The sad news is that the Terps' season is over, but the happy news is that basketball still goes on. And with the WNBA draft now less than a week away, the BasketCases decided it's time we paid some attention to the Mystics.
As our loyal readers know, the Mystics have the second overall pick in the draft, which takes place this coming Thursday, April 9th, at 3 PM EDT. Of course, the BIG question is who the Mystics will select with their #2 pick. Hmmm, let's think about that.
Okay, we've thought about it, and here's our take: unlike last year, when the top three picks were obvious (Parker, Fowles, and Wiggins), the choices at the top of this year's draft are a bit more complicated. There's definitely some consensus about the handful of stellar college seniors who are clear favorites for the top few picks, but the order in which they should or will be selected is what really remains up for grabs (and is being debated endlessly on various message boards).
There's no question that Mystics GM Angela Taylor has her work cut out for her. We know for a fact that she and Head Coach Julie Plank have been racking up the frequent flyer miles, hitting the roads and rails, traveling the country, watching games and practices, talking with coaches and scouts . . . in other words, evaluating the college talent in order to use their draft pick to the Mystics' best advantage.
In terms of who they might choose, back in February, the Mystics' Front Office was very candid in naming six seniors who at that time were at the top of their wish list: "Louisville forward Angel McCoughtry, Oklahoma center Courtney Paris, University of Connecticut guard Renee Montgomery, Auburn guard/forward DeWanna Bonner, and the University of Maryland duo of guard Kristi Toliver and forward Marissa Coleman." This week, a "draft preview" posted on the Mystics' web site called "Breaking Down the Options" listed the same names, except for Bonner's. To the extent this means the Front Office is no longer considering using the #2 pick on Bonner (and there's no way to be sure that's the case), the BasketCases have no quarrel with that decision. We saw Bonner play once in person this winter and were very impressed. But she's about the skinniest person we've ever seen (outside a famine region), and some observers have raised the concern that she may be too slight to play in the extremely physical WBNA. Bonner may simply be too big a risk for such a high draft pick.
As for the other five (McCoughtry, C. Paris, Montgomery, Toliver and Coleman), we certainly agree that they are the group from which the Mystics' 2-pick should be chosen. In fact, we wish the Mystics could take all of them! Each of those players would, in our opinion, be an upgrade for DC. Unfortunately, the Mystics can choose only one. So who might the Mystics draft . . . and why?
At the end of the 2008 WNBA season, it was patently clear that the Mystics needed significant improvement in the frontcourt, at the point, and at the wing. (In other words, just about everywhere! The second-to-last finish was hardly an accident.)
Probably the team's most critical deficiency, at that time, was the lack of a reliable point guard. But during the off-season, the Mystics acquired combo-guard Matee Ajavon in the dispersal draft from the sadly-defunct Houston Comets, and also traded for PG Lindsey Harding of the Minnesota Lynx. As far as we're concerned, the jury is still out on Harding as a pro, who has yet to play a full season in the WNBA due to injuries. But she could, if she remains healthy, significantly improve the Mystics at the point, and clearly GM Taylor and Coach Plank (who both came to the Mystics from the Lynx) are convinced of Lindsey's potential. That being the case, it now seems doubtful that the Mystics -- given their off-season moves -- would use the #2 pick on a point guard. So, as talented as Renee Montgomery and Kristi Toliver are, we're moving both of them down to the "long odds" section of our list.
The Mystics also need improvement at the wing position, and even before their performances over the past two weeks during the NCAA Tournament, it was clear that either of the two wings among the "top five" seniors listed by the Front Office -- McCoughtry and Coleman -- would, indeed, provide that improvement. In fact, some think Angel is so talented that she will (or should) be selected by the Atlanta Dream as the overall #1 pick in the draft. We've heard her compared to a young Sheryl Swoopes, and it's not a bad comparison. So Angel may be gone before it's the Mystics' turn to pick. As for Marissa Coleman, well, there's nothing we need to say that our readers don't already know -- she's extraordinary, period. Her versatility -- being able to play multiple positions -- makes her attractive to WNBA teams, which are required to play many back-to-back games in a very fast and physical league with only an 11-player roster. Mo Currie, the Mystics current starter at the wing position, is a BasketCases favorite, but there's no denying that her pro career so far has been mediocre, at best. We think that either Angel or Marissa would be a significant improvement for the Mystics at the wing, and we wouldn't be the least surprised (or disappointed) if the Mystics Front Office chose one of them.
Which brings us to the frontcourt. During the off-season, the Mystics signed free agent Chasity Melvin, bringing Chas back to DC after that 2007 mid-season trade to the Sky. The ever-popular Chas will provide veteran leadership in the post, but she's closer to the end of her career than the beginning, which is another way of saying that she's not the long-term solution for the Mystics' frontcourt weakness. And as much as we love Nakia Sanford, last season was abysmal. Virtually every successful team in the league has a dominating frontcourt; the Mystics don't. It is quite possible that the exceptionally talented Courtney Paris from the University of Oklahoma might provide that missing piece for the Mystics. Yes, some observers are concerned that she's not in "WNBA shape" right now (a polite way of suggesting that she's fat). Assuming that were true, conditioning can be acquired, but you can't teach size (a cliche, but accurate nonetheless), and the extraordinary rebounding, passing and other skills that CP has don't come along very often. We think that any team that passes on Courtney may well live to regret it.
So there you have it. Which may lead you to wonder who the BasketCases would pick if it were up to us (which of course it isn't). Well, with the caveat that three of the players on the Mystics' list are still playing in the Final Four this weekend (and their performances in St. Louis could raise or lower their draft stock), today we'd take Courtney Paris. That would be our pick . . . but let's be clear: that is not a prediction of what we think the Mystics will do. If the Mystics draft Marissa Coleman or Angel McCoughtry, or surprise us completely with one of the PGs, that player will get a big BasketCases welcome . . . because any one of the 5 would be a quality addition to the Mystics line-up. [*Final Four updates below.]
Who would you pick? Feel free to post a comment and tell us who, and why. And if you feel like it, you can also try to predict who you think Angela will actually select.
By the way, the Mystics have decided not to hold a Draft Party this year, but instead will host an event, tentatively scheduled for April 14th, at which fans will be able to meet the draft pick.
Beginning at 3 PM on Thursday, you'll be able to watch the first round of the draft live -- in HD -- on ESPN2, and the second and third rounds on ESPNU and NBA TV. Of course, if, like the BasketCases, you'll be stuck at work without cable TV, you can follow the picks online on WNBA.com (and then watch the play-back on your DVR when you get home).
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Kristi and Marissa are among the expected "top picks" who have been invited by the WNBA to be present for the draft -- in person -- in Secaucus, New Jersey. As much as we're looking forward to learning who the newest member of the Mystics will be, we'll also be very excited to find out where KT and Marissa will begin (what we expect will be) their long, successful professional careers.
We're counting down the days to
April 15th April 9th!
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Monday morning update . . . Courtney's college career came to an end last night, as the Sooners lost a heartbreaker to Louisville, 61-59. In the other national semi-final, UConn routed Stanford, 83-64, setting up an all Big East National Championship game Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, late Monday morning, over on WNBA.com, editor Brian Martin posted a mock draft that has the Mystics picking Courtney. Check out Brian's reasons. (Did he copy from the BasketCases? LOL.)