Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat some hoops.
Voepel has covered women's college and pro basketball for ESPN.com since 1996. Read her blog at www.mechellevoepelblog.com.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:05 PM)
Good afternoon. If you were just watching Indiana vs. Connecticut, how glad are the Fever to have Tamika Catchings back? Let's get chatting.
kevin (macon ga)
Looks like MVP is down to a three person race: Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore, and Diana Taurasi. Who's the favorite to win the award?
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
Any of the three would be a good choice. I still slightly lean toward Moore, but Taurasi and McCoughtry are just having fantastic seasons, too. This might be a case of whoever's team ends up with the better record wins MVP, with that as kind of a "tiebreaker" among voters. But I'm sure we'll also look at head-to-head performances and various other hair-splitting things to try to figure it out.
Can Sparks right their wrongs and become a contender in playoffs?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
I will keep saying yes (for now) because we all know the talent is there and the Sparks are at full strength. So now that they have all the pieces, can they play the way they should be able to play? We were talking about the Sparks on the "Dishin' and Swishin'" podcast this week, and one other big issue - which I think most Sparks fans are aware of - is that this team doesn't get consistently good point-guard play.
Are the young Tulsa Shock players going to be able to keep it up for the full season, or by the time they face the better teams 3rd or more time they start to perform at lower levels than to-date?
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
I think they will keep playing well ... the thing I worry about with the Shock is that mentally they will have a hard time because so many close games have gone against them. We sort of see the same thing with the Sparks ... it's like they think, "Uh-oh" when it gets late in close games. As opposed to teams like Phoenix and Minnesota (and very recently Indiana) who believe they are going to win when it comes down to the wire.
Would you rate Charde Houston's WNBA career as a success? Do you think she ever fulfilled her potential?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
Well, she did win a WNBA title with Minnesota, albeit as a role player. Even going back to her UConn years, you'd have to say that she always seemed to have a little more potential than she was able to harness consistently. The thing is, she's still just 28 years old, so it's not like she still couldn't become a more consistent player. It just isn't something we've seen, so it seems less likely.
Which rookie is performing better than expected?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
I have to acknowledge I did not know much about Anna Cruz before she started playing in the WNBA this year, and she's played pretty well for the Liberty. I think she's going to be crucial for them if they are to grab a playoff spot. That said, she's not a "rookie" in the true sense of first year as a pro, since she's 27 and has been a pro overseas. I would say of the so-called "true" rookies, I have been pleasantly surprised by Jamierra Faulkner out of Southern Miss, who has helped the Chicago Sky. And especially with the injuries they've had, they've needed that.
kevin (macon ga)
Do you suppose Bill Laimbeer will be calling Swin Cash "crackhead" again now that they're reunited?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
Gotta admit, when I saw news of the Swin Cash for DeLisha Milton-Jones trade, that's the first thing I thought, too. I assume Bill and Swin have let bygones be bygones? It wasn't working out in Atlanta for Swin; maybe things will go better in NYC. As for DMJ, as great as the Dream front line is playing, she doesn't need to put in a lot of minutes. But certainly she has a good history with Michael Cooper, and can fill in as a quality back-up.
I know you get questions about the Sparks all the time. Do you think a coaching change is needed in LA? or is Carol Ross still fit for the job? Looking at the Sparks coaching staff, so many years of experience but something is missing and coaching often get blamed.
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
I would not pull the plug on the LA coaching staff during the season. If the Sparks don't make the playoffs, or if they do and perform disappointingly, then it's time to re-examine a lot of things with LA, including the coaching staff.
Jonathan (New York)
At the halfway point of the regular season, who are the players on your all-WNBA first and second teams?
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
This is kind of tough in regard to Elena Delle Donne in particular, because of her illness. But, if we include her, right now I guess I'd say this. First team: Moore, McCoughtry, Taurasi, Parker, Griner. I know, that is technically a center, three forwards and a guard. I am cheating by listing Angel as a guard, but I feel OK about that. Second team: EDD, Whalen, Diggins, de Souza, DuPree. Obviously, some of this could change in the second half, and I am leaving off some great players. But that's always the case.
Dave (Hawaii) [via mobile]
I know it might be a little too early but what are your thoughts on the upcoming 2015 WNBA draft? #1 overall pick and just the strength of the draft overall?
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
Honestly, I don't think it's very good. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis projects as the top player, and - especially if she can be healthy all year - she's a terrific player. But this is a not a highly-rated senior class. It's going to be interesting, though, to see which seniors really have good final years and potentially improve the draft. Right now, it's pretty "meh."
Reshard Jemerson (OleMiss)
Do you think that Skylar Diggins is one of the top 5 players in the league? How do you think she ranks as a PG?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
Top five overall in the league? No, not right now. But that's not a knock on her. There are just too many great players with more experience than her. But she has definitely made a lot of strides in her second season, and improved as a team leader.
Mechelle Voepel (2:51 PM)
Oh, as far as Diggins ranking as a PG ... I haven't sat down and really ranked all the PGs in the league this year, but I'd say off the top of my head so far this season, she's in the top half of the league in that regard. Which is saying a lot.
Do you foresee a WNBA team in Canada in the next 5 years?
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
You know, I really hadn't thought much about that. Do you think there is enough interest for that to be successful there? I would like to hear Canadians' opinions on that.
Tenn extended Summitt's Coach Emeritus but at lower compensation. At some point does she depart Knoxville to be closer to Tyler as he takes on the challenging LA Tech situation?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
I would be pretty surprised to see Coach Summitt leave Knoxville. She has such a good support network there, and familiarity is an important thing in regard to dealing with her illness. I believe she really wanted Tyler to spread his wings and pursue his career knowing that she would always be surrounded by close friends/family in Knoxville.
Matthew (Hawaii )
It may be a little over halfway of the WNBA season but if you had to select players for the WNBA awards as of right now, who do you think deserves Most Improved, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year etc. ?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
Right now, I'd lean toward Skylar Diggins as most improved, Chiney Ogwumike as top rookie, Brittney Griner as defensive POY. We already talked about MVP, which is going to be so hard to pick. As for COY, Pokey Chatman has dealt with the most in terms of injuries/illness, and yet the Sky is still clinging to a playoff spot as of right now. Lin Dunn deserves some mention, too, with Tamika Catchings being out until recently. And even with all the talent she has, Sandy Brondello belongs in the conversation.
Which players, in the Eastern and Western conferences, would you pick as All-Star reserves?
Mechelle Voepel (3:10 PM)
Well, with Courtney Vandersloot injured, I think these would be my reserves in the East: C Erika de Souza, F Sancho Lyttle, C Tina Charles, G Alex Bentley, G Epiphanny Prince, F Chiney Ogwumike. And if Seimone Augustus is out for Minnesota, I lean this way for the West: G Danielle Robinson, G Lindsay Whalen, F Glory Johnson, F Candice Dupree, F Nneka Ogwumike, C Courtney Paris.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Great pictures of Angel McCoughtry in ESPN's body issue. When are we going to see you and Graham in there? :-)
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
Hahahahahaha! Good one, Barry. I can't speak for Graham, but ... Oh, wait. Yes I can. I am *very* sure that Graham and I would both drive into the Grand Canyon, Thelma-and-Louise style, before we would subject the world to us in the Body Issue. I can't imagine having the physique or the guts to do that. More power to Angel and the others who you know worked really hard to get in such great shape. :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
Thanks for the questions. We'll chat next Thursday before the All-Star Game. I will be heading to Phoenix on Friday, and am really looking forward to the Mercury fans turning out in full force to support the league and their players. I think it will be a really fun All-Star Game.