The 2010 WNBA Draft is just 25 days away. Many things can happen before then with trades, player movement and free agent signings, but we’ll look at this draft-eligible class and see which college and European stars will be taking their game to the WNBA this summer.
Our Mock draft looks into the current WNBA roster of each team, assess their needs and predicts what college or draft-eligible European pros might best suit those needs and why.
Spending eight years in the WNBA, sitting in on countless draft prep meetings and being involved in seven WNBA Drafts, as well as spending the last four years in the ACC, may not mean I’ll get it right but I’ll take a stab at it.
Let’s look at the First Round:
1 Connecticut Sun Tina Charles 6-4 C UConn
This is probably the worst kept secret and prediction in the basketball world right now. Other than UConn finishing as undefeated National Champions, again. A big reason for that… Tina Charles. Charles is without a doubt the clear #1 pick and best overall player in the country. Charles is tremendously gifted athletically and has a versatile skill set allowing her to play at both the high and low post.
Add Tina Charles (6-4) to the Sun’s front line of: Chante Black (6-5), Sandrine Gruda (6-4), Asjha Jones (6-3), DeMya Walker (6-3) and Tamika Whitmore (6-2). Whoa!… There’s not a better, more experienced core group of versatile posts in the East, perhaps the entire league. Combine that with the chemistry of acquiring PTG Renee’ Montgomery (former Charles team mate at UConn) with the shooting of Jekabsone-Zogota (39.4% on 3’s) and Tan White (37.7% on 3’s) and Aisha Jones (31.3% on 3’s). Defenses have a lot of issues to contend with in Connecticut.
2 Minnesota Lynx Monica Wright 5-10 G Virginia
ACC Player of the Year, ACC leading scorer, 6th leading scorer nationally (3rd All-Time Scorer in ACC History), ACC Defensive Player of the Year. The accolades go on and on, but what impressed me the most is that she is a humble, wonderful, hard working and confident person. A true joy to know and coach. Wright is an explosive guard who gets her own shot, is tremendous in transition, has a killer pull-up and mid-range game and has improved her 3-point range every year. She’ll fit in perfectly into the Lynx backcourt plans and will grow into a tremendous pro.
The backcourt rotation of Lindsay Whalen, Candice Wiggans and Simone Augustus needs an explosive scorer. I like Hamchétou Maïga-Ba and Kelly Miller, but neither has the explosiveness of Wright. Look for Wright to be able to be the chameleon in that backcourt, helping at any of the three guard spots.
3 Minnesota Lynx Alysha Clark 5-10 F Middle TN State
Did Minnesota say scoring?… Look no further than Alysha Clark. 28.7 PPG, #1 in the Nation, 62.2% FG, 32.7% 3FG add in 11.5 RPG. And how about this for the month of March… 40, 44, 48 in back-to-back-to-back games. Are you kidding me? DANG! Clark has the ability to create her own shot, finish in transition as well as post up and score on the block against guards or forwards.
My only question is if you Minnesota will burn back-to-back first round picks on two wings and pass up on a big or trade a pick for a young veteran player. It’s not often you are blessed with two picks this high in the same draft. The 2010 draft is only 4 or 5 impact players deep and Minnesota is potentially setting its’ roster for the next several years. It may be hard to pass on Appel or Amber Harris with this pick.
4 Chicago Sky Epiphanny Prince 5-9 G Botas Spor/Rutgers
Prince is tough, a proven leader and scorer and has the skills to be a point or an off guard in the WNBA. She has experience in the pro game by electing to forego her last season of eligibility at Rutgers and play overseas for Botas Spor. Prince is good in the pick & roll, has 3-point range, can finish with contact and has the ability to run a team.
An underestimated aspect of Epiphanny’s game is her defense. Coming from Rutgers, she learned to defend from one of the best. She will defend with a fury and she will be able to lead those around her. With the guard corps of Dominique Canty, Jia Perkins, K.B. Sharp, Erin Thorn and Kristi Toliver, Prince will have an opportunity to have an immediate impact in the Sky backcourt.
