The top four picks in the 2007 WNBA Draft: (L to R) Armintie Price, Jessica Davenport, Noelle Quinn and Lindsey Harding.
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CLEVELAND, April 4, 2007 — No underclassmen? No problem.
Trades stole the show the 2007 WNBA Draft, as the top two picks switched places in separate deals and All-Star Becky Hammon was sent from New York to San Antonio.
After winning the Draft lottery, the Phoenix Mercury were rumored to have been trying to trade the No. 1 pick for weeks. They ended up selecting Duke point guard Lindsey Harding with their top pick, then traded her to Minnesota for veteran forward Tangela Smith.
With the No. 2 pick, the San Antonio Silver Stars snagged Ohio State post player Jessica Davenport, then shortly thereafter moved her and a 2008 first-round pick to New York for Hammon and a 2008 second-rounder. As WNBA President Donna Orender announced the trade, the crowd at the Renaissance Hotel's Grand Ballroom gasped.
"The trades were the story of the day," said ESPN reporter and former WNBA star Rebecca Lobo. "Especially their magnitude. Anytime you trade the No. 1 pick, that's a big deal. And not only was the No. 2 pick traded, but it was for Becky Hammon! It's a huge deal."
"They traded a superstar!" ESPN analyst and basketball legend Nancy Lieberman said of Hammon, who has averaged more than 13.5 points per game every year since 2002. "She's not a role player! She's the face of this league, many would say."
"It was shocking to me," said Lobo. "(Hammon) is the marquee name in New York. She's the one who sells the tickets and makes that show go. That was a pretty big 'wow' factor. For her to go from being undrafted (she was assigned to the Liberty prior to the 1999 season) to being traded for the second player in the draft is amazing."
With the third pick, the Chicago Sky were quick to grab Ole Miss guard Armintie Price, a player who has been steadily creeping up many draft boards in recent weeks.
The pick drew rave reviews from ESPN analyst Doris Burke.
"I think Armintie Price is the most exciting player in the draft," she said afterwards. "This is a kid who has explosive athleticism. I think she's already among the best athletes in the league. Couple that with her rebounding and slashing ability, and she elevates the talent level of the Sky.
"Once this woman gets a consistent 3-point shot," she continued, "she will be impossible to guard. The player I expect the most out of (in this draft) is Armintie Price.
"The New York kids Davenport and Jackson are happy because they'll get a chance to play a lot," said Lobo. "As a rookie, you usually don't get a huge chance to shine, but those players definitely will."
Long considered a likely top-five pick after her impressive career at North Carolina, point guard Ivory Latta fell all the way to the defending WNBA champion Detroit Shock at No. 11.
"That definitely surprised me," said Lobo. "But (going to Detroit) is a great situation for her, because it can be tough to go from a team that has a lot of success to a team that's bad. And she doesn't have to deal with that. She gets to go to the defending champion.
"I wouldn't have been shocked to see her go No. 2, so for her to slip all the way to go 11th was a surprise."
But can Latta crack coach Bill Laimbeer's deep roster in Detroit?
"I think she can," Lieberman said. "She's a fantastic player. She's going to a winner."
Another potential steal in many experts' minds was Latta's teammate at North Carolina, forward Camille Little, who went to San Antonio with the 17th overall pick.
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"The question with (Little) was that she can do a lot of things pretty well, but what is the one thing that she's great at? What she's great at is doing a lot of things well. She'll fit in nicely in (San Antonio)."
Who went higher in the draft than the experts may have originally expected?
Burke pointed immediately to Purdue wing Katie Gearlds, who went to Seattle with the No. 7 pick.
"Based on her performance in the NCAAs against quality competition and the 3-point shooting performance in the competition at the men's Final Four… she skyrocketed! There was talk that she might be an early second-rounder, so she went pretty high."
Lobo went a pick further, bringing up junior college star Ashley Shields, who went eighth to the Houston Comets.
"Most of the people in this room who aren't related to her probably hadn't
heard of her until a few days ago," she joked. "She was called just
24 hours ago and invited to be here. That's stunning to me. The first JuCo kid
to ever be drafted? That was the biggest surprise."
So who were the biggest winners at WNBA Draft Day 2007?
Lieberman liked the Mercury's maneuverings in picking up Tangela Smith and in drafting Tyresa Smith (Delaware, second round, 18th overall), Chrissy Givens (Middle Tennessee State, third round, No. 31) and Emily Westerberg (Arizona State, third round, No. 37).
"Phoenix did really well," she said. "They filled a lot of needs."
Lobo loved the swap the Silver Stars pulled off.
"The movement of Becky Hammon to San Antonio will have a huge impact on that team."
Though the trades remained the top story of the day, Burke continued to sing the praises of the Sky for selecting Armintie Price.
"A second-year franchise is going to need someone to come in and play major minutes and give them a significant contribution," she said, "and I think she's a kid who can do that. She'll surprise some people on the boards. She can play multiple positions, and she'll fill the stat sheet offensively and defensively."
"People have learned about Armintie Price lately (from the NCAA Tournament), but a couple of weeks ago, people would have been saying 'Who's this girl, Armintie Price?' And once you see her in the WNBA, you won't be asking that question anymore."
So among all of these happy draft picks heading off to WNBA training camps, who has the edge in the Rookie of the Year voting?
"I like Armintie's chances," Burke said with a wink.