Tulsa Shock general manager and coach Nolan Richardson has his eyes on one thing with the No. 2 pick in the 2011 Draft: Size. With a number of mock drafts simulating Australia’s 6-foot-8 Elizabeth Cambage second overall, it looks like he’s in a prime position to get it too.
Luckily for him and the Shock, there is also another pick on the way midway through the first round. If size can be had with that No. 2 pick, then a point guard could be the target with the No. 7 spot on the draft board.
Versatility in Richardson’s system will be the name of the game regardless of which position she is slated at, but the Shock is looking for a shooter, a ball mover and someone who could play on the defensive end of the ball. But the one area that Richardson aims to improve on the most in 2011 will require more of a team effort, and that comes in the form of ball protection.
“We turned the ball over a lot. We led the league probably in turnovers, but we also led the league in steals. But we could steal it and turn it back over and it killed me because you work so hard to get it and you give it right back,” Richardson said with a laugh.
Rebounding is another area of concern for the Shock and likely the main reason why a big may hear her name called with the No. 2 pick. For a team that struggled from the field in 2010, rebounding would have provided some better second-chance opportunities had there been a presence in the paint.
Rest assured, there are positives to take from Tulsa’s inaugural season once you look past the aforementioned weaknesses and the 6-28 record. Defense at times could be swarming, no doubt an element Richardson would love to see carry over into this season as well. But the real root of improvement, and likely the difference between last season and this season, will be based in consistency. At times the defense was swarming, but that literally translates to one or two good stops followed by a series of providing the other team with green lights to the rim. Much of this will improve with time, but also a little team chemistry.
What doesn’t help the Shock is a season-ending injury to Shanna Crossley. Throughout 2010 Crossley was Tulsa’s three-point and free-throw shooter, finishing third overall on the team with 9.7 points per game. An offseason trade with the Los Angeles Sparks, in which Tulsa sent a 2012 second round draft pick in exchange for Andrea Riley, could help the Shock in that department.
“There’s no question that I’ve followed her career for several years at Oklahoma State because I live in the area,” Richardson said of the second-year guard, who gave birth to her first child this past offseason. “We feel that if she gets back in the kind of shape and plays the kind of basketball that we’re capable of playing I think she can play in that style and fulfill a very important role, whether that’s a coming-off-the-bench role or a starting role.”
Between 2008 and 2009, the Atlanta Dream unofficially set the standard for how quickly a team can turn itself around when a 4-30 record in one season turned into an 18-16 playoff contender the following season. It stands as proof to the fact that with smart draft picks and a strong hand in free agency, a team can propel itself up the standings. But first, the team needs to find itself.
“I thought toward the end of the year we were beginning to have chemistry,” said Richardson. “We weren’t as bad as we were with losing the ball or turning it over as much. We settled in a lot better, players got to understand each other a little bit toward the end. We didn’t actually win a lot of ball games, but we were right there.”
Addressing the areas of improvement and pursuing the best players in the draft will no doubt help the Shock turn things around in 2011, but so too will a full training camp and an opportunity to keep this year’s roster playing comfortably alongside one another.
-- Frank Della Femina, WNBA.com
Recent Draft History
|19. Amanda Thompson||11. Shavonte Zellous||4. Alexis Hornbuckle|
|31. Vivian Frieson||18. Britany Miller||11. Tasha Humphrey|
|37. Tanae Davis-Cain||18. Olayinka Sanni|
|28. Natasha Lacy|
|42. Valeriya Berezhynska|