Team Needs Heading Into the WNBA Draft Lottery

NEW YORK, Oct. 22, 2007 � With last week's announcement that the WNBA will expand to add a 14th team in the wonderful city of Atlanta, the offseason wheels have officially been set in motion. And the next event on the docket is Tuesday's WNBA Draft Lottery, which will decide the order in which the five lottery teams -- Los Angeles, Minnesota, Houston, Chicago and Washington -- will make their picks. Atlanta is set in the No. 4 spot, while the playoff teams will pick in reverse order of their regular season records.

And with several exciting college stars -- Sylvia Fowles, Tasha Humphrey, Candice Wiggins and potentially Candace Parker -- in the mix, the lottery takes on that much more significance.

We won't know until tomorrow where exactly the lottery teams will be drafting, and of course we don't know who will be available when it's each team's turn to pick. But that won't stop us from taking a look at each team's potential needs and draft strategy looking ahead to next April in Tampa.

2007 record: Debut season
Have No. 4 pick in 2008 Draft

The as yet unnamed expansion team in Atlanta will select fourth in the 2008 WNBA Draft. There will be an expansion draft in the coming months where the franchise will likely pick up some young talent and a couple of solid veterans. But it's safe to say that they will need everything.

2007 record: 14-20
Chance of getting No. 1 pick: 9.7 percent

The team is young but developed nicely last season under Coach/GM Bo Overton. With two very solid post players in Candice Dupree and Chasity Melvin, the Sky finished fifth in the league in rebounds per game (34.2) and are pretty well set in the frontcourt.

The Sky averaged the second fewest turnovers per game, but they need more scoring from their backcourt. Though Dominique Canty is decent at the point and her 4.1 assists per game put her ninth in the league, her best years are likely behind her. Armintie Price was the Rookie of the Year and has an incredibly bright future ahead of her, but she's not a 15-20 point per game scorer� yet. Jia Perkins is a very capable scorer, but started only five games and averaged just 23.1 minutes a night. And it's not only the Sky's scoring from the field that needs an upgrade: their 67.6 team free throw percentage was by far the worst in the WNBA.

Overton will likely look for shooting and depth its backcourt and perhaps another big body to complement Melvin down low.

2007 record: 13-21
Chance of getting No. 1 pick: 16.7 percent

After missing almost all of 2007 due to injury, legendary forward Sheryl Swoopes is reportedly hoping to return to the floor for the Comets next year, but her absence would leave a huge hole in Houston's front line. Without her, the team struggled to put the ball in the hoop, averaging just 73.8 ppg, third worst in the WNBA. Tina Thompson remains a remarkable talent in the frontcourt, but at age 32 she may not be long for the WNBA. Long considered an up-and-coming star, Michelle Snow has yet to realize her pro potential.

The Comets' problems, however, stemmed from a great deal of inexperience in their backcourt. Hamchetou Maiga-Ba, Crystal Smith, Barbara Turner, Tamara Moore, Roneeka Hodges and Erin Grant make up the underwhelming list of Houston's starting guards in 2007, and they are largely responsible for the Comets committing the most turnovers in the league at 17.7 per game.

Veteran Tamecka Dixon was superb after joining the team on July 6, averaging 12.0 ppg, but her return next year is also unclear. After a promising start to the season, first-round pick Ashley Shields underachieved in the second half, shooting a woeful 27.5 percent from the field and at times disappeared from coach Karleen Thompson's radar.

The veterans on the squad -- Thompson and Dixon, in particular -- were the glue that held the team together all season long. A playmaking point guard would fill the team's most immediate needs, but they'll need a young, big-time scorer to eventually take the reigns from Swoopes and Thompson.

2007 record: 10-24
Chance of getting No. 1 pick: 34.1 percent

The Sparks have the best shot at No. 1, so they'll likely end up with an impact player. Lisa Leslie will be back in the fray for L.A. in 2008, providing a dominant presence inside with fellow veteran Taj McWilliams-Franklin. Throw Christi Thomas and LaToya Thomas into the mix, and you have the potential for a very solid group down low.

A greater need exists in the backcourt, where the Sparks struggled this past year as Temeka Johnson missed all but 11 games. Tennessee sharpshooter Sidney Spencer came on in the second half of the season and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting and, along with Spanish guard Marta Fernandez, should continue to see much of the ball in 2008.

After coming over from the Liberty during the season, Sherill Baker averaged 8.5 points in just over 20 minutes a game and should continue to develop. Mwadi Mabika started 23 games and averaged a solid 8.1 points and 3.8 boards per game. Still, a ball-handling, floor leader of a guard might be an early second-round option, especially with Johnson's health in question.

2007 record: 10-24
Chance of getting No. 1 pick: 34 percent

Minnesota should be better in 2008 as their youngsters will have had another season -- two-thirds of a season in Lindsey Harding�s case -- under their belts and more experience together. With the expected return of point guard Harding, continued improvement from fellow rookies Noelle Quinn, Shay Murphy and Kathrin Ress and the addition of another high draft pick, the Lynx have nowhere to go but up.

The team is capable offensively, especially with the WNBA�s second leading scorer in Seimone Augustus, but it could use another body or three to help Nicole Ohlde on the front line. Kristen Mann is a solid three, but at 6-1, is a bit undersized for a power forward. A big with some strength and presence in the post might help Minnesota improve upon its league-worst 2.8 blocks per game, its league-high 45 percent field goal percentage allowed and its 80.9 points allowed per game, second behind only the Mercury.

2007 record: 16-18
Chance of getting No. 1 pick: 5.5 percent

Though the organization has reportedly said it intends to re-sign restricted free agents Alana Beard, Nakia Sanford and DeLisha Milton-Jones, which will keep the core of the team intact, the stats don't lie. The Mystics were the worst shooting team in the league at 40.5 percent from the floor. They were the worst three-point shooting team in the league at 30.9 percent from long distance. They had the fewest assists in the league with 13.8 per game. And among lottery teams, they posted the fewest rebounds per game at just 32.7.

So the numbers suggest that Washington needs a shooter, a playmaker and some bulk on the inside. And my stats don't lie. Point guard Nikki Teasley's 3.3 assists per game were a career worst. The early season trade of Chasity Melvin clearly took a toll on the Mystics' low-post game. Milton-Jones had another All-Star season (despite shooting just 23.5 percent from three) and Sanford was solid at times, but more strength and size in the post are necessities.

Coach Tree Rollins will no doubt build on the progress made after Washington's 0-8 start in 2007. He will come in next season with more say in the team's setup, more knowledge of the players' strengths and weaknesses and a higher comfort level with his own duties. If the Mystics can grab a versatile post and improve in their perimeter game, they could surprise some teams next May.