Moore: The Simple Value of 3-point Shooting in WNBA Betting

May 24, 2019 05:00 PM EDT
Credit:

Michael Zamora/The Register via USA TODAY NETWORK. Pictured: Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne (11).

  • The 3-pointer has become the most important shot in basketball, especially in the WNBA.
  • Matt Moore looks at the trends behind the 3-point shooting and how WNBA bettors can benefit from it this season.

It was pretty evident last year as a very new WNBA watcher (and bettor) that there were effectively two types of teams: those with good shot selection and those with terrible shot selection. There’s very little middle ground.

It makes sense; with fewer teams than the NBA, the difference is greater and the middle-class, in terms of shot selection, is greater.

The WNBA is experiencing the same as what the NBA has over the past four years, a severe uptick in perimeter-oriented playmaking and shot selection. In 2014, the league leader in 3-point attempts (then-San Antonio Stars/now-Las Vegas Aces) took 630 3’s for the season. That would rank eighth of 12 teams in 2018.

But half the teams are still stuck in the past. Last year’s lowest-3-point-shooting team, the Aces (darlings of this year), would still be 10th in 2014. There’s just this incredible gap between the two.

But what was interesting was how consistently just betting those teams worked out. I took a look at the top 3-point attempts leaders last season and compared the four teams who took the most threes to the four teams who took the least.

Now these are obviously “good teams vs. bad teams” so, you know, obvious, but the fact that this performed so well against the spread caught my eye:

And here’s a look at the teams that attempted the most 3-point attempts per game last season vs. the teams that gave up the most, top four vs. bottom four:

There’s a pretty clear trend here. The danger, of course, is how those offenses change this season. The Dream ranked seventh in 3-point rate last year, and now seem to be way more angled in that direction:

New Sky coach James Wade echoed the same, via High Post Hoops:

“We want to play fast,” Wade said. “We want to be able to shoot the ball, spread the floor, attack closeouts. I think that’s an exciting brand of basketball, but I also think that’s where basketball is going nowadays and I think we’re up for that.”

Injuries, of course, could shape much of this. The Storm are without Breeana Stewart and Sue Bird, the Mercury without Diana Taurasi. The Wings are are without Skylar Diggins-Smith (seveth in 3-point attempts last year) and the Lynx without Maya Moore (sixth).

The two teams who return most of their starters and a 3-point heavy offense, the (Mystics and Connecticut Sun) went just 15-15 (50%) ATS last season vs. the bottom four 3-point teams.

As we start out, I’ll be looking to trust in those teams that generated a high amount of threes last year, fading teams that return identities with low perimeter attacks (hello, vastly overrated Aces) and keeping an eye on who comes out slinging from deep. WNBA bettors should dig the long ball.

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