WNBA pre-draft primer
The 2018 WNBA Draft is upon us & the whispers are innumerable. On the heels of the best WNBA season to date, the college game followed suit & raised the profile of women’s basketball higher than it’s ever been.
Hell, Ellen even recognized the sport & everyone knows that’s the golden ticket of approval via mainstream media: airtime with Ellen.
Ne’ertheless, two things are guaranteed going into draft night:
There will be trades.
There is 150% need for expansion.
With that being said, this draft, is one of the best ever in terms of the versatility & options available for selection.
There’s still the business of rookies actually making rosters (expand me please!), but this draft is the first where every single team in the league is tuned into the happenings & feel there is someone that could impact their roster now or in the future.
Here’s where the 12 current franchises stand pre-draft:
Las Vegas Aces
New logo, new city, new brass.
All felt apropos for a franchise that never seemed to have the full support of ownership while also trying to rid itself of the black-eye that will not be named.
Talent is the biggest need. Don’t be surprised if Trader Bill starts the night off by shaking things up. He raved more about Kelsey Bone than he has thus far regarding Aja Wilson & while she’s sure to be the number one overall pick, she may garner more for him in a trade that includes the last two number one picks --considering he won’t budge with Moriah Jefferson-- as Laimbeer has never been afraid to impose his style upon a franchise from day one.
Never have I ever seen one singular injury change the trajectory of a franchise so quickly Not only was Moe Johnson having an all-star caliber year, her injury robbed her team of its primary 1-on-1, break-her-down scorer, leading to its worst season ever.
2 seems to be Pokey’s ideal spot & she’s likely to get another shot creator, if she so chooses. The late addition of Azura Stevens may cause some hesitation but trading away Briann January all but locked Indy into its selection at 2. Having pick 8 also gives Pokey tons of freedom as everything this season will be focused towards the future & who’s a part of it.
Getting ample clock in actual WNBA games is rare for developing players but Indy got that last season & brings back essentially the same roster.
If nothing else, Amber Stocks deserves credit for finally rewarding Allie Quigley’s work ethic & allowing her an opportunity to start. Considering the chemistry that’s long been obvious between she & “Lady Stockton” Slooty, you had to know it was coming. Just not 100% sure anyone saw it coming with Cappie Pondexter still on the roster.
Nevertheless, by season’s end, the team had bought into her concepts & seemed to be coming together. Playing as a unit that’s better than the sum of its parts is essentially what the job is & Chicago likely will be doing just in its first season with a roster full of Stocks’ players & the defense has to improve.
Offensively, this team showed it could compete on a nightly basis with the best of the best but getting stops is equally important.
In the hole where my heart used to be, its been accepted that Jenny Boucek was fired because she wouldn’t move Stewie to the wing like a certain someone had begged from the time Valvanis signed Carolyn Swords. A team that struggled defensively & on the boards left its fix on the bench the entirety of the season & now she’s moved on to much richer pastures.
Not playing in Vegas > not playing in Seattle.
Regardless, the Storm made an A+ decision in bringing in Hughes to facilitate the retirement of Sue Bird & the evolution of the Brejewelled duo that should carry them to multiple championships. The question now will be how to integrate the pieces within a new offense while shoring up the issues that haunted them last season.
Another roster, another organization that appreciates the journey of growing together. Stealing a playoff bid & giving the city of Dallas a taste of the postseason was all it took for Dallas to get the most important player in its franchise history back to town. Now, it’s time to capitalize.
The league most enigmatic team, the Wings could finish anywhere from 1st in the league to last, based solely on the fact that nobody knows what this team will look like. The last time we saw Cambage in the WNBA, she was still getting her legs under her.
Now, she’s a dominant force who understands how to best utilize her size. All this, after drafting the rookie of the year, the most underrated player in last year’s draft, & getting your All-WNBA caliber players back to that level. This will be a fun team to watch regardless.
My personal best coach ever in WNBA history, Thibault is the original “confidence & opportunity” coach. Never afraid to bring familiar faces to new faces because he knows what he’s getting & knows how to connect with certain players.
Allison Hightower should’ve never been out of the league. Tianna Hawkins has plenty to offer. Mo Currie has settled down & is playing basketball like she has Duke on again. All of these things will be crucial as Washington looks to take the next step into the elite.
