In far too many years, the level of play in the WNBA is too high for its own good, and as with the 2005 class, very few prospects are thus able to make an impact. The youngsters just can't beat out the veterans, and wind up on the bench.
The good news this year is that there are probably more than four "rotation or better" players in the 2006 class; the bad news is that there still are not enough. My guess is that between 15 and 20 drafted prospects will make a roster (rookies come cheap, remember) but only about half of them will be in the rotation this year. I am afraid 2007 may again be down from this year, but then comes the outstanding class of 2008.
But regardless of the overall quality of a particular draft, don't always expect name college players to make it in the pros -- and don't expect previous expectations to be fulfilled. There now appears to be some shakeup near the top of the board from previously envisioned, and as always, foreign players and injuries (which could force a player to miss the year) can shift the board.
Also, commendations to the WNBA for its best draft profiles list that I can recall. I must respectfully disagree with some of the commentary on those players, however.
Finally, some GMs will put too much stock into the pre-draft camp and thus convince themselves to draft a clunker.
But before we begin, take a few minutes and review draft history (so many failures of first round picks) of your favorite teams on the WNBA web site. You may find the analysis below to be wacky. I will suggest that many WNBA GMs have made their share of bad ones as well and they get paid a lot more than I do for doing it.
Each grouping in alphabetical order, and updates are in italic.
Really one and two ...
Seimone Augustus, 6-1 small forward, Louisiana State: A scoring machine, at times she makes it look too easy, future Olympian. Possible weaknesses: could shoot threes better and involve teammates more. Update: I saw her as the best going into the season and this has not changed. The number one answer.
Cappie Pondexter, 5-8 guard, Rutgers: Carrying her team almost single-handedly on offense at times, she will share the ball but is also willing to take big shots and play defense. Possible weakness: Can she be an effective PG at the next level? Update: She did not show any new point guard tendencies as she played mostly off guard during the NCAA tournament. Regardless, I doubt she will fall below number two.
Three and four
These are still solid picks in spite of my questions.
Monique Currie, 6-0 small forward, Duke: Highly effective wing player with physical built and ability to score primarily inside the arc. Possible weakness: consistent three-point range. Update: At times I like her more than Young and at times not. As someone asked me, "When she shoots it, do you expect the ball to go in?" Still very good but not as special as the two above.
Sophia Young, 6-0 power forward, Baylor: Quick off her feet, she reminds me of DeLisha Milton-Jones. She has improved her range some. Possible weakness: Is she strong enough to rebound in the WNBA? Update: She did her part during the postseason. She will help a squad this summer.
Five through eight
These are at least helpers.
La'Tangela Atkinson, 6-1 forward, North Carolina: Prime time athlete willing to defend and rebound. Possible weakness: Ability to score, particularly from the perimeter. Update: Good showing in postseason seems to be moving this player up. I like her ability to defend inside and out. However, I continue to be concerned about her ability to score away from the basket. On defense she can help but there are questions to be answered on offense.
Sherill Baker, 5-8 two guard, Georgia: Terrific defender and ball thief; nice midrange jumper. Possible weaknesses: Not a three-point shooter and not a point guard, which one might expect at her size in the pros. Update: Fine performance in the postseason moves her up and if someone is insisting on taking a two guard might go yet higher. I like her chances to succeed at the next level.
Megan Duffy, 5-7 point, Notre Dame: Excellent leader, terrific competitor with chips down, fine handles, lefty, can hit threes if left open. Possible weaknesses: May lack pro escape speed as well as explosiveness. Update: She can't be blamed for Notre Dame's early postseason exit. Position in the draft should be maintained. If not too much is asked of her as this year, she should contribute.
Lisa Willis, 5-11 two guard, UCLA: Good size for a three-point shooter and well built. Possible weakness: Consistency and effort on D. Update: Many fine performances in post season have her stock rising. Defense appears better to me.
Nine through sixteen
It gets tougher here but making a roster possible.
Nikki Blue, 5-9 point, UCLA: Good guard skills, athletic and can score. Possible weakness: Can she lead and make good decisions running the half court offense? She seems to be passing more in the games I have seen lately. Update: Fear over ability to run pro point may drop her a bit. Players similar to her have had mixed reviews in the W.
