Cambage says Aces’ potent offense nowhere near its potential
The Aces are already the best offensive team in the WNBA through more than a third of the 2021 season.
Updated June 16, 2021 - 5:25 pm
The Aces had just put the finishing touches on a 100-78 victory over the New York Liberty when their All-Star center, Liz Cambage, offered a candid proclamation about their potential.
“We’re only at 40 percent of what we can really do,” she said Tuesday night. “I think a lot of people know that. I think a lot of people are scared of that.”
Perhaps the Aces still are working through some kinks as they develops the kind of cohesion that other veteran outfits have. But they already are the best offensive team in the WNBA through more than a third of the 2021 season, according to key statistical measures.
The Aces average a league-high 90.2 points and top the league in offensive efficiency, netting 109.6 points per 100 possessions, according to data aggregated by Basketball Reference. They also play at the league’s fastest pace (82.2 possessions per 40 minutes) and turn the ball over on the fewest percentage of possessions (12.9) while leading the league in field-goal percentage (48.5).
“Our efficiency can improve, and our pace can improve,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “If we’re going to outshoot somebody, the more possessions throughout the game, the bigger the margin of victory will be.”
Laimbeer isn’t exactly surprised that the Aces are so good on offense. The roster is full of All-Stars and former No. 1 overall picks and is suited to play an efficient style. Cambage and leading scorer A’ja Wilson are among the league’s elite post players, and possessions often begin with movement designed to get them prime low-post position.
They feast near the basket on single coverage, and double teams open the floodgates for Jackie Young. Or Dearica Hamby. Or Kelsey Plum. Or Chelsea Gray.
Young and Hamby thrive attacking off the dribble and cutting, and Plum can create with her handle or space the floor with her 3-point shooting. Gray is a pick-and-roll maestro who can create offense late in possessions if opponents stymie initial actions.
All six average double figures in scoring, and a seventh — two-guard Riquna Williams — is almost there, averaging 9.3 points while serving as one of the team’s top 3-point threats.
Those seven have played nearly 92 percent of the team’s possible minutes and are discovering the balance necessary to execute at the highest of levels. If the Aces have tapped into 40 percent of their potential like Cambage suggested, then imagine how they’ll look later this season.
“When we’re efficient and we’re not turning the ball over, getting shots on goal and our spacing is nice, when we dump it into the post and we know how we’re cutting, it’s really nice. A joy to play, and I know it’s a joy to watch,” Gray said.
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Who: Aces vs. New York Liberty
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Michelob Ultra Arena
TV: CBS Sports Network, MyLVTV
About the Aces (9-3): Wilson is averaging 18.7 points per game and shooting a career-high 49.1 percent from the field. Cambage is scoring 15.2 points per game and also registering a career-high in field-goal percentage (59.7). Young scores 13.8 points per game and is developing into one of the league’s best two-way players. Plum averages 12 points, Hamby scores 11.8 per game and Gray runs the show, averaging 11.6 points and 6.4 assists.
About the Liberty (6-5): Sixth-year guard Betnijah Laney has become one of the league’s best players, averaging 20.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. She couldn’t shake Young on Tuesday, though, and committed a season-high eight turnovers while scoring 15 points. New York is one of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the WNBA, making a league-high 13.4 per game while shooting 39.5 percent, second to only the Seattle Storm. Starting point guard Sabrina Ionescu did not play Tuesday and is day-to-day with ankle tendinitis.