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Post-Draft Analysis

Despite the insistence by most analysts that Saturday's WNBA Draft went according to form - at least for the first round, and much of the second - there were several surprises.


Powell to Charlotte was no surprise, but Mazzante was.
Nathaniel S. Butler/WNBAE/Getty
The first five picks went according to form and, once Charlotte took Nicole Powell and made it clear that there was no deal with Minnesota, seeing the Lynx select the two best posts on the board was no surprise as well. After that, things got a bit more interesting. STORM.WNBA.COM was pretty much the only place saying the Mercury would go small at pick eight, meaning everyone suspected a deal was in the works after Phoenix selected Houston's Chandi Jones. Indeed it was, with Jones heading to Detroit, but the Mercury got back a pair of point guards and a wing in Seattle native Sheila Lambert, 23rd pick Erika Valek and the Shock's first-round pick, Valek's Purdue teammate Shereka Wright.

From there, things got more interesting. USC's Ebony Hoffman started to sneak into the first round of some mock drafts late last week and was clearly the most glaring omission from this site's prospect analysis, but it was a surprise to see her taken as high as nine. The Monarchs went the opposite direction of the shooter everyone expected, taking forward Rebekkah Brunson.

Detroit and Los Angeles slowed things down for a bit with some relatively predictable picks - Iciss Tillis and Wright to the Shock, Christi Thomas to the Sparks, but the second round provided more intriguing selections, none more so than the Connecticut Sun taking Penn State forward Jessica Brungo. The obviously overlooked player was Brungo's Nittany Lions teammate, guard Kelly Mazzante, but it seems there were any number of wings that should have been selected over Brungo, who averaged 10.1 points per game as a senior on 38.8% shooting.

The third round saw a pair of players who slid far below where they were expected to be taken mixed in amongst a group of gambles and relatively unknown prospects. Texas forward Stacy Stephens and Texas A&M guard Toccara Williams were both mentioned as possible first-round picks prior to the draft, but didn't go until the third round.

In the case of Stephens as well as Mazzante, it seems like teams may have overcorrected. The lottery was too high for Mazzante, an inefficient shooter at Penn State for all the talk of her shooting ability, and Stephens was a stretch as a first-round pick because of her size. Still, teams could have gotten good value with Mazzante by the end of the first round and Stephens by the end of round two.

When the draft board was completed, Colorado center Tera Bjorklund (this site's fifth-best center prospect) and Washington guard Giuliana Mendiola (this site's seventh-best guard) were the most surprising players to go undrafted and the best free-agent pickups. Bjorklund has already settled on Los Angeles, while Mendiola has yet to decide amongst offers from multiple teams, including the Storm.


Lambert could surprise in Phoenix.
Ron Hoskin/WNBAE/Getty
The only major trade of the draft, between Detroit and Phoenix (Houston and Phoenix also swapped the final pick of the second round, center Lindsay Taylor, for the first pick of round three, guard Maria Villarroel) looks like a winner for both teams. Because Shock Coach Bill Laimbeer wanted to get Jones so badly, the Mercury was able to extract a pair of point guards to go down just one player amongst wings (since four posts were selected in between the two picks).

In particular, Lambert could surprise given more playing time. While Lambert's 36.4% shooting last season in Detroit was unimpressive, she made more free throws than anyone in the WNBA on a per-minute basis, giving her a respectable 51.8% true shooting percentage. Lambert was also scoring quite a bit, ranking 10th in the league with 18.6 points per 40 minutes. Lambert is not a great distributor, but, given the chance, she could give the Mercury similar production as a backup to Diana Taurasi as it would have gotten from Tamicha Jackson - only, if you follow the trades down the line, Phoenix also got Wright and Valek from the eighth pick it acquired in exchange for Jackson.

As a result of those deals and, oh, yeah, Taurasi, Phoenix scores as one of the winners in this year's draft.

Charlotte deserves to place right with the Mercury. Not only did the Sting add Powell, it got what amounted to a first-round pick in Mazzante despite having the fifth pick in the second round. Then, in round three, Charlotte took an excellent low-risk guard on Texas Tech's Jia Perkins, who will miss this season for medical reasons. Ann Meyers questioned why the Sting was willing to wait for Perkins and not Vanessa Hayden, but the difference is obvious - if the 35th pick doesn't work out, nothing lost. If the third pick, goes bust (not that Hayden will), that spells trouble.

Detroit, as mentioned previously, did well in its trade. If Jones can find the form of her junior year, when she was phenomenal, and adjust to not being the number one option in the Shock offense, she has terrific potential - Laimbeer certainly believes, saying he'd have taken Jones with the top pick. Tillis isn't as solid of a prospect, but she's nice return for Kedra Holland-Corn, given that Detroit added Merlakia Jones to replace Holland-Corn.

Washington, naturally, got another future star in Alana Beard with the second pick, no consolation prize whatsoever compared to Taurasi. Connecticut ended up with the fourth top prospect in this draft, Lindsay Whalen, and looks like it will hang on to her. That makes sense; as valuable as Whalen might be in Minnesota, the Sun has to think about its own future, and the Lynx would have to give up practically all of its players outside of Katie Smith to make a deal that was a clear win for Connecticut. Simply put, the additions of the players Minnesota could offer at positions that aren't needs for the Sun wouldn't make up for the downgrade at point guard from Whalen to, assumedly, the Lynx's Helen Darling. Whalen, like Taurasi, could easily be one of the league's top ten point guards as a rookie and only get better from there.