Candice Dupree, 6-2 power forward, Temple: Can score facing and around basket. Possible weaknesses: At times can disappear on offense and is she physical enough for WNBA play? Regardless, she's come a long way from her prep days in Tampa FL. Update: She did not distinguish herself in NCAA tournament. I'm not sold on her as a first-round pick but I think others are.
Tye'sha Fluker, 6-4, center, Tennessee: The big body of this draft, she hits the boards and has been bringing more energy to the court lately. Postseason should decide placement, which could drop to second round with mediocre play. Possible weakness: Not known for big numbers. Update: She can board but misses too many bunnies. I expect her to make a roster in height-conscious league in spite of shortcomings.
Scholanda Hoston, 6-0 two guard; LSU: Primarily a tall perimeter defender prior to this year, she has improved her range sufficiently (much greater than her days as a Miami prep) that with a strong finish, she can secure first round status. Possible weakness: Can she score without teammates Seimone and Sylvia around to take up extra attention that has helped free her up? Update: NCAA tournament shows that she is still primarily a highly athletic defender and can make a squad this year with the right fit.
Tamara James, 5-10 small forward, Miami-Florida: Good basketball IQ, able to score in several ways, can shoot the three, improved ability to penetrate, overachiever turned down by bigger names coming out of high school. Possible weakness: Natural instinct is to go inside where she played in high school in South Florida. Update: She still has not shown herself to be full-fledged small forward. When you instinctively want to post up at 5-10 in the WNBA, the answers is always no. This fine college player will have to change her game some to make it in the league. Can she overachieve again?
Aarica Ray-Boyd, 6-0 small forward, Louisiana Tech: Tall athlete who can shoot threes. Possible weakness: How will she perform against consistently better opposition? Update: There is enough skill, size and athleticism here to see her move up to high second round anyway.
Shona Thorburn, 5-10 point, Utah: Canadian, a steady style with more size than most backup point candidates. Possible weakness: Not that good in any one area, can be quiet at times on offense. Update: She made a big splash in the postseason but then got hurt as she was playing heavyweight Maryland. My suspicion was that she played hurt against Boston College as well. She is much more creative than I previously thought, but lack of perimeter shooting and questionable ability to stop penetration worry me. However, I still see upside here as she has only played point for two years. I think she will make a roster.
Aya Traore, 6-1 forward, Purdue: Good size, ability to defend in and out of paint, slash along the baseline or move inside. Possible weakness: outside shot when facing zone. Update: She had a decent postseason but the right fit is critical for her to make a squad.
17 to 25
This is a group there are things to like about players, and perhaps more important, things that might prevent them from succeeding at the next level.
Erin Grant, 5-7 point, Texas Tech: Pure PG, good decision maker, handles and vision. Possible weaknesses: Consistent range, bothered by physical play at times. Update: She could go higher due to the usual point guard shortage but her failure to help her college team to succeed at the top level troubled me through many viewings this year. Does she lack the fire, I keep asking?
Brooke Queenan 6-2 forward, Boston College: Update: A new entry, showing improved range during the NCAA tournament. A bit lacking in foot might be the negative issue.
Kim Smith, 6-0 forward, Utah: Canadian, smart player, good passer. Possible weakness: Needs to demonstrate more range needed to play the three at the next level; ability to guard WNBA small forwards a question. Update: Made a nice showing in the postseason, though a lot of WNBA teams may not appreciate her cerebral game. She handles the ball well for her size. My biggest concern is questionable ability to knock down outside shots. Due to size and build, she must move to small forward to make a roster.
Tiffany Stansbury, 6-3 center, N.C. State: Has physical tools to play in paint in WNBA. Possible weakness: Must come to play every day. Update: The postseason saw more inconsistent play. However, school is now out and I suspect her potential will not go unnoticed on Draft Day. I still have my questions as to whether the zebra changes stripes under different leadership.
