Second and Third Round Picks Who Made An Impact

Top Draft Steals of All-Time

March 20, 2007 - We spend so much time breaking down the top prospects, looking at who will go in the first round, yet often forgetting that players picked in the second and third round are capable of not only making a team, but also having a huge impact and a successful WNBA career.

Whether they were second, third or even fourth round picks, there have been a number of influential players who have established (or are still establishing) themselves in the WNBA. Some are instrumental as role players, others have contributed to championships and others have even defied the odds to emerge as stars. For the sake of our argument, we are eliminating any first round picks, because, well, they can't really be steals when the expectations are that high. We are also not counting Expansion or Dispersal Drafts and have excluded the 1997 Elite Draft and player allocations.

More and more, non-first round draft picks are sticking around. Just about half of the second and third round picks in the 2006 WNBA Draft made a roster and played last seaosn. Need more proof that it can be done? Here is a look at 13 of the biggest WNBA Draft steals in history.

13. Kristen Rasmussen, 2000: Round Four, #51 overall
Drafted by: Utah Starzz
Current team: Connecticut Sun

The 2000 Draft was the first Draft to feature 64 players selected (2001 and 2002 also had that many), though it may have actually turned out to be one of the worst classes ever. With the third pick in the fourth round of the 2000 Draft, the Utah Starzz selected 6-2 forward Kristen Rasmussen out of Michigan State. She only played one game for Utah before joining the Miami Sol. She has proven a valuable reserve in her career, though her best season came in 2003 as a starter with Indiana. She started in Phoenix last season as well, putting up some of the best numbers in her career. In 2007, she will join her seventh team, the Connecticut Sun.

Janell Burse was selected 28th overall by Minnesota in the 2001 WNBA Draft.
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images

12. Amber Jacobs, 2004: Round Three, #33 overall
Drafted by: Minnesota Lynx
Current team: Minnesota Lynx

While this heady guard is still at the beginning of her career, she is already reaping rewards for the Lynx. She came off the bench in her first two season, but stepped out as a starter in 2006 and averaged 8.2 ppg and 3.4 assists. Jacobs is a part of the youth movement in Minnesota and runs the show with a talented group of inexperience players around her. Also worth noting is guard Jia Perkins, who was selected just two picks later by the Charlotte Sting. She missed most of her rookie year after giving birth, but stepped in as a starter with the Chicago Sky last year and averaged 9.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 3.2 apg. Perkinds has great potential to be a star yet in this league, but needs to work her shooting.

11. Cathrine Kraayeveld, 2005: Round Three, #27 overall
Drafted by: San Antonio Silver Stars
Current team: New York Liberty

A big body with a soft outside touch, Kraayeveld was cut by the Silver Stars and picked up by the Liberty as a rookie. As the Liberty have replaced their veteran, Finals-experienced roster with younger talent in the past two seasons, Kraaeveld has logged more time than most people would have expected. Yet this 6-4 Orgeon alum scored 8.8 ppg in 2006.

10. Chelsea Newton, 2005: Round Two, #22 overall
Drafted by: Sacramento Monarchs
Current team: Chicago Sky

Never the star name while at Rutgers, the Monarchs liked what they saw in Newton's defensive skills and nabbed her late in the second round. She started in all 34 games and all eight playoff games as a rookie in 2005 and Helped lead the Monarchs to their first WNBA championship title. As a defensive specialist, Newton was assigned to the other team's best player and always gave her fits. She was then taken by Chicago in the Expansion Draft and posted even better numbers across the board in 2006.

9. Brooke Wyckoff, 2001: Round Two, #26 overall
Drafted by: Orlando Miracle
Current team: Chicago Sky

Wyckoff established herself as a key reserve in her first four seasons our of Florida State. She missed the 2004 season with a knee injury, but the forward was integral in the Sun's 2005 Finals appearances and hit one of the biggest shots in WNBA history. Like Newton, she was taken by Chicago in the Expansion Draft and finally given a chance to start. A leader in the lockerroom and a staple in the community as the Sky were built from the ground up, Wyckoff was then injured halfway into the season. She is back and healthy again in 2007.

8. Dominique Canty, 1999: Round Three, #29 overall
Drafted by: Detroit Shock
Current team: Chicago Sky

This quick guard spent four seasons with Detrout and another four seasons with the Comets after leaving Alabama, yet only emerged as a starter in the past few years. She did finished second to Washington's Chamique Holdsclaw for 1999 WNBA Rookie of the Year in a three-way tie for second with Orlando's Nykesha Sales and New York's Tamika Whitmore, but came back last season as a starter with Houston. She was scoring 10.9 ppg and having the best year of her career in 2006 before being lost with an injury. She just signed a free agent contract with Chicago and will be one of the Sky's go-to players in the franchise's second season.

7. Janell Burse, 2001: Round Two, #28 overall
Drafted by: Minnesota Lynx
Current team: Seattle Storm

The 2001 Draft has given us one of the deepest Draft class ever - Lauren Jackson, Tamika Catchings, Ruth Riley, Deanna Nolan, the Millers, Marie Ferdinand, Katie Douglas and Penny Taylor. And that was just the first round! Burse was taken much later in the Draft, and while she may not have had the impact of the aforementioned names, she is just breaking out as a productive starter in the WNBA. She spent three seasons in Minnesota as a reserve, then another year as a key reserve in the 2004 Seattle Storm title run. It wasn't until Kamila Vodichkova went to Phoenix that Burse got the start at center, and has had two break-out seasons since. Last year she averaged 11.1 ppg and 6.6 rpg, and playing alongside some of the most talented players in the world, Burse will only get better.

