Instant Analysis: Assessing Candace Parker’s Fit in Las Vegas –

Instant Analysis: Assessing Candace Parker’s Fit in Las Vegas –

It was a remarkably quiet Saturday amidst the WNBA Free Agency until it wasn’t when Candace Parker announced her intention to sign with the Las Vegas Aces via her Instagram.

First of all, WOW!!!

It seemed possible that Parker would leave Chicago, but seeing it happen is another thing altogether. Then you dive into the actual impact on the pitch, and it’s all the more stunning.

I voted A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum and Candace Parker to All-WNBA teams at the end of the season, with Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray among the shortlist who narrowly missed the cut (voting was levels of hallucinating difficulty). The Aces will deploy a starting lineup consisting of arguably 5 of the sport’s top 15-20 players.

Talent-wise, it’s fascinating.

Immediately, I think of what Parker brings defensively to the Aces alongside reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Wilson. While the Aces were better defensively than their draft average defensive metrics, they had some limitations that precluded a higher defensive floor.

They swung through numerous covers last season trying to find a base and never fully settled into a primary cover, opting to switch depending on the game. Parker adds a layer of rim protection the Aces didn’t have aside from Wilson.

The duo together can play in softer drops, likely with Parker playing all four and sagging weaker shooters to smear the paint. Parker is one of the most mobile big players in the league, with Wilson adding the momentum of legitimate switchability. She can play closer to screen level in a more aggressive drop. She can show and recover, hard hurdles, traps and absolutely blitz ball screens: Parker can do it all on defense and do it well, and I imagine Wilson takes most games with stronger post players.

With two of the best defensive bigs and the best defenders in basketball, the level of versatility is changing for the better. Adding another player who can credibly play all five on both sides of the ball in a positive way adds another layer of versatility that the team lacked last season. Staggering Wilson and Parker while finding their best adjustments on the floor with each other will be a joy to watch unfold.

Adding another eye-catching look, as well as the Aces bringing the two-time MVP to Candace, they also beefed up their wing defense, adding former All-Defense First-Team wing in Alysha Clark.

Las Vegas struggled with a lack of wing depth in its title run last season, and now a solid playmaker, shooter and more defender will help in that regard. Expect a more robust defense from the Aces, with Parker on the back line.

Offensively, this is where things get incredibly interesting!

Figuring out how to make all of these talents consistent will likely be a season-long process.

It’s worth noting how well the Aces and Sky have played offensively this past year despite the same goal: creating open shots.

Vegas thrived as a ball-screen heavy team, torching defenses with their pick-and-roll play. The Aces hammered the paint to create open shots either in the paint itself or by spraying on the open shooters.

Each player in the Aces starting lineup is able to attack in isolation when a shift arises. At times, the offense could slip into stagnation in a somewhat paradoxical way. All of these players are elite as shot-makers, but ball movement and strong movement in the flow of attack are key to creating repeatable, easy looks that impact a defence. They were still good looks, but they could have been better than this offense could create with regularity.

The Sky played a movement-heavy offense based on high post and elbow play. Intuitive cutting and heady off-ball play were the foundation of Chicago’s 2021 title-winning offense and their defense season the following year. Dribbling transfers, moving shots and good projection in East/West actions opened up lanes of traffic and North/South paint spots.

With Parker at four or five, the opposing team’s stronger rim guards are usually pulled out of the paint, inverting the ground,” and straining the opposition to make crisp, timely rotations of the ball.

Parker is one of the elite playmakers in the history of the sport, and capitalizing on his blend of size, shooting, grips and pitch vision, the Sky have put together the second-best offense in the league. league last season (one that ranks 25th all-time in points per 100 possessions according to Her Hoop stats).

It’s easier said than done to integrate Parker. An offense has to be built around it to some extent, and rightly so. How does Parker fit into the equation?

We can get some insight into potential roles and usage by examining the past during Parker and Gray’s run with the Los Angeles Sparks. It’s a movie we’ve seen before! An award-winning, too!

The early attack with Gray and Parker should be great because it was a staple in LA.

As Parker brings the ball back, Gray hits his own defender with a brush screen as Parker slaloms towards Gray. Note how the rest of the Sparks cleared the other side of the field, making it an empty corner pick and roll.

This early screen, mixed with the threat of Parker as a driver, creates a defensive hiccup, a moment the offense can capitalize on and an inherent advantage created against the defense.

Often when defending the Gray/Parker pick and roll, teams would choose to show and recover as the defenders went over the ball screen to prevent the open three for Gray.

I would say Parker’s jump is incredibly vital for that reason, arguably more important now. Parker is still a great ball handler, but she generates paint dabs the same way she did before. In an interview with All-Star last year, she said she “has no more wheels, before laughing at getting old.

I think she overdid it, but the fact is, 63.8 percent of Parker’s shots last season were jumpers, according to InStat scouting. For reference, 50.2% of Wilson’s shots were. Parker doesn’t have quite the same punch to get to the edge of the grip, but she’s also in that area where teams will be comfortable letting her gun open up shots given the compromise that represents as opposed to Chelsea Gray entering the paint.

It can still be effective, but it’s mixed.

How Becky Hammon and staff script secondary actions to circumvent and exploit defenses to do so will be a standout storyline throughout the year.

Although Nneka Ogwumike and A’ja Wilson are very different players, it’s easy to imagine some of the same ideas playing out strategically! The Sparks often operated from horn sets (big insides above the free throw line, wings at the corners: the typical lineup) to draw in big opponents before games started. It was not uncommon to see Chelsea Gray deliver the ball to Parker before rolling into the paint and coming back on screen for a rolling Ogwumike, who would get an accurate pass from Parker for an easy look.

Gray brings the same plot, and Plum is one of the best guard checkers in the game.

It’s exciting to think about going from big to big when imagining the types of looks Parker can create for Wilson and vice versa. Every player in the top five can credibly force defenses to send in help, and that should be a terrifying proposition for the rest of the league.

The addition of Candace Parker makes the Aces the immediate favorites to repeat, likely regardless of other free agency moves taking place. While nothing is set in stone, watching the Las Vegas Avengers come together and find their groove, adding one of the greatest to ever play the game, will be mandatory every night.

WNBA reporter Mark Schindler writes a column on throughout the season and can be reached on Twitter at @MG_Schindler. The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the WNBA or its clubs.

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