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Thursday, April 20, 2000
Updated: May 4, 2:44 PM ET
Declaring the draft winners and losers

By Michelle Smith
Special to

The ironic thing about the 2000 WNBA Draft is that for a field considered not-so-deep (and don't let anybody convince you otherwise) most of the teams in the league were able to fill holes. That's because they could afford to draft for need rather than angle for the potential star player, a dilemma coming next year.

The theme for this year's draft was big and athletic. Some of the top names in the college game who dropped unexpectedly -- most specifically the Penn State tandem of Helen Darling and Andrea Garner -- fell largely because they are considered undersized.

Some teams certainly will be helped, but don't bother with the argument that all of a sudden this draft looks great. That's just draft-day giddiness. The fact is that one of the best players in the world -- Teresa Edwards -- still is not playing in the league, and while international players remain all the rage for coaches, their impact is also a big unknown.

Here's a look at how each team fared on draft day:

Charlotte Sting
Conference: Eastern 1999 record: 15-17
Draft diagnosis: The Sting fill their post need with North Carolina State product Summer Erb, who brings the added bonus of local appeal. But by the time the team had taken five players, there still was one glaring omission -- Charlotte still has no true backup point guard help for Dawn Staley. And Staley certainly isn't the picture of health.

Duke product Peppi Browne was a nice pick-up in the third round, even though she will not play this season because of knee injury. She is a strong, athletic player with skills that will eventually translate well to the professional game.
Draft grade: B-

Cleveland Rockers
Conference: Eastern 1999 record: 7-25
Draft diagnosis: You know the old adage, "It's better to be lucky than good?" Well, the Rockers got lucky Tuesday. Not only did they get It-Girl Ann Wauters with the No. 1 pick to fill their big-time need in the post now that it's firm that Isabelle Fijalkowski isn't returning, but Helen Darling was there for the taking to open the second round.

It must have been Penn State point-guard karma. With Suzie McConnell-Serio's slow recovery, Darling is The Logical Successor. Darling might be small-ish and she may struggle initially, but she's a player. Wauters is big, and she can score, but she's not without doubters who wonder if she's up for the physical play in the league. At 19, she's got time to get up for it.
Draft grade: A-

Detroit Shock
Conference: Eastern 1999 record: 15-17
Draft diagnosis: With virtually no backcourt to speak of when the day began, the Shock had a lot of work to do. By the time the day ended the Shock had drafted five guards. Now that's filling a need. It's probably overfilling.

Getting Edwina Brown and Tamicha Jackson to complement Dominique Canty is a very nice start. Brown was more than worthy of her No. 3 status, while Jackson's tenacity and quickness will make her an immediately capable defensive match for nearly every point guard in the league. Madinah Slaise might make the team as a second-round pick, but the Shock will be combing the free-agent list for more experienced help.
Draft grade: B

Houston Comets
Conference: Western 1999 record: 26-6
Draft diagnosis: As it turns out, the Comets get the post help they need, but need is a strong word considering that all this team has done is win three championships without a dominant center. Van Chancellor can make you scratch your head, however, with his penchant for foreign players. He chose Russian post Elena Chakirova with his first-round pick, but now he has to talk her into coming to play. And we know how that turned out last year with Natalia Zasulskaya, the Comets' first-round pick who never crossed the Atlantic.

The second biggest break of the day behind the Rockers getting Darling was Houston getting a second chance to take Andrea Garner at the end of the second round.
Draft grade: B

Indiana Fever
Conference: Eastern 1999 record: N/A (inaugural season)
Draft diagnosis: The Fever had no first-round pick, so it was tough to make big strides. Then Indiana traded its two fourth-round picks -- guards Latina Davis and Renee Robinson -- to Houston for No. 48-overall pick Latavia Coleman, a forward. Her draft position alone suggests she might not be much of an impact player.

So in the end, the Fever is an expansion team with just three draft picks, none higher than No. 26, and that one is a Lithuanian named Jurgita Streimikyte. The good news is that Streimikyte is a talented player whom some thought might go in the first round. She is a typical European talent who is not afraid to shoot and can score. She will be a starter. But beyond that, nothing but question marks. Stephanie White-McCarty, the player whom Indiana dealt its picks to acquire better be all of this.
Draft grade: B-

Los Angeles Sparks
Conference: Western 1999 record: 20-12
Draft diagnosis: By the time the Sparks were done with their four picks, they might not have been better, but they were deeper. Los Angeles' first-round pick was Nebraska's Nicole Kubik, whose appeal had to be her 5-foot-10 frame. That would seem to be it. She is not is a point-guard, or even that much of a scorer.

There are those who still believe that Los Angeles still needs floor-general candidates to help to supplement the still-not-entirely-proven abilities of Ukari Figgs. Centers Paige Sauer and Marte Alexander would seem to be overkill help under the basket.
Draft grade: C+

Miami Sol
Conference: Eastern 1999 record: N/A (inaugural season)
Draft diagnosis: With the stunning news of Elena Baranova's season-ending injury, Miami was left with its hands tied and only two picks. The Sol dealt second- and fourth-round picks to Minnesota in order to get Marlies Askamp, a move that now looks very worthwhile considering the draft's premium on post talent.

