The 17th WNBA draft will be on ESPN in primetime for the first time ever April 15, and it's more than coincidental that ESPN recently signed a 10-year partnership with the league. The growing popularity of women’s basketball and the star power at the top of this draft could help the WNBA finally explode into mainstream media in 2013.
And of the course, the year-long ESPN promotion of the 3 To See adds to the general awareness of the draft, even though there's only minor suspense in the order of the top three selections, and no surefire WNBA starters after Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins. Still, fans of the league -- not to mention general managers and coaches -- will find a lot to talk about after the first three selections, with everyone looking to fill a need and a find a gem in the same pick.
Connecticut Sun: 2012 record: 25-9, finished first in East
Guards: Rene Montgomery, Kara Lawson, Kalana Greene, Alison Hightower, Tan White
Forwards: Mistie Mims, Jessica Moore, Kelsey Griffin, Danielle McCrary
Center: Tina Charles
Arrivals (Free agents)
Ashley Walker 6-1 F/C via free agency from Washington
Natasha Lacy 5-10 G via free agency from Washington
Johannah Leedham 5-11 G/F via free agent rookie
Latoya Williams 6-4 C via free agent rookie
Overview: The Sun lost to the Fever in the Eastern Conference Finals, despite winning the regular season title and it will be interesting to see how players adjust to newly crowned coach Anne Donovan and how Donovan handles the loss of Asjha Jones, who will sit out the season. Tina Charle and Kara Lawson now must carry more of the scoring load, though the re-signing of Renee Montgomery and the versatility of Alison Hightower should make Connecticut a contender again. With Jones gone, the Sun would love to add some frontcourt depth to prevent Charles from having to log 36-plus minutes a night. The possibility of quality help in that area being around at pick number No. 11, however, is highly unlikely. With post help not available, look for Connecticut to go with hometown heroine Kelly Faris (Connecticut) as UConn players have fared well in the pros and Faris has quietly scored 1,000 points, grabbed 750 rebounds, and handed out 500 assists in her career.
Draft Selections: Round 1 (No. 11), Round 2 (No. 23), Round 3 (No. 35)
Needs: Frontcourt depth
The Indiana Fever celebrate their first WNBA championship. (Photo by Lee Michaelson)
Indiana Fever 22-12, WNBA champions, 2nd in East
Guards: Briann January, Erin Phillips, Jeanette Pohlen, Shavonte Zellous
Forward: Tamika Catchings, Katie Douglas, Karima Christmas, Jessica Breland, Laura Harper, Shyra Ely-Gash, Erlana Larkins
Center: Jessica Davenport, Sasha Goodlett
Overview: Coach Lin Dunn returns the nucleus of her World Championship team from 2012, though reserve post Tammy Sutton-Brown retired, and veterans Katie Douglss and Tamika Catchings are part of an aging frontcourt. The backcourt is stable, however, with the likes of January, Phillips, and Zellous all proving to be consistent double-digit scorers. If the Fever look to improve with the draft in Round 1, it may be with a pure distributor, and though I am sure they’d love to be able to get help in the post through the draft, the talent will not be there. If Kayla Alexander (Syracuse) or Tianna Hawkins (Maryland) are still around at No. 9, however, you can throw that prediction right out the window -- Indiana would take either of them. A more likely scenario sees Angel Goodrich (Kansas) or A'dia Mathies (Kentucky) fall to Indiana. If Markel Walker (UCLA) is still around it will be interesting to see if the Fever take a shot at making her a point forward.
Draft Selections: Round 1 (No. 9), Round 2 (No. 21), Round 3 (No. 33)
Needs: Distributor, shooter, center
Atlanta Dream 19-15, 3rd in East
Guards: Tiffany Hayes, Angel McCoughtry, Ketia Swanier
Forward: Sancho Lyttle, Aneika Henry, Cathrine Kraayeveld, Armintie Price, Le’Coe Willingham
Center: Yelena Leuchenka, Erika de Souza
Jasmine Thomas via trade with Washington (Atlanta also receives Washington’s 2nd round pick (No.14)).
Lindsey Harding via free agency to the L.A. Sparks.
Washington has Atlanta’s 1st round pick (No. 7) and 2nd round pick (No. 19).
