Unlike other pro leagues’ drafts, the three-round annual women’s pro basketball draft is rarely discussed outside of WNBA fans, followers, and other interested parties.
Mock drafts aside, the 2019 WNBA Draft, scheduled for today at 6 pm CST, is still an important day for 36 young women hoopsters. Dreams became reality as they waited to exhale, hoping to hear their name announced by their first post-college employer.
At press time, Teaira McCowan, Arike Ogunbowale, Kristine Anigwe, Kalani Brown, and Asia Durr were among the top prospects expected to go somewhere in the first round.
Minnesota (6th) was scheduled to pick after Las Vegas, New York, Indiana, Chicago and Dallas. It was the Lynx’s highest pick since 2012, after several seasons picking last or next to it — the two annual spots reserved for the previous year’s champion and runners-up. The team also had three second-round picks (16, 18 and 20), and its third-round pick (30).
“I do think that 3-4 spot is probably where we need to get athletic,” Lynx-Timberwolves Reporter/Analyst Lea B. Olsen told me last week.
“We will get a good player,” Minnesota Coach/GM Cheryl Reeve predicted on last week’s pre-draft conference call with reporters, including the MSR.
On Sunday, espnW’s Mechelle Voepel forecasted that if she’s there, Notre Dame’s 5’8” Ogunbowale would be Minnesota’s first pick.
“I like her as much as I like any prospect in this draft,” ESPN Analyst Kara Lawson said of Ogunbowale. “She can create her own shot and has become a better passer.”
Others predicted Minnesota selecting UConn’s 6’2” forward Napheesa Collier at No. 6. “Napheesa Collier is a tremendous basketball player,” Reeve said. “She is not limited on how she can play. She will have her work cut out for her as a small forward in this league. [But] she could do well and have a long career in the WNBA.”
“She is the best player in the draft,” Lawson assessed of Collier. “She is somebody that can score the basketball [and] can move very well without the basketball, which is a very important [trait] that I look at for players making the transition [to the pros].”
Another not-often-discussed fact of the WNBA Draft — it isn’t a sure thing, even as a first-rounder with only 12 required spots on the 12-team WNBA rosters — annually, there are very few turnovers in rosters, as well. “You may see some first-rounders not make it,” said Las Vegas Coach/GM Bill Laimbeer. “It is so hard to make a team in our league right now.”
“Even if you are a clear cut draft pick, the way our rosters are constructed, it will be very hard to stick. There are not a lot of [roster] spots,” noted Derek Fisher, first-year coach for Los Angeles.
Finally, the transition from college star to potential pine time in the pros during their first season is tough for many players, Lawson added. “A lot of players who are used to being the center of the offense, and one of the [needed] adjustments you have to make to go to a league with 12 teams and with players that are elite, you have to find a way to make an impact without the basketball in your hands.”
“The biggest challenge is the quickness of this league — the speed, the athleticism at the next level is nothing that these players get to experience in college,” Lawson’s fellow ESPN Analyst LaChina Robinson said. “I think the 4-spot is the hardest position to play because a lot of teams run their offenses through the 4. You really have to be a playmaker.
“If you make a roster and you become a 10th, 11th, 12th player, it’s about coming in and making a difference,” Robinson concluded.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.