Commentary

Draft winners and losers

Shock and Liberty at opposite ends of scale

Originally Published: April 16, 2012
By Mechelle Voepel | espnW

BRISTOL, Conn. -- It's been pretty well-established that there weren't really high expectations for this WNBA draft in regard to impact players. And with 12 franchises and 11 roster spots on each, just making a team is hard.

"So many of the clubs this year have almost no roster openings," said UConn/national team coach Geno Auriemma, who was in attendance Monday with Huskies draft pick Tiffany Hayes.

Auriemma, who will guide Team USA in the London Olympics this summer, reflected back to the start of the WNBA in 1997. When, as he put it, the league included too many players "who were past their prime or never had a prime.

[+] EnlargeWNBA Draft Group Photo
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesWith just 11 roster spots on 12 teams, it's hard for most rookies to break into the WNBA.

"It took a couple of years. But now what you see is really, really, really good college players coming out after four years from some of the best programs in America, and they can't make a [WNBA] team. That speaks volumes to where they've gone from a talent standpoint.

"I wish they had 12 players on every team. Hopefully, financially, they'll be able to do that [someday]. Because there are a lot of players out there now that should be playing in the league that are not going to."

Because it is an Olympic year -- with many non-American Olympians not playing in the WNBA at all or joining the league only when the Summer Games are over -- there might be a few more openings for these draft picks.

Some franchises need more help than others this season and appeared to get at least the possibility of that Monday. Some teams seemed to be stockpiling rookies just to fill needs in training camp. Five international players were selected, but there is never a guarantee they will come to play in the United States.

And then there was New York, which produced one of the bigger first-round head scratchers, likely to the perverse delight of Liberty fans, who've seen a little of everything over the years.

It's very speculative to proclaim who "won" and who "lost" on draft day, because time has a way of unraveling many such predictions. Still, we'll give it a go.

Who did well

Tulsa: The Shock, after winning just three games last season and having the best odds in the draft lottery, still somehow finished fourth in that sweepstakes.

In a draft in which there was only one sure thing -- No. 1 pick Nneka Ogwumike -- the Shock had to prepare for a lot of scenarios. And with all four picks Monday, Tulsa's Gary Kloppenburg seemed to make the best choice he could considering who was available.

No. 4 Glory Johnson and No. 17 Riquna Williams have the best odds of making the squad.

San Antonio: The Silver Stars had just one pick -- a good year to be in that position, actually -- and they couldn't have been happier with whom they got in the No. 5 spot: Miami guard Shenise Johnson.

Some speculated she could have gone as high as No. 2. With her size and versatility, Johnson might fit in well. If she makes the squad, she'll be tutored by another Johnson: SASS assistant Vickie Johnson, one of the better guards in WNBA history.

[+] EnlargeKelley Cain
Andrew Weber/US PresswireA year ago, Kelley Cain said she would forego her final season at Tennessee because of knee and back injuries. But New York made her the seventh overall pick Monday.

Phoenix: With Penny Taylor out with a knee injury, this could be a difficult season for the Mercury no matter what. First-round pick Samantha Prahalis of Ohio State (No. 6) and second-round selection C'eira Ricketts of Arkansas (No. 24) could fit in with Phoenix.

Indiana: The Fever need some size and got that in No. 11 pick Sasha Goodlett of Georgia Tech. She's a 6-foot-5 center who has reshaped her body in her time with the Yellow Jackets.

Los Angeles: Just getting Stanford forward Nneka Ogwumike at No. 1 made this draft very good for the Sparks. The other picks -- Rutgers teammates Khadijah Rushdan and April Sykes, 2011 Final Four standout Tyra White of Texas A&M, and Sweden's Farhiya Abdi -- are not players L.A. necessarily expects a lot from if any make the team.

Atlanta: The Dream didn't need much and didn't have a first-round pick. But they got UConn guard Hayes with the second selection of the second round (No. 14 overall). Considering the successful history of UConn alums in the WNBA, Hayes could be a steal that low.

"I think falling back into the second round maybe helps her," Auriemma said. "She's going to where she has a chance to not only make the team but actually get some playing time."

Seattle: The Storm made a deal with Chicago in January to get the No. 2 pick, hoping one of the potential early entries might come out. None did, but in Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen, Seattle gets a physically strong 6-2 player with a lot of skills and a willingness to learn and listen to veterans.

The Storm also drafted DePaul forward Keisha Hampton -- who missed most of her senior season with injury -- in hopes she can contribute as a pro whenever she recovers.

Who at least broke even

Minnesota: The defending champions didn't need anything from the draft … and they might not have gotten anything. Some eyebrows were raised when the Lynx went with Notre Dame forward Devereaux Peters at the No. 3 spot. We'll see how that goes.

Of the foreign players who were drafted, the only one observers actually expected could go in the first round was Brazilian center Damiris Dantas. The Lynx took her with the No. 12 pick.

Minnesota selected two mid-major standouts, Green Bay's Julie Wojta and Gonzaga's Kayla Standish, in the second round, but neither might have a chance to crack the Lynx lineup.

The Lynx also took Slovenian guard Nika Baric in the second round and oft-injured Jacki Gemelos in the third. The latter can't play this summer, as she's still recovering from a knee surgery.

Who treaded water

Chicago: Pokey Chatman improved her team in the offseason via trades and free-agent signings. With picks late in the second round (No. 23 Shey Peddy of Temple) and early in the third round (No. 27 Sydney Carter of Texas A&M), the Sky weren't expecting much from the draft.

Washington: It's usually too easy to make fun of the Mystics. But it's not like even with two first-round picks, Washington had a lot of options. Going with Notre Dame's Natalie Novosel at No. 8 and LSU's LaSondra Barrett at No. 10 might help … or might not do much at all.

Connecticut: The Sun went strictly for size -- No. 9 Astan Dabo of Mali, who is 6-8, and North Carolina's 6-5 Chay Shegog -- and neither pick might pan out.

Who struck out

New York: Just what was John Whisenant doing taking former Tennessee player Kelley Cain -- she of the bad knees and bad back -- with the No. 7 pick in the first round?

Cain chose to forego her last season of eligibility in Tennessee because she said her body couldn't stand up to the rigors of that. And although she has been playing in Turkey, she's not in that country's top league. Again, this draft didn't have that much obvious talent. But if Whiz wanted size -- veteran post Janel McCarville is sitting out this WNBA season, as she did last year -- Georgia Tech's Goodlett was still available.

For that matter, if he wanted to risk a pick on a Tennessee center with previous injury issues, why not take Vicki Baugh? Or take a flier on Florida State's Cierra Bravard?

Then with the last pick of the draft, Whiz took Katelan Redmon of Gonzaga. For all practical purposes, New York could have just skipped the draft entirely.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.