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Normally at this time of the week, we'll take a statistical look ahead at one of the league's end-of-season awards races. Obviously, it's a little early for that. So for this week I'm going to follow up on something I did during the offseason: looking at which rookies made rosters and which teams did especially well identifying roster-worthy talent in the 2014 WNBA Draft.
Swish Appeal chats with Chicago Sky 2014 first round pick Markeisha Gatling, a 6-foot-5 center out of N.C. State, about her early impressions from training camp, draft night, and what she needs to work on.
Having already looked at the big winners and best decisions of the 2014 WNBA draft last week, we look at a few teams that added potential contributors and others that are left with some questions as training camp approaches.
There were so many links but I'll just point this one out which I missed. During a broadcast of an Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers game on ESPN last Sunday, April 13, Van Gundy, an NBA ESPN analyst, pointed out that he really like that she "lays the wood on people" right after an advertisement for the WNBA Draft. Cool moment for UConn and Mystics fans.
The biggest winners in this draft are probably clear, but there are a few other teams who should be given credit for using their draft picks well.
After an eventual 2014 WNBA draft night on Monday, we look back on some of the less expected highlights.
Someone has to be left out of the WNBA draft and here are five notable prospects.
With the final pick of the 2014 WNBA draft, the Lynx selected Asia Taylor.
A bit on Taylor here:
If we're going to consider Bri Kulas, then it's probably also reasonable to consider Asia Taylor as well. Taylor is more of a WNBA tweener who does have the physical tools to possibly play the wing. Her potential versatility was on display in Louisville's Elite Eight loss with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.
With the 35th pick in the WNBA Draft, the L.A. Sparks selected Louisville's Antonita Slaughter.
I mentioned her briefly after the NCAA Tournament here:
I'm not sure where Slaughter might rank among WNBA general managers, but she did shoot 12-for-25 from the three point line beyond the arc during Louisville's tournament run and Lisa Leslie has compared her style of play to that of Tina Thompson. Three point shooter prospects don't have a great track record in the WNBA, but Slaughter has the size that might get her a look.
With the 34th pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, the Chicago Sky selected point guard Jamierra Faulkner.
Well past self-plagiarism time so, copy and...
Jameirra Faulkner, Southern Mississippi: Faulkner is yet another high-usage smallish point guard in this year's draft. The difference for Faulkner: she also leads the nation in assists and has a very strong pure point rating for a point guard prospect. With that combination of usage and distributing efficiency, Faulkner looks like a fairly strong prospect on the surface.
The challenge, in addition to size, might be shooting: as a career-high 35.8% 3-point shooter this season and a 29.8% career 3-point shooter, Faulkner is a good but not great shooter. For most smaller guards around the WNBA, that arc is ultimately their saving grace - 5-foot-4 Utah grad Leilani Mitchell is one such example. And when you add Faulkner's marginal MVP rating, her chances seem to dwindle a bit.
But if Faulkner can continue to improve her range, she'll have a chance at becoming a contributor. Unfortunately for Southern Mississippi, they could be on the outside of the NCAA Tournament looking in after falling in the Conference USA tournament - that extra exposure might have given a player like Faulkner a boost.
Fair to say that Phoenix Mercury coach Sandy Brondello knows more about Stephanie Talbot than I do? Yes? Ok.
We'll get back to you on this one.
With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Washington Mystics selected Kody Burke.
And she could be yet another late steal for this team.
Wows: I'm not sure there's much Burke can't do and she did it at every moment with such gusto that she actually managed to catch my eye while watching N.C. State for Markeisha Gatling. Her biggest WNBA asset is probably her ability to shoot the three, which she made at a 32.8% clip...better than some stretch four types drafted ahead of her.
Wonders: With Crystal Langhorne traded, how much of a chance does Burke have to make it now?
Worries: Despite all of the above, Burke was not particularly efficient as a scorer and that's always a concern, even if she did spend significant time away from the paint.
For a bit more on what Burke might offer the Mystics, check out our analysis of her role in N.C. State's success in a mid-season analysis.
With the 31st pick in the WNBA Draft, the Seattle Storm selected Stanford's Mikaela Ruef.
Wows: First, let me just say that I'm really happy Ruef was picked. She's a really high IQ player who was a big part of what Stanford beat North Carolina to get to the Final Four. That game was probably a good display of her potential as a pro: she reads defenses well, passes well, and can hold her own defensively.
Wonders: Can she keep hitting threes like she did in the Elite Eight? Because if so, she'd make a great stretch four.
