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Swish Appeal Mock Draft 2.0: How might Appel's injury & Sun trade affect the draft?

Every time I started to create my second mock draft, I either received new information or something happened to radically change my opinion.

In particular, two things that happened just yesterday could potentially have an effect on the 2010 WNBA Draft, which takes place today at noon PST on ESPN2: the Tulsa Shock traded the seventh pick to the Connecticut Sun and an announcement was made that Jayne Appel will be out 3-4 weeks with a stress fracture.

Given that the Sun have added Kara Lawson, Renee Montgomery, and DeMya Walke already this off-season, will probably add Tina Charles in the draft and are offering up Erin Phillips in a trade, they seem to have some flexibility with who they can choose.

However, the situation that has many women's basketball fans talking is the news released yesterday that Jayne Appel is not only injured, but out for 3-4 weeks with a stress fracture. One she is able to get practice reps, she will still have to adjust to the pro game. So of course, that might lead some people to believe that Appel's stock will (or should) slip. Asked Tuesday about Appel's injury status - presumably before she knew about the stress fracture, although she may have known given the diagnosis date reported by Michelle Smith -- Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve suggested that it would not affect their evaluation of Appel as a draft pick.

"I think it's more I believe in Jayne's body of work...Certainly she's right now mobility challenged," said Reeve. "Time will tell for her what that means at the next level. As you look at Jayne Appel you kinda look at and you have to be able to project -- when she's healthy, she's clearly not right now -- when she's healthy, will she be able to run around the court with the great athletes we have at the next level?

"We know it's not anything career threatening -- that would be the only kind of consideration we'd take on. We're used to dealing with knees, we see so many knee situations in our league and we've got a great training staff and doctor team. I think it's a matter that if you do draft her, you're going to have to have some patience. The quick turnaround -- she's gonna need time to kinda get her body right. So I think she's a player that she'll be better later in the season or possibly her second season versus her first year."

Nevertheless, while the Lynx are rumored to be set on the #2 pick, as of yesterday afternoon they were not sure about the #3 pick.

STORM: Hours Away, Little Certain About Draft
"I know Tina Charles will go first and Monica Wright will end up in Minnesota," Agler said by phone after arriving in New York to attend the draft in Secaucus, NJ. "After that, there's been a whole lot of shifting."

So in a draft swirling with uncertainty, I make a second attempt, with a mix of insight gathered form people around the league, stats, and intuition.

If I have to tell you that a mock draft is called a "mock" draf because it's by no means predictive, then perhaps you should not continue reading (consider this a reading comprehension test more than a warning).

Swish Appeal mock draft (April 8)

  1. Connecticut Sun: Tina Charles, 78-0

harles will fall no lower than #6 according to Mystics GM Angela Taylor.

  1. Minnesota Lynx: Monica Wright, Virginia 

is would appear to be the player the Lynx are set on.

  1. Minnesota Lynx: Jayne Appel, Stanford

One informed person put it this way: "You don't make a decision about the next decade of your franchise based on 3-4 weeks." Agreed.

  1. Chicago Sky: Epiphanny Prince, Rutgers

From here on, the draft order gets quite a bit unpredictable. I'm sticking with Prince here and in talking to Sky coach Steven Key last week, he seems quite clear about what type of player Prince is...and perhaps isn't.

"She's a capable ball handler and she's a strong ball handler, but normally she's going to try to score the ball, which isn't a bad thing -- I don't think Cappie Pondexter is a point guard either but she's very capable of running the point and then scoring points off of it," said Key in an interview with Swish Appeal. "I don't think we're under any illusion that she is, let's say, Sue Bird or Ticha Penicheiro where she's gonna run the show and make everything work and everything else, which is fine -- as long as you understand what the player's strengths are and you can get it to work for you in whatever fashion then it doesn't really matter whether you think or anybody thinks as long it fits what you're trying to get done."

  1. San Antonio Silver Stars: Allison Hightower, LSU

In email communication with the Silver Stars front office, we have learned three things: 1) the Silver Stars are looking for a big, attacking guard or a post, 2) they are looking for a player that will be able to actually contribute on the floor given their roster, and 3) with the trade for Michelle Snow, the loss of Ann Wauters will not necessarily influence their draft decision-making.

Having not yet re-signed Belinda Snell, Edwige Lawson-Wade still a restricted free agent, and Vickie Johnson retiring, the Silver Stars are currently missing a considerable amount of three point shooting - 306 out of 739 attempts on 33.98% shooting in 2009.  The addition of Roneeka Hodgers (41.7% in 2009) helps as well as Tasha Humphrey (32.2% in 2009) and Hightower fits the bill as one more person able to shoot the ball from deep and spread the floor. Kelsey Griffin is certainly an option here as well, but looking at the roster the wing is the much more immediate need where a rookie could definitely earn minutes.

Another interesting option that just seems unlikely, but could be interesting: Allison Lacey. It would probably be considered a "reach" to draft Lacey "this high", but she is actually quite a fit - a 6'0", three-point shooting guard, who is easily one of the best passers in college. Big guard, can run point next to Becky Hammon, and three point shooting ability.

