With the sports world shut down due to COVID-19, a lot of people are looking for other ways to engage with sports. For many in the online basketball world, that’s meant getting together with their friends and doing historical NBA mock drafts, building teams from the top players throughout the history of the league.
So, I — along with Bobby Mummery, who possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of all things basketball — decided it would be fun to do a WNBA version of this. I enlisted 11 other people who know a lot about women’s basketball to serve as mock GMs as we built a 12-player team. The rules were pretty simple: you had to have at least three players from the first (1997-2008) and second half (2009-2019) of the WNBA’s history with one starter from each era. GMs picked a consecutive two-season version of a player and, once a player got selected, no one else could take that player (even if in different seasons). Trades were not allowed and the draft was done in snake format.
Today, I’m excited to present to the world the rosters, as well as some explanations from some of the participants about how they decided to build their rosters. Let’s look at who participated, in the order they drafted.
- Natalie Heavren – contributor for High Post Hoops
- Gabe Ibrahim – editor for Winsidr
- Justin Carter – writer for Winsidr
- Meredith Minkow – social media for Bleacher Report
- Lyndsey D’Arcangelo – writer for The Athletic
- Richard Cohen – writer for WNBAlien/Her Hoop Stats
- Jack Maloney – writer for CBS Sports
- Myles Ehrlich – writer for The Basketball Writers
- Kurtis Zimmerman – writer for High Post Hoops and creator of Across The Timeline
- Bobby Mummery – co-creator of this project
- Ari Chambers – contributor for Bleacher Report
- Rachel Galligan – Rachel Galligan for Winsidr
The Draft Board
Let’s take a look at each team from the draft. The starters for each team are bolded.
|Team 1: Natalie Heavren|
“My roster is made up of some Google-driven picks, some recent picks because I had a specific need to fill, and some were picks from the heart. The WNBA is older than I am, which worried me when I had to make early era selections. But ultimately I made it work with a mixture of my existing knowledge, Google, and Basketball-Reference. While I didn’t necessarily account for personalities on my roster I did try to get a good mix of positions and skills. I also learned I am drawn to 6 foot (ish) forwards and had to remind myself guards are important as well when I was making my picks. One of my favorite picks was Margo Dydek, knowing about her success and her impact on the league, but unfortunately not having watched any of it while it was happening.”
|Team 2: Gabe Ibrahim|
|#47||Emma Meesseman||2017, 2019|
|#74||Erika De Souza||2013-2014|
“I had almost no plan coming into this draft since I forgot when it started and I had the second overall pick. With my first round pick, I knew I needed my championship cornerstone. While there’s a lot of those players, I was choosing between Maya Moore and Cynthia Cooper. Both players could take the mantel as the unquestioned leader on a team full of greats. I went with Maya because I knew her game much better, her 2014 season is one of the best in league history, and 2015 was my first full year as a big WNBA fan when she won another title.
Then, it just became a wait-and-see game. I highlighted the players that would fit my vision of playing gritty defense, being fun/interesting, and bomb from 3. Versatility also played a huge role, especially early when I didn’t know who I’d get.
My big rotation is probably what I’m proudest of. I love putting Lizzy and Emma together. While both have amazing pairings in real life, these two fit perfectly on the court and are so different off of the court that it has to be funny. Taj McWilliams-Franklin just fell in my lap. She and Erika De Souza give me a strong defensive presence to tag in if Emma has a bad match up or Liz gets in foul trouble while also providing solid offense in their minutes.
My guard/wing rotation is weird but I also love it. Kara Lawson and Teresa Weatherspoon should play great together with Lawson’s shooting and Weatherspoon’s defense. Sugar Rodgers and Allison Feaster are my shooters and should be wide open often. I picked Debbie Black to honor my Miami roots and because she’s a great Weatherspoon sub. Ruthie Bolton was a value pick who fell because the analytics don’t like her and could provide some nice bench scoring. Aerial Powers could do the same, but really I just wanted her energy in the locker room.”
|Team 3: Justin Carter|
“I knew going into this draft that I wanted to build around a dominant big, because the WNBA is such a big driven league. That made taking Lisa Leslie with the third overall pick a pretty simple decision for me.
After that, my goal was to build a modern offense that emphasized spacing and three-point shooting. My system would allow Leslie room to work in the post and giving her plenty of shooters to dish the ball back out to. At 22, I took Katie Smith. At 27, I took DeWanna Bonner and committed to playing her as my starting four to really emphasize this spacing thing. To round out my starting lineup, I took arguably the best current point guard in the league, Chelsea Gray, and Nykesha Sales, who can score but also gave me some needed defense.
