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Orange and Oatmeal: Mock Dispersal Draft

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January 5, 2007
Happy New Year everybody, and welcome to the first edition of Orange & Oatmeal for 2007. Today Kevin Pelton, Storm interactive marketing coordinator, and John Maxwell, Shock director of public and basketball operations, go through their mock dispersal draft as players from the Charlotte Sting get dispersed to the other 13 WNBA teams. The real deal is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. ET.

Trivia Question: Name the two players who are taking part in their second dispersal draft. The answer is at the bottom of the column.

In putting this together, we had two ground rules. First of all, no trades in our mock draft. Teams can trade picks up until 11 a.m. ET on Monday. After the fact, teams can trade as well. Since we’re making these picks on Thursday and Friday, we’re not going to let our good names be ruined by errors that occur because Coach Laimbeer got a wild hair late Sunday evening for a third-round pick in the 2007 WNBA Draft.

The second rule, if you can call it a rule, was that we tried to take salary cap considerations into account as best we could. Neither one of us knows what teams are paying to whom, but we made educated guesses. The reality of each team’s salary situation could very easily be different from what we assumed. But we did our best.

Now who is eligible? Basically all players on the Charlotte Sting roster except for unrestricted free agents Allison Feaster and Tammy Sutton-Brown. And when we say all players, that includes anybody on the various injured, suspended or draft list/reserved lists at the end of the 2006 season.

There are eight Sting players under contract:
LaToya Bond
Monique Currie
Helen Darling
Tye’sha Fluker
Kelly Mazzante
Janel McCarville
Sheri Sam
Tangela Smith

Four players are "reserved," meaning they can negotiate contracts only with the team that selects them:
Tasha Butts
Summer Erb
Yelena Leuchanka
Teana Miller

Lastly, Ayana Walker is a restricted free agent, and the right to match any offer to her (by making a qualifying offer) will transfer to whichever team drafts her.

Teams do not have to select a player if they don’t want to. They can pass.

We each picked for the opposite conference - Kevin for the East, John for the West. Our idea was to look at who we would pick, not necessarily who we think will actually be chosen. Without further ado . . .

The Chicago Sky select . . . Monique Currie
Compared to the two players drafted ahead of her, Seimone Augustus and Cappie Pondexter, and even the player drafted after her, Sophia Young, Monique Currie had a pedestrian rookie season. Currie shot a poor 33.2% from the field. Currie still managed a respectable 49.4% True Shooting Percentage. Only one regular in the WNBA, Detroit's Katie Smith, had a bigger difference between her shooting percentage and True Shooting Percentage. Why? Currie got to the free-throw line almost as often per shot attempt as anyone, attempting more than five free throws per game and making them at an 81.0% clip.

While Currie wasn't a really high-percentage shooter even at Duke, I'm willing to bet she'll shoot a lot better than 33.2% in the future. If she does that, develops her jumper and continues getting to the line, Currie will be a very solid scorer. To get the third pick in the 2006 Draft is a coup for the Sky, which could have three top-five picks from the last two years on their 2007 roster.

The Minnesota Lynx select . . . Janel McCarville
McCarville struggled during her rookie campaign, connecting on just 34.0 percent of her field goal attempts while turning the ball over at an alarming rate. However she made good use of the free-throw line as an offensive weapon and was the Sting's best percentage rebounder. In 2006, McCarville was again the top rebounder on the team but she increased her field-goal percentage to a more respectable 45.8% and took much better care of the basketball.

The Lynx will be without reserve center Vanessa Hayden this summer due to her pregnancy, so taking McCarville to shore up their post presence makes sense.

Oh . . . and McCarville went to the University of Minnesota, and the last time the Lynx passed up a U of M product, they were roasted in the local press (See Whalen, Lindsay).

The New York Liberty select . . Kelly Mazzante
This is a tough call. Tangela Smith is probably the best player available and would really help the Liberty up front. At the same time, Kelly Mazzante is almost five years younger than Smith and much more affordable in the last year of her rookie contract. Ultimately, I went with Mazzante.

Mazzante was undistinguished in her first two WNBA seasons, averaging 2.3 and 2.4 points per game. She put it together in 2006, shooting 38.3% from three-point range and upping her scoring average to 8.9 points per game. While Mazzante is in the WNBA because of her shooting, it would be a mistake to call her one-dimensional. She's a solid rebounder for a shooting guard and averaged 2.6 steals per 40 minutes, putting her in the WNBA's top 10.

The San Antonio Silver Stars select . . . Helen Darling
The six-year WNBA veteran had her best years as a pro while with the Cleveland Rockers where Dan Hughes was her head coach for three seasons, and she'd make a good back-up to Shannon Johnson. She's never been much of an offensive player, and her best years are behind her, but in limited minutes, she might be able to give the Silver Stars a boost off the bench.

