Minnesota’s Early Season Success | A Numbers Game

Todd Barin

Web Editorial Associate


The defending WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx are looking like the team to beat once again this year as they sit atop the WNBA standings with an impressive 6-0 record.

A big part of Minnesota’s early success can be credited to the performance of their bench players.

Yes, all of the Lynx starters are playing at a very high level, but if you take a look at some of the advanced statistics on WNBA.com, you can see just how effective Minnesota’s non-starters have been this season.

The Lynx bench has scored 30 or more points twice this season (36 & 34) while Minnesota has not allowed their opponent to eclipse the 30-point threshold even once.

When diving into how the Lynx have become the second ranked defense in the WNBA, Natasha Howard and Renee Montgomery’s play really stands out.

In order to really understand how efficiently a player is performing, there is a ‘per 40 minutes’ statistic (P/40), that multiplies each stat to represent what it would be if the player had been on the court for all 40 minutes of the game.

Take, for example, the amount of points Montgomery scores per game. In her six games this season, Montgomery has played on average 18.7 minutes, and has averaged seven points. This is where the ‘P/40’ comes into play, providing an idea of how a player would perform given ‘starter minutes’ (32-36).

When taking Montgomery’s points per game and multiplying them to reflect if she had played all 40 minutes, you get an impressive 15 points per game.

Montgomery’s strongest part of her game, however, isn’t necessarily her offense; the 9th-year guard out of the University of Connecticut is most known for her Tasmanian devil-like defense.

After filtering in the ‘P/40’ for every player’s statistics, Montgomery ranks first in the league with 6.1 steals per game, surpassing the second ranked player by a large margin of 1.3.

Natasha Howard also has very impressive numbers when her stats are simulated to her playing all 40 minutes. The 3rd-year forward is averaging 18.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.6 steals per 40 minutes, numbers very similar to that of starter Rebekkah Brunson.

On top of the bench players performing at a very-high level, the starters have also gotten off to an extremely fast start to being the 2016 season.

When calculating a player’s ‘net rating,’ you take the difference in team points scored and allowed per 100 possessions. With the league average being zero, in order to have a positive net rating, you need to perform well both offensively and defensively.

Out of the 24 players in the WNBA who average 10 or more minutes of playing time and who have a net rating of nine or above, the Lynx have eight of those players on their roster.

Every Minnesota starter plus Janel McCarville, Howard and Montgomery have net ratings higher than 9.0 through six games. That statistic, ladies and gentlemen, is damn near unheard-of.

Despite tallying an undefeated record and putting up mind-blowing statistics, the Lynx still believe they have a ways to go before they reach their full potential.

“We still have some work to do,” Seimone Augustus said after their win against the New York Liberty. “We have to be able to be more consistent on keeping leads or extending leads. So we still have some work to do.”