Storm Stays Sixth Following Lottery

Seattle Storm Chief Operating Officer Karen Bryant, Coach Anne Donovan and point guard Sue Bird were thousands of miles away from each other during Wednesday’s Draft Lottery. Bryant was watching with assistant Jenny Boucek, part owner Jack Rodgers and Director of Basketball Operations Missy Bequette, Bird was in New York providing commentary for NBA TV’s coverage of the lottery and Donovan was in the Bahamas, having stayed over to relax after scouting a tournament held there earlier in the week.

Bird discusses the lotto with fellow UConn grad Rebecca Lobo and NBA TV’s Spero Dedes.
Jennifer Potheiser/WNBAE/Getty
Despite the geographic distance, however, all three had the same disappointed reaction to the results, as the Storm failed to move up and stayed in the sixth slot in the draft.

Everyone involved knew that winning any of the three lottery picks, let alone the top pick, was a longshot for the Storm, but that didn’t prevent them from getting their hopes up.

“I felt a lot of excitement around the lottery today,” said Donovan afterwards in a phone conference with Seattle media. “I was really, genuinely excited about being able to pull that huge upset and finish with number one.”

Bird was upbeat after having a chance to think about things, noting, “I really didn't expect much, from the Seattle Storm point of view, our chances were like 2.5. So, I can't say I'm disappointed, but it would have been nice to have the No. 1 pick. “But I am not at all disappointed. I think the No. 6 pick, whoever it is we take, this class is so deep, it's a good year to be No. 6.”

Still, Bird couldn’t hide her emotional reaction immediately after the draft order was revealed.

On Bird’s second count, her Storm colleagues are in an agreement. With what is reputed to be arguably the best draft class in the WNBA’s eighth season, the Storm will have quality players available to pick from at pick six.

“The sixth pick is still going to get us a nice player in this draft,” said Donovan.

“The good news is we’re still sitting six in a really strong draft, so we still feel really good about bringing in a quality player at number six, if in fact that’s where we stay,” added Bryant.

That last point is an important one for the Storm to consider over the four months leading up to the 2004 Draft. With a young core headlined by Bird and Lauren Jackson, Storm management may prefer to pick up a complementary veteran by dealing the pick for a veteran. Trading up or trading down, depending on what other teams are expected to do, is also a possibility.

“Everything’s a possibility at this point,” joked Donovan.

If the Storm keeps its pick, the most likely need the team will be looking to fill is perimeter scoring, which Donovan mentioned at the end of the season and Bryant confirmed Wednesday evening. Fortunately for the Storm, this year’s draft class is particularly strong on the perimeter. While Seattle won’t likely have a chance at guards Diana Taurasi of Connecticut and Alana Beard of Duke, the consensus top two players in the draft in that order, players like Penn State’s high-scoring Kelly Mazzante and Minnesota’s versatile Lindsay Whalen could be available.

The Storm now has four months to scout these players and the others expected to be available in the late lottery to determine whether they fit the team’s needs. In addition, the results of a possible dispersal draft and the Storm’s ability to lure a veteran in free agency could affect what it ends up doing in the draft.

No official decision has yet been made on what will be done with the Cleveland Rockers, who discontinued operations after last season, but it is looking more and more all the time like the team will be disbanded. The WNBA has announced that the Rockers will not be placed in a non-NBA city, limiting the possibilities for a franchise shift. If a dispersal draft was held this off-season, it would likely precede the amateur draft, and Bryant indicated that chronology alone could mean that the dispersal draft would determine the course of the remainder of the Storm’s off-season.

(In a twist, the Storm could benefit from the same thing the team complained about last season, basing the dispersal draft’s order on the previous season’s record. With only one team to select from, this year’s dispersal draft will drop off in quality faster than last year – when Sandy Brondello went unselected and ended up starting all 34 games for the Storm at shooting guard.)

Free agency is also a wild card this offseason. For the first time, veteran WNBA players with six years of experience can become unrestricted free agents, which may force some of the league’s best and most experienced teams to lose key players. How this will affect the Storm remains anybody’s guess.

The worst news of the night for the Storm may have been not who didn’t get a lottery pick (them), but who did, specifically the Phoenix Mercury ending up with the top pick overall and, barring a trade, Taurasi. Donovan was effusive in her praise for Taurasi.

“If it was me, it would be an easy decision,” she said.

“I’d listen to everybody, and I’m sure there’s going to be some tremendous offers on the table, just as there was for Coach (Lin) Dunn when she had the number one pick for Sue and Lauren. So I would listen to everything, but I can’t imagine anything would be worth trading that pick. She’s that much of an impact player. I think Diana Taurasi is just that much of an impact (player).”

The Storm was fortunate that the San Antonio Silver Stars, who had the third-worst record in the WNBA last season, were bumped out of that position by the Indiana Fever. The Silver Stars will pick fourth, with the Washington Mystics picking second.