Lack of Draft Day Deals Puts Focus on Deep Talent Pool
By Adam Hirshfield, WNBA.com

While Candace Parker (left) and Sylvia Fowles (right) went first and second as expected,
third pick Candice Wiggins appears, for now, to be staying in Minnesota.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

PALM HARBOR, Fla., April 9, 2008 — Rumors of trades near the top of the 2008 WNBA Draft have been flying for weeks. But while those tales of draft-day deals were full of sound and fury, they've signified nothing.

So far.

Tennessee superstar Candace Parker and 6-6 LSU center Sylvia Fowles were selected first and second as expected to the Los Angeles Sparks and Chicago Sky. But the No. 3 spot was where things were supposed to get interesting.

"There was such an extraordinary amount of talk before the draft about the No. 3 pick," said ESPN hoops analyst Doris Burke. "And the value of that pick had skyrocketed with the performance of (Stanford guard) Candice Wiggins down the stretch."

The Minnesota Lynx were in possession of the No. 3 pick, but in many experts' minds, bringing Wiggins to the Land of 10,000 Lakes didn't appear to be a priority.

"Minnesota did not have a need at the guard position," argued Burke. "What they need is a starting post. And there were a lot of quality post players in this draft, but after 1 (Parker) and 2 (Fowles), there were none who are necessarily locks to contribute right away. So it wouldn't have surprised me if Minnesota pulled a move to get a post player."

On the other hand, Detroit, Houston, Washington and Connecticut all had backcourt needs and expressed interest in trading up to land the pick and select the surging Wiggins.

"Before the draft, I heard a million things," admitted ESPN reporter and WNBA legend Rebecca Lobo. "Connecticut was going to trade for Wiggins… Detroit was going to trade for Wiggins… but Wiggins is in Minnesota, at least for now. We'll see how things continue to unfold. I can't imagine everyone's going to stay put."

There was one deal consummated on draft day, as the Atlanta Dream traded the rights to Ann Wauters, second-round pick Morenike Atunrase and a 2009 second-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Camille Little, second-round pick Chioma Nnamaka and a 2009 first-rounder.

But no deal involving Minnesota has been made official. Not yet.

"I don't think the big story from this draft has happened yet," said former coach and current ESPN analyst Carolyn Peck. "I think there are things in the works.

"If you look at how certain teams loaded up on guards or posts, you know that not every one of those players is going to make those teams. They could be looking to package players in some kind of deal. I really think there's still going to be some movement."

"I don't think Minnesota would have taken Wiggins if they didn't have some kind of plan," Peck continued. "Something tells me the Lynx aren't done dealing yet and could end up freeing up some playing time for her with a trade involving some of their other guards."

Barring further maneuverings, though, the 2008 Draft will still be remembered as a coming out party for several youngsters who are expected to become franchise players. "It might have been more exciting for the fans if there were more trades and shenanigans," said Lobo, "but this is a terrific draft class and a really good group of kids."

Parker, especially, less than 15 hours after finishing off her second straight NCAA Championship with Tennessee despite suffering from a separated shoulder, drew rave reviews.

"She's Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy all rolled into one," said former Lakers standout and current Sparks head coach Michael Cooper, who never appeared to waver in targeting Parker from the get-go.

"And Candace makes us immediate title contenders. With Smooth (Lisa Leslie) coming back and Temeka Johnson getting healthy, the picks that we've made are definitely going to come in and be immediate impact players. It will be a new version of Showtime."

"Candace Parker has already proven to me that she can hang on a stage with 10-year WNBA veterans," said Burke of the versatile forward/guard/center, who will turn 22 on April 19. "She was the best player on the U.S. team during stretches of the World Championships back in 2006, so I don't expect anything different in 2008. She'll win (the Rookie of the Year Award) in a walk."

New York's first-round selection of Rutgers' wing Essence Carson also drew rave reviews from the experts.

"She is special," said Burke of the three-time defending Big East Defensive Player of the Year. "Anybody's who's seen that kid play knows that.

"She's versatile on both sides of the ball, and you have to remember that (Rutgers coach) Vivian Stringer is a defensive-minded coach, so offensively Carson could have some more freedom playing in the WNBA, so there's tremendous upside there. I think New York does a terrific job of playing people to their strengths, so Essence is going to flourish."

"I think it was fun just to see her reaction to being picked by New York," said Lobo. "You could see how excited she was… she was just beaming. Her grandma was sitting there with her fingers crossed hoping Essence would stay close to home. So when things like that work out, you have to feel really happy for the kid and her family."

Burke also lauded Connecticut's first-round selection of little-known Middle Tennessee State forward Amber Holt, who led the nation in scoring this past season at 27.3 ppg.

"Mike Thibault is a terrific evaluator of talent," Burke pointed out, "and I know he saw a lot of her during her senior season. She's not a player who would strike a chord in the national consciousness, but I am anxious to see her in a Connecticut Sun uniform because I think that much of Thibault's ability to evaluate talent."

Parker, Fowles and Wiggins may be the names in the headlines for now, but it is the depth of the draft class itself that could end up having a profound effect on the WNBA and on women's basketball as a whole.

"I think this class is incredible," Wiggins said after being selected. "I grew up playing with them, with Candace, Sylvia and (No. 4 pick) Alexis (Hornbuckle) and everybody. I think it's going to be fun."