Sheri Sam was already an established veteran when the Orlando Miracle selected her with the 20th pick in 1999.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

6. Elaine Powell, 1999: Round Four, #50 overall
Drafted by: Orlando Miracle
Current team: Detroit Shock

Don't look now, but Elaine Powell has two WNBA championship rings! Powell became a full-time starter in 2001, her third season with Orlando, and scored 11.2 ppg. She then went to Detroit halfway through the 2002 season and was the starting point guard on the title team in 2003. Her production dropped a bit in 2004 and 2005, yet she remained the starter until she was chosen in the Sky expansion Draft prior to 2006. She played 14 games with Chicago, then re-joined Detroit again mid-way through the 2006 season.

5. Tamika Whitmore, 1999: Round Three, #30 overall
Drafted by: New York Liberty
Current team: Indiana Fever

As far as talent goes, the 1999 WNBA Draft was the best ever. Thanks to the infusion of talent with the ABL folding, players like Yolanda Griffith, Katie Smith, Dawn Staley and Jennifer Azzi joined the WNBA. Because of that, there were better players available deeper in the Draft. Whitmore is a prime example. A big body in the paint, she spent five seasons in New York (becoming a regular starter in 2001), two seasons in Los Angeles and one last year in Indiana. She was finally named to the WNBA All-Star Game, the first of her career, last season and scored a career-best 15.5 points per game.

4. Sheri Sam, 1999: Round Two, #20 overall
Drafted by: Orlando Miracle
Current team: Indiana Fever

Sam is one of the veteran imports from the ABL who did not go in the first round, yet who has had a great WNBA career. After one season in Orlando, Sam went to the Miami Sol and led Miami in scoring in 2000, 2001 and 2002. She also made her first WNBA All-Star appearance in 2002 and finished her time in the sun as the Sol's all-time leader in 14 categories, including points, scoring average, field goals, three-point field goals, rebounds and minutes played. From there she has been a hired gun, a traveling assassin. She was a valuable member of the Seattle Storm's championship team in 2004 and spent the last two seasons in Charlotte. Over her career, She has missed only one game since entering the WNBA and ranks #13 on both the all-time points and assists lists. She also joined the 3,000 point club last season. When she joins Indiana in 2007 (yet another Sting Dispersal Draft), it will be her sixth team.

3. Tamecka Dixon, 1997: Round Two, #14 overall
Drafted by: Los Angeles Sparks
Current team: Free agent

Dixon spent nine seasons with the Sparks and was part of the nucleus of the franchise that won titles in 2001 and 2002. She is one of only a few players to play in all 10 WNBA seasons and has averaged double digit scoring over that time. As an unknown rookie in 1997 playing with veteran professionals, Dixon quietly went about her business, improving each year and providing versatility on both ends of the floor. She signed with the Comets as a free agent last season, but was used primarily as a reserve and the Comets have snce waived her.

Taj McWilliams-Franklin, a three-time WNBA All-Star, finished second in rebounding last season.
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

2. Tangela Smith, 1998: Round Two, #12 overall
Drafted by: Sacramento Monarchs
Current team: Minnesota Lynx

Smith has been one of the quieter stars in the WNBA since entering the league a decade ago. Yet she ranks among WNBA career leaders in blocks, field goals made, field goals attempted, blocks per game, rebounds, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds and minutes. Oh, and she is also in the top ten in all-time scoring. Smith spent seven seasons in Sacramento, but was traded before the 2005 championship season. In Charlotte, she continued to work hard and improve every season, even adding a 3-point shot to her game last season.

1. Taj McWilliams-Franklin, 1999: Round Three, #32 overall
Drafted by: Orlando Miracle
Current team: Los Angeles Sparks

Taj was both an unknown college sleeper and a late-round pick, yet nearly five years apart. She was the NAIA National Player of the Year in 1993 and played overseas to start her career. She was then drafted 40th overall pick in the 1996 ABL Draft and played three seasons for the Richmond-Philadelphia Rage. She was an All-League standout and a member of the U.S. National Team, yet somehow she dropped all the way #32 in the 1999 Draft. The Miracle selected her and Taj then spent eight seasons with the Orlando-Connecticut franchise. At 36-years old, she finished second in the league in rebounding last season (9.6 rpg was the best of her career).She is a three-time all-star, at the top of many WNBA career records and will likely enter the 3,000-point, 2,000-rebound club this season, joining only teammate Lisa Leslie and Monarchs center Yolanda Griffith.

More

Video

Fever vs. Storm

Tamika Catchings and Marissa Coleman score 16 points apiece to lead the Fever to victory over the Storm 76-67.

Mercury vs. Lynx

Maya Moore scores 20 points to power the Lynx past Phoenix 75-67 on Thursday night, snapping the Mercury's franchise-record 16-game win streak.

Dream vs. Shock

Tiffany Hayes scores a career-high 27 points, Angel McCoughtry adds 21 and Erika DeSouza has 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Dream to a 85-75 victory over Tulsa.

Liberty vs. Sky

Elena Delle Donne, playing for the first time since June 25 while dealing with Lyme disease, scores 10 points in the Sky's 87-74 victory over the Liberty on Thursday night.

Diana Taurasi Interview

Diana Taurasi sits down with LaChina Robinson to talk about the Mercury's hot streak and more.