Ann Strother, 6-2 wing, Connecticut: Tall three-point shooter, runs OK. Possible weaknesses: Not physical, inconsistent scorer, rarely goes to basket in halfcourt. Update: Size will appeal to some but inconsistent game bothers me. I suspect this player has been overrated since her high school days. Betting is once again she will go higher than I would pick her.
Zane Teilane, 6-7 center, Western Illinois: Latvian, face-up post, runs well enough, decent hands; size which can't be taught. Possible weaknesses: Strength, lack of competition in college; likely a project in first season. Update: She will make a roster this year as a trainee. Production is not yet promised. She is a gamble but at this level, in reality, so is everyone else.
Barbara Turner, 5-11 power forward, Connecticut: Undersized power player who can score in paint and just beyond. Physical. Possible weakness: Range, size vs. WNBA posts. Update: She showed some more range in the postseason but will have to prove she is able to make up in heart, effort and skill for those missing inches.
Mistie Williams, 6-3 center, Duke: Intelligent post with mid-key range. Possible weakness: Just decent on boards. Update: Not much new shown in the postseason. A fine college player, she will need a good fit to make a roster.
Shanna Zolman, 5-10 shooting guard, Tennessee: Nice open shooter with solid three-point range. Possible weaknesses: Can she get off her shots in the faster-paced WNBA? Who can she guard at the next level? Update: A very hot and cold postseason did not answer the above questions.
26 to 33
Once you get down here, it starts to get very scratchy. In this group, I guess there is more that I don't like than I do for WNBA play -- but they still do bring something to the table.
Ambrosia Anderson, 6-1 wing, BYU: Tall wing with three-point range. Possible weaknesses: Needs to sprint the court hard; consistency in scoring. Update: I watched several times and just didn't like her mobility, but I have learned to fully count out a tall shooter too early.
LaToya Bond, 5-7 point, Missouri: Can run offense under control and still score more than most point guard prospects; decent defender. Possible weakness: Can disappear at times on offense and not that physically built. Update: A NCAA non-performance of almost disinterest may have sent her stock plummeting down. However once drafted, there is still time to recover. Moral of story, play best on biggest stages but even then all may not be lost -- as long as you lay just one egg.
Crystal Kemp, 6-2 post, Kansas: Well-built lefty who now can step away from the basket. Possible weaknesses: Needs to play harder at times, watch weight. Update: Posts are limited so somebody will take a look.
Alexis Kendrick, 5-7 point, Georgia: Nice athlete with decent handles, can defend more than adequately. Possible weaknesses: Leadership and decision-making in crisis, range. Update: Played decently in postseason and should get a look.
Tiffany Porter-Talbert, 5-7 guard, Western Kentucky: Athletic slasher. Possible weakness: Outside shooting. Update: A fine athlete who can't shoot from adequate distance. This generally doesn't get you to summer.
Liz Shimek, 6-1 forward, Michigan State: Mobile, willing to battle in paint. Possible weaknesses: Scoring on the perimeter where she needs to play at next level. Update: Postseason play did not convince me that the talk of her as a high second round pick or better is correct.
Khara Smith, 6-2 center, DePaul: Scorer on low block. Possible weaknesses: Range, foot speed. Update: WNBA coaches put a lot of value on running the court for posts of this size and she does not do that well. With the announcement that she will not play this summer due to injury, she should surely drop. She is one player that I saw as better in college than in the pros.
Tasha Crain Williams, 5-5 point, Louisiana Tech: Nice athlete with adequate handles; good quickness, decent leader. Possible weaknesses: Can she function against better competition on a consistent basis? Not physically imposing. Update: Played hurt in television game against Florida State so hard to evaluate further.
34 to 42
Maybe I missed some of their best games and found only their shortcomings, but even so, down here it is generally a cup of coffee and perhaps a hug. Some of these picks could change based on pre-draft camp performance and foreign players usually take some slots, thus dropping a few into undrafted status. For most of this group, I had no further comments.
Tara Boothe, 6-1 forward, Xavier: Well-built, versatile scorer in and out of paint. Possible weaknesses: Can she board and defend at the next level?
