2005 Point Guard Prospects
The WNBA point guard revolution that began three years ago when Sue Bird and Nikki Teasley entered in the league may have reached its peak last year, when Diana Taurasi won Rookie of the Year honors for the Phoenix Mercury and Lindsay Whalen led the Connecticut Sun to the WNBA Finals in her first season. After Taurasi and Whalen, the point guard class of 2004 dropped off (Erika Valek was selected in the second round, but waived before opening day; third-round picks Amber Jacobs and Toccara Williams did see regular action as reserves), but the two top picks project as All-Stars for years to come.
There's not a Taurasi or a Bird in this year's class, though that's a difficult standard to reach most any year. But there are a trio of players who could go in the first round in Temeka Johnson, Dionnah Jackson and Kristin Haynie. Between the three of them, WNBA teams have several options. They could opt for a throwback pass-first point guard in Johnson, Jackson's versatility or Haynie's clutch play. With a choice like that, it's hard to go wrong.
Storm Outlook: The starting point guard position is filled for the foreseeable future, but the Storm has an opening behind Bird after Tully Bevilaqua signed as a free agent with Indiana. Australian Jessica Bibby will get a shot at winning the position after signing with the Storm as a free agent, and Shaquala Williams will get another crack in training camp, but it would not be a huge surprise to see a rookie brought in to compete in the second or third round.
The measurements: 5-9, 155
The skinny: What is there not to like about Dionnah Jackson? The Oklahoma point guard can truly do it all, leading the Sooners in every major category but scoring (where she finished second). A First Team All-Big 12 pick after two years on the Second Team, Jackson recorded only the sixth triple-double in conference history with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against Tulsa in December. With good size for a point guard at 5-9, Jackson isn't afraid to play in the paint, averaging 8.5 rebounds per game as a senior. That ranked her seventh in the Big 12 and would be a fine total for a forward, let alone a point guard. Jackson averaged at least five assists per game all three seasons as a starter and has more than enough playmaking ability to play the point, while she's a highly-regarded defender who averaged more than two steals per game. The only negative was that Jackson was a bit prone to turnovers, including more than three a game as a senior, but that's to be expected when you're doing it all.
The measurements: 5-3, 145
College: Louisiana State
The skinny: A partial qualifier when she entered LSU, Johnson graduated on-time last spring to earn back her fourth year of eligibility. After ending the 2003-04 season on a sour note when she turned the ball over in backcourt with seconds to play in a National Semifinal loss to Tennessee, Johnson decided to postpone the WNBA for a year and come back for her senior season. Along with Player of the Year Seimone Augustus, Johnson led the Lady Tigers to an even better season, as they lost just twice before again falling in the National Semifinals last Sunday. Johnson was brilliantly individually, earning the Nancy Lieberman Award and averaging 10.3 points and 7.7 assists per game. While Johnson is a capable enough scorer to keep defenses honest, she looks to pass first and does so brilliantly. With great court vision, Johnson ranked second in the NCAA in assists this season and is sixth all-time. Her biggest weakness can be summarized thusly: 5-3. The shortest starting point guards in the WNBA last season were 5-6, and Johnson will give up half a foot to at least five opposing point guards. Still, some old-school coach (Van Chancellor, perhaps?) will be happy to have a pass-first point as talented as Johnson and will live with her size.
The measurements: 5-8, 147
College: Michigan State
The skinny: Following in Whalen's footsteps, Haynie is a Big Ten guard who led her team to the Final Four (the title game, in Haynie's case) and boosted her WNBA stock in the process. It was hard not to be impressed when Haynie recorded a triple-double - 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists - in the Sweet Sixteen against Vanderbilt and followed it up with 20 points against Stanford in the Kansas City Regional Final to earn Most Outstanding Player honors in the regional. The performance is nothing new for Haynie, who has provided Jackson-like versatility throughout the season. An incredibly quick-handed defender, Haynie pilfered 3.3 steals per game as a senior and is the Spartans' all-time record-holder in steals and assists. A concern is that Haynie has a difficult time getting nutrients because she had her large intestine removed when she was 11, but by eating like a frat guy, Haynie has kept herself going, possibly all the way to the first round.
The measurements: 5-6, 140
The skinny: Seattle fans should have more than a passing familiarity with Wheeler after her four years at the University of Arizona. Extremely quick, Wheeler is probably the best scoring point guard in the draft, averaging better than 16 points per game her last three years with the Wildcats and topping out at 17.6 - leading the Pac-10 this season. Wheeler went head-to-head with Jackson in the first round of this year's NCAA Tournament and had a Jackson-like line of 16 points, nine assists and eight boards (Jackson had 17 points and 17 rebounds in a losing effort). Though she's not big, Wheeler is a good rebounder, averaging 5.1 as a senior. Wheeler's resume has a lot in common with that of another recent Pac-10 grad, Oregon's Shaquala Williams, who spent 2003 with the Los Angeles Sparks and was one of the Storm's final cuts last May.
The measurements: 5-9, 175
The skinny: Moore was on her way to becoming a key player for Tennessee when she tore her ACL in January 2004. By the start of play last fall, she was back on the court, but Moore was not the same player as a senior, averaging only 5.1 points per game and shooting 33.7% from the field. Presumably, those marks will get better as Moore gets further removed from surgery, but playing a WNBA season shortly after completing her college career may be difficult on her knee. When healthy, Moore is a highly-regarded defender with good size for the point-guard position. It's difficult to project her as a star in the WNBA, but if she can score enough to stay in the lineup, her defense will make her a useful specialist.
|OTHER POINT GUARD PROSPECTS|
Corrie Misuzawa, Oregon - Outstanding passer who will have to be able to score at the next level.
Yolanda Paige, West Virginia - NCAA's leading assister in 2004-05 (9.0 apg)
Jess Strom, Penn State -Quality outside shooter who was First Team All-Big Ten