Saturday, April 16, 2005
Updated: April 18, 1:50 PM ET
Storm, Comets score highest marks
By Nancy Lieberman
Special to ESPN.com
The 2005 WNBA draft has come and gone. Which teams fared the best? Which team did the worst? Here's a look at the draft day winners and losers:
Though not everyone's sold on Janel McCarville's defensive abilities, the Sting got one of the most dominant players in college basketball and a proven winner in the No. 1 overall pick. Jessica Moore (24th overall) is a sleeper and a great pick. I like her game and she's the type of player you want on your team. Obviously, Charlotte wanted to go big.
The Sting mades their best moves in the offseason, making some very tough decisions such as letting Andrea Stinson go. They did get a great backup point guard in Helen Darling, who already was a good guard but will learn volumes gleaming knowledge while getting to play with Dawn Staley for one year. And drafting Jia Perkins last year -- shortly after the former Texas Tech All-Big 12 honoree gave birth -- was brilliant. Perkins is back and her presence is like having an additional first-round pick this year. Plus, with the exception of Tan White, nobody came out of the college game this year better than Perkins. Grade: A.
Coming in, the Fever's big uncertainty is in the backcourt, and they picked the best guard in the draft in Tan White (No. 2 overall). The Mississippi State standout gives Indiana instant offense and will no doubt take some pressure off of Tamika Catchings. White also is good enough to be starting for Indiana this season.
Yolanda Paige (16th overall) produced some outstanding numbers at West Virginia -- she led the nation in assists this last season (8.7), setting a WVU single-season record with 297 and capping her college career with 902 assists, seventh all-time in NCAA laurels -- but remains somewhat of an unknown. Vanderbilt's Ashley Earley (29th overall) will be a specialist in the WNBA. As a 5-10 forward, she's a bit undersized, but will run the floor and rebound well. She also has great hands and her play might force opponents to find someone who can guard her. Grade: A.
The Mercury had an excellent draft and got exactly what they needed. Some say Phoenix was a post away from being a playoff team last year, and no one on the team plays like Sandora Irvin (third overall). The TCU forward can block and defend, but she also led the Horned Frogs in 3-point shooting a year ago and sports a tremendous work ethic.
Phoenix was also coveting Angelina Williams, and the Mercury were very lucky the 6-foot forward from Illinois was still available at No. 18 overall. Jamie Carey of Texas (31st pick) adds another shooter, and whether she winds up making the team, helps bolster the Mercury's draft day performance. Grade: A
San Antonio Silver Stars
Dan Hughes did some fantastic crafting. First, you can't lose with Kendra Wecker (fourth overall). She's extremely athletic and versatile, tough as nails, can elevate over you and gives the Silver Stars a legitimate shooter after losing Adrienne Goodson.
Liberty's Katie Feenstra -- the No. 8 pick acquired from Connecticut in exchange for 7-foot-2 veteran Margo Dydek -- is young but a big presence inside at 6-8, and opponents are going to have to figure out how to defend her. Shyra Ely (14th overall) is the X-factor. She's tremendously athletic but has struggled with consistency -- and, is she a 3 or a 4 at the next level? Grade: B-plus. And it could be upgraded to an A-minus depending on how Ely turns out.
Kudos to coach Van Chancellor, who had a knockout of a draft. He added instant productivity -- and built a strong future for the Comets -- to his older, veteran team. DePaul's Jenni Dant (28th pick) was underrated, but plays an uptempo, pro-style game. She's also a slasher who can hit the 3. University of Houston senior Sancho Lyttle (fifth overall) is not only a hometown hero who will help sell tickets, but will someday (next year?) fill in when Sheryl Swoopes is gone. Lyttle, who's listed as a 6-4 center, is bigger than Swoopes, every bit as athletic and will end up Houston's point of press.
Everybody thought Houston was going to take LSU point guard Temeka Johnson, but Dant can slide over to the 1. She's unbelievably athletic and will be complemented in the backcourt by 3-point threat Roneeka Hodges (15th overall) out of Florida State.
Houston is now a monster of a team in terms of size with Lyttle joining 6-5 Michelle Snow and 6-4 Tiffani Johnson. And don't forget about the talented backcourt with Janeth Arcain, Dominique Canty and Felicia Ragland already on the perimeter. Grade: A-plus. The Comets just shored up every weakness they had.
