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Wednesday, May 24, 2000
Taking a position

By Michelle Smith
Special to ESPN.com

With all the talk of weak drafts, expansion and the drain on the league's talent pool, the WNBA is still home to many of the top players in the world.

But there are only so many stars to go around.

With the centers, for example, there's a huge drop off after Lisa Leslie, which is why every team in the league tried to get themselves an inside presence on draft day.

A look at the league's top five players at each position:

POINT GUARD SMITH SAYS
Ticha Penicheiro
Sacramento
Makes the prettiest passes in the league; can concentrate on distributing ball in Monarch's offense.
Dawn Staley
Charlotte
One of the best in the world when healthy (those days seem fewer and far between).
Shannon Johnson
Orlando
Who do you think almost led the Miracle to the playoffs in their first year?
Jennifer Azzi
Utah
A veteran talent with all the skills.
T. Weatherspoon
New York
A floor leader from the moment the ball is tipped; can still score a little, too.

OFF-GUARD SMITH SAYS
Cynthia Cooper
Houston
Assuming that age isn't setting in, Coop's the league's best offensive player.
Nikki McCray
Washington
Chamique may be the future, but McCray has carried this team so far.
R. Bolton-Holifield
Sacramento
When healthy, she's among the best.
Nykesha Sales
Orlando
Young, athletic and a great shooting touch. What more could you want?
Andrea Stinson
Charlotte
One of the most underrated players in the league.

SMALL FORWARD SMITH SAYS
Sheryl Swoopes
Houston
A scorer, one of the team's toughest defensive matchups and the league's best all-around athlete.
Chamique Holdsclaw
Washington
One year older, wiser and no doubt better.
Katie Smith
Minnesota
Has the skills of a guard and the instincts of a post. One of the most versatile players in the world.
Crystal Robinson
New York
Her 3s help her team win. Might see more time at shooting guard with the departure of Witherspoon.
Brandy Reed
Phoenix
She will prove that '99 was no fluke, she is one of the most dangerous offensive forces going.

POWER FORWARD SMITH SAYS
Yolanda Griffith
Sacramento
The best all-around player in the league. Hands down.
Natalie Williams
Utah
Might be second-best. Just try and block her out.
Tina Thompson
Houston
A 3-point shooting power forward.
DeLisha Milton
Los Angeles
Might not have the size, but heart gets her a long way.
Jennifer Gillom
Phoenix
While there's no escaping age, Gillom can still score.

CENTER SMITH SAYS
Lisa Leslie
Los Angeles
No one even comes close.
Taj McWilliams
Orlando
She can score, rebound and even shoot 3s.
Margo Dydek
Utah
Can change a team's entire gameplan by merely standing in the lane.
Rhonda Mapp
Charlotte
An inside/outside game helped lead Sting to two playoff wins in '99.
Marlies Askamp
Miami
The player most responsible for the Mercury's late-season surge in 1999.

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