2012 WNBA Mock Draft

By almost all accounts, the 2012 WNBA Draft has a clear-cut No. 1 selection: Stanford’s Nneka Ogwumike.

It’s after Ogwumike takes the podium and holds up a Sparks jersey that things get a little cloudy.

How cloudy? This draft class includes a talented, but nearly indistinguishable group of wings headlined by Miami’s Shenise Johnson and Tennessee’s Shekinna Stricklen. It offers a group of bigs led by Tennessee’s Glory Johnson and Notre Dame’s Devereaux Peters, each of whom has her own set of strengths and weaknesses.

The best perimeter shooter, depending on who you’re talking to, is either Connecticut’s Tiffany Hayes or Notre Dame’s Natalie Novosel. There’s even some debate over who the best playmaking guard is because while Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis is regarded as the best pure point guard available, Miami’s Riquna Williams, who can play the point but projects as more of a combo guard, brings her own repertoire of unique skills that certain teams may covet over others.

All this, and we’re not even out of the first round yet.

The teams that are picking do not make it any easier either. For starters, two teams that made the WNBA Playoffs last year -- Seattle and defending champion Minnesota -- own the second and third picks, respectively. By nature of their success last year, neither team has any glaring weaknesses, so they become a little bit of a wild card in terms of who they select. Also confusing the issue is that Los Angeles, with four picks in the top 16, and Minnesota, with five picks in the top 20, rule the first two rounds of the draft, thus giving them rare flexibility in terms of selections and potential draft day deals.

So, in other words, the crystal ball’s a lot less crystal this year, and predicting where players will land after the first pick is not an exact science. As Washington Head Coach Trudi Lacey put it, “we’re struggling with our mock draft, too.” That said, after talking with coaches the past few weeks to try to defog the draft picture, here is what this prognosticator thinks the first round of Monday’s 2012 WNBA Draft could look like.


1. Nneka Ogwumike

This pick will surprise nobody. Ogwumike is the star of this class and for good reason. The 6-foot-2 forward dominated at Stanford, and she plays and carries herself like professional already. Her senior year she averaged 22.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game on her way to being the only player other than Brittney Griner to be named a unanimous First Team All-American. The Sparks will be lucky to land Ogwumike and she figures to form a dynamic frontcourt duo with Candace Parker, the franchise’s only other No. 1 overall pick, for years to come.


2. Shenise Johnson

Shenise Johnson can do it all on the basketball court. The 5-foot-11 New York native ended her collegiate career as just the second player in NCAA Division I history to score 2,000 points, pull down 1,000 rebounds, dish out 500 assists and have 400 steals. Nancy Lieberman was the other, which is not bad company. Seattle will not have to ask Johnson to step in right away, but she does have as much upside as anyone in the draft, something Seattle covets with this No. 2 selection.


3. Glory Johnson

You need a microscope to find any cracks in this Minnesota team and even then you might not be able to find one. The Lynx are primed for another deep run, so all they really need is someone to play a few minutes and round out an already championship-tested rotation. You can never have enough size, and 13-year veteran Taj McWilliams-Franklin is not getting any younger, so Minnesota will likely try to add another post presence. After Ogwumike, the headliner of the post players is Glory Johnson. Johnson is often described as relentless; she averaged 14.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per night and her 37 career double-doubles are third in Tennessee history. While she will not be asked to put up those kind of numbers here, she could round out Minnesota’s frontline nicely.


4. Shekinna Stricklen

Versatility is the name of the game for Shekinna Stricklen and that’s good for Tulsa, winners of only three games last year, because the Shock could use help in a variety of different areas. Stricklen is famous for playing all five positions in her junior season on her way to being named SEC Player of the Year, and if she is still available at No. 4, the Shock will likely lock her up. With a player with Stricklen’s skillset, Tulsa could plug her anywhere into the lineup and see results. She could help the team scoring on the perimeter, but the 6-foot-2 Arkansas native could also help the team on the boards, two categories they finished dead last in last year.


5. Devereaux Peters

San Antonio, last in the league in rebounding margin in 2011, is looking to add size. Simple as that. The Silver Stars have started to do this in free agency with multiple acquisitions, but coach Dan Hughes says that theme will likely continue in the draft. That is why the Silver Stars could very well select 6-foot-2 forward Devereaux Peters, an athletic big that averaged 9.3 rebounds to go along with 11.8 points and 2.0 blocks per game. This may be a little high for Peters -- especially because she has a history of knee problems having suffered two ACL injuries -- but she is the best big available at this point and the Silver Stars could use her length in the paint. Peters has also played two full seasons without any issues with her knees, so any team that drafts her is not off-base in thinking that those issues are a thing of the past.


