We now head over to pick 2 of our 2015 WNBA Draft, where the Tulsa Shock gets a chance to add another major piece to their bumper crop of young talent.
UPDATE ON THE MOCK DRAFT: After looking at your votes and comments, the Seattle Storm selected Reshanda Gray of Cal. We’re adding Amber Orrange of Stanford onto the poll.
Now, let’s head from Seattle to Tulsa, where you’ll decide who the Shock picks at number two.
You are Tulsa Shock President and CRO Steve Swetoha. The Shock left Detroit for Oklahoma in 2010, and essentially had to rebuild everything from the ground up after their best players declined to move with the team. Though they have failed to make the playoffs since moving to Tulsa, there has been a growing sense optimism over the last couple years.
Tulsa is one of the most exciting young teams in the league, with a talented young core of Skylar Diggins, Odyssey Sims, and Glory Johnson who haven’t yet hit their primes. They have also found and developed gems that other teams have passed over, including Courtney Paris, who has played for three teams in six years, averaging a career-high 27 minutes a game last year as Tulsa’s starting center (previously, she had never averaged more than 13.4) and Riquna Williams, selected 17th overall by the franchise in 2012, broke the record for most points scored in a single WNBA game in 2013 on her way to winning 6th Woman of the Year.
Diggins, the true franchise player for Tulsa, was selected as an All Star in 2014 and awarded Most Improved Player. Sims, drafted second overall in 2014 to play alongside Diggins, was runner-up for Rookie of the Year and a member of the 2014 USA National Team.
Even with Liz Cambage unlikely to return this year after rupturing her Achilles, Tulsa’s future is looking good. However, Tulsa has yet to translate their overflowing talent into enough wins for a playoff appearance, ending the 2014 season with an 11-22 record, just one win better than 2013.
The problem wasn’t their offense – they were third in the league in Offensive Rating (an estimate of points scored per 100 possessions) at 106.3, behind only the league heavy weights Phoenix and Minnesota. The problem for Tulsa came on the other end of the floor: They had a league-worst defensive rating at 108.9. Though Diggins and Sims were both lauded for their defensive abilities in college, they are an undersized backcourt for the WNBA. Paris lacks the footspeed to help when perimeter defenders get beat, and Johnson’s defensive performance has been up and down.
In addition to the core of Diggins, Sims, Johnson, Paris and Williams, the Shock also have emerging young players in Theresa Plaisance, the stretch four from LSU, and sharpshooter Jordan Hooper from Nebraska, who played more in the post in college but is developing the skills to be a wing in the WNBA. So far this offseason, Tulsa has also signed veterans Karima Christmas and Plenette Pierson, and Tiffany Jackson-Jones is still on the roster. Christmas in particular should help the team’s perimeter defense, but she isn’t going to transform a league-worst defensive rating into something respectable by herself.
The Western Conference is ultra-competitive, with Phoenix, Minnesota, and Los Angeles rounding out the three top spots in 2014. But with Diana Taurasi taking the 2015 season off, several of Minnesota’s stars beginning to age, and L.A.’s history of dysfunction, this could be the year for the Shock to claw their way into serious contention, or at least to get a little playoff experience. With all of their young talent they are arguably poised to be one of the next Western Conference dynasties. Lucky for Tulsa, they have yet another lottery pick to give them a boost. – L.W.
Depth Chart before draft picks
As of right now, here’s what the Shock’s depth chart could look like, excluding unrestricted free agents and of course, those 2015 draft picks. Remember that those picks aren’t in town just yet!
|G||Odyssey Sims||Angel Goodrich|
|G||Skylar Diggins||Riquna Williams|
|F||Karima Christmas||Jordan Hooper|
|F||Glory Johnson||Theresa Plaisance||Tiffany Jackson-Jones|
|C||Courtney Paris||Plenette Pierson||Vicki Baugh|
While you’d be thrilled if Liz Cambage is playing, you’re not counting on her to come Stateside. But to be honest, you don’t need her in order to contend or make the playoffs this year. – A.L.
Primary Weakness: A short guard rotation, literally
At the end of the 2014 season, it was clear that the Shock lacked and needed veteran players who could realistically be leaders on the court. That has been rectified with the addition of Karima Christmas and Plenette Pierson. In addition, the key younger players that the Shock drafterd are one year older and wiser. Let’s face it. Players like Johnson, Paris, and Diggins aren’t simply young players anymore — they have some stripes too.
But the one thing that stands out on this projected depth chart is the lack of taller guards on the roster. Diggins is 5’9 and Sims is 5’8. Williams is 5’7 and Angel Goodrich is 5’4. Given that other top Western teams like the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury have taller backcourt options, that could pose problems for Tulsa on defense especially. – A.L.
Which players fit Tulsa’s needs at #2?
The problem for Tulsa is that the top prospects remaining are mostly post players (Elizabeth Williams, Isabelle Harrison) or guards who aren’t taller than average (Brittany Boyd and Samantha Logic are both 5’9). Crystal Bradford is a 6’0 forward/guard, but probably wouldn’t project to be anywhere close to a lottery pick if you consider players on talent alone.
Fortunately with Valavanis, or you guys picking Reshanda Gray at #1, the 6’0 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis from UConn is still available and she will be able to stretch the floor big time. However, will her conditioning be an issue at the next level? That could very well make her a liability on defense against other swingmen.
Another potential high-risk high-reward prospect would be Aleighsa Welch from South Carolina. Welch is 6’0 and is a high-energy defender and tenacious rebounder. However, Welch has played more as an undersized PF/SF than an as a swingman. She doesn’t have a three point shot (she’s only taken one all season), and it’s a big question mark as to whether or not she can transition to a more guard-oriented role in the WNBA.
You could just go for the most talented player left, and choose someone like Williams (talented post players are hard to come by, after all, and Plaisance hasn’t really proven she’s the answer as a backup PF). You could pick a 5’9 guard like Brittany Boyd (who is at least quite a bit taller than backup point guard Angel Goodrich). Or you could draft a 6’0 swingman forward like KML, Welch or Bradford and hope they can over-perform expectations as WNBA guards.
Make your pick, Swish Appeal community, and let’s hear some pros and cons of each choice in the comments.
POLLING CLOSES AT 12 P.M. ON FRIDAY, MARCH 27! After, the Seattle Storm’s back to pick third in the Community Mock Draft.