2013 WNBA Draft Lottery: Phoenix to get No. 1 pick

Washington, Phoenix, Tulsa and Chicago were all vying for their ping pong ball to be picked, but it's the Mercury that earn top honors, followed by the Sky, Shock and Mystics.

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John Altavilla interviews Mystics' Mike Thibault

In a blog post from Hartford Courant writer John Altavilla yesterday, he offers some details regarding Washington Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault regarding what he has been up to now that the "honeymoon" period of his hiring has ended. Here are the big points:

1. Coach Thibault stated that his assistants from Connecticut, Scott Hawk and Bernadette Maddox, will not return, so there will be a new staff behind him.

2. Like other WNBA coaches and scouts at this time of year, he is hard at work scouting, where he was at Maryland's home game against Florida State last weekend, and also at Georgetown's game last Wednesday against the University of Connecticut. The play of Huskies guard Kelly Faris has caught his eye, in part given that she has become a more efficient shooter all around (here are her stats for this year as opposed to past years). Still, it's unlikely that she is a serious candidate at the Mystics' current 2013 draft position at 4th, unlike Maryland power forward Tianna Hawkins who is currently averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds a game and has improved a lot from last season.

Not mentioned in the piece, but I saw Coach Thibault and his son at last Monday's Wizards game against the Oklahoma City Thunder too.

3. This is not surprising to me, and I admit that I have advocated this from last September:

Thibault said the Mystics are exploring opportunities to move up in the draft, perhaps as high as No. 2 where they could take Delaware All-American Elena Delle Donne. Chicago currently holds the pick.

In Altavilla's piece, he also basically confirmed that the Mystics are a front court heavy team, mentioning that as of right now, they have Crystal Langhorne, Monique Currie, and Michelle Snow to build around. From Coach Thibault's Q&A with season ticket holders last month, he mentioned that guards, in particular point guards were a priority considering the lack of talent depth there, so there's a good chance that if the Mystics pick higher than 4th, they could be eyeing Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins not unlike how the Washington Redskins NFL team determined that they needed a star rookie quarterback at a very high position this past year. But at the same time, he may be able to pick up a decent non-rookie guard via free agency or by trade so perhaps not.

4. Last but not least, this was an interesting tidbit in regards to the Portland Trail Blazers offering Coach Thibault an assistant coach spot to return to the NBA. The offer with the Blazers happened during the 2012 WNBA season and if Coach Thibault accepted it, he would have had to resign midseason for the job. So therefore, it seems that Monumental Sports did not have to compete against the Blazers simultaneously for his services.

Do these tidbits perhaps signal what direction he's going in specifically? Not really to me since we don't know whether he'd keep the core of the team intact or not. But Coach Thibault is doing his due diligence, and not leaving any stone unturned is a good strategy to keep everyone guessing as to how he will improve the team during free agency and as we head toward the 2013 Draft.


ESPN to televise 2013 WNBA Draft in primetime

For the first time in WNBA history, the league's draft will be broadcast during primetime on April 15, 2013 on ESPN2 and ESPNU as well as online at WatchESPN.com and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app.


"Big Three" discuss what they need to work on

During yesterday's visit to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, the projected top three prospects for the 2013 WNBA Draft discussed what they plan to work on in their senior years and the qualities they believe they all share.


Delle Donne reveals her preferred WNBA destination

During a visit to ESPN's campus, Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne revealed where she would like to land in the WNBA.

For more on the 2013 WNBA Draft, check out the storystream menu bar on the right side of this page.


The Tulsa Shock has the 3rd pick the 2013 Draft

The Tulsa Shock have certainly had a rocky transition since its relocation from Detroit in 2010 but now things are starting to look brighter. On this blog in particular, we have praised Shock owner and president Steve Swetoha and head coach Gary Kloppenburg for building the core of the team through the draft and with younger players, all of whom played an athletic style of team defense for the 2012 campaign. This system paid dividends for the season helping the team triple its win total over the 2011 season and finishing with a three game winning streak toward the end of the aforementioned 2012 campaign.


Who should Chicago pick at #2 in the 2013 draft?

Last Wednesday, the Chicago Sky received the rights to the #2 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, where it would likely get its first choice between picking Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins and Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne to team up with current star center Sylvia Fowles and guard Epiphanny Prince.


What's next for the Washington Mystics?

Last Wednesday, the Washington Mystics received the 4th pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft Lottery, which was an additional disappointment after the team went through its worst two year stretch in franchise history on the basketball court.


2013 WNBA Draft order set

With the WNBA draft lottery complete, the full 2013 first round draft order is as follows:

Team (record, lottery odds out of 1000)
1. Phoenix Mercury (7-27, 276)
2. Chicago Sky (14-20, 104)
3. Tulsa Shock (9-25, 178)
4. Washington Mystics (5-29, 442)

5. New York Liberty (15-19)
6. Seattle Storm (16-18)
7. Atlanta Dream (19-15)
8. San Antonio Silver Stars (21-13)
9. Indiana Fever (22-12)
10. Los Angeles Sparks (24-10)
11. Connecticut Sun (25-9)
12. Minnesota Lynx (27-7)
Click here for the remaining order of the 2013 WNBA Draft.

