The Women’s Final Four (notice how the Men’s Final Four isn’t called "The Men’s Final Four", just "The Final Four"?…we obviously still have a ways to go) marks the end of the college basketball season and the start of the WNBA season with the draft happening the morning after the championship game. I can’t think of a better time to sit down and think about the week to come.
So…Tennessee, UNC, LSU, and Rutgers
. This is not a bad final four at all. Who will win? That’s a tough one. I’d like to see Tennessee and UNC in the championship game, but the brackets precluded that. Right now, I think Candice Parker is on a mission. She has definitely raised her focus from the regular season. If she doesn’t crack, I think the championship may be Tennessee’s to lose. Even so, I wouldn’t count out LSU (or the others, but I have to pick semi-final winners). Sylvia Fowles is a force, and I think the Tigers may be on a mission following their coach’s "voluntary" exit from the team.
The two players I mentioned are also a nexus of doubt for the upcoming draft. There is just enough wiggle room in the WNBA rules that either, or both, could declare themselves eligible for the draft at the conclusion of their participation in the NCAA tournament. While Parker has announced that she will remain at Tennessee, I can’t help but wonder if she might change her mind if the Vols win the title. Fowles, I think, will definitely leave for the WNBA if the Tigers win, and may be more likely than not to leave in any case. Fowles has lost her coach, and there is now uncertainty about what another year at LSU might bring.
This has stunning implications for the team with the first pick in the draft, Phoenix. The Mercury need a talented post player able to run up and down the court for thirty minutes (or close to it) a game. I have no doubt that the names Parker and Fowles top their wish list, and probably in that order. This complicates things for these young players because they know Phoenix’s potential. Adding their talent in post to the already exceptional backcourt offers the prospect of years of success.
But…what if both players stay in school? What will Phoenix do? Thing is, they have one need: an athletic post who can rebound and keep up with the guards. Will they trade their number one pick? They might. I could see them getting a make-do post from a lower-tier team in exchange for next year’s first round pick….taking a chance that the trading team will end up in the lottery and thus offering Phoenix another chance for the top pick. I do think it’s more likely that they will draft for position, and I think that Tiffany Jackson has a good shot of being the number one pick. Of the players known to be available, she’s the best fit for the Mercury’s immediate needs. If they don’t do that, they’ll pick Lindsey Harding with an eye for trading her for potential starting post veteran.
San Antonio will probably took to picking up a point guard. The ones they have are fine, but haven’t been able to fire the team up to get into the playoff race. If Lindsey Harding is available, I see her going here. If not, then Ivory Latta.
The Chicago Sky are a forward-heavy team. I can see them going for the top available guard. On the other hand, they could also use some strength in the middle. Jessica Davenport might find a home here, allowing Dupree to stay at her more natural 4 position.
Minnesota is tough to evaluate. While they aren’t exactly weak in any position, they aren’t particularly strong, either. And they have a new coach starting the season. I see them picking the best player available.
The New York Liberty are a big team, loaded with forwards and forward/centers. Even so, they are a little soft in the middle because they don’t have a legit big body. Alison Bales might find herself living in the Big Apple. Of course, New York might also want to bolster its guard play, both to increase shooting and to free up Hammon. This is a guard-rich draft. The top two choices will be gone, so it becomes more of a case of finding the best fit with the team and team chemistry based on the pre-draft camp.
And since this isn’t a particularly deep draft, I’m pretty much going to stop there as the reasons are usually going to be "for position" and "best available player". This draft is going to be full of surprises…not the least of which is who will go as number one.
And for the Terp fans, what of Shay Doron? She’ll probably go in the mid-to-late second round, possibly the third. Will she make a team? Depends on salary cap and depth of bench at that position.
My druthers? I’d love to see Candice Parker and Diana Taurasi on the same team. Those two meshed well at the World Championships last fall. They’d be great as pro teammates.