With the 2010 WNBA Draft, the Atlanta Dream will draft at the #10, the #23 and the #36 positions. This comes from the regular season record, which was ranked as fourth best in a heavy-parity league this year. The question then becomes if the Dream can find anyone good at the 10-spot.
I read something interesting at 82games.com which provides a sort of "blunt force" metric to evaluate draft choices. The highly simplistic metric goes:
rating = points/game + assists/game + rebounds/game
From there, players fall into several categories depending on their ratings:
Star: 16 or more
Solid: 12.5 to 16
Role player: 8 to 12.5
Deep bench: 4 to 8
Bust: 0 to 4
DNP: "did not play"
(The numbers above are adjusted to the shorter WNBA game.)
I then applied the metric to the various draft picks. The first column states how many picks at that rank have existed. For example, the WNBA has been around for 13 years and there have been 13 #1 picks.
Some thoughts about the above:
* The bust at the #3 spot was Sandora Irvin.
* The bust at the #6 spot was Cindy Blodgett.
* The bust at the #7 spot was Shona Thorburn.
* The bust at the #8 spot was Sun Min-Jung.
* At #10, Molly Creamer is the highest draft pick never to play in the WNBA. Not surprisingly, she was drafted by the New York Liberty in 2003.
* The bust at #11 is Danielle Crockrum.
* At #12, Alison Curtin never played for Houston. She was drafted in 2003. No telling whether or not Ashley Walker is a bust yet or not.
* At #16, Nicky Anosike is the outlier - the good player among the bad.
* At #18, Tammy Sutton-Brown is the outlier.
* At #20, Sheri Sam is the outlier.
* At #27, the star is Adrienne Goodson and the solid player is Cathrine Kraayeveld.
* At #28, the star is Brandy Reed.
* At #29, the solid player is Dominique Canty.
* At #30, the star is Charde Houston, the solid player is Tamika Whitmore.
* At #32, the star is Taj McWilliams.
* At #34, the solid player is Sandy Brondello.
* At #35, the star is Jia Perkins.
The modern draft ends at the #39 position. Let's look at each of the draft spots.
The #10 Pick: It is actually quite possible to get good players at #10. Two stars (Katie Douglas, Michelle Snow) and two solid players (Rebekkah Brunson, Loree Moore) have come out of this spot. It's unlikely that a bust player will come out of the #10 spot, but this is the level in the draft where there's the fractional chance that one's draft pick might not play a single game. (The aforementioned Molly Creamer.)
Marynell Meador's reputation for drafts can be questioned. In 2008, her first pick was Tamera Young, but she passed up Nicky Anosike. Then again, who saw Nicky Anosike coming. In 2009, she picked Angel McCoughtry, and the #1 position has always yielded at the very least a solid player. You could end up with anything at the #10 spot.
The #23 Pick: One thing I've noticed is that all of the star players generally get picked in the first round, the #1 through #13 positions. Afterwards, all you usually get is role player...until around the #27 spot of the draft. Then, there's a smattering of star picks afterwards, testimony to teams that just got lucky.
Why is that? Here's my theory. For the early part of the draft, teams stick to a list of pretty much the top 20 players or so - players about which everyone is in agreement. These players are the group of "great players". Some are great, but by the early twenties the "name picks" have run out. Everyone is guessing.
However, if all of the players you wanted are gone - now is the time when you just have to guess. Or, if you don't guess, you take risks. You stray away from the tried and true, and you pick that player out of the Ohio Valley Conference who is 6-2 or 6-3 but led the NCAA in blocks. All that are left are the risky picks at this stage, and sometimes, risk turns into reward.
The #36 Pick: Unfortanately, even the risky picks are gone by the time you get to the #36 picks. 11 out of 12 of the #36 picks in history were either busts or never played at all. The only player that was any good was Kara Wolters. Everything else has been disaster.
This is the level where you should be thinking of a local player. Odds are good that the person you pick will never see a WNBA court. You could pick someone from Georgia, or Georgia Tech, or Kennesaw State, or Mercer. Why not use the #36 pick for publicity, if nothing else? Either that, or sign some Eurostar and at least keep the drafting rights to that player.
(* * *)
Drafting is more of an art than a science. Still, in the second and third rounds, there's no reason not to just spin the roulette wheel. But that very first pick has to pay off, because if it doesn't, your entire draft could be flushed away - nothing more than a bad memory.