There are few players in the nation that can score quite like Stanford Cardinal forward Nneka Ogwumike does, but she's also one of three NCAA seniors at the power forward position that finished the season ranked among the top 10 scorers nationally.
Although Ogwumike's talent certainly overshadows some of the other power forward prospects available in the 2012 WNBA Draft, those other scorers in the top 10 as well as a few others are worthy of mention leading up to Monday's draft.
"Scoring interior forwards"
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;
- and had usage percentages over 25% as well as scoring tendencies over 50% according to the SPI styles framework.
In other words, they're power forwards who are more aggressive scorers than average, although not necessarily exclusively scorers.
(Links to the each player's school website bio)
As an example, Ogwumike fits into the interior scorer category as a college player not because that's all she did, but because shooting was the majority of what she did in her senior year. Shooting comprised over 50% of Ogwumike's actions on the court, which is also reflected in that usage percentage that suggests she has the ball in her hands to make a play on 33% of the possessions that she's on the floor. Her footwork in the post, improved jumper, and ability to score in transition were game-changers for Stanford.
For more on Ogwumike, see this morning's post.
Hurt is another high usage scoring power forward in college, whose rebounding could be the thing that helps her stick on a roster - her 16.57% offensive rebounding rate should stand out as particularly attractive relative to her peers in this draft.
But two things might stand out to people as potential concerns about Hurt. First, she wasn't nearly as efficient as Ogwumike (not that many were) with a true shooting percentage of 53.02%. Second, her height suggests that she might struggle to establish herself as a low post threat in the WNBA. But those very concerns might also leave room to highlight a couple of strengths that she could bring to the next level as a scorer.
Although she wasn't an especially efficient scorer at VCU, she was a versatile scorer, which does count for something - she increased her shooting range during her career to shoot 32.4% in her senior year and her free throw rate of 35.65% is solid. Her 2-point percentage of 48.35% further reflects that she's a power forward who isn't exclusively a low post scorer as she took a number of lower percentage shots away from the basket.
In addition, if you think that Ogwumike carried Stanford, Hurt was even more important to VCU in terms of the percentage of the team's overall statistical production that she contributed - Ogwumike's 25.53% percentage of valuable contributions was enormous, but Hurt was responsible for 36.76% of VCU's overall statistical output. That also has to be figured into the explanation of her low scoring efficiency: she was a player who her team relied upon heavily (high usage percentage) and drew the majority of opponents' attention. There's something to be said for the fact that in the WNBA she won't be the focal point of her team's offense and the opposing defense.
Nevertheless, her own comparison to San Antonio Silver Stars All Star and Texas A&M alum Danielle Adams does have the effect of drawing attention to that shooting efficiency: although Adams is also considered an undersized "interior scorer" in the WNBA, she had a 53% 2-point percentage. And although finding a direct comparison to Hurt isn't particularly easy, a common theme is that the players that 6'1" interior players that are on WNBA rosters tended to be much more efficient scorers in college than Hurt was at VCU.
|Danielle Adams||Texas A&M||2011||22.3||53%|
A sampling of 6'1" college "interior forwards" on WNBA rosters.
That obviously doesn't mean that Hurt can't make it in the WNBA - none of those players had to bear the burden for their team's success that Hurt has. And her offensive rebounding percentage does suggest a player who will make an impact on the offensive boards.
And just for the sake of it, another interior forward - albeit not necessarily "interior scorer" - who made the league with a low 2-point percentage: Ebony Hoffman, who shot less threes coming out of college and had a 2-point percentage of 44.71% in her senior year, a number that is below average even for successful wing prospects.
Click here to see an interview with Hurt, including what players she looks up to and more on her comparison to Danielle Adams.
Santiago is a player that I first saw this season when she dropped 36 points and 15 rebounds against the San Francisco Dons in the second game of Cal Poly's season - needless to say, she left an impression.
Santiago just seemed to have a knack for finding gaps in the defense and establishing position so she was able to score with one or two quick moves. On the block, it was with a combination of decisive fakes and nimble footwork. Further out from the basket, she was able to create space between her and her defender to hit a few jumpers. There just wasn't a whole lot anyone on USF could do to stop her - that was quite simply one of the more complete, dominant and efficient performances I've seen from a post player in a college game.
I would later see a few Stanford games this season and, well, Nneka Ogwumike happened. But at that point, I figured that I had seen something unique, at least in the context of Santiago's own season.
