of turnovers. One number that stands out: Among WNBA players who have recorded a usage rate of 25 percent or higher, Arike Ogunbowale trails only A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart in turnover percentage, committing a turnover on just 9.7 percent of her possessions.
Opponents: 17.9 percent (7th)
There’s not much to see here. As with most of the other four factors, Dallas has been about average at forcing turnovers, and below average at forcing live-ball turnovers; the Wings rank 11th in the WNBA in both steals per game (6.3), though they’ve been fairly efficient at turning those steals into points, ranking fifth in fast break points per game (10.4).
In terms of individual players, Isabelle Harrison leads the Wings in steal percentage (2.7 percent), followed by Arike Ogunbowale (1.8 percent), according to Basketball-Reference. This mirrors the Wings’ somewhat-conservative approach to playing defense. Rookie Veronica Burton has recorded a steal percentage of 3.4 percent thus far, but has played just 180 total minutes.