Could Chelsea Gray turn out to be the steal of the 2014 WNBA Draft?
Gray, the slashing, athletically built Duke point guard, sat out the bulk of the 2013-14 season after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured kneecap sustained during Duke's Jan. 12, 2014 victory over Boston College.
It was the second significant knee injury for Gray, who was lost late in the 2013 regular-season due to a discloated kneecap. That year, Gray, who averaged 12.6 points, 5.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game in the 25 games in which she appeared -- good enough to see her named co-ACC Player of the Year and an Associated Press, WBCA and Full Court All-American.
This season, Gray's injury so early in the season saw her miss out on many of the accolades that would likely have come her way had she been able to complete the season. The injury also saw her stock plummet in most of the mock drafts and draft previews published by the media, including our own, based on the common perception that Gray was unlikely to be able to play in the 2014 WNBA season.
Not so, according to a Duke spokesman in town to attend tonight's 2014 WNBA Draft. At least not necessarily so.
Gray's status is unknown at this time, he explained, but she might very well be able to play at some point during the 2014 WNBA season. She underwent reparative surgery on Jan. 17 and has already had nearly three full months to recuperate. Although the WNBA season gets underway earlier this year than most, Gray will have had four months of down time when the first regular-season game tips off on May 16.
Gray might well be able to play by then, said the Duke spokesman, who added that he hoped the injury would not cause the talented point guard to fall too far in the draft order.
The question is whether how many teams are likely to be aware of Gray's possible availability for this season, and how many of those will be willing to take a gamble in the midst of the uncertainty regarding her playing status.
Though the league's teams have their scouts everywhere, it appears that at least some are unaware of Gray's possibility availability for this season. She was one of 12 players invited by the league to attend the draft at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncassville, Conn., suggesting that some at league headquarters believe she will go in the first or early in the second round. But a representative of one team -- with a relatively high draft pick -- made clear that his organization didn't consider Gray a likely candidate to make an impact this season when he lamented her injury to the Duke spokesman.
There seems to be a general consensus on the likely top five picks -- Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike, Baylor's Odyssey Sims, Maryland's Alyssa Thomas, Notre Dame's Kayla McBride and Connecticut's Stefanie Dolson -- but if Gray slides much below No. 6, a team willing to roll the dice might get a steal on one of the nation's top point guards. With 12 players now allowed on the roster, the downside risk is not as great has it has been in recent years, and the up-side could be huge. At the time she went out this season, Gray was averaging 10.8 points, 7.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.9 steals for the 17 games in which she appeared. Her 7.2 assists per game ranked sixth in the nation, and Gray needed just 35 more dimes to become Duke's all-time assists leader.