Full Court's WNBA draft preview correctly predicted 10 out of 13 first-round selections though the early selection of Kristi Toliver by the Chicago Sky with the Number Theee pick threw off the order a bit.
2009 WNBA Draft Surprises
This year's WNBA draft held a number of surprises, however. Among the biggest of them:
- Ashley Paris dropped all the way to Number 22, showing that she had not impressed WNBA coaches and scouts with being more than Courtney’s sister. Given the Sparks' frontline depth, the Sooner will be lucky to stick.
- Quanitra Hollingsworth, a 6-5 center from Virginia Commonwealth, was picked ahead of several bigger name posts by the Lynx at Number 9.
- Lyndra Littles dropped to the second round as Number 17, when it was widely rumored that Detroit would be interested in her at Number 11.
- Takia Starks of Texas A&M went totally undrafted in our biggest mis-read of the draft. We still maintain that Starks would have more chance to make a roster than some of the players taken in rounds 2 and 3.
- Sha Brooks fell to the third round, landing behind several wing/combo guards who did not perform at nearly her level this year.
- Virginia’s Aisha Mohammed (strong but lacking foot spped) and California’s Devanei Hampton (bad knees) went undrafted, showing that a lack of foot speed can destroy a player’s WNBA chances.
- Undersized posts were not in demand as neither Marshae Dotson of Florida nor Star Allen of Ohio State was picked. Call this only a tiny surprise!
European Basketball Players Drafted
Several European players, as well as one American currently playing in the European leagues, found homes in the WNBA in this year's draft. Two players from Serbia (Jelena Milovanovic and Sonja Petrovic), one from Spain (Alba Torrens) and American Britany Miller (originally from Florida State but played this winter in the Czech Republic) found slots after round one.
Winners and …:
Taking into consideration both who they got and who was available given their place in the selection order, Minnesota and Sacramento appear to have fared the best on draft day. Los Angeles and San Antonio appear not to have fulfilled their needs but, of course, they had low position in the selection order to start with. Still, it is far too soon to fully understand who really won and lost (by passing on a player), particularly given that with the reduced rosters, a number of talented players may never play in the league.
Looking at each team in draft order:
1. Atlanta: In a post-draft interview Atlanta GM and Coach Marynell Meadors indicated that the first pick came down to Marissa Coleman, Renee Montgomery and their ultimate selection, Angel McCoughtry, whom Full Court predicted would go to Atlanta as the Number One pick. “The thing I really like the most about Angel is that she plays both ends of the court and is already defensive-minded,” said Meadors. “It speaks volumes that she led a conference as tough as the Big East in scoring, rebounding and steals for the last three years. She rebounds, she scores and I think her upside is huge. She’s going to be a great addition to our team.”
Interestingly both television draft analysts (Nancy Lieberman and Carolyn Peck) had this wrong, expecting Renee Montgomery to be the Number One answer. Of course they quickly switched gears praising the McCoughtry as the actual Number One pick!
The immediate question is will McCoughtry be able to score consistently from the perimeter. Nobody questions her ability to defend multiple positions.
Shalee Lehning, taken by Atlanta in the second round at Number 25, is a long shot as she must beat out several players for back-up point guard duties. Jessica Morrow, taken in the third round at Number 27, must show she can consistently knocked down threes to have any chance at making the roster.
Summary: The Dream is improved, but by how much? Success for the Dream will most likely ride on how Nikki Teasley plays at the point and how players previously added to the fold (Michelle Snow, Sancho Lyttle, Chamique Holdsclaw) come together. If Montgomery turns into a high quality point guard, Atlanta may have recurring nightmare of the draft pick who might have been theirs. If not, they probably can sleep fine dreaming of their new Angel!
2. Washington: The Mystics' moves in rounds one and two made sense. I strongly endorsed the idea of the Marissa Coleman selection due to her offensive versatility. She also has ties to the local area.
“We are excited to add a standout player like Marissa Coleman to the Washington Mystics roster with the second overall pick. Marissa was an integral part of building a championship program at Maryland and has consistently demonstrated an ability to elevate her game at crucial times during the course of a game,” said Mystics Vice President and General Manager, Angela Taylor. “Her size, versatility, and ability to score from anywhere on the floor makes her a very special player. Her competitiveness, work ethic, and passion for winning have made her a champion. All of which will certainly will be great complements to the players we have on our roster.”
