2005 Power Forward Prospects
There was no elite power forward prospect in last year's draft, but that didn't stop power forwards from making an impact. Rebekkah Brunson, Christi Thomas and Iciss Tillis, all drafted in the later part of the first round, were solid off the bench for playoff teams. Thomas ended up starting eight games after the Sparks lost starting power forward DeLisha Milton-Jones and averaged 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds, shooting 46.2% from the field. Playing behind a veteran front line in Sacramento, Brunson ranked in the WNBA's top ten in rebounds per 40 minutes. Tillis shot 47.3% from the field for the Shock. Meanwhile, Le'Coe Willingham reminded us that not every WNBA contributor enters the league as a first-round pick. Undrafted out of Auburn, Willingham still ended up playing key minutes for the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Finals.
Defining positions is always a tricky part of the NCAA-to-WNBA process. Are Sandora Irvin and Janell McCarville power forwards or centers? For the purposes of this analysis, we've split them up, calling McCarville a power forward and Irvin a center, but where both players play will probably be determined more by their new teammates more than anything else. Likewise, Jacqueline Batteast could end up at either forward position in the WNBA. McCarville is a lock for the first round and Batteast likely a first-rounder, while Oregon's Cathrine Kraayeveld could join them.
Storm Outlook: With Lauren Jackson at power forward, the Storm needs not worry about the position as far as the starting lineup is concerned. A long-term solution as Jackson's backup might be something of interest, however.
The measurements: 6-2, 220
The skinny: If McCarville isn't the top pick of the draft on Saturday, she won't likely last past Indiana at the second pick. By near-consensus, McCarville is the best post player available. Nicknamed "Shaq" at the University of Minnesota, McCarville is only 6-2 but an imposing force down low who's not afraid to use her size to her advantage. At the same time, McCarville also has a soft touch from the paint (she shot 58.0% from the field) and is an outstanding passer for a post player who handed out 3.7 assists per game. There are some concerns about McCarville's quickness defensively, but while she might struggle to defend Jackson, what WNBA player doesn't?
The measurements: 6-2, 175
College: Notre Dame
The skinny: Batteast is one of the swing players in this year's draft. Where she goes will have a major impact on how the draft plays out. Storm.wnba.com's first mock draft had Batteast going fourth overall, but there's talk she's not a lock for the first round. At 6-2, Batteast might not be able to stay at power forward in the WNBA, and she'll have to improve her perimeter shooting to play on the wing. The USBWA Freshman of the Year, Batteast did not take huge strides during her college career. She was probably at her best as a junior, when she averaged 16.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Her rebound average and field-goal percentage dropped sharply as a senior. On talent alone, however, Batteast is one of the top players available.
The measurements: 6-4, 180
The skinny: A Kirkland native, Kraayeveld ended up at Oregon for her college career. Her five years for the Ducks will ultimately be remembered as a success, but were often derailed by injury. A partial ACL tear cost Kraayeveld virtually the entire 2002-03 season, and she missed half of 2003-04 with a staph infection in her right knee. Kraayeveld was able to go out with a healthy senior season, averaging 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds and leading Oregon to an NCAA Tournament win in Seattle over TCU. Though 6-4, Kraayeveld's game often tends toward the perimeter. She hit 40 3s at a 36.4% clip last season, better than many of the guards in the draft. Kraayeveld is also a good ballhandler for a post player. She can be bothered by physical play, however, which will only increase in the WNBA. Kraayeveld's age is also a minor check mark against her.
The measurements: 6-2, 180
The skinny: Few players benefited more from the exposure of the NCAA Tournament than Blackmon, who helped lead the Lady Bears to the NCAA title and scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the championship game against Michigan State. For the Tournament, she averaged 12.8 points and 6.0 rebounds, slightly down from her season averages (15.4 points, 7.9 rebounds). Though only 6-2 and not particularly athletic, Blackmon is good at establishing post position to get good looks down low. She'll likely hear her name called during the second round on Saturday.
The measurements: 6-1, 167
The skinny: After Blackmon, there's a bit of a drop-off in terms of the talent level at power forward. The other players may not go until the third round. Flavin is an interesting prospect. She put up strong numbers in college - 16.8 points and 8.8 rebounds as a senior; 57.7% shooting for her career - but did so against relatively weak competition at Richmond and at 6-1. Flavin is also coming off of a sprained knee that limited her action in the Spiders' NCAA Tournament loss to Florida State.
|OTHER POWER FORWARD PROSPECTS|
Tabitha Pool, Michigan - Averaged 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds as a senior.
Tori Talbert, Texas State - Two-time Southland Conference Player of the Year faces massive step up in level of play.