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How do we evaluate WNBA players on overseas teams?

Here’s a very rough way to gauge how players are doing during the NBA season.

WNBL Preliminary Final - Dandenong v Townsville Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Women’s professional basketball doesn’t get much attention during the fall and winter. After all, the WNBA season is over, and the American basketball media machine known as the NBA wants you to focus on the 30 teams who are playing right now. That’s all good.

In the American women’s basketball world, most sites and women’s basketball writers on this side of the Atlantic or Pacific dedicate their attention to college basketball. After all, that’s the highest level of women’s basketball at the moment, and some of the best players will become tomorrow’s WNBA and Team USA stars.

That said, we don’t pay enough attention to what happens to current WNBA players when they are overseas. We dedicated most of our attention to Emma Meesseman and the Belgian National Team’s EuroBasket qualifiers because that affects the Mystics next season. But with no pressing tournaments of that magnitude, we’ll focus on what everyone has done so far.

This isn’t going to be a Mystics article per se, but it will give us a foundation on how we can evaluate players when they are playing in other leagues far away from home.

Are there resources out there that I can read on overseas basketball in English?

Yes! FIBA Europe does a good job covering the EuroLeague and EuroCup women’s tournaments. However, it only covers continental league play, NOT games within the domestic leagues.

Women’s Basketball 24/7 also gives weekly summaries in most of the major Eastern European and Asian leagues where WNBA players are during this time of year. Former Mystics and now San Antonio Stars forward Monique Currie is its founder and site manager, where she and her team of writers do a great job keeping fans informed.

EuroBasket.com offers resources on both men’s and women’s professional teams all over the continent. Some parts of the site require a subscription.

The WNBL is Australia’s women’s league and the league’s official website is here.

These are just some of the many resources out there, but they are the most notable places in regard to overseas professional basketball.

How good is the country’s basketball league?

In the women’s basketball world, Europe is generally the most competitive place to play. However, some countries are better than others within the continent.

Western Europe, in particular northwestern Europe (UK/Ireland, Benelux, Scandinavia) has the highest standard of living. However, most countries here don’t have strong basketball leagues.

But like the NBA, it’s the Eastern countries that dominate the basketball scene. Russia and Turkey especially have the strongest professional leagues. Southern Mediterranean countries like Spain and France also have a strong pipeline of talent and have actually become stronger than Eastern Europe in the last ten years.

Australia is a close second. Their national team is one of the best in the world, and the WNBL in their country attracts a solid number of Americans, though not necessarily the stars. Since Australia has no language barrier with the United States, it’s easier for Americans to adapt there and play during their summer months because they are in the Southern Hemisphere.

China and Korea are also destination teams for many players. China has a had a track record for attracting many centers, including superstar posts to the WCBA in the last several years. In Korea, the WKBL attracted a solid number of starter-level WNBA players to their teams where one American player can be put onto a roster.

How good is the player’s team domestically?

Self explanatory. You’d like to see the Mystics’ players play on teams that are among the best in the country they are in. If there are quality, meaning at least average WNBA players on the team, that’s even better.

If the player is in Europe, is the team in EuroLeague or EuroCup?

If a European team is among the best in its domestic league, which is also one of the strongest in FIBA Europe, then it is generally a EuroLeague Women team. The next tier of teams below that would be EuroCup Women teams.

EuroLeague is basketball’s version of the UEFA Champions League in soccer, where last season’s best teams in various national leagues like Leicester City in (England/UK), F.C. Barcelona (Spain), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Bayern Munich (Germany) and CSKA Moscow (Russia) play in pools, then get into knockout stages to determine a continental winner.

EuroCup is like the UEFA Europa League where last year’s group of high performing, but second tier plays for a continental title. Think of teams like Southampton F.C. (England), Athletic Bilbao (Spain), Feyenoord Rotterdam (Netherlands), Schalke 04 (Germany), and Zenit (Russia) as teams that are playing in that league.

Ideally, you want to see a Mystics player on a team that’s playing continental competition if she’s in Europe.

Is the player in a role that is as big or bigger than her current team?

Many, if not most WNBA players don’t get chances to develop in a gym like Bradley Beal during the summer because of year round play. So their development is going to be playing games. Ideally, you want to see Mystics players have bigger roles on their overseas teams.

Is the player performing at a higher level than she does in the WNBA?

Is the player playing comparable minutes or more than her WNBA teams? Also, is she shooting at a higher percentage or scoring/rebounding/assisting more? With WNBA players dispersing to many teams overseas, the talent of each individual domestic league isn’t going to be at the level of a WNBA team, minus a very select few, like UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia for example.


Later this week, we’ll give an update on how players are doing. But for now, how would you like to see the Mystics perform individually during the NBA season?