Camille LeNoir, a small point guard taken at Number 23, and Jelena Milovanovic, a 6-3 Serbian PF taken at Number 24, should at least push incumbent bench veterans. Milovanovic is one of the better young players in Europe and this could be one of those picks more for the future than the present. Josephine Owino, a 6-3 Kenyan center playing at NAIA Union University in Tennessee, was originally rumored in false reports out of Kenya to have been signed by the Fever. I had heard that she might be a late pick and she in fact was taken by the Mystics at Number 28.
Summary: Again the Mystics have made moves with the potential to improve themselves, the most critical one being the off-season addition of Lindsey Harding, whose performance will likely serve as a bell-weather for the Mystics this summer. Coleman will be an upgrade on Currie. The rest are long shots.
3. Chicago: The Sky, with often anemic perimeter scoring, opted for the better shooting point guard in Kristi Toliver over the well-rounded point guard, Renee Montgomery.
“Toliver is a true point guard,” said Sky General Manager and Head Coach Steven Key. “Our point guards in the past have done a great job for us but I think Kristi will make us that much more versatile and allow us to move Dominique Canty over to the shooting guard role as needed. Canty is very good at getting to the basket; adding Kristi and some shooting to the team will help create some space for our inside players in Sylvia [Fowles] and Candice [Dupree]. It’s a great selection for us!”
Danielle Gant, taken at Number 16 will have to demonstrate some shooting range beyond the key and Jennifer Risper, taken at Number 29, will have to demonstrate much more offense (unless the Sky plan to use her on key defensive possessions in the place of chronically weak defender Toliver).
Summary: Unlike the cases above, a playoff berth will ride to a fair extent on this Terrapin’s right arm and how well she leads. Many would have taken Montgomery, as Full Court had predicted, but the Sky went for punch over defense and leadership. Regardless, they should be a more watchable team this summer.
4 and 9. Minnesota: In the post-draft press conference, Lynx Coach Don Zierden expressed surprised delight that Renee Montgomery was still on the board at Number 4. He implied that the Lynx had found that elusive franchise point guard that they have searched for unsuccessfully with picks named Thornburn, Duffy and Harding. When questioned about a potential logjam at the point, he cited the ability of Kelly Miller to play the shooting guard. Given the Lynx's guard-laden roster, look for some moves regardless of the rhetoric.
The Lynx also took Quanitra Hollingsworth with their Number 9 pick. Hollingsworth is sort of a less developed version of Kia Vaughn and probably will play behind Nicky Anosike and Christi Thomas. Rashanda McCants, taken at Number 15, will vie for a forward slot with fellow Tar Heel LaToya Pringle and LaToya Thomas with Charde Houston the likely starting power forward. Golden Gopher guard Emily Fox, taken at Number 30, is there to supply local pre-season interest. The availability of Montgomery at Number 4 turned what might have been a mediocre draft into a good one for Minnesota, and now the Lynx have a legitimate shot at a playoff berth.
Summary: Fate smiled on the Lynx. Let your fans rejoice! Montgomery should really help, sparing them the Miller/Quinn point guard duo. McCants, if she makes the squad, is more likely to help this year than youthful Hollingsworth. I doubt Black (the next big taken) would have been a difference maker either.
5. Phoenix: DeWanna Bonner was one of the most obvious picks in the draft. “We’re excited,” Mercury General Manager Ann Myers Drysdale said on choosing Bonner. “All along she’s been our Number 1 pick and we think she fits in great with our lineup and our style of play.” Totally agreed!
I’m a fan of combo guard Sha Brooks, taken by Phoenix at Number 31, but it is always hard to make the Mercury roster on the perimeter. Jessica Adair, taken at Number 34, is thickly built, not so suited for the Mercury’s up- and-down game. Of course, the joker in the deck is whether Lauren Jackson will sign with the Mercury or return to Seattle. With two running forwards in Bonner and Nicole Ohlde, the Mercury is well prepared should they receive a rejection from the Australian superstar.
