It is still early in the 2020 WNBA season but the Dallas Wings are already working on a remarkable offensive transformation.
Last season, the Wings had the second-worst offense in the WNBA, scoring an average of 94.0 points per 100 possessions. They’ve only played two games so far in the WNBA’s restart but they’ve scored 109.9 points per 100 possessions, the second-best mark in the league and more than 15 points better than last year. Their individual offensive ratings for each of the two games they’ve played (112.0 against the New York Liberty and 108.0 against the Atlanta Dream) would have been their second- and fifth-best most efficient performances of all of last season.
Granted, the Liberty and the Dream aren’t the most intimidating defenses they’ll face this season but, regardless, the improvement is enormous and encouraging. The young Wings still have a long way to go towards making themselves into a hypothetical contender but they’re definitely moving in the right direction.
Arike Ogunbowale carried the scoring load for Dallas last season as a rookie, averaging 19.1 points per game. However, her efficiency lagged as her willingness to take tough shots was emphasized by a structure that often couldn’t muster a better option. Ogunbowale is averaging roughly the same number of points per game, shooting similar percentages and continuing to lean on a steady diet of contested pull-up jumpers.
But her individual scoring prowess is no longer the primary tool in the Wings’ toolbox and you can see how, as the season goes on, she’ll be able to increase efficiency, blending into a more cohesive system.
What’s changed for the Dallas Wings’ offense?
The addition of rookie Satou Sabally, the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, has been a shot in the arm for the offense. Sabally is a long, mobile wing with the ability to space the floor and create for herself and others. She’s struggled a bit to finish, both inside and outside, this season but her post-game gives Dallas an offensive fulcrum it didn’t have last year and she’s an excellent passer out of the post and off the dribble.
Sabally was just one of three first-round picks for the Wings in this year’s draft. Their second pick (No. 5), Bella Alaire, hasn’t really been on the court much but point guard Tyasha Harris (No. 7) has been hugely effective, averaging 10.0 points and 4.0 assists per game, and knocking down 4-of-8 3-pointers.
Harris has a quick first step and, as a penetrator, is much more focused on facilitating than Ogunbowale. In the second clip below, she gets some help from the implied threat of Ogunbowale off the ball and some bad positioning by Chennedy Carter, but in both cases, she simply blasts past her defender and finds the open shooter as the defense collapses.
It’s important to note just how rare plays like that were for the Wings last year. They were dead last in the league in assists per game and third-to-last in 3-point percentage.
Both of the kickouts above are to Allisha Gray, who has hit 5-of-6 3-pointers through two games. She was one of Dallas’ most reliable floor-spacers last season and while she’s unlikely to sustain that absurd level of efficiency the fact that the Wings are getting her so many open looks is a positive indicator for the health of the overall system. The rest of the roster is shooting 3-pointers slightly more often and slightly more accurately than they did last season but Gray doubling her attempts per 100 possessions is a huge development.
Nobody in the league made more unassisted baskets than Ogunbowale last season, but creating for herself doesn’t have to be plans A, B and C any more. Again, we’re looking at a sample size of exactly two games against two below-average defenses but you can see how many more options the Dallas Wings have this season and how they are starting to come together.
Just don’t ask about the defense.