Jameka Jones of UNC-Charlotte was a puzzler early in the second round (maybe Ron Rothstein knows something?), but Stanford point guard Milena Flores was a good pickup. She has good pro potential with her quickness and game smarts. And she will benefit from the playing time and room for error that an expansion situation provides. The free-agent list is going to be of utmost importance to this team.
Draft grade: C+

Minnesota Lynx
Conference: Western 1999 record: 15-17
Draft diagnosis: Brian Agler would seem to know what he's doing. OK, it's tough to go wrong with three picks in the Top 10, but if you do go wrong, everybody is going to notice. Minnesota's roster grew by eight players Tuesday and while not all of those players are going to be on the roster by opening day, bet on at least the top four or five.

Agler picked up a nice, young set of shooting guards in Grace Daley and Betty Lennox to go along with the versatile Maylana Martin as a backup to Kristin Folkl at power forward. True, there's still no true center on his roster, and a point guard might be forthcoming from free agency. But Agler won two ABL titles in Columbus with quick, athletic, smart teams, so at least he has precedent on his side.
Draft grade: A-

New York Liberty
Conference: Eastern 1999 record: 18-14
Draft diagnosis: While the Liberty's first-round pick -- Kansas State's Olga Firsova -- was characterized as one of "the best kept secrets" in the draft, one has to wonder if New York was the only team in on the secret. Firsova may be a 6-foot-8 center, but she started only four games for Kansas State -- yes four games -- and hit just 44 percent of her shots.

Firsova is definitely a project, and she's not the immediate answer to New York's questions in the post game -- questions such as "How effective can the newly unretired Kym Hampton be?" and "Is Rebecca Lobo going to be able to come back at full-strength?" The best pick of the lot might have been third-rounder Jessica Bibby, a talented Australian guard who played well in the WNBL.
Draft grade: C-

Orlando Miracle
Conference: Eastern 1999 record: 15-17
Draft diagnosis: Did Carolyn Peck take a shot in the dark here? Peck pulled off perhaps the biggest surprise of the first round with her No. 4 selection of Brazilian Cintia Dos Santos, a 6-4 post player. Dos Santos was not at the pre-draft camp and didn't have much word-of-mouth exposure. This pick seems high. It would not be shocking if second-round pick Jannon Roland ended up being the superior talent.

Shawnetta Stewart is going to add depth to the backcourt, but Orlando answered its main need at forward with either Dos Santos or Roland, and with that piece of the puzzle may be able to land the playoff spot that barely eluded the Miracle in its first season.
Draft grade: C+

Phoenix Mercury
Conference: Western 1999 record: 15-17
Draft diagnosis: With no first-round pick, the Mercury was left scrambling to fill holes. They did a pretty good job given their draft position. Adrian Williams, who played for Cheryl Miller at USC will make a nice, athletic backup for Jennifer Gillom and even Maria Stepanova.

And the third-round pick of Tauja Catchings fits right in with Phoenix's intense, athletic style of play. Catchings is a quick player who should succeed at the pro level in a defensive specialist role.
Draft grade: B+

Portland Fire
Conference: Western 1999 record: N/A (inaugural season)
Draft diagnosis: Of all the expansion teams, the Fire fared the best in terms of immediate impact players. Lynn Pride is one of the best overall players in the draft, and when she fell to No. 7, Linda Hargrove had to be doing backflips. Pride will play immediately at either the 3 or the 4.

Forward Stacey Thomas out of Michigan is a player with intriguing potential and good defensive skills. Some thought she could have been a first-round pick. The only thing that could be considered a disappointment was not getting hometown girl Katy Steding on the roster.
Draft grade: A-

Sacramento Monarchs
Conference: Western 1999 record: 19-13
Draft diagnosis: Sacramento has its top six players back from last season, so this draft was just an exercise in gathering reinforcements. Katy Steding was something of a surprise pick, but a logical one. Steding might be able to bury the 3's that Kate Starbird didn't last season.

Santa Barbara product Stacy Clinesmith has the makings of a good student learning from Ticha Penicheiro. Could make an argument, however, that Milena Flores would have been a better fit.
Draft grade: B

Seattle Storm
Conference: Western 1999 record: N/A (inaugural season)
Draft diagnosis: Lin Dunn took forward/center Kamila Vodichkova of the Czech Republic with her first-round pick, No. 9 overall. It was something of a lucky stroke considering that league insiders thought Vodichkova would be gone before that, perhaps as early as Orlando's No. 4 pick.

Charisse Sampson has pro experience, having played with the ABL's New England Blizzard. Dunn will be combing the free-agent lists, using her ABL knowledge to find more help.
Draft grade: B-

Utah Starzz
Conference: Western 1999 record: 15-17
Draft diagnosis: This team all of a sudden looks very strong. The trade of picks that brought Jennifer Azzi to the point guard spot is the move of the year in the league so far.

The first-round choice of another former Stanford product, Naomi Mulitauaopele gives depth to the post game and is a nice insurance policy in case Margo Dydek stays in Poland to prepare for the Olympic team. Mulituauaopele has been out of basketball for a year, but she's a strong presence and not afraid of contact. If Stacy Frese can throw up a few 3's a game, she's worth the pick.
Draft grade: A

Washington Mystics
Conference: Eastern 1999 record: 12-20
Draft diagnosis: After trades with Charlotte and Indiana, the Mystics finished the day with only two picks. They chose center Tausha Mills with the second overall pick, but there are questions about whether Mills is good enough to start. Despite her big body and impressive effort at pre-draft camp, there's no getting around the fact that she couldn't start for the ABL's Chicago expansion team two years ago.

Tonya Washington will make a good backup and is versatile enough to play the 2-3-4 spots.
Draft grade: B-

Michelle Smith of the San Francisco Examiner is a regular contributor to