Next year at this time, the WNBA will be preparing to draft one of the most profound classes in history, led by three players chosen first-team All-Americans as juniors — Baylor center Brittney Griner, Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins
But that’s next season.
This year’s draft is Monday, and while the selections are intriguing, not many of the players are considered franchise-shaping.
“I think there are some talented seniors in this class. But as the league has continued to evolve, the competition of making rosters has increased,” said ESPN’s Carolyn Peck. “I think there are some opportunities, especially with this being an Olympic year. There are some teams needing to fill some spots in the absence of a few players [with national team responsibilities].
“There have also been some injuries like Penny Taylor not being able to be available for Phoenix. And so there could be an opportunity there, as well. It just continues to make the league better. ”
At the top of the list is Stanford forward Nnemka Ogwumike, the Pac-10player of the year and first-team All-American. She is expected to be the first pick by the Los Angeles Sparks.
“I think everybody assumes that Nnemka is going to go to Los Angeles,” ESPN’s Rebecca Lobo said. “I think that would be a big surprise if she didn’t. But then it gets interesting because we don’t know yet what Coach [Brian] Agler from Seattle is going to do with the No. 2 pick; and after what he chooses, obviously the other pieces will fall into place.
“You are looking at a group of three players who have the best chance to go at that No. 2 pick if he doesn’t trade it, and I think it’s Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen [both of Tennessee] and Shenise Johnson from Miami.”
Ogwumike, who played in Final Fours in each of her seasons, seems awed by the distinction she is about to receive.
“I think it would mean a lot,” said Ogwumike. “This past year was great. We had a lot of success and even though it didn’t end how we wanted it to [a semifinal loss to national champion Baylor] I was just really proud of my teammates. And we go now to the next step.”
The Minnesota Lynx, defending WNBA champions, will have the third pick followed by Tulsa and San Antonio. The Connecticut Sun pick ninth.
Gary Kloppenburg, rookie coach of Tulsa, said he’s aware how different next year’s draft will be.
“I think coaches are on the phone, calling coaches about all kinds of different things right up to draft day,” he said. “The general feeling I get from talking to coaches is that nobody really wants to give up any picks for next year’s draft just because of those reasons, the high quality of players that are coming out next year.”
UConn’s Tiffany Hayes, who like Ogwumike participated in Final Fours each of her four seasons, is considered a late pick in the first round. UConn’s Tina Charles and Maya Moore were the first overall picks the past two seasons and both were both rookie of the year.
Moore helped Minnesota to its first league title.
“When I was younger, I wasn’t really thinking about [the draft],” Hayes said. “I kind of knew about it, but it wasn’t really in my mind to go. I started playing late and was kind of an under-the-radar type of player my whole life. So it really didn’t cross my mind that I was going to make it there.”
Notre Dame’s Natalie Novosel and Dev Peters are also possible first-round selections.