Less than one week before they break down the Draft live on ESPN2, ESPNU and WatchESPN, analysts Rebecca Lobo and Carolyn Peck offered a sneak peak in a conference call on Friday afternoon.
Here’s a sample of what the two had to say about this year’s top prospects and the teams in position to select them:
On UConn’s Breanna Stewart:
Lobo: “I think she’s going to be great right away. She’s the only player who’s had extensive experience playing already with and against pros because of her experience with the National Team. But I think she’s going to make an immediate impact kind of like Elena Delle Donne did her rookie year.”
On UConn’s Moriah Jefferson:
Lobo: “I don’t think there’s any chance that Moriah doesn’t go 2. If she wasn’t on San Antonio’s roster, it would be because somehow they traded that No. 2 pick. But I think without question Moriah Jefferson is getting drafted 2.
“[Stars head coach] Dan Hughes made it clear: For him to trade that pick, somebody would have to overpay for that pick, and I think especially now that Danielle Robinson is out with her Achilles this year, it’s even more of a certainty than before.”
“She’s a completely different player now than she was her freshman year. There were times even her sophomore season where she was hesitant to shoot the three-point shot. People would completely play off of her and allow her to take that, and now she’s a huge threat from the three-point line. She’s become a much more confident player out on the court. Even as slight as her frame is, she’s become a stronger player.
Coaches in this draft are really, really high on her, especially this year. It’s hard to find true point guards and she’s one of those, and she can affect the game on both ends of the floor.
“Her quickness, there’s not many players that have that type of quickness. There’s not many players that have that commitment in addition to that quickness on the defensive end of the floor. She works ridiculously hard whether she’s off the ball or on the ball defensively, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her get tired.”
On Minnesota’s Rachel Banham:
Peck: “Anybody that puts up three games going 45-plus points is definitely going to get the attention because offense is at a premium in the WNBA, and a player that can score the ball the way that she does, I think that teams could find a role. When you look at a shooter like Tricia Liston who is with the Lynx, I think Rachel Banham can definitely be that type of scorer in the WNBA.”
Lobo: “I think she’s very ready on the offensive end based on the people I’ve spoken to. The question that constantly comes up with Rachel is defensively. The zone defense that they play at Minnesota does not lend itself to being able to judge what a quality defender she is, so I think from the people I’ve talked to, she’s ready offensively. They see her as a 2-guard who can play some 1, if needed.”
On South Florida’s Courtney Williams:
Peck: “The thing that most impressed me about Courtney Williams was her last two games against Connecticut, because Connecticut is the closest that you’re going to be able to measure how a player can perform to the WNBA without actually playing in the WNBA. She is a shot creator. She’s got tremendous elevation on her shot. So I think that that takes away from anybody saying she’s too small.
Because of her quickness and her ability to elevate, I think that she also this season demonstrated not only is she a scorer, but she has the ability to pass, and I like the confidence that Courtney plays with. I think you’ve got to have that in order to play in the WNBA.”
Lobo: “Courtney is a ridiculous athlete, and when you watch her in person, you can’t help but be wowed at some of the things she does on the floor. Her explosiveness, especially in the mid-range game — she can shoot over some of the longest, biggest defenders, including Breanna Stewart, who is so long and a great shot blocker, and Courtney was able to get off shots over her, whether it was in the mid-range game or her threes, as well. Very effective in the pick-and-roll game, which some coaches put a high premium on. I could see her going as high as 3 or 4 to Connecticut, but she will not fall — I don’t think she will fall out of the first round; she’s too much of a talent.
“And especially when you look at her development from the three-point line over the course of her career, I think her junior year she made more threes than in her freshman and sophomore seasons combined, so you could see continued improvement. You can see she’s the kind of kid who wants to get in the gym and get better, so all of those things point to a player who’s going to be successful at the next level.”
On Texas’ Imani Botette:
Lobo: “I think the adjustment she’s going to face is much different from the one I went through, simply because the game has changed so much in the course of the last 20 years. In the league as a 5 (center), you’re going to be battling against Brittney Griner, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles. Players with that size and skill weren’t on every team 20 years ago, but that is the case now. Within the course of a play defensively, you might end up on Candace Parker or Elena Delle Donne.
“But she’s definitely got size. She’s skilled. She can really move up and down the floor. I think that’s what some of the traits that are really appealing about her to GMs. I think the key for her is going to find a level of consistency on both ends of the floor, where every night she can come out and a coach knows exactly what she can give them.”
On the Connecticut Sun’s plans holding the Nos. 3 and 4 picks:
Lobo: “To me, two guards that would immediately come to mind for him with Moriah, assuming Moriah is gone, one will be Courtney Williams, because he’s talked about he wants to run the style of heavy pick-and-roll offense, and she’s proven she can be successful in that. And another one that would be intriguing is Rachel Banham. People like to compare her to Becky Hammon, and he coached Becky Hammon way back in the day.
“I think they will go with Tuck as their big there. I really do. Pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop — if you can have a big that can set a screen and hit the three-point shot or put the ball down and score inside the way Tuck has been able to do consistently throughout the season … To me, Tuck fits their system perfectly if they can complement that with a guard who can really shoot from the three.”