The NBA Equivalent of Losing Alana Beard
[a basketball hoop somewhere in Washington, D.C. – K. Weidie]
Excuse the comparison to the men’s game and think of the following more as context to what the Washington Mystics have accomplished this season. Through their run, a prevailing storyline has been about someone who hasn’t played at all, all-star Alana Beard. No one expected Washington to do anything after Beard had season-ending surgery on an injured left ankle tendon in April. Instead, the Mystics finished as the first overall seed in the East.
Unfortunately for the growing Mystics fan base, their team lost its opening playoff game against the Atlanta Dream in D.C. on Wednesday night. They’ve long moved past the ‘what if we had Alana’ stage, but for context, perspective, and for the hell of it, let’s find the NBA equivalent of Beard’s statistical production for a better idea of her impact, or lack thereof.
I chose three advanced stat categories to put in the Basketball-Reference.com historical NBA database (and please excuse the refresher course via the Basketball-Reference glossary):
- PER (Player Efficiency Rating): “The PER sums up all a player’s positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance.” *Note: developed by ESPN’s John Hollinger.
- Usg% (Usage Percentage): “Usage percentage is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor.”
- WS/48 (Win Shares Per 48 Minutes): “An estimate of the number of wins contributed by the player per 48 minutes (league average is approximately 0.100).”
In 2009, Beard had a PER of 16.7, Usg% of 25.9, and a WS/48 of 0.121 in an all-star year.
I plugged in a range of the first two categories and sorted by the last. Click here for the results from Basketball-Reference. But feel free to keep reading about the conclusion.
In 1994-95 the Sacramento Kings had an all-star, MVP of the all-star game no less, who had a 17.2 PER, 27.0 Usg% and 0.120 WS/48. That season, the Kings finished with a .476 winning-percentage, ninth in the Western Conference and out of the playoffs. Coincidentally, in 2009 the Mystics finished with a .471 winning-percentage, along with the Connecticut Sun and the Chicago Sky, but it was Washington that won the three-way tie, retaining the fourth and final seed in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs.
Oh, and in case you haven’t guessed already, that Sacramento Kings player was none other than Mitch Richmond. Yes, that Mitch Richmond. Wizards fans 9-years old, if they exist, don’t remember the Richmond tenure debacle in Washington … thankfully. Next season, his 1995-96 Kings wound up making the playoffs, as the 8-seed, and lost three games to one to the ultimate Western Conference champion Seattle Supersonics in the first round. That was Richmond’s only playoff appearance with the Kings and one of only four seasons in which Richmond played in the playoffs over his career.
But could you imagine that ’95-96 Sacramento team even making the playoffs without Richmond? The supporting cast featured Sarunas Marciulionis, Walt Williams, Brian Grant, Billy Owens, Olden Polynice, Corliss Williamson, Tyus Edney, Lionel Simmons, and Bobby Hurley. Yep, pretty much nope.
Not to knock any of those players, many were very solid and diverse contributors — just like the make-up of this year’s Mystics — but not a playoff squad had they been without Richmond. And that’s a testament to some sort of positive karma on the D.C. sports scene (and to Crystal Langhorne) … except for the playoffs. If Washington doesn’t win game two on Friday in Atlanta, their season is over.
For further statistical investigation, I took stats from Beard‘s best season in the WNBA, 2006, her third season, and ran them through the database.
Beard in 2006: 25.2 PER, 28.2 Usg% and 0.253 WS/48.
The first result: Karl Malone on the 1998-99 Utah Jazz.
Either way, here’s to a full recovery for Alana Beard.