The news Tuesday that Maya Moore will not play in 2019 while she focuses on her faith and family brings about plenty of recollections of the past and questions about the future.
With Moore and the Lynx, there often hasn’t been a need to look too hard at advanced statistics because the basic ones tell a vivid story — including the most important number of four WNBA titles since she joined the team in 2011.
But advanced numbers can provide some insights into Moore’s greatness, the extent that she slipped in 2018 and the path forward for a Lynx team in transition. Here are some things to ponder (all numbers per Basketball Reference):
• From her rookie season in 2011 through 2017, Moore was an advanced stats monster. She finished in the top 5 in the WNBA each of those seven seasons in win shares, a metric designed to measure the wins contributed by an individual. She led the league in the category in 2013 and 2014. She also led the league in player efficiency rating in 2014, the season she was named league MVP, and was routinely in the top five.
Those numbers nose-dived, though, in 2018. After averaging 7.1 wins shares per season in her first seven years, Moore had 4.1 last season. And her PER was a career-low 19.7. It was still a good season but not a great one. And it was a slump that came in a season that started when Moore was 28.
• 2018 also continued a transition from Moore to Sylvia Fowles as the Lynx’s best player. Fowles had already won MVP in 2017 as the Lynx won their fourth championship, and the center backed that up with another monster year in 2018 — finishing fourth in the league in PER and second in wins shares (6.6). All that came despite the pain of an elbow injury, and Fowles’ excellence nudged the Lynx (18-16) in the playoffs in an otherwise challenging season.
• Remember, Moore isn’t the only cornerstone player missing from the Lynx in 2019. Lindsay Whalen retired and Rebekkah Brunson is still undecided about her future. If the Lynx are going to remake themselves on the fly, the path will include major contributions again from Fowles but also perhaps big years from Danielle Robinson and Karima Christmas-Kelly.
Robinson is the speedy point guard likely to get the bulk of the minutes in Whalen’s absence. Robinson fought an ankle injury last year before undergoing surgery in August. She had some very efficient seasons earlier in her career, and a return to that form next season would be a boon for the Lynx.
Christmas-Kelly, a free agent signee who could slot into Moore’s starting spot, averaged 3 win shares a season from 2013 to ’16. In a limited sample size in 2018 before a knee injury wrecked her season, Christmas-Kelly was among the WNBA leaders in defensive rating. If she can come close to replacing even the 2018 level of production from Moore in 2019, while providing defense and chemistry, the Lynx should benefit.
• One element of Moore’s game that can’t be overstated or overlooked is her durability. She’s missed just one game in eight seasons with the Lynx, averaging 31.2 minutes per game in her career. It’s one thing to theorize how the Lynx will look without Moore in 2019. The truth is they don’t really know because they haven’t had to find out.