Shock could trade No. 18 pick – or find another sleeper

Early Draft-Day Deal

Head coach and general manager Bill Laimbeer was looking at a long wait between the Shock’s No. 11 overall selection in today’s draft and No. 37. So he found a way to break up the time.

The Shock acquired a second-round draft pick from the Atlanta Dream Thursday morning, the No. 18 overall selection, for guard Ashley Shields. The Shock had traded away their own second-round pick, which would have been No. 24 overall, to the Washington Mystics last August in the package that brought six-time All-Star forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin to Detroit.

Shields was the talk of the 2007 draft when she was drafted eighth overall by the Houston Comets out of Southwest Tennessee Community College – the first WNBA draftee from a junior college. The Comets released Shields early last season, and the Shock picked her up Aug. 19. She played in seven games, shooting 8-for-22 (36.4 percent) from the floor, including 3-for-9 from 3-point range. Shields played four minutes and scored one basket during the WNBA Finals.

Looking at a tough battle for one of the three open spots on the 11-player regular-season roster, Shields was signed to a training-camp deal in the off-season. Her departure gives the Shock another asset that could be packaged in a subsequent draft-day deal, though Laimbeer recently struck gold at No. 18.

With the 18th pick last year, the Shock nabbed West Virginia center Olayinka Sanni. The Chicago Heights, Ill., native turned out to be one of the best late-round picks of the ’08 draft, impressing the Shock coaching staff with her hands around the basket and work ethic. After starting for a stretch early in the season, Sanni appeared in 31 games, including nine starts, playing 10.5 minutes per game. She finished her rookie campaign averaging 3.4 points and 2.1 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor. Coincidentally, Detroit’s No. 18 pick last year also came from Atlanta in a trade, a deal that sent Ivory Latta to the Dream for LaToya Thomas.

The 2009 talent pool is not considered nearly as deep as last year’s draft, so a player of Sanni’s caliber may not be there at No. 18. The pick is an unknown commodity, which could be parlayed into something bigger and better later today or result in drafting a player that better meets the Shock’s draft-day wish list. (Listed at 5-foot-10, Shields didn’t exhibit the physicality Laimbeer generally prefers in his guards.) But it was hardly a gamble for the Shock, or for Shields, who should have a better chance to make the Dream’s overhauled roster than that of the defending champions.

Check DetroitShock.com later today for complete draft coverage. The WNBA Draft begins at 3 p.m.