2010 WNBA Draft Lacks Depth
A look at the first round picks.
by Clay Kallam
The WNBA Draft is seldom noted for its depth, but the 2010 version was, sadly, shallower than most. Of course, there will always be surprises, and of course, there were worse drafts in the past (don’t even look at 2003, and 2005 isn’t much better). Still, predicting at what the future may hold for this group doesn’t make the heart beat faster — or even go pitty-pat pitty-pat.
Tina Charles | Connecticut Sun
Probably not this year, because Sandrine Gruda (whenever she arrives) and DeMya Walker are both solid, experienced players. And Jayne Appel, despite playing on one leg, handled Charles with little difficulty in the national championship game, leading many to wonder if a strong, physical center — which the WNBA is full of — will be able to keep Charles in check. Still, down the road, Charles looks like a surefire WNBA starter and likely all-star. Then again, that’s what the first overall pick is supposed to be.
Jayne Appel | San Antonio Silver Stars
Despite the stress fracture and bad ankle, Appel might even start this year, primarily because she landed on the perfect team. Michelle Snow is a lifetime underachiever and Ruth Riley has a perimeter player’s attitude in a center’s body. Appel, if healthy — and that’s a big if — could find herself starting in August against the more physical posts in the league, and healthy, she should be a decent scorer. Her ceiling is lower than Charles’, but the scarcity of legitimate posts marks Appel as a starter eventually, if not now.
Monica Wright | Minnesota Linx
Eventually, Wright should find a starting slot somewhere, but wings with her skill set are thick on the ground in the WNBA. It would help if she handled the ball better, but she can do pretty much everything else, and if she works on her defense, she will find a home somewhere. Of course, beating out Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins will be no simple task, and Hamchetou Maiga-Ba is the most underrated player in the league.
Epiphanny Prince | Chicago Sky
Like Wright, Prince should eventually work her way into a starting role, but it’s less likely than it may seem — unless she is really a point guard. If she is, then she could start this summer; if not, she’s an undersized two guard and will have to battle for minutes like others who fit that description (Kara Lawson, et al.).
Kelsey Griffin | Connecticut Sun
To be honest, I’m unsure she’ll get this far. Griffin is a very intelligent player who had one brilliant year in college, but she’s neither tall nor exceptionally strong, which will limit her in the paint. And unfortunately, she has never shown any ability to shoot the 15-footer, and has never guarded on the perimeter, so her future appears to be as a four. If she’s as smart as advertised, and can score inside against the taller, quicker defenders she’ll see in the WNBA, then she could help someone. But if she’s starting, the Playoff chances of that team are poor.
Danielle McCray | Connecticut Sun
McCray could wind up being a starter, as only an ACL tear prevented her from getting a lot more buzz. As it is, though, she doesn’t count against the salary cap, and will serve as the Sun’s number one pick in 2011, as they traded away that selection to get Griffin. Speaking of which, the salary scale for rookies chosen one through four is a lot higher than for lower picks, so if Connecticut winds up keeping Allison Hightower, say, and cutting Griffin, the Sun stays further away from the salary cap.
Allison Hightower | Connecticut Sun
Getting tired of Sun players? The rest of the league might as well, but Hightower is worth discussing. She’s tall, long, skilled and athletic and if she can defend with intensity, could get on the court with regularity this summer. Down the road, she could even wind up starting somewhere if she maxes out her potential – but if she works at it at all, it’s hard to see her hurting a team in this league.
Jen’e Morris | Indiana Fever
Morris was originally recruited by Cal, so don’t be fooled by her mid-major status at San Diego State: She’s every bit the athlete the BCS kids are. She also based her success on her defense, and then added offense as she matured. Given her size and athleticism, and defensive reputation, Morris looks like a solid WNBA player with an outside chance to find a home as a starter at some point in her career.
So what about the rest of the first round picks? Well, Jacinta Monroe and Chanel Mokango were drafted because they were the best posts available, which is not to be confused with being a really good post. Andrea Riley was chosen because, well, she scored a lot of points — but like Bianca Thomas, a surprise first-round pick, Riley doesn’t shoot all that well and her decision-making is sometimes questionable. (Thomas had twice as many turnovers as assists in college, which would be fine if she were a power forward, but as a shooting guard who isn’t all that accurate, it’s more of a concern.)
Alison Lacey is Australian, which is always popular among WNBA GMs, and if she can figure out how to use her size to offset her lack of quickness, she could be effective. The track record, though, of taller, slower guards in the WNBA is poor.
Alysha Clark, the mega-scorer from Middle Tennessee, lasted until the second round, but a 5-10 post player who’s never played outside is going to have a very tough transition to make. The likelihood of Clark becoming a serviceable player in her first season is almost zero, but it’s somewhat possible, though far from likely, she’ll find a way to succeed several years into her career (WNBA lifers will recall Adia Barnes had to make the same adjustment).
Finally, a word about the most ludicrous pick, which comes from Penny Toler and L.A. Toler has made some great choices over the years, and is a good WNBA GM, but it seemed like she just didn’t really care that much about this collection of talent. Exhibit A is the selection of Rashidat Junaid in the third round, who averaged 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds for Rutgers — and started only 17 games for a team that was four games above .500.