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Elena Delle Donne’s presence has opened up the Mystics offense

Stewart W. Small

Since Elena Delle Donne was traded to the Washington Mystics last February, all eyes have been on her. And rightly so. She was one of the “Big Three” draft picks of 2013 and won Rookie of the Year. She led the Chicago Sky to the WNBA Finals the next year, and was the WNBA MVP the year after that. And last season, she was part of the USA Basketball women’s national team that won the Olympic Gold Medal.

Now that Delle Donne is in Washington, has her game changed much, or have the Mystics adjusted more to her? Let’s take a quick look at her statistical production and find out.

EDD is actually shooting less than she has most of her career

If you look at Delle Donne’s scoring average, she’s averaging 21.1 points a game, just a shade under the 21.5 games a game she shot last year. But that’s just part of the story.

Last season she shot the ball 15.8 times a game, or 17.1 times every 36 minutes. This season, she’s shooting it 13.2 times a game (a career low) or 15.6 times every 36 minutes. That’s a good thing.

The Mystics are projected to have one of the WNBA’s best offenses this year. So far, that’s coming to fruition as they are third in the league in offensive efficiency.

EDD’s presence gives her teammates more open looks from three

With Delle Donne on the roster now, opposing defenses are spending more time on her and less on her teammates. But Delle Donne now has strong group of talented shooters around her for her career. Kristi Toliver, Ivory Latta, and Tayler Hill were already some of the best three point shooters coming into this season.

Though these three players are three point threats even without Delle Donne, they now make nearly six threes a game combined. Furthermore, all three are averaging career highs or close to career highs in threes made per game. And finally, Toliver, Latta, and Hill made more threes than Delle Donne through this point in the season.

When the Mystics configured their roster, the goal was to be a threat from the three point line from nearly every position on the court. Delle Donne is one of the best three point shooters in the league of course. But her presence now opens up the offense more than ever before. As a result, the Mystics lead the WNBA in threes made with 74 as of June 15.

EDD is taking advantage of the free throw line to get her points

Delle Donne is taking less shots than she did last year. However, she’s still almost matching her 2016 averages. This season, she is averaging a 52.9 percent free throw rate, her career high since the 2014 season (42.5 percent).

Getting to the free throw line is half the battle, of course. Making the free throws is the next part. In her nine games, Delle Donne made 60 of 63 free throw shots, or a 95.2 percent rate from the charity stripe. Delle Donne never shot below 92.9 percent from the free throw line in any year. Simply put, she is scoring 6.7 points from the free throw line, which is making up the scoring deficit from her actual shot taking.

EDD is shooting very well from all over the court

Season Overall 1-5 feet 6-10 feet 11-15 feet 16-21 feet 3P less than 27 ft 3P 27+ feet
Season Overall 1-5 feet 6-10 feet 11-15 feet 16-21 feet 3P less than 27 ft 3P 27+ feet
2016 48.50% 68.54% 47.50% 45.88% 38.37% 43.30% 25.00%
2017 49.60% 60.71% 50.00% 56.00% 42.86% 38.71% 0.00%

Here are Delle Donne’s shooting efficiency numbers comparing how well she did from each distance between this season and last, from the Minnesota Lynx’s Lynx Data blog.

Delle Donne’s three point efficiency isn’t where we would like it just yet because it’s below 40 percent. Also her shooting at the basket has declined a bit, though part of it could be attributed to “going for foul shots.” That said, her shooting from mid range has improved across the board.

The TL;dr version

Delle Donne’s arrival to Washington has brought increased expectations from everyone around the WNBA. The most notable expectation is that the offense would produce more points.

So far, the offense is doing just that. Though Delle Donne is the Mystics’ leading scorer, it’s not like she’s averaging 25 points a game and then ... there’s everyone else. Other players like Tayler Hill, Kristi Toliver, and Ivory Latta are pulling their weight as well. Furthermore, they are seeing more open looks than they otherwise would because all three are strong three point shooters who are taking advantage of those looks. Finally, Delle Donne is shooting less, but her overall scoring average hasn’t changed much because she is more aggressive getting to the free throw line and taking advantage of her chances there.

Once Emma Meesseman returns from EuroBasket Women, it will be interesting to see how her presence could open up the offense even more than it has already. The Mystics’ offense is still a work in progress, but these early results look very promising indeed.