5 San Antonio Silver Stars Andrea Riley 5-5 PTG Oklahoma State
Can the Silver Stars pass on Jane Appel here? No one has her going this late. Yes they can, unless they have a deal in the works were they draft Appel and trade her. San Antonio has plenty of options and talent at the 4 and 5. The recent trade the Silver Stars made bringing Michelle Snow to San Antonio allows them to “go off the board” a little with this pick and fill a different need.
Riley is a jet-quick PTG, who loves to run and push the ball up the floor and can create open shots for others. With guards Helen Darling (32 in August), Becky Hammon (just turned 33 March 11th), *HAPPY BIRTHDAY BECKY!, Roneeka Hodges (28 in July) and Edwige Lawson-Wade (31 in May) can all still play, but this allows the Silver Stars to start setting themselves up for the future as well.
6 Washington Mystics Jayne Appel 6-4 C Stanford
The Mystics could use another post player, and one of Appel’s ability would pay immediate dividends to the Mystics. Opponents in the East will have to guard Appel on the block, leaving guards Matee Ajavon, Alana Beard, Marissa Coleman, Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding with a great deal of room to penetrate, score and kick for open looks. If you were to tell Julie Plank and GM Angela Taylor Appel would be there at 6… they’d jump for joy.
Jane Appel is the real deal. She is easily talented enough, skilled enough and well respected enough to go anywhere with picks 1 – 5. The situation of the first five teams needs and some question of just how much better is the already gifted Appel going to get drop her to #6 for me. More than any other team, this would be a great fit for her.
7 Tulsa Shock Amber Harris 6-5 4/5 Xavier
If you are starting a team, as Nolan Richardson is, you look for a PTG and/or a post. If Andrea Riley (the perfect home-town fit on all fronts for Tulsa) is gone, then the pickings are slim. The Shock could also use a versatile forward. Enter Harris. Harris needs strength to play on the low block in the WNBA, but her perimeter shooting, her ability to drive and her shot blocking make her a nice complement to Kara Braxton (6-6), Taj McWilliams (6-2) and Olayinka Sanni (6-2).
**Amber Harris can elect to return to Xavier for one more season. Sources say that she and fellow RS-Jr. Tashia Phiilips want to return to help Xavier to win a National Championship. If they win it all this year (with UConn playing?… not likely) they may both jump to the WNBA this summer.**
ABR TRADE ALERT: Let’s play GM here. Nikki Teasley (PTG 6-0) is a Free Agent and the only true PTG on the roster. If it’s me, I’m working like mad on three things: 1.) To trade up and pick Riley, 2.) to sign FA Teasely and 3.) to also try to sign FA Katie Smith (who has indicated she won’t play in Tulsa). Couple Smith with the #7 pick and see if we can find another young PTG to run this team and lead a new franchise into the future. Now Smith doesn’t have to do this. She’s an unrestricted FA, but if she did it might make a better deal for her, the league and everyone involved. What team is out there that is very close to winning it all? Who needs a proven champion, leader, scorer and team player like Katie Smith and the #7 pick? Who also has a PTG worthy of this level trade. Answer: Indiana. The Fever are on the verge of a championship in Indiana, they were so close last year. Catchings, Smith, Douglas and Sutton-Brown might just get it done for Lin Dunn if this trade happens. The #7 Pick and Katie Smith to Indiana for Briann January? January is the PTG of the future in Indiana, but for a potential championship – the future is now. I don’t know the ins-and-outs of Indiana’s salary cap, that’s for the bigwigs to figure out. Rumors of the team moving last year means the Fever needs to win it now, not plan for “down the road.” Even if Indiana has to flip picks and give Tulsa #11 – do it, add Harris or Kelsey Griffin to the Fever with that pick, strengthen your depth and put yourself in a position for a ring!
