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Emma Meesseman's scoring compared with other WNBA superstars shows both promise and concern

The stats show just how good Meesseman is and could be. But it also indicates that the Mystics are holding her back more than they should.

Emma Meesseman (R) is a much more efficient shooter than the player on the left. So, why can't she be like the player on the left?
Emma Meesseman (R) is a much more efficient shooter than the player on the left. So, why can't she be like the player on the left?
Stewart W. Small

In late December, I wrote a piece about Mystics forward Emma Meesseman, along with reasons why she could be their first true franchise player since Chamique Holdsclaw, who has not played for them since 2004. If you haven't read it already, I strongly encourage you to read it now because this piece builds on that.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, WNBA fan ElleLovesTennis sent me this:

The tweet shows a comparison of Meesseman's shooting stats by distance versus Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore's. Meesseman is by far a more efficient scorer.

So that gave me an idea. Let's compare Meesseman to three superstar frontcourt WNBA players who are power or swing forwards in their primes or younger. They are:

  • Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky. She is the 2015 WNBA MVP. Delle Donne, like Meesseman, is now a fourth-year player.
  • Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx. ElleLovesTennis already mentioned her, but she was the 2014 WNBA MVP and 2013 Finals MVP.
  • Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks. Parker was the 2008 and 2013 WNBA MVP and has made the All-First or All-Second teams in four consecutive seasons.

Why are you comparing Meesseman to these three players?

There are two reasons why I compared Delle Donne, Moore, and Parker to Meesseman:

All four players, including Meesseman, are the best players on their teams - Since we put Meesseman on the spotlight, it's only fair that we compare her against the best frontcourt players in the WNBA. The other three players on this list have won a combined four WNBA MVP awards.

All four players can stretch defenses with their shooting at the forward position - Let's be a bit more specific as to why I selected Delle Donne, Moore, and Parker as players to compare Meesseman against as opposed to other superstars like Brittney Griner, Tina Charles, and/or Sylvia Fowles. The latter three play primarily at center, and none are three-point shooting threats.

The players who I listed to compare against Meesseman with are at the very least, effective three-point shooters, so that gives us a more fair comparison when we look at everyone's shooting efficiency.

The Good: Meesseman is shooting at a better rate than some of the best WNBA players from most distances on the court

Take a look at this chart of Meesseman's 2015 field goal percentage by distance compared with the other three superstars:

FG% meesseman vs superstars

All stats from the Minnesota Lynx's advanced statistics page.

Some things stick out right away.

Meesseman leads all four players in overall field goal percentage (she was second in the league in 2015). She also had the best field goal percentage from 1 to 10 feet, and 16-25 feet (two and three-point shots). The only range where Meesseman was last were three-point shots 26 feet of further, where she attempted just one shot.

To be fair to everyone, here is a list of all four players' shooting statistics -- percentages and attempts -- for the 2015 season:

2 POINT FG 3 POINT FG SEASON TOTAL
1-5 ft 6-10 ft 11-15 ft 16-21 ft 22-25 ft 26+ ft
Player Team FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG% FG FGA FG%
Emma Meesseman Mystics 76 111 68.47% 23 43 53.49% 23 45 51.11% 50 108 46.30% 6 12 50.00% 0 1 0.00% 178 320 55.63%
Elena Delle Donne Sky 85 133 63.91% 36 84 42.86% 48 93 51.61% 27 73 36.99% 34 116 29.31% 8 18 44.44% 238 517 46.03%
Maya Moore Lynx 71 125 56.80% 17 43 39.53% 36 79 45.57% 45 127 35.43% 67 181 37.02% 2 11 18.18% 238 566 42.05%
Candace Parker Sparks 62 106 58.49% 15 36 41.67% 12 25 48.00% 15 27 55.56% 11 38 28.95% 1 5 20.00% 116 237 48.95%
WNBA 5273 9551 55.21% 930 2639 35.24% 1012 2637 38.38% 2156 5817 37.06% 1742 5139 33.90% 223 907 24.59% 11336 26684 42.48%

From the data above, Parker took the least amount of shots in 2015, but she averaged 19.4 points a game that season. This was because she sat out the first half of the season to rest after the end of the international basketball season. The other three players, including Meesseman, played at least 31 games in 2015.

The Bad: Meesseman takes fewer shots and averages fewer points than any of those superstars

I've already written plenty about my concerns with Meesseman's apparent passiveness despite the fact that she is the Mystics' best player. This chart of Meesseman's field goal attempts per game versus Delle Donne's, Moore's and Parker's shows why the fourth-year post still has some catching up to do:

FGAG

When players take fewer shots, they also average fewer points. Needless to say, Meesseman averages the fewest amount of points compared to the others:

PPG vs others

The main concern that I see from Meesseman's low number of field goal attempts and points per game despite her high field goal percentage is that it is not just her apparent lack of aggression or assertiveness.

The former can partly explain why she averaged at least five fewer shots and nearly eight fewer points per game than Parker, who was third in both categories. But the Mystics are not putting their system around her enough either. Meesseman was second in field goal attempts and points per game to Ivory Latta, who only shot 40.6 percent overall from the field.

How that is possible is beyond me. Sure, Meesseman can be a passive player, but the Mystics need to put her in a position where she cannot be that way without getting called out on it.

TL;dr: The Mystics must make Meesseman their primary offensive option. She also must take ownership of that role.

Since Mike Thibault became the Mystics' head coach, the team has been quite reliant on Ivory Latta. She was the team's leading scorer for each of the past three seasons.

To her credit, Latta has played very well for Washington as their starting point guard. She has also made more three-point shots than any other player in the last two seasons and is a valuable asset on the team. However, Latta is 31 years old and will be out of her prime when most of the team's homegrown talent matures over the next several years.

Emma Meesseman has also quickly emerged as a do-it-all forward with the ability to score efficiently from almost anywhere on the court. There were times, especially early in the 2015 season when people were really thinking that she could break through. Ultimately, she still has not gone over the hump just yet.

It is reasonable to assume that if Meesseman shoots the ball considerably more this summer, her shooting percentages will drop a little. However, when a player like her is shooting from all over the court at a very high percentage but is still not the clear primary option on offense, it is puzzling. This must change in 2016 so we can see how Meesseman handles a larger role.