Draft Decision Looms for Fever: Trade or Stay Put?

By Tom Rietmann | April 13, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Fever franchise, for only the second time in its 15-year history, has two first-round picks in the WNBA draft.

That double dip of first-rounders represents flexibility for Kelly Krauskopf, the Fever's president and general manager. It means having various scenarios available. It means some wheeling and dealing may be in the offing.

“I'm still talking to teams about a trade,” Krauskopf said as she previewed Monday's 2014 draft. “There is a lot of dialogue going on. When you have two picks, you get a lot of calls from teams.”

The Fever holds its own pick at No. 5 overall. The team also acquired the No. 9 overall selection in an off-season trade that sent guard Erin Phillips to Phoenix.

Indiana could stay put at both positions if Krauskopf and Coach Lin Dunn sense the right college players will fall to them. Or the Fever could send one of the selections to another club in return for a veteran player. Or the Indiana team could even package the picks and move higher in the first round.

Krauskopf listed the possibilities of a draft-related trade happening at “50 percent.”

“We're in this transition mode,” Krauskopf said, referring to an off-season facelift that has seen the team's roster get significantly younger. “It's a good time to have two picks.

“There are all kinds of scenarios that could still happen before Monday. Or it could happen during the draft. We're open to that. You don't get two picks very often. You try to figure out the best scenario for your team.”

Besides the departure of Phillips, the Fever lost veteran guard Katie Douglas to Connecticut in free agency. Center Jessica Davenport has decided to retire from the WNBA.

Indiana has added free agent Marissa Coleman to the roster, gaining a versatile wing player who can replace some outside shooting that Phillips and Douglas provided. Also new to the Indy team is Lynetta Kizer, a strong 6-4 forward who was part of the deal with Phoenix. Center Ziomara Morrison and forward Jennifer George signed with Indiana this week.

The Fever captured the WNBA championship in 2012 and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. The starting five that played in 2013's conference finals remains intact. That nucleus is led by forward Tamika Catchings, who at 34 remains one of the fiercest competitors and top players in the league.

“We're trying to get younger and get healthier so we can maintain the level of excellence that we've had,” Dunn said. “I don't want people to think that we're throwing people away and trying to rebuild. That's not what we're trying to do. We're trying to maintain and get better -- and get younger at the same time.”

If the Fever chooses to keep its two first-round picks, Dunn envisions the team looking for an inside player with one and a perimeter contributor with the other. The talent pool of college seniors is viewed as deep enough to make for a solid first round.

“We certainly expect whoever we pick at 5 and 9 to contribute,” Dunn said. “I think we see a deeper draft than we thought. As the (college) season has gone along, I think you've seen the possibilities that all the first-rounders can make a team.”

Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike and Baylor guard Odyssey Sims are considered top prospects. Notre Dame guard Kayla McBride, Maryland forward Alyssa Thomas and Connecticut center Stefanie Dolson are possibilities. Connecticut guard Bria Hartley, Louisville guard Shoni Shimmel and Nebraska forward Jordan Hooper also will be in the mix.

“I think there's a rich enough pool that we'll be able to get two solid players,” Krauskopf said.

Or, if picks don't come off the board as the Indiana team hopes, that trade possibility looms. Indiana hasn't had a pair of first-round picks since the 2001 draft, when Catchings and Kelly Schumacher were selected at Nos. 3 and 14.

“We have options,” Krauskopf said. “I think it's exciting. I think there could be some movement ahead of us. I think there could be some other things happening this weekend.”