It is pretty much consensus that the 2015 draft would have been one of the absolute weakest in history if Jewell Loyd and Amanda Zahui B. had not declared in the last few weeks leading up to the April 16 (7 p.m. EST on ESPN2) draft. Still the overall lack of quality could result in the fewest rookies making rosters in comparison to recent years.
Some draft philosophy
First, at the top of the board go for the player having the best chance to succeed in the league at the highest level. If tied, think posts and point guards and look for the least amount of baggage.
Second, when things appear of pretty equal weight, think American. For Europeans, the WNBA is just a summer vacation and very few stay in the league for more than a few years before considering how nice it would be to have summers off and count their riches from winter ball in Europe or the Far East.
Third, when in doubt (which is more in play than not) take a player you are uncertain about (to get a better look) rather than one who has a bigger reputation coming out of college but whose game you already believe does not translate to the WNBA level.
Fourth, beware of the talking heads we will see on television or the internet! Their job is to arouse interest and often it seems to promote present college stars as future pro players. How often have you heard one recant about the failure of a hyped player from a prior year? My advice to any GM is listen to all that is said but in the end go with your own instincts as to making picks.
The areas of the 2015 draft
In breaking this draft down, it appears the board offers two probables, a few possibles and a lot of "ifs." Perhaps more than other years on this draft day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
1. Seattle - Jewell Loyd (Notre Dame)
It is only fitting a Jewell would settle into the Emerald City (Seattle's official nickname since 1982). With a team that has grown old, the Storm need a lot of help and Loyd solves one of the problems with her ability to score on the wing. Loyd had a so-so finish to her Notre Dame career but over her three years in South Bend showed she can perform well against the best. As an American, it is more likely she will play in the WNBA for a decade than just a few years and Seattle is a team looking more to the future than the present.
2. Tulsa - Amanda Zahui B. (Minnesota)
Once again the Shock are faced with taking a foreign player with the second pick in the draft. In 2011, Elizabeth Cambage of Australian was selected. "Big Liz" made noises that she didn't like the idea of playing in Tulsa and has played in only two of the four possible years since being drafted. Injury will keep her out of the 2015 WNBA season regardless of prior intentions.
From Sweden, Zahui B. is making no negative noises about Tulsa for this season. The question is once the more lucrative European money starts to flow into her bank account will she follow the path of so many Euros and crave for summers off, skipping the significantly lower paying WNBA?
With a need to win now, Coach Fred Williams must play for 2015 and let subsequent years take care of themselves. Zahui B. fills a big need in the middle for the Shock which would now have the option of this Swede and veteran Courtney Paris at the low post. There is a belief by some in the league that Zahui B. could be a future all-star thanks to her combination of height, solid build, mobility, skill around the basket, passing ability and toughness. At times she even shows some range. The biggest question may be will she be in the league long enough to achieve that status?
The crossroads. Does Seattle take a player or trade the third pick?
3. Seattle - Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Connecticut)
My prediction is KML to be drafted and traded. The Connecticut product can really shoot the ball (a bigger, better Lauri Koehn recently with Atlanta) but struggles to guard and needs help to get open. She could be a final piece to another team's 2015 title run but not the 2015 Storm. The question is what could Seattle get for her? Strategy #2 is take the best post for the future and that might be Isabelle Harrison (Tennessee) out for the year with an ACL tear.
From here down it is more about individual taste than getting a sure thing. Maybe the best question is how many players picked below three in the 2015 draft are on an opening day roster?
A favorite GM trick is to quietly cut failed first-round picks from the prior year during training camp the next year when no one is paying close attention.
4. Connecticut - Elizabeth Williams (Duke)
In trading the number three pick to Seattle for established players Camille Little and Shekinna Stricklen, Anne Donovan indicated that the Sun is playing for this year. Many perceive Williams to be the best center available but it is debatable.
5. Chicago - Isabelle Harrison (Tennessee)
The question is does the Sky look for help for this year when a title run could be made or take what might be a player who could help them for in subsequent years. For the sake of argument, let's put Harrison here.
6. San Antonio - Crystal Bradford (Central Michigan)
The Stars have a lot of post players be none special. However the team lost a couple of wings (Becky Hammon to retirement and Shenise Johnson to trade) so let's put this scorer in this slot. Bradford made a big splash with USA Basketball a few years back and thus is thought more highly of than most prospects from mid-majors. The downside is she can at times be a high volume shooter and has had off-court issues while in college.
7. Los Angeles - Samantha Logic (Iowa)
With Candace Parker planning to miss some part of the first half (not defined) of this WNBA season and questions about the return of Sandrine Gruda, LA's front court is questionable. With Lindsey Harding gone, is Erin Phillips your starting point guard with Kristi Toliver at the two?
Logic is a true field general with toughness and the ability to make others around her better. The questions about her are can she defend (Iowa zoned a lot) and can she shoot the ball enough to prevent defenses from ignoring her.
8. Washington - Dearica Hamby (Wake Forest)
Hamby is a quality athlete with mobility. The knock is simple - four body and five game. For WNBA success, Hamby needs to add shooting range. Can she?
9. San Antonio - Reshanda Gray (California)
Gray is tough, eats glass and has a nose for the ball. Again range is limited. It is possible some above eight may like her more than the other posts already mentioned.
10. Atlanta - Brittany Boyd (California)
Boyd has good speed and court vision, will penetrate, can defend and rebounds well for a guard. The knock on her is lack of shooting range and in the past was known for forcing the action too much (less so this year).
11. Minnesota - Kiah Stokes (Connecticut)
Minnesota is likely the favorite in the West. Stokes is a solid rebounder/defender and should contribute be it modestly as she has struggled to score at UConn. I didn't come close to correctly picking the Lynx late first round pick in 2013 or 2014, not that Minnesota's selections there did much better.