Worries: Really the big thing with her is athleticism: she wasn't known for her quickness and that showed up in a somewhat low offensive rebounding percentage. But if Ruef was going to work with any team, it would probably be the Storm.
I defer to those who know a bit more about international prospects.
With the 29th pick in the 2014 draft, the Indiana Fever selected Haiden Palmer.
Wows: Palmer had the fifth-highest steal rate in the nation (5.7%) and has the instincts to match that ability. Otherwise, she can do a little bit of everything on the perimeter, which made her a key piece to the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Wonders: She's not particularly efficient against mid-major competition, but can she become a capable on-ball defender in the WNBA?
Worries: She has never been a great three point shooter and that would have been something that would make her stick in the WNBA. It will be interesting to see if that's something she'll work on.
With the 28th pick in the 2014 draft, the San Antonio Stars selected Missouri's Bri Kulas.
Wows: The biggest strength for the 6-foot-1 Kulas is that she shot 40% from the three point line and really has little problem in creating her shot whether off the dribble or off spot ups. She has the length and quickness to be a serviceable perimeter defender as well, making her a potentially solid "three and D" type player in San Antonio.
Wonders: How much of a chance does she have to make this roster? The reason people wanted the Stars to select Alyssa Thomas was a hole at small forward - can Kulas fill that hole?
Worries: Kulas is only marginally efficient scorer as a wing, despite the three point ability and not so dominant a rebounder that she'll be able to get by on that. That really puts a lot of pressure on her to earn her minutes on the defensive end and beyond the arc.
The Tulsa Shock selected 6-foot-5 LSU center Thresea Plaisance with the 27th pick in the third round.
Wows: There was one obvious type of situation where Plaisance could excel: in a high-low situation with a low post threat. Whether she's playing with 6-foot-8 Australian center Liz Cambage or 6-foot-3 power forward Glory Johnson, Plaisance has an excellent chance of succeeding with the Shock with her ability to score from the perimeter and pass the ball quite well.
Wonders: Can she make the roster? She clearly has the skillset to do so and with Cambage's status unclear (as usual) she might have a better chance than some other late picks.
Worries: Plaisance was neither a very good offensive rebounder nor a very efficient scorer in the post. That leaves a question as to whether she'll just be a 6-foot-5 spot up player or someone who can truly be an inside-outside threat.
The New York Liberty selected Tennessee's Meighan Simmons with the 26 pick of the 2014 WNBA Draft.
Wows: Again... here's the thing: Simmons can create her own shots off the dribble and made quite a few her senior season, despite having a reputation as a gunner without a conscience. I can point to a few players drafted ahead of her who weren't quite as good at the "making" part of that equation. If Bill Laimbeer can get her locked in on the defensive end, she has all the athletic tools to be an impact player.
Wonders: What will happen to Simmons' efficiency when she's on a team that doesn't require her to shoot as much?
Worries: Aside from the reputation issue, the one major concern about Simmons is that she can settle for jumpers a lot, which reduces her scoring efficiency. And though she was a more willing passer in her senior season, she still had a rather low efficiency as a ball handler because she didn't create many assists for others. The real question is whether Laimbeer can get her into some habits that will better utilize her athletic abilities, which are considerable. If he can, she could easily be the steal of the draft.
For far more words on Simmons, check out our pre-draft profile.
With the first pick of the third and final round, the Connecticut Sun selected Kentucky's DeNesha Stallworth.
We're also to the point where it's appropriate to plagiarize myself. From a pre-tournament post on Stallworth:
Stallworth's stats essentially put her right on the edge of being a pretty solid WNBA prospect: she's not an extremely efficient scorer, but not so inefficient that she's an non-prospect and her three point range might help her; she's not an outstanding rebounder (9% offensive rebounding percentage), but not so poor that it can be considered a weakness; she's not a great free throw shooter, but gets to the free throw line often enough that it shows an ability to play strong around the basket (in one of the best defensive conferences in the nation).
The major weakness is his her rather low pure point rating (-6.29), but even that moreso reflects the fact that she picks up assists so infrequently rather than a major turnover problem. What will be most interesting is to see who shows interest in her on draft day and how they work with her to refine her game for WNBA competition.
Not really mentioned there, is that she's obviously developed an increasing comfort with shooting the ball from long distance since leaving Cal after her freshman year and with the team the Sun have assembled, that could be an asset for her.
Seriously, folks: why do the Lynx keep getting talent that other people don't seem to notice?
With the final pick of the second round, the Lynx selected Vanderbilt's Christina Foggie.
