The hierarchy of point guard prospects in the 2012 WNBA Draft is pretty clear to most people, but there might be some question as to how good they'll become in the pros.
That begins with Samantha Prahalis, who most people have assumed would go no later than the sixth pick to the Phoenix Mercury. But Corey Gaines has said they're considering a number of players and that might speak to the fact that things are not quite as clear as we might assume.
In the past, it's been pretty clear that the best college point guard prospects had the following statistics:
- First, WNBA distributors had college senior pure point ratings of above 2.5, with the exception of those who were responsible for a heavy scoring load (e.g. Shannon Johnson and Lindsay Whalen) or suffered an injury prior to senior year (Loree Moore).
- Second, WNBA distributors had college assist ratios of above 23%. Those who enter the league with lower assist ratios almost uniformly continue to exhibit a higher focus on scoring.
So here's the issue in this season's draft: five prospects meet that standard and Prahalis isn't one of them. But she might be one of those "exception" players above, which also included Oklahoma's Danielle Robinson last season.
|Samantha Prahalis||5'7"||Ohio State||22.59||1.91||54.97||27.83|
|Chene Cooper||5'0"||Eastern Washington||32.14||4.30||48.96||20.85|
|Jasmine Bendolph||5'7"||Louisiana Tech||29.21||1.93||49.78||18.67|
|Sydney Carter||5'6"||Texas A&M||16.77||0.08||41.14||20.63|
Another issue this season is what defenses these point guard were playing against, so Marginal Victory Points (MVP) are valuable here in assessing what type of contribution a point guard actually made to their team's success.
1. Samantha Prahalis
To be fair, that assist ratio threshold is not so hard that Prahalis' 22.5% assist ratio is a major problem. But the 1.91 pure point rating might be, especially since she had a 3.28 pure point rating at the end of the regular season. So what happened? Over the final 6 games of her collegiate career she had 27 assists and 26 turnovers, not the marks one might want to see from a top college point guard.
That said, the reason that "exception" exists is that high usage point guards create turnovers in the process of scoring not necessarily distributing. Almost uniformly, those high usage point guards become lower usage and more efficient point guards in the WNBA, a league in which there simply aren't a whole lot of point guards with usage rates over 20%. In addition, her 2-point percentage of 48.7% at least makes her an efficient scoring guard, which bodes well compared to the rest of this field.
Prahalis is quite clearly the most creative playmaker in this bunch and it would be hard to simply dismiss her because of poor numbers brought on by the end of the season. But how she plays in the WNBA might depend more on where she lands than anything else.
For more on Prahalis, check out our previous analysis of point guards.
2. C'eira Ricketts
Like Prahalis, Ricketts has a PPR beneath that threshold but like Prahalis you really can't just dismiss a 22.9% assist ratio.
Although Ricketts is not the same type of extremely high usage point guard that some of the others are the way Arkansas plays explains her low assist ratio - they were a low synergy team that would often simply clear space for Ricketts in a 1-4 low set and let her go to work trying to score. She wasn't a particularly efficient scorer (2-point percentage of 43.63%) but she was just as valuable to Arkansas as Prahalis was to Ohio Sate. And at 5'9" with a steal percentage of 5% that ranks in the top 40 in the nation and a 4.8% offensive rebounding rate (not bad for a point guard), she's an athletic player as well, which could help her earn a roster spot.
One potential concern is that she is not much of a 3-point shooter at all, nevertheless with her speed and athleticism it would not be all that surprising to see the Phoenix Mercury go for her (or Riquna Williams) over Ricketts.
3. Patrice Lalor
Lalor is a player that should get consideration given what's available at the point guard spot, possibly over some more highly touted scoring guards.
The best image I can remember M Robinson painting of Lalor is her helping Dayton score "transition" points off of opponents' made baskets - she's that quick and she's been one of the most efficient senior point guards in the nation all season.
The major concern about Lalor might also be an asset: she has a tendency to settle for pull-up jumpers instead of going to the rim, which led to a low 2-point percentage, and her free throw rate of 15.9% reflects that reluctance to get into the lane and draw contact as often as she could. But it's rare to see a college point guard that quick stop on a dime for a pull-up jumper.
In the right system, Lalor is the type of point guard who could be a surprise this season.
4. Jericka Jenkins
A moderate-usage point guard whose efficiency as a distributor might get her a look.
5. Chene Cooper
I know - at 5'0", Cooper is unlikely to get drafted, much less make a roster. But there aren't a lot of point guards out there and this is worth considering: Cooper put up considerably better numbers than similarly diminutive point guard Shannon Bobbitt did in her senior year.
And what really stands out in watching Eastern Washington is that the team relies very heavily on Cooper to create scoring opportunities possession to possession. As in, when Cooper doesn't create a scoring opportunity or she's out of the game, their offense comes to a grinding halt. Obviously, Eastern Washington doesn't have quite the strength of schedule of any of the other players on this list but Cooper did put up 16 points and 10 assists against Gonzaga this season, one of four double-doubles.
In a draft year with so few efficient point guards, her play has at least stood out.
6. Jasmine Bendolph
Bendolph might be the best pure passer in this draft. And by pure passer, I mean that she makes remarkably accurate passes to just about anywhere on the court without wasting a whole lot of motion. I've watched 2-3 of her games this season and she's without question the best post "entry" passer available.
The issue is that she's also the basketball equivalent of what the NFL would consider a "pocket passer" - she's remarkably accurate from a standing position but doesn't drive to create baskets quite as often as some of the others on this list. Her 13% free throw rate reflects that reluctance to drive to the basket and an 18.67% usage rate reflects someone who doesn't score all that often.
7. Nia Jackson
I'll just say this: I insist that if she weren't injured she would challenge for one of the top point guards in this draft. But the knee injuries throughout her career have taken their toll, she wasn't fully healthy this season, and it's hard to know if she'll ever return to the form she was in her junior year.