2013 WNBA Draft Preview, Part 2

In case you missed it, Part 1 of this preview appeared yesterday here. On to Part 2, and the remaining six teams.

 

San Antonio Silver Stars

Gains: DeLisha Milton-Jones

Losses: Sophia Young to an ACL tear

Picks: #8, #16, #20 and #32

 

By the time San Antonio get involved, mock drafts will be falling apart and there’ll probably be at least one pick that led viewers to recoil and ask “Really? Her?” And it always seems like somehow a player that was supposed to go higher in the draft ends up falling in San Antonio head coach/GM Dan Hughes’s lap, wherever he may be positioned. Shenise Johnson wasn’t supposed to still be there at #5 last year; he found Danielle Adams still on the board at #20 a year earlier; you could even go back to 2007 when Camille Little was available at #17. So it feels like someone discussed in Part 1 of this preview will slip through and still be there for him to jump on.

The most likely area to target for San Antonio appears to be the post, especially after star forward Sophia Young blew out her knee while playing overseas. They picked up some cover in the shape of veteran DeLisha Milton-Jones, but they already had limited interior presence and rebounding. Tianna Hawkins (Maryland), Toni Young (Oklahoma State) and Kayla Alexander (Syracuse) could all be options if they’re still on the board, with other bigs like Carolyn Davis of Kansas starting to enter the conversation as well.

However, with Milton-Jones added to Adams and Jayne Appel, along with the development they’ll be hoping to see from Ziomara Morrison, Hughes isn’t absolutely forced to draft for his interior. Becky Hammon isn’t getting any younger, and while Danielle Robinson and Shenise Johnson have begun the youth movement on the perimeter another piece could still be added. If Hughes feels like the best player available is a guard, whether he likes the defense and all-round balance of Faris, or the dynamism of a speedy guard like A’dia Mathies (Kentucky) or Sugar Rodgers (Georgetown), his roster could make room. But don’t be surprised if we’re wondering how he managed to pick up just the right player by simply sitting there and waiting for her – and that player will likely play in the paint.

 

Indiana Fever

Gains: Lots of re-signings to keep the championship roster together, and lots of second-chance forwards to try to repeat the Larkins success from last year.

Losses: Tammy Sutton-Brown appears to have retired.

Picks: #9, #21 and #33

 

Bar the loss of Sutton-Brown – which isn’t a big deal with the way Father Time had cut her effectiveness – Lin Dunn is bringing back the group that won themselves a shiny trophy last season. But if you remember, while the Fever were playing small with Tamika Catchings at power forward all season, they won their championship by going extra small in the playoffs with Erlana Larkins at center. Given how successful that was, it seems fair to assume that the Catchings/Larkins frontcourt will see a lot of minutes in the 2013 regular season. However, Larkins was originally meant to be Catchings’s backup, so that switch to the rotation leaves them without bench options who can maintain the small, quick system (Jessica Davenport and Sasha Goodlett are both more traditional big low post players). So a mobile post who can maintain the small-ball system seems like the most natural spot to try to fill in the draft.

However, Dunn obviously saw the same hole, and has already made moves to address it in free agency. Laura Harper, Shyra Ely-Gash, Jessica Breland and Bernice Mosby have all tasted the WNBA in the past and will have a shot at fighting for those backup minutes in Fever training camp. So the gap may already have been filled.

That leaves Dunn the option of adding another perimeter scorer to her arsenal instead. Jeanette Pohlen hasn’t played since blowing out her knee in last year’s playoffs and may still be recovering, so an additional wing probably wouldn’t hurt. Aforementioned options like Mathies and Rodgers could work, or California’s Layshia Clarendon raised her stock during the recent NCAA Tournament. If she’s still on the board, Kelly Faris would seem like a perfect fit for a team that’s aggressive defensively and likes to shoot threes. Also, while they already have Briann January and Erin Phillips in the fold, this might be the first time we see Nebraska point guard Lindsey Moore discussed as an option. January and Phillips can both play off the ball, so it wouldn’t be impossible to find minutes for another ballhandler, although this might be a little high for Moore.

 

Los Angeles Sparks

Gains: Lindsey Harding

Losses: DeLisha Milton-Jones, maybe Marissa Coleman

Picks: #10, #22 and #34

 

The Sparks went out and addressed their need for a true point guard in the early days of free agency, signing Lindsey Harding away from Atlanta as an unrestricted free agent. That either creates a powerful three-guard rotation by adding her to Kristi Toliver and Alana Beard, or slides them over to the other perimeter spots to play next to Harding. Either way, with DeLisha Milton-Jones leaving for San Antonio, the obvious need is for someone on the perimeter who can cover minutes at small forward or off-guard.

Ideally, they’d probably like a big wing, because Beard’s advantage as a defensive guard is that she’s typically taller and longer than the players she’s covering. If she has to guard small forwards for most of the season, her defensive impact could take a hit. That brings up names like Faris again if she’s slid this far, maybe Sugar Rodgers from Georgetown, or even Markel Walker of UCLA (who’d have the ‘local girl’ element that sometimes appeals to WNBA teams). It’s also possible that, after a season of watching Toliver and Beard try to run the point, LA head coach Carol Ross and GM Penny Toler will be desperate to avoid seeing either run the offense this year. That would make Nebraska’s Moore or even Alex Bentley of Penn State an option. However, when you can go 24-10 with Toliver/Beard as your point guards for 40 minutes, they should be able to manage 10 minutes a night as Harding’s backups. The wing is the bigger need.

 

Connecticut Sun

Gains: New head coach Ann Donovan, if you consider that a gain over Mike Thibault.

Losses: Asjha Jones, Danielle McCray (and Thibault, obviously).