12. Phoenix - Laurin Mincy (Maryland)
With no Diana Taurasi and I'm predicting no Penny Taylor (not yet announced), expect the Mercury to fall back, the only question is how much. Certainly, there are no replacements for those players in this draft. After an injury plagued college career, Mincy finished strongly. At least she is a perimeter player with size (if not game) similar to Taylor and Taurasi so why not give her a look.
Possible second rounders and possible lower firsts listed alphabetically
Sune Agbuke (Baylor)
At 6-4, Agbuke was not a prime post scoring option in Waco. Her face-up game seemed to be coming alive toward the end of her college career. Somebody may wish to look into this further.
Martha Alwal (Mississippi State)
Another well build post with size, she has the reputation to be an athlete with above average offensive rebounding ability. Still she averaged only 9.5 points per game so that leaves one wondering.
Promise Amukamara (Arizona State)
Promise is a strong competitor who gets after it defensively. For a shooting guard, her range could be an issue.
Bethany Doolittle (Iowa)
With good size, face-up game and shot blocking ability, somebody is going to take this post. The problem is for 6-4, she should rebound better and needs to be more physical to make it in this league.
Nneka Enemkpali (Texas)
This Longhorn could have been a first round pick had she not suffered a season ending knee injury. Nneka has a high motor but shooting range as a power forward is a question. She should be ready by the 2016 WNBA season if not sooner.
Chelsea Gardner (Kansas)
A strong low post player, Gardner had a fine year on a down Jayhawk team. She hung with Cal's Reshanda Gray in going head to head this season.
Elem Ibiam (South Carolina)
Well-built with good hands, some may like her in round one. She runs just fair and struggled to put up numbers in college.
Brittany Hrynko (DePaul)
This point guard has a nice all-around game. She handles decently and is a good passer. Her shooting stats for the year were good but she struggled to shoot in the Blue Demons' NCAA tournament games.
Betnijah Laney (Rutgers)
At 6-0, Laney could be considered an undersized power forward by WNBA standards. However, her motor is generally set to high and she is an on-court warrior that whoever takes her will have a hard time cutting her in training camp.
Ariel Massengale (Tennessee)
This point guard can really shoot the ball and handles adequately. The problem is really does not make others around her better and is probably not tall enough at 5-7 (maybe) to play the shooting guard slot.
Amber Orrange (Stanford)
Athletic with a good IQ, Orrange is a solid lead guard. The knock on her is that she almost always goes left. But don't most almost always go right?
Cheyenne Parker (Middle Tennessee)
Parker had off-court issues that led to her dismissal at Middle and before that had issues at High Point. At 6-4, she is highly athletic and could go higher if a GM wishes to take a chance that those issues will not reoccur.
Aleighsa Welch (South Carolina)
Welch gets praised for her leadership on and off the court. A lefty, she now goes right much better than before college. Unfortunately, her range is limited for a 6-0 power forward and her foul shooting is poor (under 50%). Being invited to the draft, somebody is taking her late in round one or round two. It says here her game does not translate.
Possible third round and others who should get a look (better to not be drafted and be able to pick a training camp to attend, listed in alphabetical order)
Cassandra Brown (Portland)
At 6-2, Brown shot the 3 well (44% for year) on a team having a poor year. However, a question of foot speed for the next level will probably undermine her chances to make the jump to the next level.
Cierra Burdick (Tennessee)
Burdick has a good motor but may be tweener caught between having a power forward game and small forward body.
Natasha Cloud (Saint Joseph's)
Field general with 6-0 size, one has to respect her 3-point shot.
Latifah Coleman (North Carolina)
This athlete finished the year strongly and should get a look.
Meagan Conwright (Florida State)
A good athlete, she can hit the three but still needs more game for the next level.
Jazmine Davis (Washington)
She had quite a few strong scoring games as point guard and she played also handled the ball quite a bit.
Blake Dietrick (Princeton)
A point guard, Dietrick thinks pass first and is a good leader. She can drive to the basket going left or right. Her perimeter 3 is a question and she needs to be much more physical with her 5-10 frame to step up to WNBA level.
Kiera Gaines (Campbell)
One of the best players in the Big South, Gaines has a nice inside/outside game and should get a training camp invitation.
Sara Hammond (Louisville)
An unusual player, Hammond has size and build more like a post but is really a perimeter shooter. She just may not have enough game for the next level.
Alex Harden (Wichita State)
At 5-11, Harden can handle the ball and attack going right. Athletic, the big knock for the next level might be a lack of 3-point shooting. She showed well post-season this year and last versus BCS opposition.
Brianna Kiesel (Pittsburgh)
Kiesel can score shooting over or attacking off the bounce. In seeing her live, her somewhat thin build may hurt her in transitioning to the next level.
Ally Malott (Dayton)
Malott is tall (6-4) but likes to shoot from the perimeter. A lack of athleticism hurts.
Damika Martinez (Iona)
Martinez is strongly built at 5-7 and in scoring over 20 per game did so in numerous ways including the 3-ball. The few BCS opponents on the schedule did not stop her either. Somebody should definitely give her a look.
Vicky McIntyre (Oral Roberts)
At 6-7, McIntyre has presence but she greatly lacks mobility. For what it matters, ORU is her third division one college having previously played at Oklahoma State and then Florida. Do note there are no negative character issues here.
Mimi Mungedi (Nevada)
Mimi may be a bit raw but she scored in double figures and pulled in almost 10 board per game. 6-8 is 6-8!
Jennifer O'Neil (Kentucky)
O'Neil can get on a roll and hit threes but she is undersized by WNBA shooting guard standards.
Bria Smith (Louisville)
Smith can defend at the pro level. Her offense never developed sufficiently from high school to college. Still she's worth a look.