Second and Third Round Picks Who Made an Impact
Top Draft Steals in WNBA History

April 1, 2008 -- We spend so much time breaking down the top prospects in the draft, looking at who we think will go in the first round. But we often forget that players picked in the second and third rounds are capable of not only making a team, but of having a huge impact and a successful WNBA career.

Whether they were second-, third- or even fourth-round picks, there have been a number of influential players who have established (or are still establishing) themselves in the WNBA. Some are instrumental as role players, others have contributed to championships and others have even defied the odds to emerge as stars. For the sake of our argument, we are eliminating any first-round picks, because, well, they can't really be steals when the expectations are that high. We are also not counting Expansion or Dispersal Drafts and have excluded the 1997 Elite Draft and player allocations.

More and more, later-round draft picks are sticking around. Just about half of the second and third round picks in last year's draft made a roster and played last season. Need more proof that it can be done? Here is a look at 15 of the biggest WNBA Draft steals in history.

Erin Thorn had a breakout season for the Liberty in 2007.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

15. Erin Thorn, 2003: Round Two, #17 overall
Drafted by: New York Liberty
Current team: New York Liberty
A relatively unheralded pick out of Brigham Young, Thorn was overshadowed early in her career in New York by Becky Hammon, though she was a solid contributor off the bench. But with the trade of Hammon to San Antonio on Draft Day 2007, Thorn stepped out of obscurity and into the Big Apple spotlight. Thorn averaged career highs in points, assists, rebounds, steals, minutes and shooting percentage in 2007 while establishing herself as one of the league's premier outside shooters.

14. Cathrine Kraayeveld, 2005: Round Three, #27 overall
Drafted by: San Antonio Silver Stars
Current team: New York Liberty

A big body with a soft outside touch, Kraayeveld was cut by the Silver Stars and picked up by the Liberty as a rookie. As the Liberty have replaced their veteran, Finals-experienced roster with younger talent over the past few seasons, Kraayeveld has logged more time than most people would have expected. Yet this 6-4 Orgeon alum scored 8.8 ppg in 2006, notched a career high with 10.8 ppg in 2007 and -- along with Thorn -- is one of the youngsters likely to make New York a contender in 2008.

13. Chelsea Newton, 2005: Round Two, #22 overall
Drafted by: Sacramento Monarchs
Current team: Sacramento Monarchs

Never the star name while at Rutgers, the Monarchs liked what they saw in Newton's defensive skills and nabbed her late in the second round. She started in all 34 games and all eight playoff games as a rookie in 2005 and helped lead the Monarchs to their first WNBA championship title. As a defensive specialist, Newton was assigned to the other team's best player and always gave her fits. She was then taken by Chicago in the Expansion Draft and posted even better numbers across the board in 2006, before returning to Sacramento in 2007 where she started all 34 games for the Monarchs.

12. Sidney Spencer, 2007: Round Two, #25 overall
Drafted by: Los Angeles Sparks
Current team: Los Angeles Sparks

Though she was overshadowed by Candace Parker and Alexis Hornbuckle on her 2007 NCAA Championship team at Tennessee -- and originally overshadowed by Chamique Holdsclaw and Taj McWilliams-Franklin on the 2007 Sparks -- Spencer has to be considered the steal of the 2007 draft. The 6-3 sharpshooter -- she was the third-ranked 3-point shooter in the league at .449 -- caught on fire at the end of June and went on to average 9.6 ppg and 4.1 rpg, all the while hitting over 88 percent of her free throws. She was one of the top contenders for the Rookie of the Year Award, but narrowly lost out to third overall pick Armintie Price.

11. Dominique Canty, 1999: Round Three, #29 overall
Drafted by: Detroit Shock
Current team: Chicago Sky

This quick guard spent four seasons with Detroit and another four seasons with the Comets after leaving Alabama, yet only emerged as a starter in the past few years. She did finish second to Washington's Chamique Holdsclaw for 1999 WNBA Rookie of the Year. She was scoring 10.9 ppg and having the best year of her career with Houston in 2006 before suffering a season-ending injury. She signed a free agent contract with Chicago prior to the 2007 season and was one of the Sky's veteran, go-to players last year.

Jia Perkins earned the WNBA's Player of the Week Award after a 39-point outburst last season in a win over the Monarchs.
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images

10. Jia Perkins, 2004: Round Three, #35 overall
Drafted by: Charlotte Sting
Current team: Chicago Sky

After coming out of Texas Tech, Perkins missed most of her rookie year after giving birth, but stepped in as a starter with Chicago in 2006. But it was in 2007 that she established herself as a dependable scorer at this level. She put up 39 points in a June 29 win over Sacramento, earning Player of the Week honors, and went on to finish second on the Sky in scoring (11.7 ppg) behind only All-Star Candice Dupree. She has a bright future ahead of her with the up-and-coming squad in Chicago.

9. Janell Burse, 2001: Round Two, #28 overall
Drafted by: Minnesota Lynx
Current team: Seattle Storm

The 2001 Draft gave us one of the deepest classes ever, including names like Lauren Jackson, Tamika Catchings, Ruth Riley, Deanna Nolan, the Millers, Marie Ferdinand, Katie Douglas and Penny Taylor. And that was just the first round! Burse was taken much later in the Draft, and while she may not have had the impact of the aforementioned names, she is just emerging as a productive starter in the WNBA. She spent three seasons in Minnesota as a reserve, then another year as a key reserve during the 2004 Storm's title run. It wasn't until Kamila Vodichkova went to Phoenix that Burse got the starting job at center, and she has broken out since. She averaged career highs with 11.1 ppg and 6.6 rpg in 2006, and despite slipping a bit in 2007, Burse will only get better playing alongside some of the most talented players in the world.

