Mystics draft preview: go big or go small

Mystics draft preview: go big or go small
April 14, 2013, 2:15 pm
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The draft: Starts Monday at 8 p.m., but the real drama begins around 15 minutes later when the Mystics turn comes up. That's because the 2013 class is a topped by three dynamic prospects - Baylor center Brittney Griner, Delaware wing scorer Elena Della Donne and Notre Dame point guard Sklyar Diggins. Despite finishing last season in the WNBA basement with a 5-29 record, Washington will miss out on the heralded trio because the Mystics also bottomed out in the draft lottery and wound up with the fourth overall pick. In other words, there are two distinct drafts and the Mystics have the first pick in the second one.

What's changed: Plenty of work remains, but new coach and general manager Mike Thibault has already begun overhauling the lacking roster. The second-winningest coach in WNBA history shipped 2011 first-rounder Jasmine Thomas to the Atlanta Dream for two draft picks including a first. That led to a deal for New York Liberty center Kia Vaughn, named the league's Most Improved player in 2011. Signing veteran Ivory Latta, who averaged 14.3 points and 3.3 assists last season for the Tulsa Shock, shores up the previously deficient point guard situation.

Needs: Realistically, the Mystics can focus on any position or area of need in the draft and at least 4-5 roster spots are open for competition. Thibault is targeting about that many number of prospects with the fourth overall selection. His biggest dilemma is less weighing whether to select a player that will be a greater boost to the upcoming season or one with the larger superstar upside. In terms of 2013, the backcourt and perimeter positions could stand the biggest influx of talent while the team's outside shooting is lacking. Latta and small forward Monique Currie are likely starters with combo guard Matee Ajavon providing a defensive presence off the bench. 

However, the likely top prospects are interior options. While Crystal Langhorne, Vaughn and Michelle Snow form a formidable frontcourt trio, Thibault won't pass on adding another big.

2013 Selections: 4 (1st), 17 (2nd), 19 (2nd)

* Updated: The Mystics traded their third round pick - the 25th overall selection - to the New York Liberty for reserve center Quanitra Hollingsworth on Monday afternoon before the draft.

Previous drafts: Despite having 14 selections over the past four years including five in the first round, only one of those players (Natalie Novosel) is currently on the roster. Last year's first round selection, Novosel entered the league with a reputation as a defensive and outside shooting presence. However the former Notre Dame stalwart played sparingly as a rookie, shot 9 for 41 (22.0 percent) from beyond the arc. With a new coach and GM, she is no lock to make this year's squad.

Prospects: Go big or go small, go for immediate help or a potential home run selection. As Thibault makes those decisions, he will ponder selecting these players...

Kelsey Bone, Texas A&M, center, 6-foot-4: Left the Aggies after her junior year - she will graduate this spring - and after being named third-team All-American. Bone, who began her career at South Carolina, finished third in the SEC in scoring (16.6) and second in rebounding (9.3). If Thibault swings for the fences, the true low-post presence could be the call.

Tianna Hawkins, Maryland, forward, 6-foot-3: Both Washington professional basketball franchises have previously drafted local players with an apparent PR spin as part of the final decision. Thibault has no interest in such thoughts, but it could simply work out that way if he tabs the high-scoring Terp. With injuries rocking Maryland this season past season, the former Riverdale Baptist star stepped up her production, finishing second in the ACC with 18.0 points and 9.7 rebounds. For those interested in advanced stats, here is a look at Hawkins through that prism.

Tayler Hill, Ohio State, guard 5-foot-10:  Fourth on the Buckeyes' all-time scoring list with 2,015 points, Hill topped the Big Ten in that category this season with 21.1 points. The two-way threat sank 2.1 3-pointers per game and received all-defensive team conference honors for a third time. The four-year starter didn't receive a postseason spotlight since Ohio State did not participate in the NCAA Tournament, but Hill could immediately become a shining member of the Mystics backcourt.

Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown, guard, 5-foot-11: Though she finished fourth nationally in scoring with 22.9 points per game, Rodgers arguably had a down season compared to her previous two campaigns. though not all (or any?) blame lands with the program's all-time leading scorer. She had little help offensively and often had no choice but to hoist up attempts early and often for a Hoyas squad lacking other scoring threats. How WNBA decision makers view Rodgers' decision-making habits will determine if she lands in the middle of the first round or early in the second. Would be surprising if the Mystics selected her at No. 4, but Washington could certainly use another point-producing threat. 

Others: Kayla Alexander, Syracuse, center, 6-foot-4; Kelly Faris, Connecticut, guard, 5-foot-11; Lindsey Moore, Nebraska, 5-foot-9, guard; Markel Walker, UCLA, forward, 6-foot-1