Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman breaks down the latest happenings in the WNBA
Ask Nancy: 2008 WNBA Draft Edition

Basketball Hall-of-Famer and ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman answers your questions and e-mails throughout the year. Click here to submit a question of your own.


1. Let's start at the point guard position, where this is my top tier of players in no particular order:

Matee Ajavon, Rutgers (left): Though it definitely depends on the team and system she goes to, I think Ajavon is the most likely among these point guards to come into the WNBA in 2008 and have a real influence on her team. She's big, she's strong, she's explosive.

Leilani Mitchell, Utah: Not a lot of people have seen her, but she's very talented and smart out on the court. She's a pure point, looks to pass before shooting and has a lot of supporters among coaches she's played against.

Kimberly Beck, George Washington: She's a real sleeper in this draft. She's on the smallish side -- just 5-8 -- but I like everything about her game.

A couple of others include Sharnee' Zoll from Virginia, LSU's Erica White and Angela Tisdale (left) from Baylor.

I have a pretty good feeling that all six of these players are going to get drafted. Connecticut's Ketia Swanier will probably also get drafted, though she could be considered more of a 1-2. Especially in the second round, when a couple of these players and Tennessee's Shannon Bobbitt might go, I think this draft is going to be all about the point guards.


2. Now onto shooting guard, where at the top of the list we have:

Candice Wiggins, Stanford: C'mon. She's showing the world just how good she is in the NCAA Tournament, but to be honest, she's been doing it for four years.

Alexis Hornbuckle, Tennessee (left): Hit the game-winner in the Final Four win over LSU.

Essence Carson, Rutgers: More of a 2-3 combo, but she'll almost certainly go in the first round.

Tamera Young, James Madison: My sleeper in this group. Could go toward the end of the first round.

Amber Holt, Middle Tennessee State

Charel Allen, Notre Dame: She's upped her stock of late.

Another one who I think is going to be able to play at this level is Natasha Lacy from UTEP (left). She is a remarkable, great passer, and that's a quality that teams are always looking for in the draft. She knows how to get the ball to the right people on the court. She's big and strong and needs to do a little bit of conditioning to be able to play for long periods of time, but that's very doable. She's very good off the dribble and goes hard to the basket, and her 5-10 frame can overpower smaller guards.

Other twos who could get a look are Meg Bulger of West Virginia, Allie Quigley from DePaul and Marscilla Packer from Ohio State. There is always a demand for kids who can shoot.


3. Moving right along to the small forwards, I've already mentioned Carson, Holt and Lacy, who some might see as crossover threes. That said, I like these players as well:

Morenike Atunrase, Texas A&M: She has a lot of talent and she's gonna get a lot of looks. She's just getting back into full shape after an injury that kept her out from last April through November, so she hasn't even hit her stride yet. She's got the slash and she's working on expanding her game further away from the basket. She's a heck of a player and she's working on getting her game back up to speed.

Wanisha Smith, Duke: She had her chance to be more impactful after Lindsey Harding graduated and she really had a breakout year. She's got a pro body and a great offensive mentality, she's a solid three-point shooter, she continues to work on her game off the dribble, she's an excellent rebounder and after four years in the ACC, she's played against the best, whether in games or just in practice against Monique Currie, Harding and the like

A couple of others worth mentioning: Depree Bowden from Florida, Kam Gissendanner from Penn State and Sarah-Jo Lawrence (George Washington).


4. Let's start off the power forward talk with, yes, Candace Parker. Everyone knows what she brings to the table, if she declares, which I believe she will. But I want to mention a couple more who I think will be important players in the WNBA.

Tasha Humphrey, Georgia (left): The sleeper pick of this entire draft. She's this year's Ivory Latta as far as I'm concerned. I don't know which team is going to get her, but whoever does is going to be very happy. Everyone has said she didn't finish off her college career with a bang, but the fact of the matter is this: Georgia coach Andy Landers had seven players on that team. He didn't push and practice his team as much or as hard as some other top programs this year, simply because he needed them to be ready for games and he couldn't afford to tire them out in practice. So Tasha might not have had as much of an opportunity to work on her game as she would have liked.

But very few people have her skill set. She can hit the three, she's a good passer, she can take bigger players off the dribble and she has excellent post moves down low.

So between Humphrey and Erlana Larkins of North Carolina, we have two great candidates to be the new Charles Barkleys of the WNBA. They're tough as nails, they're physical, they're smart and they want to get better.

And another note. The power forward position is the most important in the WNBA, because everything goes through your four. If you want ball reversal, you go through the four. That's why DeLisha Milton-Jones, Tamika Catchings, Rebekkah Brunson, Tina Thompson, Lauren Jackson and others are so vital. They are that link that provides an important continuity in a team's offense. We're still a continuity league. We have some people who can break you down off the dribble (a la Cappie or Tweety Nolan), but to get a free shot, you still need a screen and you need to have someone who can get you the ball. The four has to be able to be a great passer, read defenses, guard the opposing team's four and occasionally knock down that high-post shot to keep your defender honest.

OK, back to the prospects… Crystal Langhorne from Maryland is another probable first-rounder along with LaToya Pringle from UNC (left). Charde Houston from Connecticut will almost certainly be taken somewhere. Khadijah Whittington is a terrific athlete and scorer. And the kid from UCLA, Lindsey Pluimer… that's enough talent to go into the late second and maybe even the third round.

And don't get discouraged if you fall that far, ladies. I have two words for you: Sidney Spencer. She was taken with the next-to-last pick in the second round and was the runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award.


5. Finally, the centers. Sylvia Fowles tops the list by far. But Laura Harper of Maryland, Nicky Anosike from Tennessee and Crystal Kelly from Western Kentucky could all be first rounders as well.

Marcedes Walker from Pitt (left), Aminata Diop from Georgetown and Sarah Elliott from Kentucky could also be selected based largely on their (large) size. Vanderbilt's Liz Sherwood, Olayinka Sanni from West Virginia and Natalie Doma from Idaho State could also be chosen.

Lady Comfort from Temple is probably in the next tier of posts with Janielle Dodds (SMU), Erin Myrick (Texas Tech) and Tanya Smith (Hawaii).

Only a select few of these posts -- Fowles, Harper and Kelly depending on the teams they go to -- will come in and have an immediate impact. I'd expect Parker, obviously, Larkins, Humphrey and Pringle to do the same at the four. They'll come in and be expected to contribute. They won't be sitting on the bench all season long.

All in all, I think this is a tremendous transition year for the WNBA. With the depth of this year's draft class, these kids coming in are going to have the benefit of a year or two under their collective belts before the league's aging stars retire.

We don't know how much longer Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes or Lisa Leslie are going to play, to name a few. But what we do know is that the young players are going to have a season or two to learn from these established stars. And the importance of that can't be overstated.