Picks: #11, #23 and #35

 

Until a few weeks ago, there wasn’t an obvious hole on this roster. They had their gang of wings who could probably be upgraded, but they’ve been getting by with their perimeter by committee for a while. The post backups Mistie Mims and Kelsey Griffin weren’t exciting anyone (especially Griffin, who’s yet to remotely prove herself at this level), but it wasn’t a big deal. Then things got complicated. Starting power forward Asjha Jones announced that she’d be skipping the 2013 season to rest various injuries, leaving a big hole in the Sun’s frontcourt. On top of that, Danielle McCray tore her achilles, removing one of those various wings Mike Thibault used to rotate around the perimeter.

The only way Connecticut are likely to come close to replacing Jones with one player is if French post Sandrine Gruda makes a return this season. She’s indicated that she’s interested but nothing has been confirmed at this point, and if she does arrive it’ll be sometime after EuroBasket Women finishes on June 30th. So with Jones out, Gruda uncertain and Griffin a fringe player, the glaring need is in the post. The problem is whether there’ll be anyone available at #11 who can help immediately. Maybe Syracuse’s Alexander or Oklahoma State’s Young slides down, but there’s a strong chance both will be gone. Kansas’s Davis or someone like Karisma Penn from Illinois could come into the conversation if they’re searching for someone with size who can soak up some minutes.

With McCray out it’s feasible that they could take a perimeter player, while trying to patch the holes in the paint with free agents and begging Gruda to show up. But if there’s anyone available who Donovan and GM Chris Sienko think can help them in the paint, that seems the natural direction to head in.

 

Minnesota Lynx

Gains: Janel McCarville, Rachel Jarry

Losses: Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Candice Wiggins, Erin Thorn

Picks: #12, #14, #24 and #36

 

Two events that always seemed like they were on the horizon but somehow hadn’t occurred finally arrived in Minnesota this offseason – Taj McWilliams-Franklin retired as a player, and Janel McCarville returned to the area where she was so popular in college. In terms of impact on the Lynx’s draft choices, those events cancel each other out – a post for a post.

With starter Rebekkah Brunson and three backups (Jessica Adair, Devereaux Peters, Amber Harris) in place alongside McCarville in the paint, it seems unlikely a big taken as low as #12 would crack Minnesota’s roster. Meanwhile on the perimeter, holes have opened up. Shooter Erin Thorn was released after having a very limited role in her one year in the Twin Cities, while combo-guard Candice Wiggins was signed-and-traded to Tulsa as a restricted free agent (that the Lynx didn’t want to commit long-term money to). That leaves Lindsay Whalen without any kind of backup at point guard, and while young wing Rachel Jarry is on her way to compete for a spot on the perimeter her place isn’t guaranteed. With those two picks at #12 and #14 the Lynx are likely to address the point guard need with one, and add some perimeter competition with the other.

If she’s still there, Lindsey Moore seems a clear option as the point guard choice. She’s got decent size (which helps keep things simple in the defensive scheme Cheryl Reeve uses on the perimeter where players frequently switch assignments), and she can run a team. With the scoring options elsewhere on the floor, the Lynx don’t need a lot more from their backup point. If she’s gone, Bentley from Penn State might be the alternative. Also, bear in mind that players like Wiggins, Thorn and Alexis Hornbuckle have been used by the Lynx as Whalen’s backup over recent years. None of those players resemble a true point guard, so someone who can be relied on to get the ball up the floor and hand it to Seimone Augustus or Maya Moore could work just as well as a recognised point. Yet again, Faris would fit that description, if she happens to have fallen this far.

The various other guards that have been mentioned earlier could all be options with the other Lynx pick at #14 (Mathies, Rodgers, Clarendon), and if the selections haven’t gone crazy already, anything’s possible once we hit the second round. The Lynx have shown a willingness to look beyond the US before, so maybe they’ll be the ones to snap up Emma Meesseman at some point (although they’d probably wait until #24 rather than using #14). Last year there were three non-Americans most viewers had never head of taken in the top 13 picks.

 

Atlanta Dream

Gains: Le’coe Willingham, Jasmine Thomas

Losses: Lindsey Harding

Picks: #13 and #31

 

And finally, the only team without a first-round pick. After Lindsey Harding walked to LA for nothing as an unrestricted free agent (Atlanta tied up their core spot with Erika de Souza last year, so they had no options left to restrict Harding’s choice), it seemed like the Dream got a little bit desperate. Faced with the prospect of Ketia Swanier starting at the point, or trying to contrive a point-guard-by-committee with Armintie Price and Tiffany Hayes, they made a trade with Washington. The problem is that Jasmine Thomas has been a barely mediocre combo-guard for a terrible Mystics team in her two years in the WNBA. She probably won’t fix much.

That trade moved Atlanta down from #7 in this draft to #13. At the time, that seemed like it might not be a big deal, and that could still be the case. They’ll probably still be looking for a point guard (although a wing to help out Price, Hayes and Angel McCoughtry wouldn’t hurt), and it’ll be a case of who’s left. At #7 they’d have had their pick – at #13 they’ll be hoping Moore slides down, or Bentley’s still available. This is also probably the earliest spot we might see Angel Goodrich of Kansas, a player with strong point guard instincts but whose shooting percentage and height leave a lot to be desired (she can’t shoot and she’s tiny). The other guards mentioned earlier (Mathies, Rodgers or Clarendon again, even Faris if she’s somehow still there) could all be options as well because they can at least handle the ball to some extent. If they’re significantly better than the ‘true’ point guard options, another guard who can join the committee approach would be a better choice.

 

The WNBA Draft starts at 8pm ET on Monday night, live on ESPN2, before switching to ESPNU at 9pm ET for the second and third rounds.

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