Overview: Atlanta will have to fill a huge void with the loss of Harding to the Sparks, though coach Jim Lewis seems satisfied about his offseason acquisition (Jasmine Thomas) to fill the point guard spot. McCoughtry, Lyttle and de Souza will have to step up collectively for Atlanta to improve on its 19 wins from last season. Second-year pro Tiffany Hayes seems primed for a breakout season. Atlanta does not have a firs- round pick, but would love to see Alex Bentley (Penn State guard) or Lindsey Moore (Nebraska point guard) slide to the second round.
Draft selections: Round 2 (No. 13), Round 3 (No. 31)
Needs: A playmaker for the future (a backup initially).
New York Liberty 15-19; 4th in East
Guards: Cappie Pondexter, Katelan Redmond, Leilani Mitchell
Forward: Essence Carson, Alex Montgomery, Plenette Pierson, DeMya Walker
Center: Kara Braxton, Kelly Cain
Cheryl Ford 6-3 forward via free agency from Canik Bid (Turkey)
Katie Smith 5-11 wing via free agency from Seattle
Acquired 1st round selection (No. 7 pick) from Washington (pick received from Atlanta)
Kia Vaughn via trade with Washington (also gave up 2nd round pick, No. 17)
Overview: New GM and coach Bill Laimbeer promised to make a splash, and he delivered, shipping disgruntled center Kia Vaughn to Washington for a first-round pick and added veteran free agents Katie Smith and Cheryl Ford. The frontcourt is solid with Carson and Pierson logging decent minutes last year, and Braxton and Cain should be able to combine with Ford to give New York a serviceable core at the post. Pondexter needs help and it could come in the form of Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers or Ohio State's Tayler Hill with the No. 5 pick, and Syracuse center Kayla Alexander or Tianna Hawkins (Maryland) at No. 7. With no second-round selection, look for the Liberty to think about homegrown Nadira McKenith (St. John's point guard) or Shenneika Smith (St. John's guard) in the third round.
Draft selection: Round 1 (No. 5), Round 1 (No. 7), Round 3 (No. 31)
Needs: Backcourt help and depth in the frontcourt.
Chicago Sky 14-20; 5th in East
Guards: Eshaya Murphy, Epiphanny Prince, Courtney Vandersloot
Forwards: Swin Cash, Sonja Petrovic, Tamera Young
Center: Sylvia Fowles, Ruth Riley, Carolyn Swords
Sharnee Zoll via free agency
Le’coe Willingham via free agency
Overview: Pokey Chatman received an extension in the offseason which bodes well for the Chicago franchise. As the Sky enter the 2013 draft, they have to a tough decision to make. Do they grab Notre Dame point guard and local (somewhat) product Skylar Diggins to energize the fan base? The Chicago backcourt is already stacked, so it may be a better basketball decision to pick 6-5 Elena Della Donne (Delaware) to team with seasoned veterans Swin Cash and Tamera Young as a nice three-person rotation at the forward spot. Katherine Henry (DePaul) would be a nice pickup in round 3.
Draft selections: Round 1 (No. 2), Round 3 (No. 28)
Needs: A forward who can score
Washington Mystics 5-29, 6th in East
Guards: Matee Ajavon, Shannon Bobbitt, Iziane Castro Marques, Natalie Novosel
Forwards: Monique Currie, Crystal Langhorne
Centers: Ashley Robinson, Michelle Snow
Ivory Latta via free agency from Tulsa
Kia Vaughn via trade with New York for 1st round pick acquired from Atlanta
Avery Worley via free agency from Phoenix
Jasmine Thomas via trade with Atlanta
Noelle Quinn via free agency to Seattle
Natasha Lacy via free agency to Connecticut
Overview: Mike Thibault was busy this offseason, making moves for veterans Ivory Latta and Kia Vaughn. Currie and Langhorne are proven and should see their games elevate as a result of the acquisitions. Ajavon and Novosel are serviceable at the shooting guard spot, but the Mystics need the draft to provide depth at both guard and forward. In round one, Thibault could go in a number of directions with Markel Walker (UCLA forward), Sugar Rodgers (Georgetown guard) and Tayler Hill (Ohio State guard) all being viable options. However, don’t be surprised if he goes after Kayla Alexander (Syracuse) or Tianna Hawkins (Maryland). Also look for him to make some noise with his later three picks as Washington may try to get long and athletic up front. Keep an eye on Alyssa Brewer (UCLA forward), Chelsea Poppens (Iowa State forward), and Karisma Penn (Illinois forward) once we get to picks No. 17 and No. 19. Star Crawford (TCU forward) is an intriguing option in Round 3.
