I almost wasn’t going to make a second mock draft after the one that was already posted on the Minnesota Lynx’ WNBA Draft Central site.
As most everyone else believes, there are pretty much four top tier prospects – including one in a class of her own – and then everyone else. Within that “everyone else” is a combination of overrated prospects from high profile programs and underrated players that might have the ability to make a roster, which makes projecting the first round a bit more difficult this year.
But a chance to take a closer look at the statistics this week – as well as some game footage that we’ve had the privilege to obtain – with the college season over actually made projecting best available picks this year much easier.
There were some players who I’ve enjoyed watching in the NCAA whose statistics suggest that they might be going pro in something other than U.S. professional basketball shortly. There were others who look great on paper but maybe not as great in games.
In other words, as much as this thing might be an “open” draft, it’s not all that difficult to narrow the field to those with the strongest possibility of WNBA success. What is difficult to predict is trades and it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see 2-3 teams make a trade to acquire talent that fits more appropriately.
But here’s my second shot at a mock draft, followed by brief observations:
Pick Team Player School 1 Los Angeles Sparks Nneka Ogwumike, F Stanford 2 Seattle Storm (via Chi) Shekinna Stricklen, G/F Tennessee 3 Minnesota Lynx (via Was) Shenise Johnson, G/F Miami 4 Tulsa Shock Glory Johnson, F Tennessee 5 San Antonio Silver Stars Devereaux Peters, F Notre Dame 6 Phoenix Mercury Samantha Prahalis, PG Ohio State 7 New York Liberty Courtney Hurt, F Virginia Commonwealth 8 Washington Mystics (via Atl) Julie Wojta, F Green Bay 9 Connecticut Sun Natalie Novosel, G Notre Dame 10 Washington Mystics Tiffany Hayes, G Connecticut 11 Indiana Fever Sasha Goodlett, C Georgia Tech 12 Minnesota Lynx Vicki Baugh, F
Image: Rich Pedroncelli/AP
1. Nneka Ogwumike: This one should be obvious. But given the Sparks’ roster, it’s hard to exclude a trade or a less “safe” pick, which would throw of this entire mock draft.
2. Shekinna Stricklen: Every indication we’ve gotten – including a source close to Tennessee – is that the Storm are likely to select Stricklen. Until we hear otherwise, I’m going with that as the pick for the Storm. That doesn’t exclude the possibility of selecting either Glory Johnson or Shenise Johnson, but the Storm do have a bigger need at that wing spot and on a veteran team that is actually set at every other position in the starting lineup this could be a good environment for Stricklen.
3. Shenise Johnson: Johnson is the second best player in the draft, in my opinion, and I have a hard time believing the Lynx will pass on her. Glory Johnson is an option as some might argue she’s the best available, but Shenise Johnson would fit beautifully into what the Lynx do as a smart player, efficient passer, and versatile defender.
4/5: I actually think it’s odd for people to suggest the Shock need help at every position but point guard – three of their four best players last season, statistically speaking, were Elizabeth Cambage, Tiffany Jackson, and Kayla Pedersen. Chante Black was among the top ten rebounders – defensive, offensive, total – in the league in the prior year before sitting out due to injury last year. Obviously, those players weren’t enough to carry them to a playoff berth, but they’re all still relatively young with potential to improve further.
Their primary need is pretty clear, even with Cambage gone for the Olympics this season: a wing who can score from the perimeter to complement Cambage on the interior in the future and, preferably, defend. Shenise Johnson or Shekinna Stricklen would be great fits. Absent that, Devereaux Peters might be a good fit due to her defensive versatility, which could help. Glory Johnson arguably has more upside and could certainly make for an interesting complement for Cambage in the post if she continues to expand her shooting range and offensive repertoire.
Ultimately, the Shock could go in a number of directions and that makes this a pretty pivotal pick given who’s remaining on the board. For an 11-player roster that needs to add talent as they build for a future with Cambage, it’s hard to see how they’d accommodate another post without a trade (which might make sense). I still don’t exclude Samantha Prahalis as a possibility as someone who can score and would have Temeka Johnson there to take some pressure off of her while she adjusts to the WNBA game (just as the Chicago Sky went and got Ticha Penicheiro to support last year’s lottery pick Courtney Vandersloot). But for now, I think the best talent on the board is Johnson. The Silver Stars, still desperate for rebounding, could take whichever one of Johnson and Peters is left on the board with Johnson’s length looking like an almost ideal fit for them.
6. Samatha Prahalis: She is the top point guard in this draft, statistically, and Phoenix technically needs a point guard. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising if their choice was Riquna Williams, particularly if Prahalis is off the board, due to a seeming fit with their system. But another player that might be interesting for them given Penny Taylor’s injury: Julie Wojta.
7. Courtney Hurt: She’s an outstanding rebounder – one of the best remaining available – and even though she might be considered undersized, her expanding scoring game could be useful to the Liberty.
8. Julie Wojta: If she’s not off the board already, she would be a great fit for the Mystics as an athletic, versatile forward who can provide some perimeter shooting to a team that was third-worst in the league from behind the 3-point line last year. In fact, she’d be a great fit in Tulsa for the same reason, albeit #4 might seem a bit high. Actually she could go to any of the previous 3 teams and be a fit. Anyway, it’s not hard to see how she could fill the role Marissa Coleman did previously for the Mystics. Most of all, based on the way she played at Green Bay – which is somewhat unconventional – she could be an outstanding complement to high usage scorers Matee Ajavon, Monique Currie, and Crystal Langhorne.
9. Natalie Novosel: Connecticut is tough to figure out and they seemingly have enough wings to distribute to two teams, but Novosel fills an obvious need as a 3-point shooter – her 42.9% 3-point shooting is among the best in this draft.
10. Tiffany Hayes: Again, the Mystics are a team that could use scoring – and defense for that matter – and Hayes might be able to offer a bit of both at the pro level.
11. Sasha Goodlett: Goodlett might be the best post player remaining on the board and the Fever do need rebounding. Vicki Baugh or Lynetta Kizer wouldn’t surprise me here either.
12. Vicki Baugh: It’s tough to gauge what a team as talented as the Lynx will do with a pick they might not even have room for on their roster. And this is the point where a lot of the clearest candidates for success are gone. Perhaps they go big here to prepare for Taj McWilliams-Franklin’s eventual retirement after picking up a wing with the earlier pick and either Baugh or Kizer could be interesting choices. If they go with Glory Johnson at #3, LSU’s LaSondra Barrett and Texas A&M’s Tyra White would be very interesting selections. Dayton’s Justine Raterman is also a name who hasn’t gotten much national attention, but had an outstanding senior year and could easily project as a solid outside shooter, but might be better suited for one of their second round picks.
Those are my thoughts, but feel free to leave your mock draft in the comments.