Following the Atlanta Dreams most recent 61-59 loss and heartbreaker to the Indiana Fever on Wednesday evening, the burning question continued to loom: What is going on with the Atlanta Dream?
While that question is a complicated one and nearly impossible for an outsider to fully answer, I wanted to take a deeper look into the comparisons of their breakout 2018 season versus this 2019 season from a numbers standpoint and tell you what I see and believe is going on.
The Atlanta Dream finished the 2018 season nearly on top of the WNBA standings after compiling a 23-11 overall record and nearly missing the finals in Head Coach Nicki Collen's first season with the team. Now, more than halfway through the 2019 season the Dream find themselves at 5-16 overall and in last place.
Let's take a look at a few team statistical breakdowns from 2018 to this current season. (As of 8/1/19)
|Points Per Game||81.8||69.2|
|Opp. Points Per Game||79.5||77.7|
|Field Goal %||42.6%||36.5%|
|3-pt Field Goal %||31.8%||27.7%|
|Steals Per Game||7.6||6.7|
|Turnovers Per Game||13.4||14.5|
|Rebounds Per Game||35.8||36.5|
|Assists Per Game||18.2||15.7|
|Fouls Per Game||18.2||16.4|
Obviously, the most glaring number is the point differential in what this team is averaging per game from last year to this year and their field goal percentages. Simply put… the Dream are struggling to score. (Which most of us are fully aware of at this point, thank you Captain Obvious.)
But what was fascinating to me were their defensive numbers. The Dream are actually holding opponents to fewer points than they did in 2018. They are even holding opponents to a lower field goal percentage from 42.3-percent in 2018 to currently 41-percent.
The rebounding margins versus their opponents has increased, but not anything too catastrophic. No surprise assist numbers are down.. that tends to happen when you don't make shots.
I took a deeper look into the Dream's shot selection in particular. According to Synergy (a highly complex and expensive basketball tool used by teams to break down every aspect of the game), Atlanta leads the league in their ability to create unguarded shots. In other words, they are getting good looks. Head Coach Nicki Collen is putting her team in position to have the shots they want… they just aren't making them.
Take their last game versus Indiana. Atlanta missed AT LEAST six point blank layups to go along with 18 missed three-pointers, 15 of which were open and uncontested looks from my count. And this has been the story many times this season.
So lets dive a little deeper to individual numbers from the core of Dream players and compare their points per game averages to their field goal percentages on the two seasons.
|Tiffany Hayes||17.2 – 44.1%||13.4 – 40.1|
|Angel McCoughtry||16.5 – 41%||OUT|
|Renee Montgomery||10.3 – 38.9%||8.0 – 32.4%|
|Brittney Sykes||9.7 – 41.1%||11.1 – 36.8%|
|Elizabeth Williams||9.1 – 54.8%||10.1 – 46.6%|
|Alex Bentley||8.7 – 37.6%||7.3 – 27%|
|Jessica Breland||8.3 – 42.8%||6.7 – 36.6%|
|Monique Billings||3.3 – 44.1%||5.3 – 37.4%|
The issue with the Atlanta Dream right now is simple: They are not making the shots they made a year ago and that stems from the six inches between their ears. The loss of McCoughtry ended up being a greater blow than we could have imagined with certain players inability to elevate their game to fill that scoring void. But let's be brutally honest here, as much as the Dream roster stole our hearts in 2018, this is a team with the fewest number one draft picks in the league with most coming in the late first round.
One could argue that 2018 was a moment in time when a team just clicked. They hit a bit of momentum, gained a great deal of confidence and rode that wave deep into the WNBA Playoffs. But right now, this is a team battling confidence, frustration and lack of momentum from an ability to make shots, plain and simple.
I'll ask one more tough question. Maybe a question people aren't comfortable hearing. Did some of these players get comfortable following their 2018 hype expecting things to just flow as naturally as they did into 2019? I'll let you decide. Regardless, the Dream have 13 games left in the regular season and it is entirely possible that they can still get a roll, but no doubt that time is running out.
The Dream will look to snap their six-game losing streak this Saturday, August 3rd when they host the Chicago Sky at 7:00 pm ET.