Draft selections: Round 1 (No. 4), Round 2 (No. 17, No. 19), Round 3 (No. 25)
Needs: Depth at guard and forward
The Minnesota Lynx were the 2011 WNBA Champions and made it back to the Finals in 2012 where they lost to Indiana (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx)
Minnesota Lynx 27-7, first in West
Guards: Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, Monica Wright
Forwards: Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Devereaux Peters
Centers: Amber Harris, Jessica Adair
Janel McCarville, 6-4 center via New York with a 2nd round pick in 2014
Rachel Jarry, 6-1 wing, free agent via Australia
Candice Wiggins to Tulsa (as part of multi-team deal involving the McCarville acquisition)
Overview: The Lynx are coming off back-to-back championship game appearances, winning the title in 2011. Coach Cheryl Reeves received her offseason wish through the trade market, shipping Candice Wiggins out in a multi-team deal in return for much-needed bulk up front in the form of Janel McCarville. Rachel Jarry was signed as a free agent from the WNBL in Australia to add another athletic forward to an already formidable trio of Moore, Brunson, and Augustus. Nine-year veteran Lindsay Whalen returns at the point and provides stability and experience at the position. Look for the Lynx to use two of their four picks on guards -- an apprentice to Whalen and a combo guard. Angel Goodrich (Kansas), Alex Bentley (Penn State) or Lindsey Moore (Nebraska) could be earmarked with the 12th selection. Don’t be surprised if the Lynx stay with their theme of length with selections in the later rounds.
Draft selections: Round 1 (No. 12), Round 2 (No. 14), Round 2 (No. 24), Round 3 (No. 31)
Needs: Backup point guard for Whalen, combo guard, length in the later rounds
Los Angeles Sparks 24-10 2nd in West
Guards: Kristi Tolliver, April Sykes, Jenna O’Hea, Alana Beard
Forwards: Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, Marissa Coleman, Ebony Hoffman
Centers: Nicky Anosike, Jantel Lavendar
Lindsey Harding via free agency from Atlanta (12.3/4.5)
DeLisha Milton-Jones to San Antonio via free agency
Overview: In 2012, the Sparks walked away with the Coach of the Year (Carol Ross), Rookie of the Year (Nneka Ogwumike) and the Most Improved Player (Kristi Tolliver) awards. Following the Western Conference Championship defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Lynx, GM/VP Penny Toler wasted very little time filling a void in the backcourt with the signing of Lindsay Harding. Parker, Beard and Tolliver accounted for 75% of the scoring, so Harding should help lift some of that pressure from their shoulders. Look for L.A. to challenge for the Western Conference title again. With the 10th pick in the first round, the Sparks could use a third forward to mix with Parker and Ogwumike. Bigger frontcourt possibilities such as Kayla Alexander (Syracuse) and Tianna Hawkins (Maryland) would be steals at this spot. More likely selections are small forward options Kelly Faris (UConn) or Markel Walker (UCLA). Karisma Penn (Illinois) had a nice senior campaign but it may be a stretch to grab her this early. 2012 draft pick Farhiya Abdi may provide the answer after having finished a year of seasoning in Europe.
Draft selections: Round 1 (No. 10), Round 2 (No. 22), Round 3 (No. 34)
Needs: A third forward in the rotation
San Antonio Silver Stars 21-13, 3rd in the West
Guards: Becky Hammon, Shenise Johnson, Danielle Robinson, Jia Perkins
Forwards: Danielle Adams, Shameka Christon
Centers: Jayne Appel, Ziomara Morrison, Tangela Smith
DeLisha Milton-Jones, 6-1 forward via free agency from L.A.
Julie Wojta, 6-0 wing via free agency from Minnesota
Yvonne Turner, 5-8 guard via free agency from Russia
Christine Flores 6-3 forward via free agency from Phoenix
Sophia Young, 6-1 forward, due to ACL
Overview: Coach Dan Hughes made a big offseason acquisition in signing veteran forward Milton-Jones. The 14-year pro will add frontcourt toughness. It doesn’t get any better than Becky Hammon in the backcourt, and Danielle Robinson and Jia Perkins give Hughes the skill set he needs to match up with anyone in the West. San Antonio could use some additional support and versatility in the frontcourt with Young out for the year. Look for Kayla Alexander (Syracuse) or Tianna Hawkins (Maryland) to come off of the board here at the No. 8 spot (if they are not gone already). If they are gone, San Antonio could go in a whole different direction with A'Dia Mathies (Kentucky) or Markel Walker (UCLA) becoming intriguing options to bolster the backcourt.
