Lynx primed to pick Maya Moore
It is something we've all done -- dreamed about winning the big lottery prize. Some people claim they would give most of it to charity, while the rest of us dream of mansions and Ferraris.
Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve gets to live a version of that dream Monday, but instead of getting an oversized check, she'll get the best college basketball player of the decade: Connecticut's Maya Moore.
In a 12-team league with 11-player rosters, even the best rookies struggle to make an impact, but Moore isn't typical. The 6-foot forward led the Huskies on their record-setting 90-game winning streak and was already part of the U.S. national team as a college junior.
"The pressure situations she has already experienced will prepare her for anything she faces in the WNBA," ESPN analyst Carolyn Peck said. "She will have an impact and has the potential to be an All-Star in her rookie season."
How will the rest of the first round unfold? No one has any real idea, especially once the trades start flying, but what's a draft preview without a mock draft? So here we go:
No. 1: Minnesota Lynx select Maya Moore, F, Connecticut.
Given Moore's talent and the WNBA success of former Huskies such as Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Swin Cash, Reeve has sounded like a kid in a candy store while discussing the choice.
"We're very excited at the potential of getting another great UConn player," she said. "Maya is obviously very special, both on and off the court."
No. 2: Tulsa Shock select Liz Cambage, C, Australia.
Until the past few days, this pick looked like it could provide the most interesting moment of the draft. The 19-year-old was quoted as saying she didn't want to play for Tulsa, while Shock coach Nolan Richardson said he wasn't going to let a player dictate his decision.
Cambage now says the quotes were taken out of context and she would be happy to head to Oklahoma.
The Shock will be getting a player with nearly unlimited potential. At 6-foot-8, she has drawn comparisons to another big Australian that was drafted at 19 -- Lauren Jackson. Cambage outscored Jackson at last year's world championships and was just named the most valuable player of the Women's National Basketball League, Australia's version of the WNBA.
No. 3: Chicago Sky select Amber Harris, F, Xavier.
The Sky could use a point guard, and Courtney Vandersloot's play in the NCAA tournament had to catch their eye, but it's hard to see them passing on the multitalented Harris. At 6-5, Harris averaged a double-double and also has enough athletic ability to run the break for new coach Pokey Chatman.
"Amber Harris is truly a guard in a post's body," Peck said. "I like her versatility for the WNBA."
No. 4: Minnesota Lynx select Jantel Lavender, C, Ohio State.
Lavender is the leading scorer in Ohio State history, the leading rebounder in Big Ten history and averaged a double-double in each of her last three seasons with the Buckeyes.
"It will certainly be a difference from college to the WNBA with all the legends playing there, but I definitely think I can adapt quickly," Lavender said.
Lavender will get a chance to learn from one of the legends she was discussing, Taj McWilliams. The future Hall of Famer signed with Minnesota as a free agent, and as the self-appointed "team mom," she will be a perfect mentor for Lavender.
No. 5: Los Angeles Sparks select Courtney Vandersloot, G, Gonzaga.
Not many people had Vandersloot this high on their draft boards until she became the breakout star of the NCAA tournament. The Sparks have a fairly deep roster, so it wouldn't surprise anyone if they end up trading this pick. If they use it, they can't pass on Vandersloot.
"It isn't hard for anyone to see that she's one of the great guards in college basketball," said Richardson, who made no secret of his desire to get Vandersloot with the seventh pick.
No. 6: San Antonio Silver Stars select Danielle Robinson, G, Oklahoma.
This could be Richardson's second disappointment in a row. After missing out on Vandersloot, this pick would deprive him of the opportunity to bring Robinson back to Oklahoma. But Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes has said he's looking for a guard at this spot, and Robinson would give him someone who can run the point, score, and play defense.
No. 7: Tulsa Shock select Jeanette Pohlen, G, Stanford.
Richardson will get a combo guard he likes at No. 7. During the league's predraft teleconference, New York Liberty coach John Whisenant said he would love to get Vandersloot or Pohlen with the 10th pick, and Richardson quickly shot back that they weren't getting past Tulsa.
"Pohlen had a great year at point except for the NCAA tournament," Peck said. "She plays a smart point and can score, and her experience at the 1 will help her value."
No. 8: Atlanta Dream select Ta'Shia Phillips, F, Xavier.
Marynell Meadors has talked about the need for a post player to match up with players like Cambage, and Phillips certainly will help. At 6-6, she will be one of the WNBA's tallest players. She averaged 11.9 rebounds in her four years at Xavier despite playing next to Amber Harris. Her biggest issue will be adjusting to the pace of the pro game.
No. 9: Indiana Fever select Jasmine Thomas, G, Duke.
Indiana needs depth on the perimeter, and Thomas will provide a scoring 2-guard who can also fill in at the point. At just 5-9, there are concerns about her defensive abilities, but she's a good 3-point shooter who had strong runs in both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
No. 10: New York Liberty select Kayla Pedersen, F, Stanford.
With Vandersloot and Pohlen gone, Whisenant can shift to another need -- finding size to replace McWilliams. Pedersen was a key player on the Stanford team that ended UConn's record winning streak and made it to the Final Four this season.
"We see her at both the 3 and the 4," Whisenant said. "She might have a little trouble guarding some of the quicker 3s in the league, but we think she'll make that adjustment."
No. 11: Washington Mystics select Jessica Breland, F, North Carolina.
The Mystics need size and spent much of the free-agent period chasing Cheryl Ford, who missed last season due to her bad knees. That deal fell through, which led Washington to trade their 2012 first-round pick to Minnesota for Nicky Anosike on Saturday. Anosike was an All-Star in 2009, but fell out of favor with Reeve before missing the final three games of the season with a knee injury.
Breland probably won't reach All-Star status, but she will provide size and rebounding if Anosike continues to have problems.
No. 12: Seattle Storm select Victoria Dunlap, F, Kentucky.
As the defending champions with a nucleus of Bird, Cash and Jackson, the Storm can afford to go with the best player available. Dunlap continues a run on forwards, as teams are more willing to stash a project with size as their 11th player.
That's the end of the first round, and the end of any sane person's projections.
A league with just 132 available spots means that a lot of young players, even if they are drafted, have little chance of spending 2011 on a WNBA roster. Many will be going to leagues in Europe, Israel and China to try to make a name for themselves and get a second chance in 2012.