In previous seasons, Meesseman’s absence signaled a rebuild. With Delle Donne in tow, the season could be considered “free one” although Washington still has more than enough to be in the final series to close the season.
Delle Donne got a less talented team to the Finals in her sophomore season. Be on the lookout for his best coaching job yet.
The next great coach to be recognized & immortalized alongside the Reeves/Aglers/Thibaults of the world will be Curt Miller. This season should be very interesting as this team will likely have more of his touch now that beloved assistant Nikki Collen has moved over chair & a few thousand miles south.
That sounds ominous, but it could prove the best thing for this organization moving forward. Expect the team to be active in trade talks & activity as there’s a major overload of talent in the frontcourt. Realistically speaking, the Sun have 5 starters for 3 frontcourt spots, & that’s without giving any credence to the fact that Cayla Francis has been a star in every league she’s been in sans-WNBA. There will also be some tough cuts coming for this team after the draft also, just to get to 12.
New York Liberty
Another star in the making, keep your eyes on Katie Smith. One of my absolute favorite players ever, Smith began as a post player in high school yet won Olympic Gold & WNBA trophies playing the point guard spot. Having made the switch from the two, Smoove couldn’t possibly imagine what that was like. But she did it & has never looked back. Similar to what should be expected now that she’s freed from the reigns of one Bill Laimbeer. Smith has been game-planning & coaching games for years now but now it’s put up or shut up time. & Katie has always performed when the lights are on.
More continuity here so be sure to keep an eye on player development. Ladies with new skillsets & abilities will be crucial to the Liberty taking either a step forward or backward in a season that’s likely to be the most competitive yet.
Los Angeles Sparks
Agler must’ve been reading my tweets in 2016 but got too proud for his own good in 2017. Even having a better, more versatile team wasn’t enough to upend a Lynx team on a mission to continue the trend –mostly including themselves—of champions being unable to repeat & we’re back at square one. Karlie Samuelson is back to steal the rightful spot that was taken from her last year & Cappie Pondexter adds a layer to this team that Agler hasn’t had since 2010, bringing Svetlana Abrosimova & Le’Coe Willingham off the bench.
Needless to say, this team has one goal: championship or bust.
Players that can contribute immediately on the boards & from deep will take precedence.
Another team absolutely in win-now mode, exhibited by the trade of Danielle Robinson. A star in her own right, Robinson just didn’t fit without the ability to knock down the three-point shot but still proved effective in pushing the ball & getting it to the right spots for the Mercury.
Nevertheless, this might be the best defensive roster Phoenix has ever seen as an organization. After a disappointing 2017 season, look for Sandy’s team to take advantage of the return of All-WNBA-er & new parent, DeWanna Bonner. January changes schemes with her activity & toughness. Lyttle was the only player playing defense in Atlanta sometimes & another year in the system means an even more confident, comfortable, vocal Camille Little. Speaking of Little, keep an eye on her. She played a ton of guard in college & that may be something Sandy toys with if the team is able to add more size & versatility in the draft. My personal favorite, on paper, to be a team fighting for the world championship.
What will likely be the most exciting team to watch, the Atlanta Dream have the battery of the future. Nikki Collen is a rising star, one who caught my eye immediately for her passion & IQ.
Darius Taylor is the best trainer in the south & in the women’s game. 12 times out of 10, give me someone who was counted out, hated on & given up on every time. Taylor, married to Georgia’s Joni, quit his position at South Carolina, pre-championship season, to support his wife’s transition to become the second full-time coach in Georgia women’s history. Now, the seeds he sowed are have grown & the kid is ready for the big time. Another roster with very little turnover is replacing those players with championship caliber human beings first, players second.
Very, very important foundations to building a championship culture. Go ahead & give Chris Sienko executive of the year & let’s just arrange for him to spend 3-5 years turning every WNBA franchise into a winning model. (Except not really. Leave some teams for me to fix)
The starting five remains the same (although two are just placeholders to this point in their careers) & the final two roster spots stuck but everything in between will be different for Reeve & crew, not like it’s made much difference historically.
This organization prepares & plays in ways that compensates for what its veterans lose every year & after taking the oldest team in the league to a last hurrah or rings for a few players who helped facilitate the growth of the league, the middle is a lot younger. A lot more active. Which is both scary & exciting at the same time. Per usual, the Lynx will likely be looking to best player available with more roster spots open than ever before. Look out, Goliath just might have reloaded.