WNBA Draft 2017: Team-By-Team Analysis of the Picks
NEW YORK, N.Y. --- After all the success that accompanied the WNBA’s 20th anniversary season in 2016, the league officially kicked off the next stage of its history with Thursday’s WNBA Draft at Samsung 837.
Samsung’s flagship location in New York City was a fitting place for the league to host this year’s event.
The building’s three levels hosted the main draft coverage on the first floor (with Ryan Ruocco, Rebecca Lobo & LaChina Robinson doing an excellent job as always); the invited prospects, social spaces, and several media stations on the second floor; and individual player photo sessions on the third floor.
The event possessed a very celebratory vibe and for good reason: the league seen as a novelty in 1997 was bringing in another group of elite athletes and exceptional young women, ready to do their part to keep two decades’ of momentum going.
With that said, let’s take a look at the selections (teams listed in order of their first selection of the day):
SAN ANTONIO STARS
1. Kelsey Plum (Guard / Washington)
5. Nia Coffey (F / Northwestern)
25. Schaquilla Nunn (F / Tennessee)
San Antonio did what everyone in the women’s basketball community expected they would do and took Plum, Washington’s all-world guard and the newly minted scoring queen of the NCAA (3,527 career points and 1,109 points as a senior).
Pairing Plum with second-year guard Moriah Jefferson and a healthy Kayla McBride could give the Stars an exciting triple threat in the backcourt. Coffey could contribute on both ends as well if the forward can replicate her All-Big Ten level production (2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds) in the pros.
2. Alaina Coates (C / South Carolina)
9. Tori Jankoska (G / Michigan State)
21. Chantel Osahor (F/C / Washington)
33. Makayla Epps (G / Kentucky)
After losing 2015 MVP Elena Delle Donne to Washington in the offseason, the Sky began the process of retooling by taking frontcourt players with two of their four picks.
Coates rebounds extremely well, is strong around the basket, and brings a winner’s mindset to the Windy City after being a major part of South Carolina’s recent emergence. Her ability to get back on the court, along with how well Osahor’s offensive craftiness and rebounding prowess translate to the league, will determine how long it takes Chicago to succeed without Delle Donne.
3. Evelyn Akhator (F/C Kentucky)
4. Allisha Gray (G / South Carolina)
10. Kaela Davis (G / South Carolina)
23. Breanna Lewis (C / Kansas State)
26. Saniya Chong (G / Connecticut)
Gray and Davis rounded out the trio of national champion Gamecocks to go in the first round of the Draft and give the Wings a pair of players that can be effective in a variety of positions.
In Akhator, Dallas provided the first surprise of the Draft but after averaging a double double last season (15.9 PPG, 10.8 RPG) in the SEC, Akhator has a chance to make an impact on a team that can use all the impact players it can get.
6. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (G / Maryland)
18. Jennie Simms (G / Old Dominion)
27. Mehryn Kraker (F / Wisconsin-Green Bay)
Washington added a pair of athletic wing players from the DMV area and a member of one of the best mid-major programs in the country. Combined, the trio provide size, length and scoring ability to a Mike Thibault-led team that wants to excel on both ends of the floor. For Walker-Kimbrough and Simms in particular, playing close to their college homes should help with the transition into the pros.
7. Brittney Sykes (G / Syracuse)
19. Jordan Reynolds (G / Tennessee)
31. Oderah Chidom (F / Duke)
Despite dealing with multiple season-ending injuries during her career, Sykes produced enough as a redshirt season (nearly 20 points and eight rebounds per game) for the Dream to take her with a top-10 overall pick. At full strength, Sykes can score and defend at a high level - skills she will be able to enhance around franchise cornerstone Angel McCoughtry.
8. Brionna Jones (C / Maryland)
13. Shayla Cooper (F / Ohio State)
16. Leticia Romero (G / Florida State)
28. Jessica January (G / DePaul)
Jones gives the Sun a quality frontcourt player to fill the void of losing Chiney Ogwumike to offseason surgery. The Maryland product averaged a double double as a senior (19.9 points, 10.9 rebounds) and led the country in field goal percentage the past two years. A 1,000 point scorer and Olympic medalist (silver in Rio with Spain), Romero’s ability and experience should serve her well in her transition to the league.
LOS ANGELES SPARKS
11. Sydney Wiese (G / Oregon State)
35. Saicha Grant-Allen (C / Dayton)
The rich get richer in Los Angeles as the defending champions pick up Wiese, a tough guard with size (6-1) and range (Pac-12’s all-time leader in three pointers made). Wiese will benefit from learning from the likes of Candace Parker, Essence Carson and Alana Beard on a team that will be looking to build upon last year’s run to the title
12. Alexis Jones (G / Baylor)
24. Lisa Berkani (G / France)
36. Tahlia Tupaea (G / Australia)
Everything that was said about Wiese and the Sparks can be applied to Jones and the Lynx. The perennial title contenders pick up a top flight point guard (all-conference in the ACC at Duke and Big Ten at Baylor) who should be able to grow her game under coach Cheryl Reeve and veteran point Lindsay Whalen.
NEW YORK LIBERTY
14. Lindsay Allen (G / Notre Dame)
34. Kai James (C / Florida State)
In Allen, the Liberty get a pass-first floor general that can effectively run a team. Allen’s numbers as a senior (9.6 PPG, 7.2 APG) speak to a player that can make others better while still providing consistent offense. Also, her experience playing in a system like Notre Dame’s on one the premier stages in women’s basketball should make playing in the toughest media market a big easier to handle.
15. Alexis Peterson (G / Syracuse)
30. Lanay Montgomery (C / West Virginia)
Peterson gives the Storm an option that, if she develops, could keep the seemingly ageless Sue Bird fresh and on the floor longer. The Syracuse guard and ACC Player of the Year checks all the boxes (ability to score, facilitate and defend) for an ideal lead guard and should make a great backcourt mate alongside Jewell Loyd.
17. Erica McCall (F / Stanford)
20. Feyonda Fitzgerald (F / Temple)
22. Ronni Williams (F / Florida)
32. Adrienne Motley (G / Miami (Fla.))
Some may argue that McCall should have heard her name called earlier but the Stanford post lands in a great spot: on a playoff team with veterans in the frontcourt (Erlana Larkins, Devereaux Peters, and the recently acquired Candice Dupree). Leading a Final Four team in multiple categories (points, rebounds, blocks) is a great sign for McCall. In Fitzgerald, Williams and Motley, the Fever have picks with track records of consistent point production.
29. Alexis Prince (G / Baylor)
Phoenix was the only team in the Draft with one selection and the Mercury added Prince, a 6-2 guard that can create her own shot toward the basket or hit from the outside. Her versatility will be needed for a Phoenix team that just made the playoffs last year.