Summary: The Mercury did the right thing in taking Bonner. The rest is likely irrelevant.
6. Indiana: The Fever turned down Courtney Paris, for what they hope will be the point guard of their future in Briann January, whom most had slotted a tad lower in this draft. Looking at the Fever roster, don’t be surprised to see a cast-off post (perhaps from Los Angeles) added before the start of the season as the Fever could still use more interior scoring.
The Fever took Christina Wirth, at Number 19, trying to fill a niche for a tall shooter. Danielle Campbell, a post with good foot speed from nearby Purdue, was taken at Number 32 and will try to show the Fever that she has enough skills to help their inside game. If this Boilermaker proves good enough to make the roster, she could actually have more impact on the Fever this year than January, barring injury to starting point guard Tully Bevilaqua who already does a workmanlike job at the point.
Summary: If January quickly develops into a quality lead guard, this move will have made sense. If not and Courtney Paris turns into a major post contributor out West, this pick will be second-guessed for a long time. If Wirth proves able to shoot the ball against pro-level defenders or Campbell surprises in the post, this draft might look better in August than it does now.
7. Sacramento: Given that not much was expected for the Monarchs, getting Courtney Paris could upgrade their post game. While I share the view that this CP3 was over-rated on draft boards earlier this season, she still has a chance to be a decent pro if she will just get in better shape and work to build a little range.
“I’m so excited to have the opportunity to play with the Sacramento Monarchs,” said Paris. “My first WNBA game I went to was a Sacramento Monarchs game and I’ve played many games on the ARCO Arena floor from my high school days. I’m thrilled to be returning to Northern California.”
“We’re excited to add Paris to the Monarchs; she’s the greatest rebounder in women’s college basketball history,” said Monarchs General Manager John Whisenant. “She set many NCAA records, including becoming the all-time leader in double-doubles, which demonstrates great consistency in rebounding and scoring.”
As an added bonus, the Monarchs drafted point guard Whitney Boddie at Number 22. The Auburn product may not be as good as January, whom I had placed in the Number 7 slot pre-draft, but she is likely an upgrade on A’Quonesia Franklin, the recently traded back-up point guard from last year. Morgan Warburton, taken at Number 33, is a long shot given her (at best) questionable foot speed on a defensively oriented squad.
Summary: The Monarchs probably got more than they expected out of this draft. Given the cards dealt, they made the right moves.
After the seventh pick was made, one of my contacts called in saying the draft was “over.” What was meant was that there was no more significant help from here down. Maybe true!
8. New York: The Liberty chose to add some size with muscle in Kia Vaughn, a reasonable pick but not likely to change their fortunes this season. With their only other selection, Abby Waner was selected at Number 21. Given that they already have better guards than Waner in danger of being cut, it is difficult to understand why they didn't grab Ashley Paris, who might be trade bait later this spring.
Summary: If Shavonte Zellous (popular online choice) or Lyndra Littles (my slot here) develops into a major contributor, the Vaughn pick will justifiably be criticized; otherwise not. Given who else was still available, the Waner pick is the one I have the most issue with of any taken in this draft.
10. Connecticut: I think Thibault and Company would have liked more muscle (as in Kia Vaughn) but the Sun settled for Chante Black, an intelligent but finesse post. The Sun also grabbed Lyndra Littles at Number 17 -- a possible steal for another team, as it was expected she would go higher. However, the Sun already has a few similarly sized wings, so the athletic Virginia product will be fortunate to make this squad. Remember one wing spot is likely to go to the Latvian international Jekabsone-Zogota, who will arrive after the season has started. Spaniard Alba Torrens was selected at Number 36. She is about 6-5 and not quite 20 years old, a typical Thibault pick with an eye to the future!
Summary: I have learned not to criticize the Sun’s moves. Their choices were limited, since they started at Number 10, and on just surface examination, their draft picks may not have change much about their team. However, the Sun has a way of surprising.
11. Detroit: Trader Bill made a lot of noise prior to the draft but so far no blockbusters moves have been announced. Shavonte Zellous, the Shock's pick at Number 11, will have some quality guards to learn from but should be strictly bench-rotation this year, barring injuries.