Draft selections: Round 1 (No. 8), Round 2 (No. 16), Round 2 (No. 20), Round 3 (No. 32)
Needs: Frontcourt versatility and depth
Seattle Storm 16-18, fourth in West
Guards: Tanisha Wright, Shekinna Stricklen
Forwards: Alysha Clark, Camille Little, Tina Thompson
Center: Ewelina Kobryn
Chey Shegog, 6-5 center via free agency from Connecticut
Cierra Bravard, 6-4 center via free agency from San Antonio
Temeka Johnson, 5-3 point guard via free agency fromTulsa
Noelle Quinn, 6-0 guard via free agency from Washington
Nakia Sanford, 6-4 post via free agencyfrom Pheonix
Katie Smith via free agency to New York
Sue Bird to knee surgery
Lauren Jackson to surgery
Ann Wauters opting to stay in Europe
Overview: There is an S.O.S out in the Emerald City. Sue Bird, Lauren Jackso, and Ann Wauters are out in 2013, leaving GM/coach Brian Angler scratching his head on how the Storm can improve on their fourth place finish from a year ago. He added six new faces to the training camp roster and swiftly replaced (I use this loosely here) Bird and Jackson with Temeka Johnson and Nakia Sanford through free agency. Returners Little, Wright and Stricklen will be forced to elevate their game. Seattle needs a little bit of everything so look for Agler to start rebuilding this franchise through his guards and target backcourt scoring with the sixth selection with Tayler Hill (OH State), Sugar Rodgers (Georgetown), A’dia Mathies (Kentucky) and Markel Walker (UCLA) all being viable options.
Draft selections: Round 1 (No. 6), Round 2 (No. 18), Round 3 (No. 30)
Needs: A running mate with to go alongside Temeka Johnson
Tulsa Shock 9-25, fifth in West
Guards: Scholanda Dorrell, Roneeka Hodges, Doneeka Lewis, Riquana Williams
Forwards: Amber Holt, Glory Johnson, Tiffany Jones, Jennifer Lacy, Kayla Pederson
Centers: Chante Black, Courtney Paris
Nicole Powell, 6-2 forward via trade with New York
Candice Wiggins, 5-11 guard via trade with Minnesota
Liz Cambage to China
Ivory Latta via free agency to Washington
Temeka Johnson via free agency to Seattle
2013 second and third round picks, 2014 second round pick in trades
Overview: Coach Gary Kloppenberg needs it all, especially with Cambage once more spurning the Shock and the WNBA. With the additional loss of Ivory Latta and Temeka Johnson, floor general and proven winner Skylar Diggins seems to be a logical selection here. Glory Johnson is nice professional forward who should give Tulsa fans an exciting duo to watch. Without Cambage, it will take a miracle for this group to eclipse the nine wins it limped to last season. Let’s hope the arrivals of Wiggins and Powell will give the lin up a little more stability than expected.
Draft selection: Round 1 (No. 3)
Needs: Everything. Will get Diggins unless Chicago passes on Delle Donne.
Pheonix Mercury 7-27, sixth in West
Guards: Alexis Hornbuckle, Sam Prahalis, Diana Taurasi
Forwards: DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree, Charde Houston, Penny Taylor
Centers: Lynetta Kizer, Krystal Thomas
Erin Thorn, 5-9 guard via free agency from Minnesota
Overview: Corey Gaines hit the lottery, literally. Brittney Griner solves a multitude of needs here and the Mercury could legitimately go from worst to first, as all other pieces are in place. Sammy Prahalis and Diana Taurasi are an exciting backcourt and can make plays. DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree and Charde Houston are nice complements to one another at the forward slots. Combined with Griner, this lineup has the length and skill set to disrupt opponents as much on the defensive end as it will on the offensive side of the ball.
Draft selections: Round 1 (No. 1), Round 3 (No. 26)
Needs: A center