Deep Thoughts at the Draft
By Mark Bodenrader,

Lady Comfort of Temple, left, and Khadijah Whittington of N.C. State take part in a scrimmage at Pre-Draft Camp.

TAMPA, April 4, 2008 - Drafts always seem to be categorized as either weak or strong, shallow or deep. You rarely hear about drafts that are, eh, well, just about average in terms of talent.

The 2008 WNBA Draft is being called a deep draft, and nothing has happened to dissuade coaches and GMs of that notion at the Pre-Draft Camp in Tampa.

If the fierce competition in Tampa is any indicator, the talent pool is one of the deepest in WNBA history. And it goes beyond a couple of can’t-miss stars, the expected top two picks, Tennessee’s Candace Parker and LSU’s Sylvia Fowles.

“It’s one of the deeper drafts since I’ve been in the league,” said Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault. “The quality of the top of the draft through the first 15-20 picks is pretty good. Somebody might have gotten as good a pick at 15 that they might have gotten at eight or nine, depending on how it falls out.”

The amount of high-caliber talent entering the draft is something the Sun have taken quite an interest in since they have four total selections and two in the first round (Nos. 9 and 12). For a team that will be without Katie Douglas, Nykesha Sales and Margo Dydek this season, it affords them some much-needed options.

“Having two picks in the first round gives us flexibility,” said Thibault. “We can draft one for need, one for best player and we can move one of them if we want to trade. It’s a good draft to have multiple picks in.”

Eastern Conference rival Detroit is another team sitting pretty with two first-round picks (Nos. 4 and 11) and five total. And the Shock could very well shake up the draft with the route coach/GM Bill Laimbeer takes.

But deep drafts are also helpful to those teams that have the majority of their picks in the later stages. The Sacramento Monarchs have one first-round selection at No. 10, but their following three picks don’t come until the third round between Nos. 38 and 43.

“There are obviously a couple of really outstanding players that are difference makers that’ll go one and two,” said Sacramento GM John Whisenant. “Then there’s a shelf below those two that are really good players that can be contributing important assets for whatever teams’ needs are. There are some nice players down there that could go in the second and third rounds and make WNBA teams, depending on needs.

“With our third round picks, we’re just looking to fill in. We always need shooters, shooters on the wings. With losing Kristin Haynie in the expansion draft we need a backup point guard to Ticha (Penicheiro) and Kara (Lawson), in case we have injuries.”

The San Antonio Silver Stars are without a first-round pick this year after trading it away to the Shock, leaving them with selections in the second and third rounds. But because of the high level of talent available, the Silver Stars have a good shot of finding that post player they sorely need to back up Sophia Young and Ruth Riley on the frontline.

And if the 2008 WNBA Draft is deepest in any one position, it’s post players. Along with Parker and Fowles, top prospects include Maryland's Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper, N.C. State's Khadijah Whittington and Georgia's Tasha Humphrey to name a few.

“I think this is an unusually good post year,” said Whisenant. “There’s an unusual number of 6-2, 6-3 and 6-4 players that have ability. I think that’s an indication that more and more young girls are playing because of the WNBA. You’re starting to see an effect of that. Twelve years (of the WNBA) is starting to give a lot of little girls motivation to take the game seriously.”

Taking part in her first draft as the head coach/GM of the expansion Atlanta Dream, Marynell Meadors couldn’t have better timing. Recognizing this draft was full of WNBA-ready players, Meadors felt comfortable trading down from No. 4 to No. 8 to acquire some desperately needed veteran experience to mix in with her young squad.

“Watching these kids play today, there’s still a lot of talent here,” said Meadors. “It may be second- or third-round players that we’re looking at right now, but there are four or five that are probably going in the first round. The rest are playing in the Final Four. I just really think it’s a deep draft and I think we can get a solid performer at No. 8.”

Meadors seems to agree that the first round will likely be dominated by bigs, but she sees a multitude of backcourt talent that could have in impact in the later rounds.

“When I first started evaluating this draft I thought it was going to be a post draft,” said Meadors. “It is a post draft, but it’s also turned out to be a guard draft. So I think we’ve got a really good blend of all positions. Teams are going to have the opportunity to fill their needs.”

Whether a team needs a play-maker, a shooter from the wing or some power up front, the 2008 WNBA Draft appears to have something for everyone.