The Storm are contenders this season

Seattle’s (8-4) improved offense has coupled with an improved defense to make the Storm only 1.5 games back of the first place Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury. It’s been a surprising start to the season despite having to play a fairly tough opening schedule.

While Seattle only scored 77 against the Las Vegas Aces in its most recent game, the Storm have seen improved efficiency from the offense. The Storm are averaging 89.1 points per game with an offensive rating of 109.5 — that’s how many points Seattle is scoring per 100 possessions. A large reason for the team’s increased production on offense is that they are┬ápulling in 27.5% of offensive boards — an increase of nearly seven points from last season — which has given their offense more second chance opportunities. Their success on second chance opportunities has decreased the number of possessions that Seattle’s opponents have had and that’s taken a lot of pressure off of its defense.

The most impressive offensive performance for Seattle future hall of famer Sue Bird. Bird is experiencing a resurgence in her 17th season as she’s currently posting an offensive rating of 114.5 (the highest of her career). The improved offensive rating has come despite her hitting career low field goals and three-point percentages. Her increased efficiency has a lot to do with the fact that she’s playing less minutes per game than she has at any other point in her career.

As for the defense, their defensive rating is still fairly high (101.3) but it’s lower than it was last season (104.7) and they’re recovering more defensive boards than last season. This improved defensive performance has played a pretty large part in the team’s early success this year; and it appears to be sustainable as the defense is consistently in better positions this season…which you have to believe is a result of better coaching.

Defensively, the Storm have really benefited from new comer Courtney Paris. The ninth year veteran is pulling in nearly 31% of defensive rebounds when she’s on the court — which is right around her career norm. Paris is being used more efficiently than she has been in recent seasons as she’s only seeing 13.6 minutes per game. Again, coaching is a clear factor in Paris’ improved efficiency because she’s being used in a way that better suits where she’s at in her career.

With such an efficient offense, the Storm’s defensive improvement is a huge (and I mean huge) deal. It vaults them from a fringe playoff team to a realistic shot at playing deep into the playoffs.