Lindsay Bowen, 5-7 guard, Michigan State: Solid three-point range. Possible weaknesses: Can she get off her shots in the faster-paced WNBA? Who can she guard at the next level?
Michelle Campbell, 6-2 center, Rutgers: Good rebounder and defender. Possible weakness: Not much of a scorer at the college level. Update: Lackluster NCAA performance against Tennessee hurt position.
Latoya Davis, 6-2 center, Texas Tech: Hard worker in paint. Possible weaknesses: A bit undersized, range.
Kristen Kovesdy, 6-3 center, Arizona State: Plays hard but range limited to around basket.
Megan Moody, 6-2, Tulsa: Update: From Australia, her game is very similar to Ann Strother but slower afoot. Numbers are a bit less against weaker competition. As a tall perimeter shooter, she becomes a draft candidate.
Sheana Moore, 5-7 guard, UNLV: Penetrator. Possible weakness: Consistent range.
Abiola Wabara, 6-0 forward, Baylor: Update: From Italy, she decided to enter the draft with her class in spite of having one year of NCAA eligibility left. Still somewhat raw in skills, I would have recommended staying in school if playing in the WNBA was something of more than a passing interest to her. Still I will give her the last spot in this group.
Here are other training camp invitee prospects, some of whom I am not that familiar with but might be worth a look. A few may move up into the top 42. For most, I have no additional comments.
B.J. Banjo, 5-7 guard, East Tennessee State: Decent quicks but enough game?
Melanie Boeglin, 5-6 point, Indiana State: Decent handles and feet, all penetration. Update: Postseason continued to indicate that there was not enough game for the next level. Will need good draft camp showing to get picked on Wednesday.
Cotelia Bond-Young, 5-7 guard, Wake Forest: Shows ability to score at times on perimeter, but not consistent.
Kim Butler, 6-1 forward, Oregon State: Has put up respectable numbers even if team didn't shine.
Emily Christian, 6-1 forward, Tennessee Tech: Physical style but foot a question.
Tatiana Conceicao, 6-2, forward, SE Missouri State: Update: From Brazil, best player in a non-BCS league. She put up big numbers but layed NCAA egg with one of 15 from the field against Stanford.
Jenni DeMuth, 5-10 wing, Indiana: Decent mobility when healthy, trying to regain form after knee injury.
Dalalia Eshe, 6-3 center, Florida: Much improved range out to arc; decent scoring facing in paint. Possible weaknesses: Guarding physical posts, handling ball.
Emily Faurholt, 5-11 forward, Idaho: Big scorer in lesser level conference.
Janelle Hughes, 5-8 guard, Illinois: Decent athlete who has stepped up scoring as a senior.
Angie Janis, 6-1 forward, Creighton: Has had some success against bigger schools, moves OK, three-ball a question.
Carolyn Kieger, 5-6 point, Marquette: Not familiar enough with to make a definitive judgment, but had a nice year.
Kari Koch, 5-8 guard, Missouri State: A brief viewing showed stroke but handles looked questionable. Update: Viewing during NCAA showed handles just OK, primarily a two guard with foot a question.
Sarah Lowe, 5-6 point, Florida: Steady, field general, hustles.
Christelle N'Garsanet, 6-3 center, Missouri: Has size and OK mobility but not very physical.
Nina Norman, 5-6 point, Texas: Nice athlete who can handle some as well as score. Possible weaknesses: not a true one or two, decision-making as PG, never has fully blossomed after strong first two years in Austin. (Now says she doesn't want to play professionally.) Update: That being said, does anyone still take her?
Lindsey Shearer, 6-1 forward, Kent State: Another player who has prospered at midlevel.
Crystal Smith, 5-6 guard, Iowa: Good quickness on D, has improved offense but enough?
Liad Suez-Karni, 6-2 forward, Villanova: Israeli, highly skilled player who can score in and out of paint, spot up and drive to the hole, has good size. Possible weaknesses: Very slow, not physical. Update: Given lack of foot and terrible performance in last Big East game, chances are she will go undrafted.
Cyndi Valentin, 5-8 guard, Indiana: Can shoot it from distance, set free-throw record, handles looked iffy in one viewing.