The perennially underreported WNBA Draft is Thursday. It typically is barely discussed by the sports media, unlike the exhaustedly long NFL and oft-overhyped NBA drafts.
“I think the draft has definitely been talked about more over the years,” ESPN’s LaChina Robinson told the MSR during the April 6 pre-draft media call. “Even this call right now — we have a lot of media, a lot more than I remember having when I first started participating in these calls.”
“I think the synergy and energy coming off the NCAA Tournament is great. We just had arguably the greatest Final Four in the history of women’s college basketball. There was a lot of media attention, a lot of national media catching fire to what’s happening on the women’s side.
“I just think the overall popularity of the game is growing, whether it’s in viewership or attendance. So I think the more the game grows, the more the WNBA Draft will continue to grow.”
But Robinson’s ESPN has yet to show the entire three-round draft in its entirety, showing only the first round before switching to another round of non-stop NFL draft talk or something closely related.
A’Ja Wilson, Lexie Brown, Jordin Canada, Diamond DeShields, Kelsey Mitchell, Kia Nurse, Victoria Vivians, Monique Billings, Azura Stevens and Gabby Williams all were invited to attend Thursday’s proceedings in New York. All are expected to be gone when the 2017 WNBA Champions Minnesota Lynx (No. 5, second round) takes its turn — they don’t have a first-round pick.
“You would think that the number-one need Minnesota wants to fill is to find another mobile post that they can bring in off the bench to give [starting forward] Rebekkah Brunson some time to rest,” ESPN’s Rebecca Lobo told the MSR.
Plenette Pierson announced that she would retire at last season’s end, and Natasha Howard [Minnesota’s first-round pick] was traded to Seattle over the winter — both were key frontline reserves last season.
Wilson is the prohibitive overall pick — Las Vegas (who relocated from San Antonio) has the top pick. “I think she is ready for the pros right now,” Lobo pointed out.
“She can attack the basket with one dribble,” Vegas Coach-GM Bill Laimbeer said of Wilson. He joined Indiana Coach-GM Pokey Chatman and Chicago Coach-GM Amber Stocks on last week’s call. Indiana (No. 2) and Chicago (No. 3 and 4) follows Las Vegas in the first round.
“We are focused on the top of the draft. We have a lot of needs to address,” Chatman said.
Stocks told reporters that the Sky most likely will use their two picks as of now, but wouldn’t rule out her using one or both in post-draft dealing if needed. “Trading [them] is always an option,” she reiterated.
Finally, the WNBA is a women’s league — it really doesn’t matter what you did in college.
“The WNBA is heads and shoulders above the college game,” Laimbeer stressed. “These players are grown women. They’re physical. They know how to play basketball. Even number one picks get cut.”
“Certain things that we’re looking toward is an ability to make other people around you better, speed and quickness, separation, IQ items,” Stocks added.
“It’s also the pace of learning and implementing…It’s that IQ and that rate of retention and can they be effective. It’s a fast-paced game,” Chatman surmised.
“Some of them make that transition quickly and for others, it takes a while to make the right decisions as far as their nutrition, sleeping habits, just their overall mentality, and physicality,” Stocks concluded.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is the senior staff writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com