It became clear last season that Tamicha Jackson wasn't Washington's answer at point guard, so LSU senior Temeka Johnson (sixth overall) is a great pick for the Mystics, who must now deal with breaking in a new coach (Michael Adams resigned Friday) and point guard. Johnson's leadership will be vital, but veteran DeLisha Milton-Jones, acquired last month in a trade that sent Chamique Holdsclaw to L.A., also is very important to Washington. Grade: B. It would have been lower if not for Johnson. Washington passed on some good players from really legitimate programs with great coaches in its second and third picks.
The Shock, already known for their great posts, got another Saturday in Georgia's Kara Braxton (seventh overall). She might have been the No. 1 overall pick had she played all four years at Georgia and not been hindered by suspensions. And even with those on her résumé, no team that needed a post should have passed on her. Grade: B-plus.
Some say the Sun were just a Margo Dydek away from winning the WNBA title last season. Only coach Mike Thibault can make that call, but we do know that none of the posts coming out of college are better than or more experienced than Dydek, a seven-year veteran. Yes, some of the college seniors might be more athletic, but this trade looks good on paper.
Additionally, selecting Megan Mahoney is a smart pick. The Kansas State forward won't be healthy to play until next season afer suffering a ruptured Achilles' tendon in March. But like Charlotte selecting Jia Perkins last season, Mahoney is a pick for the future. Mahoney will be successful in this league. Like Kelly Mazzante, Mahoney is long, athletic and a good defender who's fearless and a good shooter. Plus, she has had some great coaching. Grade: A.
Coach John Whisenaut likes to go 10-deep and use a rotation. Kristin Haynie (No. 9 overall), who can defend and shoot and definitely increased her draft stock in helping lead Michigan State to the national title game, helps Sacramento replace Edna Campbell. Rutgers' Chelsea Newton (22nd pick) is a big who helps offset the loss of Tangela Smith.
And Cisti Greenwalt (35th selection), a 6-5 center from Texas Tech, is another insurance pick who keeps the Monarchs big at 4-5, especially since Yolanda Griffith still might be traded away. Greenwalt is a great shot-blocker who's good on the low post. Grade: B.
New York Liberty
New York continued its run of curious draft day performances. A lot of people were surprised to see Tennessee's Loree Moore selected in the first round (10th overall), but the Liberty probably picked Moore because her defensive abilities really complement Becky Hammon, who's a great player offensively but not a top-level defender. That sometimes creates mismatch problems and was former coach Richie Adubato's main knock on Hammon. In Moore, New York gets somebody who can lock down the opponent or get that critical stop when needed. Of course, Vickie Johnson and Crystal Robinson have been known to do that, too. Grade: C-plus.
I like Kristen Mann's (11th overall) game, and in fact, am a big supporter of all the UC Santa Barbara players who are in the league. Mark French has produced some very skilled, hard workers. However, Gauchos also tend to be role players in this league. I was a little surprised to see Jacqueline Batteast (No. 17) fall to the second round. I thought she'd get a little bit more respect, but the experts aren't sure if she'll be a success at the next level. Grade: B.
The Storm were ravaged by free agency but helped make up for it Saturday. Tanisha Wright -- I still can't believe New York didn't take the Penn State senior -- is a great addition, and the three-time Big Ten defensive player of the year is a talent who will succeed in the WNBA.
We won't know if Connecticut's Ashley Battle (25th overall) and Baylor's Steffanie Blackmon (No. 38) make the final roster, but they are great picks who will make that draft camp extremely competitive. Battle's work ethic is tremendous, and Blackmon is a nother post to help fill in for the loss of Kamila Vodichkova. Grade: A-plus.
Los Angeles Sparks
Arizona's Dee-Dee Wheeler, who was L.A.'s first pick of the draft at No. 26 overall, could end up being a really good back-up to Nikki Teasley. They both play uptempo and Wheeler is a solid pick. Heather Schreiber of Texas, the final pick of the draft (39th overall), is very versatile and a 3-point shooter who can play multiple positions. Her numbers were down this past season, but she really benefitted as a sophomore and junior when Longhorn foes focused on Stacy Stephens. Sparks opponents will no doubt do the same with Lisa Leslie and Chamique Holdsclaw alongside Schreiber. Grade: B-plus.
Nancy Lieberman, an ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. Contact her at www.nancylieberman.com.