2014 WNBA Draft prospects: Five seniors off to strong starts

USA TODAY Sports

Wrapping up this week of draft talk, we look today at five seniors who have shown signs of improvement early in the 2013-14 season.

As noted repeatedly, projecting success tends to be a dicey exercise with the draft after you get past the first 5-8 obvious prospects: inevitably more than the elite prospects will hang around the league for three or more years because they found the right fit, but figuring out who that will be can be tough even through the first season.

Thus far this week, we've looked at junior season statistics for a group of 10 players; admittedly, junior season statistics won't mean much if players regress for one reason or another during their senior season. Today, we look at five additional players who had borderline junior season statistics, but have started their senior seasons well enough to probably warrant consideration as a draft prospect; admittedly, what a player does in less than 10 games against non-conference opponents won't mean that much come draft day.

But here's one thing that already stands out: for all the hype surrounding the top point guard in the 2013 WNBA Draft, there's a reasonable chance that this year's group of point guards could be even stronger.

As college prospects, both Chelsea Gray and Odyssey Sims will likely have better numbers than Skylar Diggins did last season. Potential combo guard Bria Hartley will likely have better ball handling numbers than anyone else in the 2013 point guard field, including the player who ended up being second most productive (Alex Bentley). And after that, you're looking for players potentially better than Angel Goodrich, Nadirah McKenith, Lindsey Moore, or Davellyn Whyte, all of whom made opening day rosters and contributed at various levels throughout the 2013 WNBA season.

So we'll begin with a point guard putting up impressive efficiency numbers and move forward from there (alphabetically).

Tiffany Bias, PG (5'6", Oklahoma State)

School bio | WBB State bio

2pt%

Oreb%

Stl%

PPR

FTA/FGA

MVP

47.36 0.47 5.87 10.60 36.36 15.31

2013-14 season statistics for Tiffany Bias through 7 games.

As part of a very talented group of freshman guards in 2010, Tiffany Bias has always been overshadowed by someone in both her conference and nationally. But Bias has always had a great feel for the game and setting up opponents; thus far in her senior year, she's putting up the numbers to support that.

As of right now, Bias has the best pure point rating of any major conference player in nation and that steal percentage is a reflection of how she can bring her quickness to bear on the defensive end. Her glaring weakness is her borderline scoring efficiency, but there was another Big XII point guard who made a roster as a starter just last season with poor efficiency numbers so there's a chance for Bias.

Asya Bussie, C (6'4", West Virginia)

School bio | WBB State

TS%

Oreb%

Stl%

PPR

FT Rate

MVP

63.51 12.05 1.53 -7.32 1.19 12.41

2013-14 season statistics for Asya Bussie through 7 games.

Bussie is a player worth watching at least in part because we didn't get to see her last year: she missed last season due to a knee injury. The other part is that she's an extremely efficient scorer.

That insane free throw rate is not a typo: Bussie actually has more free throw attempts than field goal attempts. Match that with a strong offensive rebounding rate and she has some strong positives.

The problem is that she's a rather turnover prone player, which doesn't bode well even if she does get drafted: her 18.62% turnover ratio thus far this season is the type of rate that has hurt more than one prospect in the past.

Natasha Howard, F (6'3", Florida State)

School bio | WBB State

TS%

Oreb%

Stl%

PPR

FT Rate

MVP

60.36 15.88 3.26 -8.33 67.90 17.15

2013-14 season statistics for Natasha Howard through 8 games.

Again, offensive rebounding eases the transition from college to pro and the fact that Howard has that on her side is encouraging. And similar to Bussie, when you match that with the scoring efficiency and impressive free throw rate you have the makings of a solid WNBA interior presence.

However, again like Bussie, a 17.13% turnover ratio is a bit of a red flag for a player that might struggle to create offense for herself against WNBA defenses. But working in her favor is that she's an athlete: that steal rate is solid for a post player and her block rate of 6.7% is top 40 in the nation.

Tyaunna Marshall, G (5'9", Georgia Tech)

School bio | WBB State

2pt%

Oreb%

Stl%

PPR

FTA/FGA

MVP

44
9.96
4.5
1.37
30.76
11.89

2013-14 season statistics for Tyaunna Marshall through 6 games.

Tyaunna Marshall was actually a borderline prospect, along with Bias, based on junior year statistics: her 46.2% 2-point percentage at a usage rate 29.57% was quite impressive. And really, the only reason she wasn't ahead of players like Kayla McBride or Shoni Schimmel based on junior year statistics were size and scoring efficiency, respectively.

But this is a really simple story with her: she's an athlete who is on pace to maintain a moderate 2-point percentage at a usage rate of 27.45%. Her offensive rebounding rate is as good or better than some prospects much bigger than her. That's an impressive package, should be enough for her to garner consideration as a draft prospect, and could be enough to get her drafted, especially if she somehow manages to creep back up over the 45% mark over the course of the season and Georgia Tech makes a tournament run with her leading the way.

The problem is also pretty simple: she has shot 53 threes in her entire collegiate career to this point, none of which have come this season. There hasn't been a wing prospect that I've seen who has not shot a three in her senior year. So we're venturing into new territory with Marshall.

DeNesha Stallworth, C (6'3", Kentucky)

School bio | WBB State bio

TS%

Oreb%

Stl%

PPR

FT Rate

MVP

63.57 8.46 3.12 -6.02 43.24 11.22

2013-14 season statistics for DeNesha Stallworth through 8 games.

Stallworth is a player who has been on the radar for a while and her scoring efficiency thus far this season might keep her there. What might hurt her is two-fold: First, she's not an outstanding offensive rebounder and at 6'3" that would certainly help her case. Second, like the other posts on this list, she's a rather turnover prone player which should lead to questions about how effective she'd handle the ball in the post against WNBA defenses.

When you look at all the other posts available - Natalie Achonwa, Asya Bussie, Stefanie Dolson, Natasha Howard - that could put Stallworth pretty far down the list. But if she can keep up the scoring efficiency, she'll remain worthy of a selection on draft day.

For more on 2014 draft prospects throughout the season, stay tuned to our 2014 WNBA Draft prospects storystream. To find the watch list itself, go to the "Library" drop down menu on the top bar of the page.

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