The Phoenix Mercury select . . . Tangela Smith
With Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter still sporting rookie contracts, the Mercury have money to burn, or at least they should. There is always a question about what kind of role veteran players are willing to take later in their careers (Smith will turn 30 shortly), but in Phoenix, where Paul Ball rules the land, there are plenty of shots to go around for everyone.

Defensively . . . well . . . defense doesn’t seem to be a component of Paul Ball, so it probably doesn’t matter, although by my numbers, Smith has always rated out as an average if not better defender.

The Washington Mystics select . . . Tye’sha Fluker
The obvious pick here is Sheri Sam, since Crystal Robinson isn't getting any younger. However, it seems unlikely Washington could fit Sam's veteran salary under the cap given the number of veterans the Mystics have already. The best available youngster for the Mystics is Tye'sha Fluker; while she doesn't fill a huge need for Washington and did not contribute much as a rookie, Fluker provides some depth up front. The Mystics are relatively old in the frontcourt as well, so adding a second-year player with legit size makes sense.

The Seattle Storm select . . . LaToya Bond
My impression of Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan is that she prefers veterans to younger players, but it says here that she takes Bond - a 5-7 second-year guard who played key reserve minutes for the Sting last season. Bond needs to find her collegiate three-point shot, which eluded her to the tune of 21.7 percent in 2006, and take better care of the basketball, but she attacks the basket and could be a useful part of the Storm's bench.

The Houston Comets select . . . Ayana Walker
With Van Chancellor stepping down as head coach of the Comets, who can say what the new coach will be looking for in a player. Ayana Walker is a five-year WNBA veteran, and as such probably wasn’t making much more than the veteran minimum. A team in a salary crunch might be looking to add “rookie” contracts rather than vets, but Walker could be a decent addition to a reserve core because she knows her place in the league. She’s not a starter or even a key reserve at this point in her career, but she’ll practice hard, she won’t complain about playing time, and she’ll keep things loose off the court.

The Indiana Fever select . . . Teana Miller
Teana Miller (née McKiver) has missed much of the last three seasons while giving birth to two kids. She missed the first 25 games of the 2004 campaign and all of last year because of the pregnancies. In between, Miller gave the Sting 40 games of solid reserve production in late 2004 and 2005. A good shot-blocker, Miller swatted 2.2 shots per 40 minutes and shot 49.2% from the field in that span, though she's a little undersized and weak on the glass.

The Sacramento Monarchs select . . . Yelena Leuchanka
Four games and 38 minutes is all we know about Leuchanka as a WNBA player, which is not much. However, we also know that she is 6-5 (you can't teach height), is a reserved player only able to negotiate with her new team, will be just 23 years old heading into the 2007 WNBA season and was a high-percentage shooter in the paint during her collegiate career at West Virginia. For what it's worth (not a lot), Leuchanka had a solid preseason, averaging 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. A perfect post project for the two-time defending Western Conference Champions.

The Detroit Shock select . . . Tasha Butts
Signed by the Sting in early July, Tasha Butts never got into a game in Charlotte. She played 30 as a member of the Minnesota rotation during her 2004 rookie season and showed promise defensively. If Butts can improve her perimeter shooting - nearly half of her field-goal attempts were threes in 2004, but she hit them at only a 27% clip - she could be interesting.

The Los Angeles Sparks select . . . nobody
I just have a feeling that somebody down here at the bottom of the dispersal draft isn't going to want their pick. What’s left will either be highly-paid veterans that teams can’t afford (in this case, Sheri Sam), or exceedingly marginal WNBA talent. So why not just pick up a Summer Erb? If she comes to camp and hurts her foot again, my understanding is that the Sparks (or any team) would be on the hook for her salary as it impacts the cap. The risk isn’t worth the reward.

It is also possible that a team may trade its dispersal pick for a second- or third-rounder in the WNBA Draft, but since we're not entertaining such thoughts in this piece, the Sparks are going to pass.

The Connecticut Sun select . . . Summer Erb
Of course, John, if you don't invite Erb to camp, there is no risk. So I don't see the downside. Erb's playing career is apparently over after she broke her foot two and a half years ago. The Sting was hoping to invite her to training camp last spring, but the injury made that impossible. Erb has since taken a job as an assistant coach at UNC-Ashville. Best of luck to her in her coaching career.

Trivia Answer: Sheri Sam, who was selected by the Minnesota Lynx following the dispersion of the Miami Sol after the 2003 WNBA season, and Helen Darling, who was selected by those same Minnesota Lynx following the dispersion of the Cleveland Rockers after 2004.