While the Phoenix Mercury were clearly the big winners in this draft, obviously this is a big win for the Chicago Sky who ended up with the second pick despite being the fourth worst team.

"Having one of the top picks in the upcoming WNBA Draft gives us an opportunity to immediately improve our team," said Pokey Chatman, head coach and general manager of the Sky, in a release. "We have a lot to assess after finishing the season, and we will use every resource we have to make the best possible decision for our franchise when the time comes."

What the Sky lacked this past year was depth beyond Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince and, if nothing else, having the #2 pick gives them a number of ways to address that.


2013 WNBA Draft: Phoenix Mercury win the #1 pick

The WNBA Draft lottery was televised today during ESPN's Sportscenter and the Phoenix Mercury came out on top.

With the expected return of Penny Taylor in 2013 and 2012 draft choice Samantha Prahalis showing promise at point guard, the Mercury look poised to emerge as a contender next season.

"We have a solid base already with Diana (Taurasi), (Candice) Dupree and DeWanna (Bonner) had a superstar year," said Phoenix Mercury coach Corey Gaines prior to the selection show. "Penny Taylor, who had an ACL problem and now she's coming back next year... Our core is solid, so to add another piece to that is just even better."

Of course, the way the Mercury fell to last in the Western Conference has been the subject of controversy throughout the 2012 WNBA season, as described by Mechelle Voepel of ESPNW yesterday.

Causing the most consternation among those suspicious of a conspiracy in the desert was the handling of past No. 1 draft pick and MVP Diana Taurasi. She played in just eight games this season, the first time in her nine-year WNBA career that she didn't compete in at least 31.

However, Taurasi started all eight games during the Olympics for the United States, averaging 24.1 minutes and a team-high 12.4 points. That she played in just six of the Mercury's 15 contests after the London Games raised some eyebrows.

On the flip side of fortune is the Washington Mystics who ended up with the fourth pick after finishing with the worst record in the league in 2011 and winning just 11 games over the last two seasons.

"You know, obviously no one likes to be a part of the draft lottery," said Mystics COO Greg Bibb prior to the selection. "Obviously, if you're taking part in a draft lottery, things probably haven't gone well for you in recent times. With that being said, if you're going to be a part of a draft lottery, this is the one to be a part of with the draft class that's coming."

Falling to fourth means the Mystics will likely miss out on the three prospects that makes this the lottery "to be a part of": Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, and Baylor's 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner. The Mystics could have used the help that any one of them offer, but will now likely have to figure out who that fourth-best prospect is assuming things go the way everyone has assumed.

Regardless of the outcome, everyone acknowledges that having the lottery televised nationwide on ESPN is a positive for the league as a whole.

"I think it's fabulous," said Bibb before the selection occurred. "I think it's representative of the quality and the depth of the class that will be entering the league in 2013, and I think it's representative of how far and how quickly the WNBA, women's basketball and women's sports have come along and become a legitimate part of the sports landscape. Credit to ESPN for recognizing this and reacting to it."


Kara Lawson's Take On Top Prospect Brittney Griner

Kara Lawson, Connecticut Sun veteran guard, is preparing for the WNBA playoffs. But as she does, there is no doubt that she'll have her nose to the ground to see who will pick up the top pick in the 2013 WNBA draft. Not due to the fact that she'll have to face off with this incoming crop of newcomers on the court, but also because she'll be analyzing their games throughout the season for ESPN.

With prospects that have the women's basketball world buzzing already about the depth and breadth of talent, it's no surprise that Lawson is touting this draft class as one of the best. But one particular woman that Lawson - and most everyone - has their eye on is none other than Baylor senior center Brittney Griner.

"This class is very, very good. Obviously, Brittney Griner is going to make things very difficult for all players - how much she's going to change things defensively with her length, and just with her athleticism," Lawson said in a WNBA playoff teleconference on Sept. 24. "This class has the ability to be right up there with some of the best classes to come in."

The four teams that will be looking for the ping pong balls to find favor on the franchise are the Washington Mystics, Phoenix Sun, Tulsa Shock and Chicago Sky. Along with Griner, there are two already touted prospects receiving the majority of the hype in Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins and Delaware's Elena Delle Donne.

"But Griner to me, specifically stands out," Lawson continued. "You can just put her anywhere and she's going to have a huge impact and a huge ability to transform a team. If she goes to a city that maybe hasn't been getting as great support, I think she maybe has the opportunity to transform that community in terms of women's basketball and getting people out to watch games."

Lawson, who's in her 10th season of the WNBA, began her "offseason" career at the network in 2004 with a particular focus on NCAA basketball. She'll be sure to have an opportunity to comment on Griner's game on-air, as the Baylor Lady Bears are slated to appear on ESPN for five games in the upcoming season.

But before her analyzing can begin, her squad will face off with the New York Liberty in the Eastern Conference Semifinals beginning Friday. She is in the midst of her most productive season as a pro, contributing 15.1 points, 4.0 assists and 3.9 rebounds a game for the Sun, all career-high averages.

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