Obviously the top mid-major prospect in the 2013 WNBA draft is Delaware Blue Hens forward Elena Delle Donne.
But what about the rest of the players among the ranks of the mid-majors? Who else might have a shot at contributing to a WNBA team?
As usual, there are quite a few mid-major players putting up gaudy numbers as distributors, rebounders and scorers that might draw the attention of WNBA GM’s. Yet as discussed last week, mid-major programs haven’t yielded very many WNBA contributors over the past few years – it’s not impossible, but the threshold for being considered a productive WNBA prospect has proven to be extremely high. Almost to the point of having an unblemished college record for most mid-major prospects.
Applying what we learned last week to this year’s class of mid-major prospects, the following table is a selection of mid-major players that have stood out statistically or by word of mouth. The table is ordered by the players’ MVP rating and you’ll remember from last week’s piece that the standard for “success” was about a MVP rating of 14 or higher. The other statistics in the table below are the key statistical indicators gathered from that same exploration last week.
Midd. Tenn St
San Diego St.
van Grinsven, Chatilla
Midd. Tenn. St.
Statistics for mid-major WNBA draft prospects, ordered by MVP (as of 2/14/13).
Bear in mind that the standard of “success” established is merely making the roster, which has proven to be quite an accomplishment since the implementation of 11-player rosters – saying that a player has met that standard does not mean they’ll be a star contributor that leads your favorite team to a title (in fact, simply having a MVP rating of 14 means that the player has a good chance of making the roster only to find themselves out of the league after one season).
But without further ado, let’s take a look at the players above.
Do we really just disregard anything a few hundredths of a point under 14?
No, but if you recall, there are few players with a MVP rating that low that has made a real mark in the league in the past five years of 11-player rosters. It’s just tough to pull off with GMs less able to wait on a player to develop.
Yet it’s also worth noting that the three players just under 14 in this year’s class might be deserve late-draft consideration for teams drafting on need: both Moran and Steed are efficient distributors, if inefficient scorers, in a draft devoid of that and van Grinsven is an athletic 6’3″ player with a strong offensive rebounding rate and the ability to step out and hit mid-range shots.
The likelihood of them getting drafted this year and contributing? Not high, but they’re out there.
So let’s move on to those first seven players with a MVP rating over 14.
Nicole Dickson, F & Ebony Rowe, F
History is not in favor of Dickson or Rowe finding success in the WNBA despite their impressive college numbers: the track record for college interior players under 6-foot-2 making it in the pros has not been very good in the last five years, regardless of where they played in college. Dickson does have the ability to score from the perimeter – she led Memphis in 3-pointers made last season and has more than the rest of her team combined this season – but she’s neither a particularly efficient scorer nor a strong offensive rebounder.
Rowe is considerably more efficient and stronger on the boards, but is not a particularly efficient ball handler – she’s teetering on the edge of a pure point rating threshold (-5.00) that has doomed past mid-major prospects.
Perhaps neither should be disregarded entirely, but they would both be defying the odds if they did make it.
Victoria McGowan, PG
Swish Appeal’s own M Robinson has already documented McGowan’s talent on a few occasions, so check those out if you’re interested in what she brings to the floor. But putting college heroics and impressive statistics aside, the obvious challenge for McGowan is finding a place in the league at 5’4″. And as a point guard prospect, her pure point rating is a bit lower than the threshold for a productive WNBA point guard.
Yet as her offensive rebounding rate suggests, she plays bigger than her size and her high usage rate (26.46%) suggests that she could become more efficient when not relied upon to do everything as a pro. But making the league will still probably be difficult for her.
Brittany Kennedy, PG
M Robinson has also documented Kennedy’s ability previous and it’s worth noting that the defensive ability that he has highlighted is not something that will show up in the numbers very well. Still, a 6.2% steal percentage puts her in the range of the elite and, even if it’s not always a great proxy for defensive ability, that combined with an impressive offensive rebounding percentage for her stature suggests athletic ability that will at least allow her to compete with players at the next level.
Statistically, there aren’t many holes to poke in Kennedy’s game. She doesn’t shoot the three very well, but wouldn’t be the first point guard in recent years to make a roster after shooting under 30% from 3-point range in college. Otherwise, her high turnover ratio is countered by an outstanding assist ratio (which is reflected in her pure point rating). For a team with a point guard spot open on the roster, she’s at least giving a look before dismissing her.
Adrian Ritchie, G
For whatever it’s worth, Ritchie could end up being among the strongest mid-major guard prospects to enter the WNBA draft in the last five years. And that’s especially impressive considering the type of numbers that Courtney Vandersloot put up at Gonzaga.
Whereas Vandersloot was among the most efficient distributors ever to enter the draft, Ritchie’s strength as a prospect begins with her great scoring efficiency (57.99% true shooting percentage). When you combine that with a pure point rating (3.30) that would make a number of point guard prospects from more highly touted programs eligible for this draft jealous and an outstanding steal percentage (5.51%), Ritchie looks like a very strong prospect on paper.
The question marks for her as someone who thrives primarily on 2-point shooting (she’s a solid, yet not outstanding 35% from three) is what her role will be in the WNBA: similar to former teammate Julie Wojta last year, she’s a skilled player who plays hard on both ends and looks like a great prospect on paper. But the most obvious role for her – that of a spot up shooter specialist – has effectively been phased out of the WNBA since the 11-player roster limit was imposed. It will be interesting to see who takes an interest in her, if she’s drafted at all, and how they imagine her fitting.
Chelsea Hopkins, PG
Hopkins hasn’t gotten a lot of buzz and probably won’t playing unless San Diego State has a strong showing in the postseason, but having recorded three triple doubles – and coming within one rebound of a fourth – she was hard to ignore. And that’s before looking at her advanced stats.
In short, in a draft year that doesn’t have many strong point guard prospects Hopkins deserves a look. Her numbers put her squarely in the range of a successful WNBA point guard, but it’s hard to project how successful she might be because there hasn’t really been a comparable player to enter the league in the past five years. In addition to being a very efficient college distributor, she’s a solid scorer and a good rebounder for her size. When you add a 43.8% 3-point percentage, it’s not unreasonable to think that she could find a place in the league.
Despite her versatility, she’ll almost have to find a role in the league as a point guard at 5’8″. But the fact that she does so many things well at the college level bodes well for success.
Niveen Rasheed, G
Perhaps the most important thing about Rasheed’s statistical profile is that she rebounds well. Not because rebounding turns out to be a major factor for guards, but because it – along with her strong steal percentage and her solid free throw rate – suggests that she has a level of athleticism that will allow to compete at the next level in multiple ways.
However, if there’s a concern about Rasheed, it would be that she doesn’t shoot particularly well from 3-point range (27%). Believe it or not, there are a handful of wings in the league now who weren’t particularly proficient long range shooters: Karima Christmas, Alexis Gray-Lawson, Shenise Johnson, and April Sykes are all wings who found their way to a roster spot in spite of low 3-point percentages. Another wing, Kalana Greene, shot a great percentage from three in her senior year but only had 23 attempts.
So the question is whether Rasheed has enough other positive attributes to make a roster and, perhaps more specifically, which roster might be a fit.