2013 WNBA Draft: Tianna Hawkins leads this year's group of scoring interior forwards

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few years, scoring power forwards like Danielle Adams (2011) and Nneka Ogwumike (2012) have made a splash as rookies in the WNBA. This year's top scoring power forward is Tianna Hawkins, This year's top scoring power forward is Tianna Hawkins, who turned herself into a scorer out of need.

One of the more interesting observations from John Hollinger's first iteration of his NBA draft rater was this anti-red flag that he came up with:

One positive, surprisingly, was if a player had a previous season that was better than the one just before the draft.

I came back to that before last year's draft and do it again this year with the same caveat: whereas college prospects for the WNBA are often 4-year seniors, college prospects for the NBA could be anywhere from freshmen to super seniors, with some analysts having even debating whether a player whose stock wasn't high enough to leave before their senior year is even that good to begin with.

Still, that little nugget from Hollinger is why I've been more aggressive combing junior year statistics (as well as keeping an eye out for other stars) for WNBA draft insight: what exactly does performance for previous years mean for draft prospects entering the WNBA?

Right now, I'd say "not much" - for the most part, the top WNBA prospects over the past few years have been those on a steady upward trajectory throughout their career, usually showing some sign of minimizing some of their weaknesses. Yet a related question still lingers for Maryland forward Tianna Hawkins.

Zack Ward has done a great job covering her progress this year so I won't belabor the story, but to summarize Hawkins became much more of a scorer this season out of necessity.

With Maryland dealing with key injuries early in their 2012-13 campaign, Hawkins decided she needed to step up and for her that meant becoming a much more aggressive scorer. And that's the main reason she's in the scoring power forward category instead of the rebounding category.

Scoring interior players

For the purposes of this breakdown, scoring power forwards - or interior scorer forwards - are prospects in this draft who could be statistically described as:

  • players listed as "forwards";
  • who were more interior-oriented than perimeter oriented relative to their peers according to the SPI styles framework as well as scoring tendencies over 50% according to the SPI styles framework;
  • and had usage percentages over 25% OR a negative value added rating (reflecting limited statistical contributions aside from scoring points).

In other words, they're power forwards who are more aggressive scorers than average, although not necessarily exclusively scorers.

The numbers

Name

Height

School

TS%

2p%

Usg%

Oreb%

Stl%

Stl + Blk/PF

PPR

Tianna Hawkins

6'3"

Maryland

58.53

56.08

29.1

17.5

2.9

0.51

-6.35

Chelsea Davis

6'2"

Florida State

58.52

52.12

24.13

10.67

2.3

0.94

-5.1

Jasmine Hassell

6'2"

Georgia

56.15

53.09

23.47

10.47

1.9

0.51

-5.35

Brooklyn Pope

6'1"

Baylor

56.74

54.69

28.55

12.42

3.3

1.23

-8.03

Laura Sweeney

6'2"

Villanova

58.32

58.36

29.66

5.64

5.71

1.67

-3.08

Drey Mingo

6'2"

Purdue

56.48

50.78

22.37

8.48

0.81

0.72

-4.51

Chatilla van Grinsven

6'3"

St. Joseph's

47.16

43.37

31.39

13.46

2.62

0.98

-5.71

Tiffany Clarke

6'0"

Vanderbilt

56.1

52.38

31.81

13.15

1.39

0.86

-7.21

Joslyn Tinkle

6'3"

Stanford

52.95

52.5

19.74

6.5

1.6

1.52

-0.2


Tianna Hawkins

While Hawkins' usage rate did increase between her junior and senior years, her offensive rebounding rate stayed extremely high and that's probably a good place to begin when thinking about her pro potential.

Year

2-point%

Oreb%

Stl%

PPR

Usg%

Value Added

2011-12

62.75%

18.96%

2.08%

-4.63

19.64%

5.85

2012-13

56.08% 17.5% 1.4% -6.35 29.1% 1.34

A comparison of Tianna Hawkins' junior & senior statistics.

So here's the interesting thing about Hawkins' profile: with her adopting more of a scorer's mentality (a rather huge 10% jump in usage rate), her ball handling efficiency went down in large part because she was setting up others for scoring opportunities less often in her senior year (5.99% assist ratio) than she did in her junior year (7.16% assist ratio). At the same time, her turnover rate - a concern last season - actually dropped from 14.8% to 13.5%, which is actually impressive considering that she was so much more aggressive as a scorer.

The quick summary: Hawkins is the classic example of a player's efficiency going down when she's forced to do more and yet she still managed to finish the season with the highest scoring efficiency of any draft-worthy power forward. All the while, she's still the top offensive rebounder of any power forward in the draft. And just for kicks, she started experimenting with 3-point range this season (27.58% entering the tournament).

With that combination, you can understand why she's considered a top prospect in this draft. But she's not without a bit of a red flag for a post player: her ratio of steals and blocks to personal fouls decreased to an extremely low 0.51 this season. Part of that is because she was just didn't pick up many blocks or steals, but part of that is because she really was a foul prone player: she fouled out of seven games this season and had four fouls in four additional games. This isn't nearly as big a deal for power forwards as it is for the centers who are typically players that are responsible for protecting the paint, but we also haven't seen an interior forward with a ratio that low make it in recent years (Danielle Adams had a ratio of 0.88). What does that mean? Perhaps we'll find out this WNBA season.

And after Hawkins, things get dicey for the interior scorer category.

Chelsea Davis

Davis floats to the top of this list of scoring power forwards because she combines scoring efficiency with a solid rebounding percentage and a satisfactory personal foul efficiency while not turning the ball over often (11.71% is solid for this position) as a scoring interior player (her low pure point rating is the result of a very low assist ratio of 3.7%).

Really the main thing that puts Davis ahead of Hassell is a stronger scoring efficiency at nearly the same usage rate, which is due mostly to free throw production.

But her profile also reflects a question that makes this set of players interesting after you get past Hawkins: if you're considering Davis or Hassell against one of the top five rebounding power forwards, which do you choose? It seems that the better gamble would be a forward with a stronger offensive rebounding percentage but all of them have some significant flaws as well.

Jasmine Hassell

Hassell is more of a traditional back to the basket power player than most players on this list and is either bigger, more efficient, or a better rebounder than every player below her on this list. She gets outstanding position on the block and college forwards had problems containing her when she got the ball.

The potential problem that stands out for Hassell is her personal foul efficiency, which is the same as Hawkins', and the nature of her game: power players like that generally see a tougher transition to the WNBA, but she might have the tools to compete.

Brooklyn Pope

Pope certainly has a shot to make the league, but her extremely low pure point rating reflects a very high turnover ratio: 18.10%. As an undersized player to begin with, it calls into question what her role might be in the WNBA: not ignoring her solid offensive rebounding percentage, she doesn't have the type of dominant strengths that some other players do, which just makes her hard to project.

Laura Sweeney

Sweeney is probably one of the more skilled power forwards available in this draft because she has a wider-range of skills. She has 3-point range (28.5%), created assists for teammates at a higher rate than most other power forwards (11.07%), she's a very good defensive rebounder (22.25%), and has an extremely high steal percentage for a power forward which shows solid instincts and athleticism.

The problem lies with that low offensive rebounding rate: 5.64%. Unfortunately, interior players with rates that low don't normally make the league. The thing is that her efficiency as a leading scorer on a Big East tournament team probably puts her in better position to succeed than most other players on this list. As a player who can score inside and out, a team looking for a potential high-low threat late in the draft could find Sweeney intriguing.

For more on the 2013 WNBA Draft, visit our draft prospects storystream.

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