Commentary

Top pick remains elusive for Tulsa

Shock had the best odds but wind up fourth in 2012 WNBA draft; Sparks No. 1

Originally Published: November 13, 2011
By Mechelle Voepel | ESPN.com

Nnemkadi OgwumikeKyle Terada/US PresswireStanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike is widely regarded as the best senior this season.

OK, I think I've got the plot for "Paranormal Activity 4." It goes like this: The Tulsa Shock win even fewer games in 2012 than this past summer's three. Like, um, none. Once again, they have the best odds to win the WNBA draft lottery, with the grand prize in 2013 being Baylor center Brittney Griner.

But because of some bizarre, supernatural force -- the kind of thing that starts out just making little scratching noises and eventually progresses into wrecking the entire kitchen -- the Shock are shut out from the No. 1 draft pick again.

Don't think that's very believable? Well, what happened Thursday wasn't, either. But it did happen.

Once more, the balls didn't bounce right for the unlucky Shock. In the WNBA draft lottery, the top pick for 2012 went to Los Angeles. The Sparks had a 10.4 percent chance to get No. 1. Meanwhile, Tulsa, which had a 44 percent chance to get the top choice, didn't even end up second. Or third.

Instead, the Shock will pick fourth, following L.A., Chicago and Minnesota (as if the WNBA champion Lynx need more young talent).

After a league-worst six victories in 2010, the Shock also missed out on the first pick in the Maya Moore sweepstakes, aka the 2011 draft. Tulsa got No. 2 then and took Aussie teenage center Liz Cambage. That certainly wasn't a terrible consolation prize. But Moore was rookie of the year, and Cambage had some rough stretches during the season.

Following such a difficult summer, Tulsa was once again the favorite to capture the No. 1 pick. People thought perhaps the Shock could re-join Kayla Pedersen, their No. 7 pick in 2011, with her former Stanford teammate Nneka Ogwumike, expected to go first in 2012. Except, it didn't work out that way for the Shock.

The league's coaches/GMs are not viewing this year's senior class as having much talent. So what kind of pick will Tulsa get at No. 4?

Let's look back. There was DeLisha Milton-Jones in the fourth draft spot in 1999. But that was the year the ABL had folded and its players were available for the WNBA to pick. In 2001, Jackie Stiles went fourth to Portland. The Fire are long since defunct, and Stiles, unfortunately, was so hobbled by injuries that she didn't even play two full years in the league.

But consider the other players in the top 11 of that 2001 draft:

1. Lauren Jackson
2. Kelly Miller
3. Tamika Catchings
4. Stiles
5. Ruth Riley
6. Deanna Nolan
7. Svetlana Abrosimova
8. Marie Ferdinand
9. Coco Miller
10. Katie Douglas
11. Penny Taylor

How freaky is that? No. 4 in 2001 was the only pick that really just didn't pan out. There are at least a couple of future Hall of Famers among the other players, all solid contributors to the WNBA.

It was better at No. 4 the next year: Washington took UConn's Asjha Jones. Good choice -- except the Mystics lost patience with her or just couldn't tell she was going to blossom, and traded her to Connecticut after two seasons for … oh, never mind. Suffice to say, it was a very bad move.

The 2003 draft is kind of legendary for its badness; anybody remember who Seattle took at No. 8 that year? Didn't think so: Jung Sun-Min. But No. 4 that year was actually someone who became a good WNBA player, just not for the team that picked her that year. Plenette Pierson didn't fit in well in Phoenix, but has gone on to success first in Detroit and currently in New York.

[+] EnlargeLiz Cambage
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Shock selected Australian Liz Cambage with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft.

Then 2004 was a very fine year to be in the lottery; Connecticut got Lindsay Whalen at No. 4. But 2005 wasn't so much; San Antonio picked Kendra Wecker, who suffered a torn ACL in her pro debut and just never really found her footing in the league.

The No. 4 pick worked out much better for the Silver Stars the next year, as they selected Sophia Young in 2006. Noelle Quinn went to Minnesota at No. 4 in 2007; she's now with the Sparks, and took a step back numbers-wise from the 2010 season to this past summer.

Alexis Hornbuckle was kind of a miss for Detroit at No. 4 in 2008, although she's still in the league and was actually part of the Lynx's championship squad this year. But consider the Shock could have had Crystal Langhorne, who didn't go until No. 6 to Washington.

Renee Montgomery was fourth in 2009 by the Lynx, but subsequently went to Connecticut via trade. Epiphanny Prince was taken fourth by Chicago in 2010, and so far that has worked out. Last April, No. 4 was Amber Harris by Minnesota, and it's still too early to tell.

Unless there are foreign players who emerge, the available talent from the class of 2012 looks sketchy. Ogwumike would seem a sure bet, and I don't see any way the Sparks pass on her -- even if on paper they don't need another power forward. She's just too talented to not take.

Chicago actually could use a power forward, but might not get one. Will Tennessee's 6-foot-2 wing player, Shekinna Stricklen, be the Sky's choice? What does Minnesota -- which got the No. 3 pick thanks to a trade with Washington -- actually need? Not much of anything. Maybe they just take the old "best available player," although even that might be hard to determine.

Might Tulsa get one of these three guards: Shenise Johnson or Riquna Williams, both Miami teammates, or the volatile but talented Samantha Prahalis of Ohio State?

The projected pool of potential WNBA players in the class of 2012 gets shallower -- by a lot -- after the short list of potential top picks. So maybe there wasn't that much to miss out on for the Shock.

Still, Tulsa has to be wondering if there is some paranormal malevolence working against the Shock. They might want to leave a video camera on all night in the BOK Center.

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at mechellevoepelblog.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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