8 Los Angeles Sparks Kelsey Griffin 6-2 F Nebraska
Griffin has destroyed the Big 12, ranked as the Nation’s #1 Women’s Basketball Conference by collegrpi.com She has an extremely high skill level – especially from the high post where she passes, shoots and will rebound the basketball. The All Big 12 selection is a very good screener and her feel for the game and basketball IQ are exceptional.
In Griffin, the Sparks get a tremendous compliment to Vanessa Hayden (C, 6-4) DeLisha Milton-Jones (F, 6-1) Candace Parker (F, 6-4) Tina Thompson (F, 6-2). There is tremendous size, skill, experience and versatility with this roster. Candace, Tina and DeLisha could play anywhere at the 2, 3 or 4, with some combination of Shannon Bobbitt, Marie Ferdinand-Harris, Betty Lennox, Ticha Penicheiro with them. Interesting and dangerous potential in the West for new coach Jen Gillom.
9 Atlanta Dream Jacinta Monroe 6-5 F FSU
Jacinta Monroe can run, defend, rebound, shoot the high post jumper and block shots. The Dream are a guard heavy roster right now with many “Tweeners” playing at the 3 and the 4. Monroe would give them another athletic, around the basket player that has the ability and skill set to excel in the pro game from the high post. She could really be a steal at #9 in the long run.
Jacinta needs to add strength, consistency and range to her jump shot and has a tendency to disappear in games at times, but she’s long and talented and as she improves overall and establishes that she will work and play hard every game, she can take the place of the recently traded Michelle Snow.
10 Seattle Storm Allison Hightower 5-10 G LSU
Hightower brings a tenacious defensive presence to the game along with her offensive capabilities. Playing for the Hall of Fame and legendary WNBA coach Van Chancellor she will be ready for the expectations that Brian Agler will have for her. The Storm needs an explosive guard who can score. Hightower doesn’t need to come in and carry the Storm with Jackson, Sue Bird and Cash but it would help if they can get a player at 10 that can help. Hightower might just be that player.
Hightower’s ability to break down a defense from either wing spot with her drive, pull-up or 3 will continue to improve and develop as she adds strength and experience. This is a quality player to be available at 10 and one that could find her way on to an opening day roster.
11 Indiana Fever Danielle McCray 5-11 G/F Kansas
McCray is perhaps one of the most flexible players available in the draft. Her versatility allows her to do a little bit of everything. McCray’s ability to shoot the basketball is tremendous and a great asset. Any team, at any level can always use shooters. She could add an extra outside presence for Indiana. When adding to a roster with the 11th pick, a player who may or may not make it to opening day, the ability to do it with an all around player is a key. Those type of players, like McCray, can provide depth and play a variety of roles in practice and when preparing for opponents as they develop and adjust to the pro game.
McCray’s greatest asset is probably the fact she might be able to be on the “unable to perform list” for 2010. If she is not fully recovered from her knee injury and if the Fever can draft her, not having to worry about finding a roster spot for her while retaining her rights until 2011, that is a huge plus.
12 Los Angeles Sparks Alexis Gray-Lawson 5-8 G Cal
I just want to say Gray-Lawson tore us apart (at Virginia) in the NCAA Tournament in 2009. She was tremendous. That made a believer out of me. This year she received her third All Pac-10 award, averaged 17.5 PPG, while becoming the career leader in 3’s at Cal. She is a player whose competitive spirit and tenacity are undeniable. Gray-Lawson gives the Sparks another scoring weapon that can also defend. The bonus for the league and the Sparks is she played at Cal and is from Oakland.
Gray-Lawson is a flat out scorer. She can be streaky from 3 (30.3%), that will need to improve, and is tremendous off the dribble possessing a very good mid-range game. Gray-Lawson has the ability to take contact and get herself to the free throw line, 171 FTA in 31 games.
There you have it… the 2010 MOCK WNBA Draft.
Let’s hear what you have to say and why.