I last saw Britany Miller, taken at Number 18, in the fall of 2007 just before she was forced off the team by academic issues at Florida State. She did well this year playing in the Czech Republic and obviously impressed Laimbeer. At 6-3, Miller's game when last seen was low post, similar in style to Courtney Paris but not at that level at that time.
Tanae Davis-Cain, taken at Number 37, played with Miller at Florida State and, like Miller, hails from the state of Georgia. I do not expect the reunion to last long as Davis-Cain shoots the ball too inconsistently at the small forward slot and is just okay defensively.
Summary: The big question is whether either of the Shocks’ two top-twenty picks will make an impact this year given Detroit's current depth. Much will depend on the health of Ford and Pierson. Perhaps their greatest value will come if, as usual, Laimbeer works up another trade.
12. Seattle: As one veteran Storm observer said to me, Ashley Walker, Seattle's selection at Number 12, will have trouble making the squad assuming Jackson returns, which is by far the overriding issue for the Storm's upcoming season. I like Walker but am not sure this is the right team for her.
Mara Freshour, (6-1), yet another Florida State wing (primarily a shooting guard), who was taken by Seattle at Number 38, runs the court well but doesn’t shoot consistently well enough to make an impact at the pro level. Congratulations to FSU for having the most players (three) out of any one college program to get drafted in 2009!
Summary: Jackson may not decide between Seattle and Phoenix until mid-May from what I have heard. Should she return to the Storm, the players drafted will not be factors for Seattle this year.
13. Los Angeles: The Sparks recently re-signed Marta Fernandez and the rumor circulating is that free agent Betty Lennox is headed to Los Angeles to take up residence at shooting guard. That being so, the Sparks still need to upgrade their point guard situation but also be prepared to deal with Lennox, a talented player but not known as the easiest to coach.
By adding power forwards Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton at Number 13 and Ashley Paris at Number 22, their management may hope to be able to put together a trade as there is no way both of these players can make the Sparks’ front-court roster. One of the two might be able to stick as a back-up to Leslie in lieu of Vanessa Hayden-Johnson.
Britany Jordan, a 5-8 shooting guard who tore up opposition at Texas A&M–Commerce after a quiet freshman year at Temple, was taken at Number 35 and will try to vie for a wing slot in a crowded field. This will all be irrelevant to the Sparks as the front-court line-up will be dominated by the names Leslie, Thompson and Milton-Jones.
Summary: Assuming Lennox is in the Sparks fold, the players drafted are trade bait more than anything else, with the goal of getting lead guard help. Candace Parker is said to be due in May. Add probably a little less than two months and you have her likely return (not at peak form) to the court.
14. San Antonio: San Antonio's top pick at Number 14 is far from a household name. Megan Frazee, (6-3, G/F) was Liberty University’s best known player after Katie Feenstra (rumored to be headed back to San Antonio after being released by Atlanta). Frazee (a triplet) with an inside/outside game similar to New York’s Cathrine Kraayeveld’s. Like the NY Liberty player, foot is an issue and it was hard to evaluate her game coming off injury this year. Olaf Lange, a Silver Stars assistant, coached at Liberty previously, thus the connection. If nothing else, Frazee can keep the bench warm until Ann Wauters returns (in July according to the report at the draft).
Taken at Number 26, Serbian Sonja Petrovic, 6-4, is another talented young European player who currently rides the bench of powerful Moscow Spartak (Taurasi, Jackson, Bird, Fowles). View this as another pick with an eye toward the future more than the present.
Louisville’s Candyce Bingham was taken at Number 39, interestingly making Cardinals' players both the first and last picks in this year’s draft. The Silver Stars’ power forward slot is not going to be easy to crack so this is a long shot even though I like this player despite her lack of range.
Summary: This draft is likely to be irrelevant to the Silver Stars' season unless Frazee surprises and even then, the Stars still need more rebounding punch to get as far as they did last year.
Final thought: Before demanding any GM firings (or awarding any bonuses), wait until at least a month into the season. Once we see who sticks and how they fare in pro-level play, we will have a better read on who were the big winners and losers on WNBA Draft Day 2009.