Who's the Winner in the WNBA's Big Deal?

The WNBA does not have a history of blockbuster trades, so when one team swaps a starter for three other players it's a big deal. Such a trade went down on March 3 when Sacramento sent Tangela Smith and its second round pick to Charlotte for Erin Buescher and Stanford alumnae <b>Nicole Powell</b> and <b>Olympia Scott-Richardson</b>. Let's take a look at what this deal means for the teams and players involved.

First, the easy part. Tangela Smith is pretty much a known quantity: You're going to get about 12 points and five rebounds per game and she's going to take a bunch of shots (10th in total shots and sixth in attempts per 40 minutes in 2004). The Sting will probably use her at the four, which will bring her blocks back up to near two per game and may help her other numbers also. She's been playing the three for the Monarchs since DeMya Walker got to town. Smith is much better suited to the four, especially on defense. Anyone that saw Mwadi Mabika scoring virtually at will against her in the playoffs last year knows that defending quick, athletic wings is not Smith's forte.

The big worry if you're a Sting fan is rebounding. Charlotte was one of the worst boarding teams in the league and Smith isn't known as a board monster. She's a step up over Charlotte Smith-Taylor in that regard, but not that much of one. The big thing Charlotte wanted and got was another inside scoring presence. Smith has solid high and low post moves. She's also a veteran, which Trudi Lacey likes.

The draft pick is worth almost nothing. It's #22 overall, which means it will be someone like Jenni Benningfield, Dana Cherry, Kathy Wambe, Jai Cross, Marla Brumfield, Quacy Barnes or Trena Trice. Half of those didn't make rosters, the rest were just occasionally useful benchies. As a side note, this will be the third consecutive year that the Sting have the #22 pick. In the last two drafts they have taken players from the SEC (Cherry from Arkansas and Benningfield from Vanderbilt) with the pick. Place your best now as to whether they make it three in a row.

Erin Buescher is worth less than the pick. I was surprised Charlotte still had rights to her as I assumed that they didn't exercise their option last year. Anyway, she's played three seasons in the W (one in Minnesota and two in Charlotte) and made almost no impression. She managed 36% shooting from the floor and all the mobility of a bag of cement. Given Sacramento's post depth, I would rate her chances of making the Monarchs' roster at less than zero.

Nicole Powell is the wild card. She was a high draft pick a year ago (number three overall) and some people thought she had better upside than Alana Beard or even Diana Taurasi. The Sting buried her on the bench, seemingly unable to figure out what to do with a player who was in the top 10 in the league in defensive rebounds per 40 minutes and shooting 41% from three. Lacey couldn't shake the notion that she was a guard, a supposition coming from Powell being forced into the point for most of her junior and senior years at Stanford. She should fit in at the three for Sacto. If she's anywhere close to what some people projected for her she'll make Charlotte look silly for making this trade. Even if she's not as good as her hype she could be as good as Tangela Smith. She's also a better fit for the Monarchs. She can hit from outside, something Sacramento has been sorely lacking, and is a far better passer and ball handler than Smith. She doesn't have Smith's post game, but with Yolanda Griffith and DeMya Walker in the lineup she won't need it.

Olympia Scott-Richardson is puzzling. I know what she is. She's a solid backup post that could start for a team with issues in the paint (New York or Phoenix, for example). What I don't understand is why Sacramento would be interested in her. They already have the aforementioned Griffith and Walker, and they have highly drafted backups in Rebekkah Brunson and Chantelle Anderson. They're not going to carry all those posts on the roster, so the question becomes 'What are they up to?

My guess is that they're looking to deal. There was a rumor going around about a possible trade of Yolanda Griffith to New York. With the Tangela Smith deal going down I think that's probably not going to occur. More likely is a move involving Anderson. There are plenty of teams that could use a 6-6 center, even a soft one.

Sacto needs some backcourt depth. Right now the first guard off the bench is either Ruthie Bolton, who looked shot last year, or Giuliana Mendiola, who looked out of her league last year, or one of the Chinese imports. None of those options is especially appealing.

Overall, I think this is an 'everyone wins' kind of trade. Powell and Smith both get to play their natural positions for teams that need their skills. The Monarchs get younger and gain a perimeter shooter. The Sting get a much needed aggressive presence in the paint. If I had to choose, I would say the Monarchs got the better end of the deal. But then I was always a Powell believer...


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