There is a sentiment among some people that there isn't much differentiation between a chunk of players after the Big Three. Therefore this makes the job harder for the next teams with the next four picks in the 2013 Draft as of the time of this post: the Washington Mystics have the 4th pick; the New York Liberty has the 5th pick, the Seattle Storm has the 6th pick, and the New York Liberty once again has the 7th pick.
After the top three spots, there is still a chance that a player from the 4th through 7th picks may pan out and become positive impact players as pros. For reference, here is a list of all the WNBA's 4th through 7th picks:
|Year||4th Pick||5th Pick||6th Pick||7th Pick|
|1997||Eva Nemcova||Tammi Reiss||Sue Wicks||Tora Suber|
|1998||Korie Hlede||Allison Feaster||Cindy Blodgett||Tracy Reid|
|1999||Delisha Milton-Jones||Jennifer Azzi||Crystal Robinson||Tonya Edwards|
|2000||Cintia Dos Santos||Grace Daley||Betty Lennox||Lynn Pride|
|2001||Jackie Stiles||Ruth Riley||Deanna Nolan||Svetlana Abrosimova|
|2002||Ashja Jones||Nikki Teasley||Tamika Raymond||Sheila Lambert|
|2003||Cheryl Ford||Plenette Pierson||Kara Lawson||Gwen Jackson|
|2004||Lindsay Whalen||Shameka Christon||Nicole Ohlde||Vanessa Hayden|
|2005||Kendra Wecker||Sancho Lyttle||Temeka Johnson||Kara Braxton|
|2006||Sophia Young||Lisa Willis||Candice Dupree||Shona Thorburn|
|2007||Noelle Quinn||Tiffany Jackson||Bernice Mosby||Katie Gearlds|
|2008||Alexis Hornbuckle||Matee Ajavon||Crystal Langhorne||Essence Carson|
|2009||Renee Montgomery||DeWanna Bonner||Briann January||Courtney Paris|
|2010||Epiphanny Prince||Jayne Appel||Jacinta Monroe||Danielle McCray|
|2011||Amber Harris||Jantel Lavender||Danielle Robinson||Kayla Pedersen|
|2012||Glory Johnson||Shenise Johnson||Samantha Prahalis||Kelley Cain|
Obviously there are some notes to point out here since not all of these prospects were right out of college. The 1997 Draft was the first ever draft for the league and there were several drafts. First there was an initial player allocation, and then second, there was an "Elite Draft" which consisted of mostly professional players. This was the college draft that I put up. But in 1999, the Draft featured many professional players from the folded ABL, and all first round picks except the 1st (Chamique Holdsclaw) and 12th (Natalia Zasulskaya) were former ABL players. And in 2010, Epiphanny Prince was drafted four years out of high school, but left college a year earlier to start playing internationally.
Looking at this list at a macro level, there have been a good number of players on this list who have gone on to have long and successful careers and have made All Star Teams. In addition, some of the American players, such as Delisha Milton-Jones, Kara Lawson, Ruth Riley, Ashja Jones, and Lindsay Whalen have made an Olympic team at least once. However, none of these players have been MVP's. Two of these players, Betty Lennox and Deanna Nolan did manage to win the Finals MVP award however but at least for Lennox's case, she wasn't exactly the player who would have been expected to win that award on a Seattle Storm team featuring Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. But one player, Lindsay Whalen made the All-WNBA First Team twice: once in 2008 for the Connecticut Sun, and once in 2011 for the Minnesota Lynx. In addition though she is not on this list, Katie Douglas, the 10th pick in 2001 made the All-WNBA First Team in 2006, also for the Connecticut Sun. Who was the head coach of the Connecticut Sun when Douglas and Whalen were part of one of the best backcourts in the WNBA?
If you said Mike Thibault, you are right! Coach Thibault, the man who now has that role as well as the general manager role with the Washington Mystics, the team with the fourth pick in this draft, may be another one where he could find another player who may potentially hit that level of play. If he can, this could possibly make the fourth pick in the 2013 Draft as a possible "Plus One" or "Plus Two" player, as we discussed in last week's open thread on this class at the top. Obviously, these "Plus One" possible players are not limited to the number four pick though by default and as the historical list of 4th through 7th picks list indicates, that position is more likely to yield a player who does have a successful career and makes a significant positive impact on her team even if it's unlikely that she will be an bona-fide franchise player.
Back last November at the beginning of the college season, Nate wrote a piece on what separates successful and unsuccessful WNBA prospects. In that piece he gives us a number of possible first round prospects who may be rotation or maybe even significant impact WNBA players if in the right system and in spite of their weaknesses. He also says this with much better detail than I can say myself since I am not a particularly big watcher of college basketball aside from watching the elite teams mostly because some players on those teams could be future stars in the NBA or the WNBA.
While I cannot speak for Queenie or Ray Floriani who follow the Liberty more closely during summertime than I do, or Nate who does have some Storm Craziness in him, at least for me and looking at who the Mystics can pick up at #4, to spark up some discussion, here are several players who the Mystics may be considering, and may even be a "Plus One" player should things play out right. In fact, the Liberty and Storm are also probably eyeing the same players so here goes:
1. Kelly Faris, G, Connecticut - She has improved her shooting efficiency this year both overall and from three, and is a good rebounder and playmaker at the guard position. At her peak, she could be a guard version of someone like Lamar Odom who can do a wide variety of skills very well on the court, but isn't necessarily the best player on the team.