8. Erin Buescher, 2001: Round Two, #23 overall
Drafted by: Minnesota Lynx
Current team: San Antonio Silver Stars
Ever heard of The Master's College? Most folks around the WNBA hadn't when Erin Buescher was taken in the second round of the 2001 Draft. And though she didn't make much noise over the first four seasons of her pro career, Buescher came out of nowhere to win the 2006 Most Improved Player Award. After an offseason move to San Antonio, Buescher continued to star, putting up career highs in scoring (11.3 ppg), rebounding (6.1 rpg) and assists (2.2 apg) before suffering a season-ending knee injury on July 11.

7. Elaine Powell, 1999: Round Four, #50 overall
Drafted by: Orlando Miracle
Current team: Detroit Shock

Don't look now, but Elaine Powell has two WNBA championship rings! Powell became a full-time starter in 2001, her third season with Orlando, and scored 11.2 ppg. She then went to Detroit halfway through the 2002 season and was the starting point guard on the title team in 2003. Her production dropped a bit in 2004 and 2005, yet she remained the starter until she was chosen in the Sky expansion Draft prior to 2006. She played 14 games with Chicago, then rejoined Detroit again midway through the 2006 season, serving as a valuable backup point guard during the Shock's 2007 run to the Finals.

6. Tammy Sutton-Brown, 2001: Round Two, #18 overall
Drafted by: Charlotte Sting
Current team: Indiana Fever
This Canadian-born talent left Rutgers and slipped into the second round in 2001, but has performed at a high level over the course of her career in Charlotte and Indiana. She has averaged nearly 10 points per game, posting a career high of 12.0 ppg in 2007 and earning her second trip to the All-Star Game. She is also one of the league's premier shot-blockers and will play a big role in Indiana's quest for a title in 2008.

5. Tamika Whitmore, 1999: Round Three, #30 overall
Drafted by: New York Liberty
Current team: Connecticut Sun

As far as talent goes, the 1999 WNBA Draft was the best ever. Thanks to the infusion of talent after the ABL folded, players like Yolanda Griffith, Katie Smith, Dawn Staley and Jennifer Azzi joined the WNBA. Because of that, there were better players available deeper in the draft. Whitmore is a prime example. A big body in the paint, she spent five seasons in New York (becoming a regular starter in 2001), two seasons in Los Angeles and two more in Indiana before a recent trade to Connecticut. She was finally named to the WNBA All-Star Game in 2006, the first such honor of her career, and scored a career-best 15.5 points per game.

After being swapped for the No. 1 pick last year on Draft Day, Tangela Smith helped lead the Mercury to last year's WNBA title.
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

4. Sheri Sam, 1999: Round Two, #20 overall
Drafted by: Orlando Miracle
Current team: Indiana Fever

Sam is one of the veteran imports from the ABL who did not go in the first round, yet she has had a great WNBA career. After one season in Orlando, Sam went to the Miami Sol and led Miami in scoring in 2000, 2001 and 2002. She also made her first WNBA All-Star appearance in 2002 and finished her time in the sun as the Sol's all-time leader in 14 categories, including points, scoring average, field goals, three-point field goals, rebounds and minutes played. From there she has been a hired gun, a traveling assassin. She was a valuable member of the Seattle Storm's championship team in 2004 and spent two seasons in Charlotte. She has missed only two games since entering the WNBA, ranks 14th on the all-time points list and is 15th in assists. She also joined the 3,000 point club in 2006 and was a vital cog in the Fever's run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007.

3. Tamecka Dixon, 1997: Round Two, #14 overall
Drafted by: Los Angeles Sparks
Current team: Houston Comets

Dixon spent nine seasons with the Sparks and was part of the nucleus of the franchise that won titles in 2001 and 2002. She is one of only a few players to play in all 11 WNBA seasons and has averaged double digits in scoring over that time. As an unknown rookie in 1997 playing with veteran professionals, Dixon quietly went about her business, improving each year and providing versatility on both ends of the floor. She signed with the Comets as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, but was used primarily as a reserve. She was waived early in 2007, but came back in early July to provide some experience and midseason scoring (12.0 ppg) in Houston's otherwise young backcourt.

2. Tangela Smith, 1998: Round Two, #12 overall
Drafted by: Sacramento Monarchs
Current team: Phoenix Mercury

Smith has been one of the quieter stars in the WNBA since entering the league a decade ago. Yet she ranks among WNBA career leaders in blocks, field goals made, field goals attempted, blocks per game, rebounds, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds and minutes. Oh, and she is also in the top 10 in all-time scoring. Smith spent seven seasons in Sacramento, but was traded before the 2005 championship season. In Charlotte, she continued to work hard and improve every season, even adding a 3-point shot to her game. After a 2007 Draft Day trade from Minnesota to Phoenix, Smith was the post presence the Mercury needed to claim their first WNBA title last season.

1. Taj McWilliams-Franklin, 1999: Round Three, #32 overall
Drafted by: Orlando Miracle
Current team: Los Angeles Sparks

Taj was both an unknown college sleeper and a late-round pick, yet nearly five years apart. She was the NAIA National Player of the Year in 1993 and played overseas to start her career. She was then the 40th overall pick in the 1996 ABL Draft and played three seasons for the Richmond/Philadelphia Rage. She was an All-League standout and a member of the U.S. National Team, yet somehow she dropped all the way to No. 32 in the 1999 WNBA Draft. The Miracle selected her and Taj then spent eight seasons with the Orlando/Connecticut franchise. At 36-years old, she finished second in the league in rebounding in 2006 (9.6 rpg was the best of her career). She is a six-time All-Star, at the top of many WNBA career records and will likely enter the 3,000-point, 2,000-rebound club this season, joining only teammate Lisa Leslie, Yolanda Griffith, Margo Dydek and Tina Thompson.