In terms of her individual performance, the 2018 season was a year to forget for Noelle Quinn. But winning the first WNBA title of her career made all of the sacrifices worth it.
Noelle Quinn By the Numbers
- 1.5 PPG
- 0.7 APG
- 0.1 SPG
- .302 FG%
- .235 3P%
- .349 TS%
- 13.3 USG%
- 9.9 AST%
- 18.9 TO%
- 89.4 ORtg
- 93.7 DRtg
- -0.3 WS
Break in Case of Emergency
When the Seattle Storm re-signed Quinn in February, her role on the team was pretty clear even though the team was two months away from selecting Jordin Canada in the 2018 draft.
“Noelle brings a veteran leadership presence to our team that is invaluable,” Storm general manager Alisha Valavanis said in the team’s press release. “Her experience in the WNBA, leadership on the court and basketball IQ will continue to be a resource for our team.”
Whether Valavanis knew at that point Canada was the preferred target, Seattle wasn’t going to settle on Quinn as the backup point guard behind Sue Bird.
As a result of Canada’s arrival, Quinn appeared in just 20 games and her 181 minutes were ninth-fewest among those who played at least 17 games, or half of the regular season.
Being able to bring on a player with Quinn’s pedigree was a nice luxury for Seattle, though, when circumstances forced her into a larger role. Head coach Dan Hughes could feel reasonably comfortable with Quinn as his backup when Canada battled an ankle injury in June or when he wanted to rest Bird.
Quinn wasn’t going to single-handedly take games over, nor was the offense going to grind to a halt when she ran things. Compare that to 2017, when second-round draft pick Alexis Peterson was the third PG option for the Storm. Seattle had an 85.8 offensive rating with Peterson on the court in 2017.
For all of Quinn’s flaws—she shot 30.2 percent from the field and had a minus-4.3 net rating—she was exactly what Seattle needed to fill out its bench.
A Coach on the Floor (and the Bench)
Almost every statistical metric by which we judge players was unkind to Quinn. She didn’t shoot the ball well, had nearly as many turnovers (10) as she did assists (13) and had a 1.8 PER, per Basketball Reference.
That’s not to say Quinn was a bystander as the Storm captured their third WNBA title. When Valavanis talked about Quinn’s leadership, she wasn’t merely paying lip service to a veteran guard who was unlikely to see the floor often.
After the Storm held on to beat the Phoenix Mercury in overtime in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals, Bird credited Quinn with steadying the ship between the end of regulation and the overtime period.
“It was actually Noelle Quinn who came into the huddle and said, ‘This is the playoffs. This is not supposed to be easy,'” Bird said, per ESPN.com’s Kevin Pelton. “I think we were all able to reset after she said that and say, ‘OK, let’s go do this.'”
Hughes also praised Quinn’s work behind the scenes.
“She brings a mentality that every day she’s not only preparing herself, she prepares the team,” he said in a June interview with the Daily Breeze‘s Mike Waldner.
Quinn spoke to Waldner about how a player’s duties often evolve over the course of their career:
I think coming into the league, being around veteran players, you see them handling certain roles. Some people, as they get older, maintain the same roles. Some people, the roles change. That’s basketball. That’s a role I’m taking on. My role has changed, but it still is basketball and I’m still helping.
As much as Seattle achieved in 2018, it’s easy to forget this was a relatively young roster that hadn’t done much in the postseason. Six players had three or fewer years of experience in the WNBA, and the Storm were coming off back-to-back first-round playoff exits.
The Storm are probably WNBA champions if they never re-signed Quinn in the first place, but there’s no question she played a role in the team’s success.
Quinn is a free agent this offseason, and she may choose to end her WNBA career on a high note. Assuming she wants to return for 2019, Seattle should look to bring her back on another one-year deal. Quinn would more than justify her roster spot, especially if she can aid in Canada’s development.