  1. Washington Mystics: Kelsey Griffin, Nebraska

From email communication with the Mystics front office, it appears that the team will be selecting between Kelsey Griffin and Jacinta Monroe. While Griffin is almost undoubtedly the best prospect available statistically and by reputation, Monroe would give the Mystics a young athletic, shot blocking post. Mystics GM Angela Taylor did tell Swish Appeal previously that she was interested in improving the team's shot blocking. Monroe would fit that bill. However, it's difficult to deny that Griffin is simply the better player at this point, if the choice truly is between those two.

  1. Connecticut Sun: Andrea Riley, Oklahoma State

It's funny in talking to people after the Sun trade, it seemed everyone's immediate reaction was, "Whoa - Andrea Riley could really fall if Tulsa isn't picking number 7." The obvious impulse is that Kalana Greene goes here, furthering the "USunn" movement.

Then I revisited the Sun's roster and what Sun coach Mike Thibault told Swish Appeal back in January - one of the benefits of adding Kara Lawson is her versatility and ability to play either guard position. Well, it's difficult to imagine a better potential complement to Andrea Riley than Lawson, whose steady deliberate play seems to stand in direct contrast to a player who shot 24 shots a game for Oklahoma State. For a team looking to add some speed and get out in transition, Riley is not a bad choice...hence the (basketball) reason it was assumed that she'd go to Tulsa.

  1. Los Angeles Sparks: Kalana Greene, 78-0

The Sparks have already said they are looking for guard help and particularly three point shooting help. So this is where things gets tricky. Assuming Hightower is gone, Greene would undoubtedly be the best value here. However, other players perhaps a bit lower on people's draft  boards - Tyra Grant and Jene Morris - are stronger three point shooters. Allison Lacey could fit here for the same reason she fit on the Silver Stars, including three point shooting. But Greene rates as one of the players in this draft who clearly seems to be a solid role player, even if her tournament performance was underwhelming to some.

  1. Atlanta Dream: Jenna Smith, Illinois (same as previous)
  1. Seattle Storm: Allison Lacey, Iowa State (same as previous)

If Lacey isn't picked up higher than expected, I think the Storm could find a few minutes somewhere for a 6'0" guard with three point shooting ability.

  1. Indiana Fever: Alysha Clark, Middle Tennessee State University

In an interview with Swish Appeal yesterday, Clark said that she has talked to four coaches in the top ten so it's certainly possible that she should go higher. However, if concerns about her height and transition to the perimeter from the block lead people to pass on her, Clark would easily be the best player available here. Reeve said in the Tuesday pre-draft teleconference that the team that selects Clark will either figure out a unique way to use her or wait to develop her perimeter game. The Fever are in a better position to wait on a player with outstanding instincts than anyone.

  1. Los Angeles Sparks: Jacinta Monroe, Florida State (same as previous)

A quick note here: in my analysis of center prospects, I meant that I was not able to differentiate between Monroe, Chanel Mokango or Abi Olajuwon. So I tried to figure out if there are any statistical indicators of success for centers. As it turns out there is one that is relevant here: successful centers over 6'2" tend to have college rebounds/40 rates of over 14. Monroe sits at 11.16 reb/40. This is not one of the stronger indicators - statistically, Monroe could make it in the league as a role player. But it definitely separates productive from unproductive players...for the most part.

Second round (in tiers then alphabetical - very unpredictable.):

Early-Mid second round (picks 1-8):

Shanavia Dowdell, Louisiana Tech University

Tyra Grant, Penn State

Chanel Mokango, Mississippi State University

Jene Morris, San Diego State

Danielle McCray, Kansas

Amanda Thompson, Oklahoma

Mid-Late second round (picks 4-12):

Ashley Barlow, Notre Dame

Alexis Gray-Lawson, California

Vivian Frieson, Gonzaga

Abi Olajuwon, Oklahoma

Tanisha Smith, Texas A&M

Lacey Simpson, Illinois

Nyeshia Stevenson, Oklahoma

Relevant Links:

Full WNBA list of prospects

Transition Points:

  • People have talked about how Mokango and Olajuwon made a name for themselves in the NCAA tournament, but statistically another red flag emerges: out of the last 28 centers drafted out of college since 2004, not one over 6'2" has been productive in the league with a points/empty possession ratio (which I have also called "Chaiken efficiency ratio") of less than 2.15. Monkango was at 2.11. Olajuwon was at 1.91.
  • Returning to the reality of 11-player rosters this year - as often as people describe this as a "weak draft", the second round is actually filled with project players that show enormous potential. The problem is that it's not entirely clear what teams feel like taking on a project.
  • Reeve also made a comment that her third round pick will not be making the team simply because she won't have the roster spots, but that the player will be important as someone who can come into training camp and play with the team until their full roster returns from playing in Europe. So although these late round picks may not seem important at first, they will ultimately be important for teams to run training camp. For those players selected, it's thus important for the sake of showing off what they can do at the pro level.
  • Sleepers: Barlow, Dowdell, and Simpson all rank statistically as clear first round talent, especially compared to some of those who project to be drafted.