The Seattle Storm selected Jordin Canada with the fifth overall pick in the 2018 draft, with the UCLA Bruins star poised to be Sue Bird’s long-term successor. Canada proceeded to have an uneven rookie season but flashed plenty of potential as the backup point guard.
Jordin Canada By the Numbers
- 5.7 PPG
- 3.3 APG
- 1.7 TOG
- 0.9 SPG
- .357 FG%
- .182 3P%
- .446 TS%
- 22.2 USG%
- 29.3 AST%
- 21.0 TO%
- 92.7 ORtg
- 92.6 DRtg
- 0.4 WS
The Defense Never Rests
Defense was Canada’s forte when she left UCLA. She was the 2018 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a three-time honoree on the Pac-12’s All-Defensive team. According to Her Hoops Stats, Canada also ranked 10th in steals per game (3.3) and 17th in steal rate (5.6 percent) in 2017-18.
Canada’s defensive prowess immediately translated to the WNBA.
She averaged 2.0 steals per 36 minutes, according to Basketball Reference. Her 92.6 defensive rating was first on the team, and her 1.0 defensive win shares were third-best among rookies, per Basketball Reference. Keep in mind, A’ja Wilson and Azura Stevens, who ranked first and second, played 467 and 157 more minutes, respectively, than Canada.
A deeper dive into the numbers sheds more light on how good Canada was in her first year. According to Synergy Sports, she ranked in the top 12 percent in defensive points per possession (0.754), holding opponents to 38.5 percent shooting. Canada was a dogged defender away from the ball, as evidenced by the fact opponents made just 17.9 percent of their spot-up opportunities when matched up against her.
For the season, opponents had a .505 effective field-goal percentage and .539 true shooting percentage overall against Seattle, according to Positive Residual. When Canada was on the floor, those numbers dropped to .450 and .497, respectively.
Some players possess a seemingly innate ability to read the game and be in the right position. That’s Canada on defense.
The Storm’s improvement on defense is a big reason they won a title. They went from ninth in defensive rating in 2017 (104.7) to third in 2018 (98.8). Canada had a hand in that turnaround. The 23-year-old looks like a WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in the making.
A Work in Progress
As good as Canada was on defense, she was almost equally as bad on offense.
She shot 35.7 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from three-point range. She also averaged 3.7 turnovers per 36 minutes and had the second-worst offensive rating on the team (92.7).
In general, Canada struggled to cope with the jump from college to the WNBA.
“The pace is very different,” she said in an interview with Seth Dahle of the Storm’s official site. “The reads are different. I talked to Sue [Bird] about it earlier and got her advice on how I could get better, whether it’s keeping my dribble alive, reading the defense or pushing the pace a little more.”
When Canada could get out on the fast break and utilize her supreme speed, she was very effective. According to Synergy Sports, she shot 60.5 percent in transition, with 58.1 percent of her transition possessions ending in a score.
It was a far different story when Canada had to orchestrate the Storm’s half court sets. She ranked in the bottom fifth percentile in half court points per possession (0.578), and nearly as many of those possessions ended in turnovers (22.1 percent) as they did with a score (27.9 percent).
Canada’s struggles aren’t all that uncommon for young point guards. Courtney Vandersloot, for example, averaged 0.627 points per possession and turned it over on 27.4 percent of her half court possessions as a rookie in 2011. Skylar Diggins-Smith averaged 0.664 points per possession in the half court as well.
Similarly, Canada’s shot should come along more and more over her WNBA career. As a freshman at UCLA, she shot 13.0 percent from beyond the arc. Canada steadily improved over each of the next three years, eventually knocking down 38.6 percent of her threes as a senior.
Canada will never be a dead-eye sharpshooter in the WNBA, nor should she have to in Seattle, with Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Sami Whitcomb providing ample long-range options.
On offense, Canada is first and foremost a playmaker, and she did well in that regard by averaging 3.3 assists. If she can develop a consistent three-point shot, then it would open up the rest of her game and also force opposing defenses to at least stay close to her away from the ball.
In the Bird’s Nest
Canada couldn’t have asked for a better situation as she entered the WNBA. Playing for the Storm allowed her to have a gradual adjustment to the league, and she got to learn from one of the greatest point guards in basketball history.
In an interview with the New York Times‘s Howard Megdal, Canada explained how much Bird aided in her development:
She’s taught me a lot. She’s taught me how to play with confidence, how to move without the ball. How to continue to create for others using my speed to help our team, and being aggressive defensively and offensively. The most important thing that I’ve taken away from what she’s told me throughout the season is just to play loose and play with confidence and stick to your strengths.
Bird also talked about how she welcomed the chance to start passing the proverbial torch.
“Once this franchise started to rebuild a couple years ago, I always felt like this is my opportunity to help them and pass down as much knowledge as I can,” she said in June, per the Associated Press (via USA Today). “Prep them to take over and take this franchise and keep it going. That vibe has trickled on to Jordin.”
You can’t overstate the value of having an experienced player—especially one with Bird’s resume—take such an active role in helping a young rookie. And you know Bird didn’t miss an opportunity to turn one of Canada’s mistakes in a game or practice into a learning experience.
Speaking with The Athletic’s Jim Caple, head coach Dan Hughes thought simply shadowing Bird offered ample benefit for Canada:
The greatest thing that Sue does is just be herself and let Jordin be in a great position to watch Sue Bird daily. I know they talk and all that, but (Canada) being in (Bird’s) presence and understanding how she handles things and carries herself, how she moves challenges. Those actions are way, way, way more important to me than any words Sue could say to her. Because watching Sue prepare herself and get herself into positions is priceless. And Jordin has a front row view of that.
During the Storm’s WNBA championship celebration, Bird said she plans to continue playing into 2019. Her burgeoning NBA front-office career could change that, but coming back for one more season makes sense for Bird.
That would great for Canada as well since she’d be well prepared to presumably take over as the starting point guard in 2020.
Assuming Bird returns, Canada will continue to be Seattle’s backup point guard. Hughes might be more aggressive in monitoring Bird’s minutes, which would mean the occasional start for Canada. Between the year she spent in the WNBA and her season overseas with Wisla Can-Pack Krakow, Canada should show nice progress in 2019 as a scorer and half court distributor.