But there are some potential drawbacks to her game. First on her own college team, Faris isn't a player who is actively looking for her shot, and most WNBA Draft picks are #1 or #2 offensive options on their teams, and Kelly isn't UConn's #1 or #2 option on offense. Also given the current guard and wing rotation in DC, she'd likely be a backup to Matee Ajavon and Monique Currie if they are not dealt, and even Natalie Novosel figures to get some time, and therefore, we may be seeing memes to "Unleash the Kelly" this summer should all of this play out.
To be fair, Coach Thibault has made no indication that Ajavon and Currie figure to be in the team's future plans though they are under contract, so she may still be an option for the Mystics, whether at #4 or if the team packages players for another lower 1st round pick to acquire her rights since I could see Kelly fall to the later part of the round as well. Among the players on this list, she also at first glance is likely a "reach" if the Mystics do acquire her rights at number 4.
View Kelly's senior year stats here.
2. Tianna Hawkins, F, Maryland - She has been a strong and efficient scorer and rebounder for the Terrapins this season though her FG%age dropped from last season to this season mostly because she's taking more shots. Along with junior swingman Alyssa Thomas, Hawkins has basically put this team on her back and as a Top 10 team despite a number of injuries early this season.
However like with Faris who may have to play behind Ajavon and Currie at least as of today, the Mystics have basically determined their starting low post players with Langhorne already at Hawkins' natural power forward slot and Kia Vaughn at center, so Hawkins will back them up along with Michelle Snow, assuming she is retained, and I don't think the fourth pick should be used for a backup and that pick has to be a significant player from day one.
In addition a number of Mystics fans, myself included are skeptical of moves being made to acquire local players because they're local rather than because they'd help the team. I don't think drafting Hawkins makes sense in light of the Vaughn acquisition though before then, it seemed almost inevitable that she would be the fourth pick and if drafted by the Mystics, she may still be a back up Langhorne and Michelle Snow unless she was moved to center perhaps. I should also add that Hawkins is not only a UMD student-athlete, but also a DC area native, where she's from Clinton, MD which just happens to be in Prince George's County, the same jurisdiction that UMD is in.
3. Tayler Hill, G, Ohio State - Nate believes that Hill could be a very strong pro player though Ohio State is not playing as well as they did last year with now-Mercury guard Sammy Prahalis. Also, Hill's shooting percentage has dropped from last season, both from three and overall. However, with the right point guard around her, she could rekindle the kinds of shooting efficiency rates she had last year and Latta may be able to help Hill play at a higher level...assuming she starts over Ajavon and/or Currie. As of now, I don't see Natalie Novosel as a starter at least with Ajavon and Currie still in the lineup and they are right now.
4. Lindsey Moore, G, Nebraska - Moore is considered to be one of the best point guards available in the draft after Skylar Diggins. She has scored efficiently and considerably improved her three point shooting this season. She also has a very good assist to turnover ratio this year and the team that drafts her hopes that she can translate that to the pros. Lastly, Moore gets to the line often and makes her free throws at a good rate, and has a game not unlike Lindsay Whalen, per Nate when he dropped a line in last week's open thread.
However Moore has her share of drawbacks. As Nate noted, she is not as speedy as some would like her to be. Additionally, the Mystics are likely not going to draft Moore to play shooting guard at 5'9" to play alongside the 5'6" Ivory Latta. Even if they did, would she still be playing behind the aforementioned Ajavon, Currie, and Novosel? However, she is another player who may be a "Plus One" not unlike Lindsey Whalen has been for the 2004 Draft Class.
5. Sugar Rodgers, G, Georgetown - Rodgers is Georgetown University's all time leading scorer, and helped lead the Hoyas to the Sweet 16 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. This season, she averaged a career high in scoring average with over 22 points a game and has also improved her rebounding throughout her college career.
There are however two big knocks on her as potential "Plus One" player or as the #4 pick to DC. First, she is a very inefficient volume scorer, where she made less than 40% of her shots in three of her four college seasons, including her senior season. Second, as a guard, she has had a negative assist to turnover ratio in all four years of college. Sure, she's not a point guard, but all guards need to be able to handle the ball efficiently and a negative assist to turnover ratio as a guard will likely raise questions with WNBA team front offices. This is not even considering that the Hoyas were 15-16 this past season. Also, if Currie and/or Ajavon stay in DC, would Rodgers be a bench player and not get a chance to show what she can do? Ajavon already has an offensive game not unlike Rodgers and I don't see both players on this team together.
And lastly, if the Mystics were to draft her, like with a hypothetical drafting of Tianna Hawkins, she would be another regional pick and there would be skepticism about it from some fans, including me. The Georgetown University men's basketball team plays at Verizon Center in case you didn't know. Would Rodgers be on the Mystics because she's someone that legitimately can help this team specifically? Or is she on this team to try to draw in additional Georgetown women's basketball fans as Mystics season ticket holders?
There are obviously more players who Mike Thibault, Bill Laimbeer, and Brian Agler may be considering with their mid first round picks assuming they intend on keeping it for themselves than the ones I listed above. From looking at this list of previous 4th-7th picks, the Mystics will have the best chance of getting one of these possible "Plus One or More" type players, but the Liberty and Storm also have a chance to get such players if they can get the right player and develop her correctly. While the "Big Three" players are all projected to be starting and making an impact right away, the best way "Plus One" type players to earn such a status if not possibly better is by also being put into the right environment where they can play significant meaningful minutes right away.