The first-ever WNBA “virtual” draft takes place Friday, April 17 as Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will call out draftees’ names. For the first time ever, ESPN will show the women’s pro basketball draft (6 pm Central) rather than on its secondary channels.
This also will be the first draft where WNBA coaches and execs were not able to use the NCAA tournament for their “last look” scouting purposes, as in past seasons. Minnesota Lynx Analyst Lea B. Olsen noted, “I think it hurt the coaches not being able to see how people respond to big moments.
The NCAA tournament can make someone’s draft [chances] go way up, a good game-changer for somebody. I do think it will impact some players that people weren’t sure about.”
Minnesota presently is scheduled to pick sixth overall with one of their two picks in the guard-dominated draft.
The WNBA mock drafts, which we usually don’t hold much stock in, has the Lynx either choosing Tyesha Harris of South Carolina or Texas A&M’s Chennedy Carter. Here’s the skinny on both guards:
Harris, 5’-10” guard—career averages: 9.6 ppg, 5.1 assists, 3.1 rebs; became a starter in January of her freshman year (2017), South Carolina’s NCAA championship season.
Carter, 5’-7” guard—career averages: 22.5 ppg, 4.2 rebs; 2018 national freshman of the year; 62 20-point games, 12 30-point games, and a double-figure scorer in her last 62 games, all school records. She is an early entry draftee who opted to forego her senior year.
“I think everyone knows that they have to do something at that guard position,” Olsen said of Minnesota’s guard corps, especially the starting backcourt. “I feel good about the frontcourt, but they definitely will have to look at who is going to distribute the ball this year.”
The Lynx backcourt will be dramatically different if and when the 2020 season begins. Engelbert announced that both the start of training camp later this month and the start of the season in May have been put on hold.
Seimone Augustus is now in Los Angeles, Danielle Robinson went to Vegas, and Odyssey Sims is expected to miss part if not all of this season due to her pregnancy. Veteran guards Rachel Banham and Shenise Johnson were both acquired in separate trades during the free agency period.
“I like Lexie Brown a lot,” Olsen says of the natural shooting guard, “but you want to bring in a Harris” at point guard, she stressed. Harris, winner of the 2020 Dawn Staley Award as the nation’s best point guard, also was effectively tutored by her coach, Dawn Staley, one of the best ever at this position.
“There will be a lot of changes with this team,” Olsen noted.
More importantly, the Lynx must make a long-term development investment in whoever they choose with their top pick, whether it’s Harris or Carter.
They did just that last season with the selections of Napheesa Collier, who later won rookie of the year honors, and Jessica Shepard, who looked like a serious keeper as well before she was lost with an injury for the year after just six games.
“The one thing about the Lynx is when they draft players, they are very clear that they draft players that are good people that are going to fit into Coach [Cheryl] Reeve’s system, and who are good athletes and will fill a need,” Olsen said. “It will be real interesting who they pick up.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and current lockdown hasn’t detoured gender inequity in sports news. The Ringer.com’s “40 Classic Sports Game and Moments” has only a 2011 U.S. national soccer team match.
Even the White House is more concerned about the NFL season, which is typically slated to start in the fall, or even summertime Little League baseball, than it is about the WNBA regular season.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.