Then in her very next game she scored 27 points and grabbed a season-high 23 rebounds against Fresno State in addition to two other 15 rebound games this season. She later posted 44 points against San Diego State in the back end of a pair of weekend games in which she scored 77 points on 30-for-50 shooting.
Although she doesn't shoot threes nearly as often as Hurt, she's extremely quick, runs the floor like a wing, and has outstanding footwork and touch around the basket, which helped her to a true shooting percentage of 59.36% at a usage rate of 34.53% - in other words, similar to Ogwumike her team relied on her heavily to score and she answered the call remarkably well, almost making you wonder how good she might have been had she not suffered an ACL injury after one game last season that forced her to redshirt and come back this season.
Santiago's combination of rebounding and efficient scoring helped her account for 30.33% of the Mustangs' overall statistical production and the rest was distributed evenly among her teammates, meaning she didn't even get the type of help that Ogwumike got from her sister Chiney at Stanford. Nevertheless, with a slender 6'1" build it could be difficult for Santiago to score quite so easily in the WNBA and she doesn't have the impressive offensive rebounding numbers that Hurt or Ogwumike putting up, finishing the season with a more modest 9% offensive rebounding percentage.
Santiago attended the WNBA's free agent camp in Denver during the 2012 NCAA Women's Final Four in Denver and had an opportunity to show off her ability for GM's that hadn't seen her during the season. And although players there aren't drafted all that often, she has a legitimate chance. An uptempo team with a high post offense could almost certainly find a way to use a talent like Santiago in a way similar to how the Phoenix Mercury have used 6'2" forward Candice Dupree. But Sophia Young's statistical profile might be actually be a better comparison for Santiago than Hurt, based strictly on the numbers.
And before dismissing Santiago as merely the product of a good player playing lesser competition, the USF game is actually instructive by way of comparison.
Standish had a relatively modest game against USF by the lofty standard that Santiago set, albeit later in the season when USF was playing better in Jennifer Azzi's second year as coach. But even beyond that comparison, what was striking was how unassertive she was in the first half of that particular game.
"Kayla did a good job, in particular in the second half - she established herself inside," said Berry. "In the first half she kind of settled for jumpers a little bit more. She's a presence - when she gets the ball on the block, she's good. And we need to do a better job of getting the ball to her and she needs to demand it more. And she did that in the second half."
And although Standish did pick up her performance come tournament time once again this season, what stands out more is that her scoring efficiency numbers dropped significantly between her junior and senior seasons.
Kayla Standish's scoring statistics in her junior and senior seasons.
And there's at least one obvious explanation for that: the loss of 2011 WNBA lottery pick Courtney Vandersloot. Vandersloot accounted for about 27% of Gonzaga's overall statistical output last season and was a historically good distributor. The simple explanation is that Standish just didn't get the scoring opportunities that she got last season while also being put in a position to assume the role of team leader.
That could mean one of two things for Standish - either Vandersloot was so good that Standish's statistics were "inflated" while playing with her or we've learned that Standish can excel playing in the high post around better players.
It's difficult to know what to make of Standish. Last season, she was such an efficient scorer, a solid enough 3-point shooter and a good enough passer that it appeared she could carve out a career as a skilled power forward that could stretch the court with her perimeter shooting. But the combination of her rather significant decline in scoring efficiency and rebounding numbers that don't necessarily stand out (10% offensive rebounding rate) isn't exactly encouraging.
In an interesting contrast to Standish, Oregon's point guard Nia Jackson was considerably less efficient as a distributor this season but Johnson still had the best season of her career.
Johnson became considerably more efficient as a scorer this season and a large part of that is that she was a much more accurate 3-point shooter, improving close to 10% between her junior and senior seasons.
Amanda Johnson's shooting statistics in her junior and senior seasons.
However, the thing to note here might be that Johnson went from not even worthy of consideration to prospect with those numbers, particularly when you compare hers to similar past prospects. In addition, while Standish is a more of a finesse power forward than some of the others with strong relatively strong ball handling skills and the ability to shoot from the perimeter, Johnson shot threes far more often in her career, didn't get to the free throw line nearly as often, and had a lower offensive rebounding rate - in other words, Johnson was primarily a perimeter shooting power forward in college. Fellow Oregon alum Cathrine Kraayeveld has certainly made a WNBA career in a similar role - and had about the same senior year college 3-point percentage - but even she had a higher free throw rate, suggesting someone who wasn't quite as much a perimeter oriented scorer.
Johnson has gotten looks from WNBA teams and might be able to succeed in a situation that caters to her strengths, but it's not clear how productive she'd be as a WNBA player.