Some WNBA thoughts on Jordin Canada


As we enter conference play, I’m not quite sure there’s an understanding of just how good Jordin Canada, UCLA’s point guard and offensive engine, is both now and will be at the next level.

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Let’s start with the strengths of her game. Canada finished 2016-17 with an assist percentage of 41.2 percent, good for eighth in the country, per National Statistical. This reflects the open nature of UCLA coach Cori Close’s offense, the freedom she gives Canada, not to mention an impressive ability to take advantage of that freedom.

But unlike many other point guards at the top of that list, Canada’s turnover percentage—the downside to all that freedom—wasn’t elevated. Quite the contrary. She finished with a 13.6 percent turnover mark, good for third among point guards in the top 20 nationally. The only two ahead of her—Feyonda Fitzgerald of Temple and Alexis Peterson of Syracuse—both heard their names called at the 2017 WNBA Draft.

And Canada, after playing in the fierce Pac-12, arguably a tougher schedule than either Fitzgerald or Peterson faced, concluded her year with this performance against Connecticut: 20 points, 11 assists, just two turnovers. And she did it while being guarded primarily by Saniya Chong, now of the Dallas Wings, who finished fourth in the country last season in defensive points per possession, per Synergy.

Last season, Canada was just a junior, unlike those Peterson or Fitzgerald. So where has her game gone so far this year?

That’s right: she’s gotten even better. Entering Pac-12 play, Canada’s assist percentage is at 36.9 percent. But that’s happened within the context of her mistakes falling even further. Her 11.5 turnover percentage isn’t just down from last year, it is the lowest among any of the top 125 players in the country in assist percentage.

She’s also significantly more efficient around the basket. Her shot from two fell at a 45 percent clip last season, and what doubts exist about her WNBA future center around her size and, by extension, ability to finish at the rim. So far in 2017-18? She’s at 53.7 percent from two. One WNBA talent evaluator pointed out a similarity between Canada and another undersized point guard, Moriah Jefferson, comes with an ability to “sprint at you and come to a halt and pull up”. For example:

Notice also how that possession began: with a Canada steal. It’s a hallmark of Jefferson’s game in the WNBA, where fears she’d be posted up all day have proved unfounded, and Jefferson finished second in the league last year, per Synergy, in defensive points per possession, even while playing through a knee injury.

Well, after averaging 2.5 steals per game last year, Canada is up to 3.9 steals per game so far in 2017-18, tied for fifth-most in the country.

There are plenty of candidates for best guard in the loaded 2018 WNBA Draft, from Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State to Lexie Brown of Duke to Kia Nurse of Connecticut. But Jordin Canada continues to make the case that she may be the best of them all.