A Shorter WNBA Season Could Keep Some Records Safe

The WNBA, like all professional leagues, is attempting to find its way back amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as circumstances change daily on the ground in the United States. Still, commissioner Cathy Engelbert and the league are moving steadily toward a plan to play a 22-game schedule beginning on July 24 at IMG Academy in Florida — albeit without, as of yet, player buy-in.

The women’s basketball world will cheer the return to action, provided there are no health setbacks as a result. But fewer games played also means missed opportunities for some players, including shots at the record books.

The 2020 WNBA universe includes some of the greatest players in league history. And for many of them, their places in the historical record are going to be affected by missing valuable time to set new marks. (That this comes in a year when the WNBA was set to increase the number of games in a season to 36 from 34, thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, only exacerbates the level of loss.)

So which pursuits of stats am I most attuned to? Glad you asked.

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Let’s start with win shares. Tamika Catchings holds the high mark for career win shares with 93.65, 28 percent more than Lauren Jackson’s second-place total. Catchings’s record is unbeatable for the moment, but Jackson’s mark is within reach. Diana Taurasi, even at her advanced basketball age, looked like she had a chance to make a run at Jackson after a 2018 season with 5.6 win shares. But an injury-marred 2019 and, now, a reduced 2020 may have ruined Taurasi’s opportunity.

A shorter season would also mean reduced opportunities for Sylvia Fowles, currently fourth in career win shares at 62.44, to make a run at the top of the leaderboard. Fowles is just 34, and she took an already-impressive peak to another level when she joined Cheryl Reeve and the Minnesota Lynx. She’s just two years removed from her best single-season win shares mark of 9.2, and she overcame a genuinely odd shift in how centers were refereed in the 2019 WNBA season, posting 5.3 win shares.

Age typically drags down performance, but as mentioned, Fowles has actually been better in her 30s than she was in her 20s. Were she to simply match her 2019 win shares over each of the next six full seasons, she would have passed Catchings late in the 2025 season. If she posted something like her average win-share production over the past three seasons from Minnesota going forward, or just over 7 win shares per season, she would have passed Catchings midway through the 2024 season. Daunting math, to be sure, but the top of leaderboards are filled with players who prove exceptions to the aging rules.

Fowles is facing the same issue in her effort to reach the top of the WNBA’s list in career blocks. Fowles is currently fourth with 621 blocks in her WNBA career, while the late Margo Dydek leads the way at 877. Fowles blocked more than 60…

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Read More: A Shorter WNBA Season Could Keep Some Records Safe 2020-06-09 12:00:00

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