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2015 WNBA draft prospects: A draft board

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For the last few years, I've placed draft prospects into tiers rather than ranking them. For my final post previewing the 2015 WNBA Draft, I do the same.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

While mock drafts are fun and rankings provide a clear black and white hierarchy, tiers are the way I like to make my final assessment of the strength of a draft.

The way this works is I have five tiers that I put prospects in. In theory, you wouldn't draft from a lower tier before all the players in the highest tiers are selected, but I'd probably hedge on that a bit — it's more about levels of risk based on past statistics of similar prospects. That means a player ranked in a low tier by these standards could end up succeeding in the right situation or simply being the exception; conversely, a player in a higher tier could end up failing in the wrong situation or because there's a factor (e.g. medical, work ethic, etc) that we simply aren't aware of.

So the tiers are as follows:

  • Elite: Players who have statistics that are above the normal thresholds for success and no red flags and only a minor red flag based on past similar prospects.
  • Low risk: Players who have solid, yet not outstanding, numbers and only a minor red flag based on past similar prospects.
  • Questionable: Players with a clear WNBA skill based on the numbers, one or more major red flag based on past similar prospects.
  • Risky: Players with multiple red flags, but a clear WNBA skill based on past similar prospects.
  • High risk: Players with multiple red flags and few positive indicators based on past similar prospects.

There is some subjectivity in there, but I tried to keep it to the framework even if I somewhat disagreed at times. The key to remember is that a good fit can do wonders for even the riskiest prospect. And please bear in mind that the ordering within tiers is mostly arbitrary.

Elite

Jewell Loyd

Amanda Zahui B.

Summary: Not much more to say here than what has already been said. Personally, I think Loyd is the most promising prospect in this draft. There just hasn't been another shooting guard like her to come into the league in a long time.

Low risk

Brittany Boyd

Ivory Crawford

Laurin Mincy

Nikki Moody

Reshanda Gray

Brianna Kiesel

Summary: I haven't said much about Brittany Boyd, but I think her defensive potential is probably a greater than normal part of what makes her a strong prospect and the best point guard prospect in this draft. That she can also create shots for teammates at such a high rate and has the physical tools to handle the rigors of the league helps too.

Similarly, Cal teammate Reshanda Gray is my choice as the top power forward prospect in this draft because of her combination of physical tools, offensive rebounding, and the ability to finish so well around the bucket - compared to others at her position, she just doesn't have red flags.

What might surprise people is seeing players like Crawford, Mincy, and Kiesel this high. While I admit I wouldn't consider them first round locks, they just don't have any significant flaws statistically. Crawford is intriguing though and it seems like L.A. Sparks coach has taken notice of her while covering games for BTN. I find it somewhat surprising that she isn't mentioned more often in a draft so widely considered weak.

Moody is in a similar position: there's just nothing bad in her numbers and she's far more athletic than past ISU players who have failed to make it.

Questionable

Brittany Hrynko

Chelsea Gardner

Dearica Hamby

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis

Amber Orrange

Isabelle Harrison

Elizabeth Williams

Kiah Stokes

Ka-Deidre Simmons

Summary: Perhaps you're surprised about the placement of KML, but I think I've made the track record of wing specialists pretty clear -- she rates as an elite specialist and the fact of this being a weak draft doesn't change that. But before you get too angry, consider I still have her rated as a first round candidate and wouldn't be surprised if she was drafted in the lottery for obvious reasons. I'd just personally think players like Boyd or Gray have more upside.

Williams' profile is also full of red flags that I just can't ignore: an inefficient post scorer with little face up game at 6'3" is just bound to struggle.

But mostly this tier is full of prospects who I'm uncertain about more than wary of. Along those lines, I'm really interested to see where Hrynko is drafted and whether she makes it in the league.

Risky

Tia Presley

Daisha Simmons

Cheyenne Parker

Martha Alwal

Vicky McIntyre

Nikki Dixon

Cierra Burdick

Alex Harden

Samantha Logic

Betnijah Laney

Aleighsa Welch

Hasina Muhammad

D'shara Strange

Nneka Enemkpali

Natasha Cloud

Elizabeth Cady

Bethany Doolittle

Summary: Here you have a bunch of players with major red flags of some sort that have doomed players in the past. All have strengths but might have an uphill battle to staying in the league if history is any indication. But I should also reiterate the poor track record of undersized power forwards when looking at this group of names.

By the numbers, McIntyre should be a tier higher; by the track record of mid-major centers (they don't tend to make it), it's hard to see one from ORU breaking through.

High risk

Jazmine Davis

Elem Ibiam

Crystal Bradford

Bria Smith

Ariel Massengale

Sara Hammond

Syessence Davis

Sophia Ederaine

Promise Amukamara

Summary: I know everyone seems to love Bradford and, for what it's worth, she passes my eye teat too relative to the field. Thing is, if I'm going to stick to the numbers here, Bradford is extremely risky. Again, the main reason for that is the formula I used for mid-majors weights shooting efficiency and winning pretty heavily and Bradford really didn't do much of either this season and missed games.

But Bradford helps drive home the point of this list: it's not at all meant to be deterministic, but an assessment of potential limitations to anticipate.