Wows: I will not go on a mini-rant about this, but if you want a shooter, why not take one who actually puts the ball through the basket often? Foggie does that and actually does it better than some more highly touted prospects and a few drafted higher than her. She's an extremely good shooter, both off the dribble and off screens and will add another threat to Lynx training camp. Her free throw rate - which the Lynx apparently pay attention to as well - is also higher than a number of other guards in this draft.
Wonders: The one red flag for Foggie is that she shot just over 50% of her shots from beyond the three point arc. But if the Lynx need a spot up shooter - and that would appear to be the case - why not give Foggie a shot?
Worries: Foggie tended to struggle against quicker defenders, which was one knock against her. But if she's in a system where she can spot up or find opportunities off of weakside action, she should be ok.
The L.A. Sparks have selected BYU's Jennifer Hamson with the 23rd pick of the 2014 WNBA Draft.
Wows: She's tall (6'7"). In addition to being tall, she blocks shot at a rate about as high as former Baylor superstar Brittney Griner.
Wonders: Aside from her volleyball career possibly interrupting or delaying her basketball career, the big question is really about her strength and how well she'll be able to defend WNBA posts.
Worries: Hamson played in the WCC where there isn't anyone who plays frequently that stands anywhere near 6-foot-7. As such, she was not only being guarded by a number of smaller players but also being fronted by them for rebounds. Her numbers are impressive, but the strength of competition has to be a concern and more than one WCC coach figured out how to make her a non- or limited factor as a scorer this year.
The Chicago Sky have selected Cal's Gennifer Brandon with the 22nd pick of the 2014 WNBA Draft.
Wows: Have you seen her jump before? When she does so, she goes very high in the air. She uses that altitude to grab many basketballs that come off the rim. It's quite enjoyable to watch. Obviously, Chicago has identified rebounding as an area of improvement and Brandon, though not exactly hyped up as such, does that as well or better than almost anyone else in the nation.
Wonders: The major question for her as a prospect might be her slight frame. Will that pose a problem for her on the boards in the WNBA?
Worries: The real challenge for Brandon as a prospect statistically speaking is her rather low scoring efficiency. I once joked with Cal fans that she seemed to make the crazy off-balance shots that required amazing feats of athleticism better than the standard shot at the rim. If she can just continue to work on finishing after a senior season that was interrupted by injury and personal issues, she could become a contributor.
With the 21st pick of the WNBA Draft, the Phoenix Mercury selected Penn State's Maggie Lucas.
Wows: Lucas is an outstanding three point shooter who does a great job at running off screens to catch and shoot threes. She's improved her ability to score outside of those situations and has a real chance to thrive in the Mercury's system.
Wonders: How much will she play on a team that doesn't lack for perimeter players and, when she does play, how will they set her up for shots?
Worries: For all the talk about how good of a shooter Lucas is, she only shot 41.2% from inside the arc - very low compared to past prospects - and is not an especially good ball handler/playmaker. With her slight frame, the big concern is what she does in the pros when not being set up for threes.
For more on Lucas, check out our article about her Big Ten legacy from earlier this season.
With the 20th pick of the draft, the Atlanta Dream selected USC's Cassie Harberts.
Wows: Harberts has great shooting touch from the high post and that ability to stretch the floor against bigger players could be a huge asset, particularly if she continues to refine that turnaround jumper of hers.
Wonders: Be Honest, Coop: is this a familiarity pick?
Worries: Harberts was never really all that efficient in college, which is what held her back from being a higher-rated player. How will she fare (on both ends) against the league's bigger, quicker posts?
With the 19th overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, the we've selected Michelle Plouffe. Welcome to Seattle, @Plouffey_15!— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) April 15, 2014
Wows: Plouffe has great shooting touch in a 6-foot-4 frame that should allow her to find a niche in the WNBA as a stretch four.
Wonders: What else will she bring to the WNBA level? Although very skilled, her numbers don't necessarily reflect that.
Worries: She doesn't rebound all that well offensively against bigger opponents and has a rather slight frame, making her a bit of a potential tweener. As a rather inefficient college scorer, it remains to be seen whether her shooting touch can keep her on a WNBA roster.
The Washington Mystics have acquired rookie guard Bria Hartley, the 7th pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft and sophomore forward Tianna Hawkins from the Seattle Storm in exchange for veteran All-Star forward Crystal Langhorne in a draft-day deal.
What I've always like about Orekhova is size with a perimeter skill set...unfortunately, this is why we haven't discussed her much: "She averaged 11.6 points on 35% shooting from the field."; she's not the most efficient scorer available.
The Phoenix Mercury have selected Oklahoma State's Tiffany Bias with the fifth pick in the second round.
