At the risk of sounding too much like a paid employee of the WNBA, buy League Pass right now and catch up on what Jewell Loyd has done this season.
The numbers alone are impressive. Through three games, Loyd is averaging 26.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists, and she’s shooting 61.5 percent from three-point range. In terms of advanced metrics, she boasts a 68.0 percent effective field-goal rate and a 70.5 percent true shooting rate.
Her scoring is bound to cool off eventually. No player in league history has eclipsed 26 points a game or shot 60-plus percent from beyond the arc. Diana Taurasi has the single-season scoring record (25.3 PPG) from 2006, while Temeka Johnson was the most accurate three-point shooter (53.1 percent) over a full season in 2012.
While Loyd isn’t the best player in the league, few are capable of pulling moves off like this: Loyd is often put in the same discussion as Kobe Bryant in terms of style, but she arguably shares more with Kyrie Irving. Just when you think Loyd has painted herself into a corner, she somehow wriggles herself free, creating enough space for jumper or opening up a lane to the basket.
Like Irving, Loyd can cause frustration at times through her defense and tendency to try and do too much offensively.
Turnovers remain a concern for Loyd as well. She’s averaging 4.7 a game, up 2.2 a game. Her performance against the Los Angeles Sparks skews her total somewhat, though. Without Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart on the floor, Loyd had to facilitate nearly everything on the offensive end. She had a 43.2 percent usage rate in the defeat.
Having Loyd and Stewart back coincided with a return to normalcy. Over the next two games, her usage rates were a more reasonable 28.7 percent and 29.0 percent. As a result, she had five combined turnovers in the wins.
Through her first two years in the WNBA, Loyd has made incremental improvement. She was the 2015 Rookie of the Year and made the All-WNBA second team in 2016. The question for 2017 was whether she could make the jump to become one of the league’s top scorers. In an admittedly small sample, the answer is an affirmative yes.
And more important than the fact that she is scoring is the how.
Last year, Loyd needed to have the ball in her hand to be an effective scorer. When it came to scoring in the pick-and-roll, spot-up situation or in transition, she rated above the 70 percentile relative to the rest of the league.
When coming off screens, however, she was in the 38th percentile, shooting 39.0 percent with a 43.2 percent adjusted field-goal rate. Loyd was even worse when cutting to the basket. She shot 9-of-18 in those situations, ranking in the sixth percentile.
Basically, Loyd was very good at creating her own shot, and her efficiency dropped when she had to get herself open and score.
Through Seattle’s first three games, Loyd’s on-ball scoring efficiency has climbed, and she’s finding new ways to keep opposing defenses honest. Loyd is 5-of-6 on shots when she’s cutting to the basket and 6-of-9 when coming off screens.
It’s not like Loyd needs to cease operating as a ball-dominant guard. But if the Storm want to experiment more with Stewart as a point forward, then head coach Jenny Boucek will need to count on Loyd as a secondary scoring option.
Not only is Loyd’s hot start helping Seattle, it’s also a sign of her progression into an almost unstoppable offensive force.