With the 2013 WNBA draft in the books, we can start pinpointing some of the good and the bad from the league's 17th annual selection process for college players.
Unlike the NBA, the WNBA requires all of its players to be a college graduate from a four-year university, be at least 22-years-old or be removed from high school for at least four years before draft eligibility is considered.
Shown on the ESPN family of networks, the first pick was really no surprise, with Baylor star center Brittney Griner joining Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury for her rookie season.
While Griner has been the clear draw to the sport of women's basketball—at least, in the college ranks—the rest of the three-round draft offered plenty of storylines that could help shape the league for years to come.
While support for the league has been lukewarm at best, there's always something to be positive about. Here's a look at some of the biggest winners from Monday night's draft and what it might mean for the league going forward.
WNBA Draft First-Round Picks
|1||Brittney Griner||Baylor||Phoenix Mercury|
|2||Elena Delle Donne||Delaware||Chicago Sky|
|3||Skylar Diggins||Connecticut||Tulsa Shock|
|4||Tayler Hill||Ohio State||Washington Mystics|
|5||Kelsey Bone||Texas A&M||New York Liberty|
|6||Tianna Hawkins||Maryland||Seattle Storm|
|7||Toni Young||Oklahoma St.||New York Liberty|
|8||Kayla Alexander||Syracuse||San Antonio Silver Stars|
|9||Layshia Clarendon||California||Indiana Fever|
|10||A'dia Mathies||Kentucky||Los Angeles Sparks|
|11||Kelly Faris||Connecticut||Connecticut Sun|
|12||Lindsey Moore||Nebraska||Minnesota Lynx|
*H/t ESPN for first-round information.
Biggest Winners from 2013 WNBA Draft
While the issue of a spot in the NBA will be a hot topic as the NBA draft approaches, Griner's place is now firmly set as one of the new faces of the WNBA.
If you don't believe me, check out this tweet from Darren Rovell about how high the expectations are in Phoenix for her to turn things around:
Darren Rovell @darrenrovell
No pressure Brittney Griner , there's already a street named after you in Phoenix (via @sunsprbiz) http://t.co/jLhzbh9l1I4/16/2013, 5:16:16 PM
Second on the collegiate women's basketball scoring list and first in blocks and dunks, Griner set herself apart at Baylor by winning a national championship and being one of the most dynamic players we've ever seen in college—men or women.
It was no shock to see Griner go No. 1 overall.
It will be a shock if she decides to skip town and prepare for an NBA tryout, but either way, Griner holds her future in the palm of her hand as the league's top draft pick this year. It will be exciting to see how her play translates in the best women's league there is to offer.
New York Liberty
What the New York Liberty did in the draft on Monday night had a very Oklahoma City Thunder-like feel to it.
With two picks inside the Top 10 (out of 12, mind you), the Liberty selected Kelsey Bone at No. 5 from Texas A&M, a player who averaged 14.2 points and grabbed over 800 rebounds during her time in College Station, and then Toni Young of Oklahoma State with the seventh pick.
The Liberty added Kamiko Williams, Shenneika Smith and Olcay Cakir to round out a successful draft.
By stockpiling talent to add around Cappie Pondexter, the Liberty can continue to grow under head coach Bill Laimbeer and improve on last season's first-round playoff knockout.
One of the biggest surprises of the draft was the selection of Oklahoma's Whitney Hand in the third round. Who would have thought that Landry Jones' wife might be a higher-round selection than her husband when the 2013 NFL draft approaches?
The San Antonio Silver Stars made Hand their final pick of the draft, a huge gamble if you recognize that Hand hasn't played since last December after her second ACL tear while with the Sooners that effectively ended her collegiate career.
As noted by Jason Kersey of NewsOK.com, Hand couldn't be any happier with the Silver Stars' choice to draft her on Monday:
I just have so much respect for San Antonio...I’ve heard if you play in the WNBA, you want to play for Dan Hughes. You want to play for San Antonio. Danielle [Robinson] has said nothing but amazing things about the city, about the program, about the fans. If I do choose to pursue that, it’s exciting to go play with her maybe.
As you can see from the quote, nothing is for certain. Two ACL tears are hard enough to come back from to be a recreational sports participant—much less a professional. Still, Kersey notes that Hand could join the Silver Stars in 2014 if things go according to plan in rehab, and she will have the option to pursue a lifelong dream after a disappointing college career.
It's the feel-good story of this draft.
Maybe this is a turning point for the league.
The first three picks (Griner, Delle Donne and Diggins) all have star potential and will join up with three new teams next season that desperately needed a jolt. The rest of the draft had some major talent, too, and the fact that it was broadcasted in prime time is a positive fact moving forward.
Still, it's going to a be a long climb up the hill.
We can't ignore the fact that viewership and attendance for the WNBA are both disturbing, or that the league salary cap (less than $1 million per team) doesn't properly reward what we consider to be professional athletes these days.
With only 12 teams in the league after the relocation of some squads and the folding of some others, this is a crucial juncture in the long-term success of the sport. Hopefully the excitement from Griner and the current league stars will help will help get the WNBA into a place it has never been before.
Monday night was a good start.
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