I'm not the Shock expert here at Swish Appeal (Jessica is of course), but the 2012 Shock team passed the eye test when I saw the team on LiveAccess throughout this past season and I got to see to them early on when they played the Washington Mystics on the road and nearly came up with the victory.
Given the overall youth movement that the team has taken (no one was 30 years old to start the season in fact), the Shock will continue its rebuild with an additional major piece with the third pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft.
Unlike the Chicago Sky, which will likely have its choice of either Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins or Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne - assuming that the Phoenix Mercury select Baylor center Brittney Griner first overall - the Shock would probably pick the last of these "Big Three" players if they keep the pick.
I haven't seen as much super celebration around the #3 pick for Tulsa, which certainly could have used a break similar to the Washington Mystics. Like Mercury GM and Head Coach Corey Gaines, Shock owner Steve Swetoha said that #3 was better than #4, and coach Gary Kloppenburg also felt bad for the Mystics picking fourth, saying this to the Tulsa World:
I felt really bad for Washington. Really, talent-wise, they were probably the most deserving team, even more than us.
Even though the Shock was in the same position the Mystics are in right now just last year and arguably since relocating, Swetoha and Klop rolled up their sleeves, got to work, and it's safe to say that they came out ahead in their rebuilding strategy.
Rebuilding the Right Way
Staying on the theme of talent, let's get back to the Shock. The 2012 Shock team, at least to me, didn't really feature a superstar player, but a collection of young players all of whom played major roles for the team and were given a chance to show that they can play in this league. In particular, the Shock's draft picks over the last two seasons (minus Liz Cambage who skipped the 2012 season) were all major contributors on the court:
- 2012 first round pick Glory Johnson who led the team in steals, rebounds, blocks, and was second in points scored
- 2012 2nd round pick Riquna Williams (pictured above) who provided a nice spark off the bench
- 2011 first round pick Kayla Pedersen who started 25 of her 27 games played in 2012 and was second on the team in rebounds
Much of the veteran leadership on the team was provided by newly acquired guard Temeka Johnson who led the team in assists, and Ivory Latta who had a career year in scoring, and improved her overall, three point and free throw shooting percentages to score a team-high 14.4 points a game. In fact the backcourt play wasn't too bad at all to me at least considering that the team is rebuilding.
All-in-all, the Shock did a great job. All the youngsters, in particular were playing significant minutes and were allowed a sufficient chance to succeed or fail. In addition, the team had veteran leadership (Latta was part of it, but she was part of those early Tulsa teams too, but especially Johnson) who were also high performers and this probably helped bring up the team's level of play too.
Okay, enough praising Tulsa. What would the picks do?
Okay, let's say Tulsa keeps the pick and drafts Skylar Diggins. She would provide a franchise guard presence. Note that I didn't mention the word "point guard." I say that because it is possible that Diggins could play shooting guard if she were on the Shock, at least initially. After all, she is a good scorer too, and will likely be the best perimeter scorer on this team. Also, this is because point guard seems to be a relative strength for Tulsa because it already has Temeka Johnson and Ivory Latta.
Ultimately, I think Latta would be expendable should Diggins be in black and yellow for 2013. If I was Swetoha, I'd still keep Johnson because the Shock still needs veterans too, and veterans who play at a high level. Of course, Skylar Diggins will provide a much needed marketing presence locally because she will also be a face for the WNBA.
If the Shock ends up with Elena Delle Donne, she would provide a true stretch forward presence and could provide a much more intimidating frontcourt with Liz Cambage who should return to the Shock next year assuming she isn't dealt. A Cambage and EDD front court could significantly help the Shock's rebounding situation. In 2012, the Shock grabbed 29.5 boards a game, while opponents grabbed 37.1. That differential must improve significantly - along with lowering its opponents' field goal percentage (47.7%, still bad though the team played with hustle) - if the Shock wants to make a significant push next year for the playoffs.
Trading the pick...
Is it possible that the Shock may trade this pick for better players and/or future picks? I haven't heard of the Shock going all out saying "meet and greet the #3 pick if you renew/buy season tickets by tomorrow" like the Sky has with their pick and the team splash page intro only gives a "congratulatory" message. By default I'm going to say that the Shock won't do it as of today, but trading the pick could also help the team improve faster and solidify its "championship window," at the right price.
Self serving since I'm the Mystics guy, but if the Shock was willing to trade its #3 pick to the Mystics in exchange for Crystal Langhorne and their 2014 first round pick in exchange in a framework for a deal, it could give the Shock a legit All-Star right away, give the Mystics the fresh start that Langhorne (and Currie) can't provide, and considering that the Mystics should be a lottery team for 2013 even with a Big Three pick, that new 2014 first round pick could be high performers like Alyssa Thomas of Maryland (who Mystics fans may really want too but would have to give up here), Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford, or Bria Hartley of UConn, all of whom would still provide another big boost of talent for the Shock even if the team makes the playoffs for 2013 or better.
For a team like Tulsa that is building for the future, but also wants to take a step forward for 2013, this outlined deal, or other similar ones for #3 by other teams may provide the ideal balance of improving now and yet getting a future asset at the other team's expense if the other teams in the deal are projected to be a lotto team even with their new acquisitions.
The 2012 Tulsa Shock team, despite an overall lack of talent compared with other teams to start the season, drafted, kept, and played its younger players often in its rebuild which will help as it moves forward to 2013. Ending up with the 3rd pick in the 2013 Draft may have been a mild disappointment, but at the same time, there were three players that were projected to be immediate impact players, and the Shock didn't fall from its original #3 position to begin with, which puts the team in a position of power in any and all deals involving that pick, a position that the Shock hasn't been in since its relocation from Detroit back in the 2009-2010 offseason.
Sure, Chicago may have a little more leeway in what direction it will take for 2013 just because it has the 2nd pick, but the Shock also has multiple options to take its team toward building ANOTHER perennial winning professional basketball team in the state of Oklahoma.