No Shame in Being No. 2

April 16, 2008 -- The worst kept secret at last week's 2008 WNBA Draft was who Los Angeles intended to select No. 1 overall.

The second-worst kept secret was who Chicago had decided to pick No. 2.

It could be argued that in any other year Sylvia Fowles -- the standout center from LSU -- would have gone No. 1. Unfortunately for her, she just happened to be in the same draft as Candace Parker, who is being regarded by many as the best player of her generation.

As a result, Fowles won't have “selected No. 1 overall” in her bio and one has to wonder if that irks the 6-6 pivot deep down.

According to Fowles, it doesn't. When asked if she would had preferred to be No. 1 overall, Fowles left no room for ambiguity.

“No," said Fowles. "I feel things happen for a reason. I think I’m going to have great success in Chicago and I’m looking forward to it. For the most part if I had to do it all over again, I’d want to get drafted No. 2.”

Sure, Fowles is saying all the right things. But she’s also making sense.

If Parker had stayed at Tennessee for one more season and the Sparks had selected Fowles instead, the center likely would have seen limited minutes behind the returning Lisa Leslie. Even the possibility of a twin towers approach in the starting lineup would have been remote since L.A. also features perennial All-Star Taj McWilliams-Franklin at the power forward spot. Fowles may have had to wait a couple of years to even start to realize her full potential in L.A.

While the Sky have a proven veteran in the middle in Chasity Melvin, she’s not insurmountable at the starting center spot. And a team like the Sky might also be more inclined to play their young players together in the hopes of fostering their core for the future.

Reflecting back on past drafts shows that Fowles’ situation is not unique. There has been a handful of No. 2 picks in the history of the WNBA that could have easily gone No. 1 in another year, only to discover that being taken No. 2 worked out quite nicely.

In 2004, following Phoenix’s no-brainer selection of UConn star Diana Taurasi, Washington went for Alana Beard out of Duke. Beard has since averaged 16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in four WNBA seasons and helped the Mystics reach the postseason twice.

Swin Cash has had herself a phenomenal career after being selected behind college teammate Sue Bird in 2002, winning a pair of titles with the Shock (2003, ’06). Playing in Detroit allowed Cash to join forces with Cheryl Ford and their contrasting styles meshed superbly to compose one of the most imposing forward tandems ever.

The chart below compares the career stats of the top two picks of the 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2006 drafts.

1999 WNBA DRAFT
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3P%
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
No. 1 Chamique Holdsclaw 225 33.9 17.7 .441 .258 8.3 2.6 1.3 0.5
No. 2 Yolanda Griffith* 278 29.7 14.4 .508 .000 8.1 1.5 1.8 1.0

2002 WNBA DRAFT
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3P%
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
No. 1 Sue Bird* 193 33.2 12.3 .427 .387 2.8 5.6 1.5 0.1
No. 2 Swin Cash* 183 31.1 12.9 .425 .237 5.8 3.1 1.0 0.6

2004 WNBA DRAFT
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3P%
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
No. 1 Diana Taurasi* 133 33.1 19.2 .431 .359 4.1 4.2 1.3 0.8
No. 2 Alana Beard 129 32.6 16.3 .429 .338 4.3 2.9 1.8 0.7

2006 WNBA DRAFT
GP
MPG
PPG
FG%
3P%
RPG
APG
SPG
BPG
No. 1 Seimone Augustus 68 32.6 22.3 .481 .381 3.9 1.9 0.9 0.5
No. 2 Cappie Pondexter* 63 32.3 18.3 .437 .355 3.5 3.5 1.0 0.1

*=WNBA champion

The 2006 draft may have offered the perfect example of the perfect player going to the perfect team at No. 2. That’s when Cappie Pondexter heard her name called by Phoenix following Minnesota’s selection of scoring machine Seimone Augustus, who like many of the top picks mentioned above, hasn’t exactly disappointed for the team that took her No. 1 overall (Minnesota).

But it’s tough to find a better fit for Pondexter than the Mercury. Her frenetic style of play is tailored to the up-tempo approach of Phoenix, for which she has averaged impressive numbers of 18.3 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game in her first two WNBA seasons.

While Pondexter's regular season numbers alone are enough to put anyone on the map, she truly made her mark in last year's playoffs when she outshined both Taurasi and Penny Taylor to help lead the Mercury to the 2007 championship.

After putting up ridiculous stats in the first two rounds, Pondexter took home the 2007 WNBA Finals MVP trophy after averaging 22.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists in Phoenix's five-game series win over Detroit. Her highlights included rescuing the Mercury from impending elimation in Game 4 by nailing the game-winner with 21 seconds left and then collecting 26 points and 10 assists in the deciding contest.

Another former WNBA Finals MVP that was selected No. 2 overall is Seattle's Yolanda Griffith, who has simply turned in one of the best WNBA careers of all time.

After being picked in the second spot back in the 1999 draft behind can't-miss star Chamique Holdsclaw, Griffith started paying immediate dividends for Sacramento. The Florida Atlantic product captured a regular-season hardware triple in her initial WNBA campaign by being named Newcomer of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and MVP. She went on to lead the Monarchs to the 2005 title as well as another Finals appearance in 2006 against Detroit.

If the Sky and Fowles are hoping for a repeat of any 1-2 scenario, it's probably that one. That's because outside of it being the most celebrated WNBA rookie season ever, Fowles compares favorably to Griffith as a 6-6 center poised to make an impact in the post from Day 1.

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