Wows: Tiffany Bias is a feisty competitor and probably hasn't gotten as much credit as she deserves for her defensive ability. Offensively, with Chelsea Gray injured, Bias might have been the best pure point guard in this draft and does a great job of controlling the tempo and creating for others. With the personnel the Mercury have - and whether they continue to run at breakneck speed as they have in the past or not - Bias is a great fit for that team.
Wonders: Bias was a small guard, even by college standards, listed at just 5-foot-6. How well will she be able to score in traffic or defend against WNBA competition?
Worries: Bias is not a very efficient scorer, especially when it comes to trying to score at the rim. If that was a problem in college, it's unlikely that she'll suddenly get more efficient in the pros.
With the fourth pick in the second round, the Stars selected Spain's Astou Ndour.
ESPN's Rebecca Lobo said that Ndour would not be playing in the WNBA this season.
Since Luis Cristovao has seen more of her than we have, may I re-direct you to his pre-draft prospect profile?
With the third pick in the second round, the Minnesota Lynx select West Virginia center Asya Bussie.
Wows: Bussie is an outstanding rebounder, which should translate well to the WNBA, as well as a rugged post scorer who gets to the free throw line at an extremely high rate. Her shot blocking ability and instincts on defense make her a potential defensive presence for a team that certainly doesn't need more scoring.
Wonders: You have to wonder how much her injury history will matter as she moves forward. She was coming off a redshirt year this season and did an outstanding job, but - as we've seen far too often - these things can have lingering effects.
Worries: The one knock against her is that if you take away the free throw rate, she's not otherwise a very efficient scorer.
The New York Liberty have selected Georgia Tech guard Tyaunna Marshall with the second pick of the second round.
Wows: She's a guard with off-the-charts rebounding ability, picking up nearly as many offensive rebounds as defensive rebounds this season. She's absolutely relentless on the boards and might make some teams second-guess their decision to pass on her. She's able to get her shot against college competition with ease and can hit mid-range jumpers. She's an underrated ball handler, often directing the offense for Georgia Tech. On the bother side of the ball, she's an outstanding defender.
Wonders: How much does the fact that she struggles from the three point line really matter?
Worries: Her biggest strength really is her rebounding ability and ability to get herself to the line to score, but she won't have quite as big an advantage over WNBA players. But nevertheless, this is an outstanding second round pick.
With the first pick of the second round, the Tulsa Shock select Nebraska's Jordan Hooper.
Wows: What I think you have to like about Jordan Hooper is her ability to shoot the ball at 6'2" and really doesn't have a lot of weaknesses. Putting her on the floor with All-Star forward Glory Johnson and potential future All-Star Odyssey Sims gives Fred Williams and Tulsa some interesting options.
Wonders: How close is Hooper to being able to score off the dribble against WNBA competition from the wing?
Worries: Hooper is not a particularly good offensive rebounder and has a small forward's frame despite her height. It will be interesting to see how she's used on the defensive end.
The Minnesota Lynx have selected Duke forward Tricia Liston with the 12th and final pick of the first round of the 2014 WNBA Draft.
Wows: Tricia Liston can really, really shoot the ball. And at 6-foot-1, she should have little problem in continuing to get that shot off against WNBA competition. She makes an already extremely dangerous Lynx offense that much more dangerous.
Wonders: How much does the ball handling ability she showed for Duke this season in Chelsea Gray's absence help her WNBA potential? She won't be needed for ball handling in Minnesota, but in terms of her scoring versatility it could help.
Worries: The only real concern for Liston is how she fits in defensively. Duke played quite a bit of zone defense after Gray's injury, which didn't exactly test Liston much. However, in transition against quicker opponents she really struggled at times. The Lynx don't really lack for defensive players on the roster likely rendering this point moot.
With the 11th pick in the first round, the Connecticut Sun selected Duke point guard Chelsea Gray.
Wows: Let me begin by saying I love both this pick and what the Sun are doing in this draft. Gray does have a path to recovery ahead of her, but was easily the best distributor in the nation before her injury cut her season short with her ability to pass and score. When you look at the talent that Connecticut has assembled, they're well on their way to being a strong competitor in the future.
Wonders: How long will her recovery take and just how good can she become? She was clearly not at full strength for the games she played this season and if she can ever get back to anywhere near full strength, she could be dominant.
Worries: That she loses more speed or becomes further impeded by her injuries. She's an amazing talent, but let's just hope those knees hold up.
The Chicago Sky selected N.C. State center Markeisha Gatling with the 10th pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.