6. Riquna Williams

Every year, the always-explosive Mercury set the offensive pace in the WNBA. Enter Riquna Williams. Williams, who can play the point or off the ball, averaged 16.6 points for Miami her senior season after averaging 21.7 her junior year. Phoenix shipped off point guard Temeka Johnson to Tulsa, so they have a need for 1-guard, and while the Mercury will most likely still look to add another point guard if they draft Williams, Williams is someone that can thrive in and succeed in Corey Gaines’ up-tempo system. Williams, who averaged 2.3 steals per game, can also help the team with its faulty perimeter defense.


7. Natalie Novosel

The Liberty want to add size here but with Nneka Ogwumike, Glory Johnson and Devereaux Peters off the board, they may be out of options in the post. If not size, New York would be wise to add a perimeter scorer to complement Cappie Pondexter. Notre Dame’s Novosel can stretch the defense -- she shot 41 percent from 3-point range last year -- and also attack the rim and get to the free-throw line, where she shoots 83 percent. This may not be their ideal pick in terms of need, but Novosel has the ability to make New York a dynamic team offensively.


8. Samantha Prahalis

Perhaps the biggest mystery of the draft is Samantha Prahalis. She could go as early as No. 4 to Tulsa or she could find her way all the way down here at No. 8. While Washington’s Matee Ajavon was a pleasant surprise running the offense last year, the Mystics still finished last in the league in assists while having the third most turnovers. Prahalis, considered by many to be the best pure point guard in the draft, can help in both of those areas. The fact that she scored 19.8 points per game doesn’t hurt either, based on the fact that Washington was 11th in total scoring last year. The Mystics will be fortunate if Prahalis falls this far.


9. Tiffany Hayes

UConn has practically served as a farm team for the Connecticut Sun in recent years. The Sun currently have five former Huskies on their roster and Tiffany Hayes could make it six. The Sun already have a pretty stout roster, but they could use another scorer on this wing. That said, this draft pick -- if able to even make the roster -- will just need to be a role player on a proven veteran team. Tiffany Hayes, who averaged 14.7 points a game and shot 41 percent from behind the arc her senior year, has excelled in roles where she didn’t have to be the number one option, and that makes her a nice fit for Connecticut. A reunion with Tina Charles, with whom she won a National Championship with just two seasons ago, would also be in the cards here.


10. LaSondra Barrett

The Mystics want a post player that can spread the floor, and LaSondra Barrett fills that role. In fact, Barrett is right up there with Shekinna Stricklen as one of the most versatile players in the draft. Barrett was also asked to play five positions in college and she has been able to adapt to several roles, something that could greatly benefit Washington. What makes her the pick here, though, is that in addition to grabbing 7.1 rebounds per game, she hit 39 percent of her 3-point attempts this past season. That is exactly the kind of impact player that Trudi Lacey wants to bring to her offense.


11. Sasha Goodlett

It is all about rebounding for the Fever, and there’s no better remedy for rebounding woes than size. That’s where Sasha Goodlett comes in. At 6-foot-5, Goodlett is exactly the kind of game changer Indiana could use in the post. Her game is still a little raw, but she made huge strides her senior year, upping her averages to 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds. How important is size? Just ask Georgia Tech. A much improved Goodlett helped lead the Yellow Jackets to their first-ever Sweet Sixteen this past season. It might take a few years for Goodlett to fully round out her game, but she’ll always be 6-foot-5, and that’s just what the Fever need.


12. Lynetta Kizer

Minnesota can go in any direction with this pick and whoever lands here at No. 12 is going to have to fight for a roster spot. Given that they have such a stacked roster -- and also three additional picks in the top 20 -- the Lynx can afford to take a chance on Lynetta Kizer. Her physical talents are unquestioned. At 6-foot-4 she has a WNBA-ready body and she has averaged over 10 points a game all four years in college. But, a suspension for that forced her to miss Maryland’s first three games this year for a violation team rules, and the fact that she came off the bench this past year (and won the ACC Sixth Player of the Year Award) can raise some eyebrows. Multi-faceted players like Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Julie Wojta and Gonzaga’s Kayla Standish or even Rutgers point guard Khadijah Rushdan could be under consideration here, but Kizer’s immense potential make her the pick to round out the first round.