Wows: There's not a more efficient post scorer among the post prospects in this draft class and Gatling does it impressively. She establishes position in the post as well or better than some WNBA post players and makes her moves decisively.
Wonders: She very much has a power game and you just have to wonder how easily she'll score against WNBA posts. Gatling is extremely effective right around the basket, but considerably less so once she gets pushed out beyond five feet.
Worries: The only concern about Gatling is that she's one of a few post players who suffers from something of a low personal foul efficiency rate. It won't get any easier to avoid fouling at the WNBA level.
The Indiana Fever have selected Notre Dame post Natalie Achonwa with the ninth pick in the 2014 WNBA draft.
Wows: She's an excellent passer from the post and is unquestionably one of the smartest players in the draft. She's a fiery competitor who will have the ability to contribute in a number of ways.
Wonders: How much will she lose due to her ACL injury? She wasn't a player whose athleticism drove her productivity, but she has a long road back and will have to adjust to the league.
Worries: Achonwa scored a lot of her buckets off cuts to the basket from within Notre Dame's offense and struggled somewhat when forced to finish strong through contact. Additionally, she found herself in foul trouble on occasion when going up against the nation's quicker posts. Combined, the question is how effective she'll be against the stronger, more athletic posts of the WNBA once she does come back from injury.
The Atlanta Dream have selected Louisville guard Shoni Schimmel with the eighth pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.
Wows: She can shoot, does so a lot, and hits them at an impressively high clip. With her shooting and ball handling ability, she'll be an interesting fit with Atlanta's uptempo style of play.
Wonders: How much of a ball handling role will she be able to take on in the WNBA? She had that ability in college but spent a lot of time off the ball as well. Atlanta could use the supplementary ball handler.
Worries: Schimmel, despite her three point shooting, is not a particularly efficient scorer inside the arc and spent a lot of time shooting threes in college. Will she be able to score any more efficiently against WNBA defenses?
For more on Schimmel, check out our player analysis of her.
With the seventh pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, the Seattle Storm have selected UConn guard Bria Hartley.
Wows: Her scoring efficiency in her senior year was outstanding and was nicely complemented by improved efficiency as a distributor. She's extremely quick in transition and should give Seattle a nice change of pace moving into the future as someone who can play both guard spots.
Wonders: How much will she play this season? Hartley joins a backcourt that includes Sue Bird, Temeka Johnson, and Tanisha Wright. Cracking that rotation in Brian Agler's system will be difficult.
Worries: Only one and it's not all that huge: Synergy data suggests that Hartley scores the majority of her points in spot up or transition situations. Seattle, to put it lightly, has not been the fastest-paced team in the league. How well will Hartley score against WNBA defenders in the halfcourt?
For more analysis of Hartley, check out our prospect profile posted previously.
The Washington Mystics have selected UConn's Stefanie Dolson with the sixth pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.
Wows: Stefanie Dolson is arguably the best passing center who has entered the draft in the last decade. With her ability to pass and score from the high post at 6-foot-5 – including a developing three point shot – she's a rare style of player in the women's pro basketball sphere. Defensively, she has hardware saying she's the nation's best and her improved shot blocking ability will help her establish a presence in the paint.
Wonders: How well will she score in the WNBA? She wasn't a high-usage scorer at UConn and in the past most centers see an even lower usage rate once they get to the pros. She has better range than some recent centers in the league, but it will be interesting to see how she's used offensively and whether she'll end up being more of a low-usage facilitator.
Worries: Dolson was not an exceptional offensive rebounder in college and it will be interesting to see how well she does on the boards in the pros.
For more on Dolson, check out our prospect profile with more about her potential.
With the fifth pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, the Indiana Fever have selected Florida State's Natasha Howard.
Wows: She's an outstanding athlete who is obviously primarily a post player, but is not uncomfortable out on the wing either. Most importantly in terms of determining her pro potential, Howard is an outstanding offensive rebounder and the Fever can probably use that right away.
Wonders: How much does her rather slight frame matter for her ability to perform in the post against WNBA competition? And - people might forget this - she was recruited with some talk of playing the wing and has the quickness and shooting range to spend more time away from the basket. Is that something we can expect her to improve on over time?
Worries: Howard often rebounds and scores by avoiding contact. And she turned the ball over at a rather high rate when pressured. Will the physicality of the WNBA be a problem for her going forward?
As the AP reported, Thomas may be on the move quickly.
In a mild surprise, the San Antonio Silver Stars select Kayla McBride.
A year after selecting Skylar Diggins, the Tulsa Shock add another successful college guard.
After a blockbuster trade earlier today, the Connecticut Sun don't surprise anyone here.
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