For my bench, I took a risk on Brandy Reed, who had a short WNBA career. But her season in 2000 is one of the most underrated years ever: 19 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.1 steals per game while shooting 50.7/41.9/90.1. She didn’t attempt enough threes to qualify for the three-pointer leader board so this didn’t count as a real 50/40/90 year. But look, that was a wildly good offensive season and I had to have her as my top bench scorer.
Past that, I went with players I thought fit together well. I also took Kim Perrot because I grew up as a Comets fan and there was no way I wasn’t drafting Kim Perrot, and I took Dawn Staley at pick 123 despite her best basketball coming when she played for Team USA and not in the WNBA. I wasn’t passing up the chance to draft Dawn Staley, who can contribute even when she’s not on the floor because she’s Dawn Staley.”
|Team 4: Meredith Minkow|
|Team 5: Lyndsey D’Arcangelo|
|Team 6: Richard Cohen|
“So, I love my team. I was delighted that Lauren Jackson was still available at #6, because I probably would’ve taken her 06-07 period if I’d had the #1 overall pick. That period when she was at her peak and mostly healthy she was arguably the greatest inside-outside offensive force the women’s game has ever seen, and an all-world defender at the other end.
I’m not the biggest Brittney Griner fan but just couldn’t pass when she was still there for my 2nd round pick. She changed the game defensively immediately and pairing her and Jackson in the post was impossible to resist.
By round three, I was starting to get a little worried about getting an elite point guard to run my team. Bird and Whalen were gone, along with the top combo guards like Taurasi, Toliver and Hammon. It felt like there were more similar-level wings who I could grab in later rounds. So I took Sloot, who knows how to get the ball where it needs to go and also shot nearly 40% from three in the years I took, so helps spread the floor.
Then it was about filling out my wing spots. I think Beard fell further than she should have because people now think of her as a defensive specialist, but back in the Washington years I took she could really score as well, and while she may not have been as smart a defender yet, she was pre-injury and therefore more mobile. Mabika in the next round may similarly be somewhat forgotten, but she could do a bit of everything including shoot from outside. That rounded out my starting lineup, and while we may not have any superstar perimeter scorers, we have more than enough offensively and everyone apart from Vandersloot was an excellent-to-outstanding defender. Good luck scoring on us.
Round six was the only time where I admit I had someone picked out and then they got taken just before me. I wanted Jia Perkins as a create-your-own-shot offense injection off the bench. Instead we just had to start building a versatile, athletic, gritty bench. Arcain, then Lyttle, then Pierson – all great defenders at multiple positions who give us depth across the board. One of the other drafters suggested the way to attack us would be putting Vandersloot/Griner in the pick-and-roll, but Lyttle and Pierson would allow us to go slightly smaller with Jackson at center to counter that if necessary.
Christon gave us more shooting on the wing (another player people have forgotten was becoming an all-star before injury hit), Shannon Johnson back-up both at point guard and as a speedy scorer. McCowan would give some backup for Griner so Jackson wouldn’t have to play center if she didn’t want to, and finally Erin Perperoglou is one of my favourite players in league history. Hard-nosed, do-whatever-you-need player who’d always be ready and wouldn’t bitch if she ended up as a cheerleader on the end of the bench.”
|Team 7: Jack Maloney|
“I have to be honest I did no prep work for this so I was just going with the flow, and I definitely favored players I think are cool over best player available. After all, even in an entirely fictional situation, you have to like your team. That being said I think I did pretty well. Getting Catchings — arguably the best ever — at No. 7 was fantastic and from there I reunited the “Bad Girls.” With Hayes, Perkins, Thomas and Clark rounding out the rotation alongside them my team has plenty of toughness and flexibility. Shooting might be a bit of a concern, but I should have enough to keep teams honest, and picked up Mitchell for insurance in that department. We also might be a little small starting Ford at the 5, so I grabbed Wauters as a true big to help deal with the likes of Brittney Griner and Sylvia Fowles.”
|Team 8: Myles Ehrlich|
|#80||Chiney Ogwumike||2014, 2016|
“Once DT fell to me at 8, my team strategy became size and shooting. With Nneka Ogwumike and Natalie Williams securing the post, I was able to work on adding athletic wings. This also coincided with the period of the draft where I found myself adding some of my favorite players from today’s game, after suffering the disappointment of watching several go to other squads. Kayla McBride, Diamond DeShields, Chiney Ogwumike, and Kia Nurse were all mid-round picks that both helped develop my team identity and allowed me to keep them close. Before the string of guards drafted at the end, eight of the first nine picks stood over six feet tall, many able to guard multiple positions. Our goal is to space the floor and get out in transition. It would be just as difficult for a heavy-footed lineup of bigs to contain us as it would a squad of feisty guards; our versatility is where we would find success.”
|Team 9: Kurtis Zimmerman|
|#136||Nancy Lieberman||1997, 2008|
“Bookended by basketball legends, I went with a team defensively stout across the board with versatile scoring available with any lineup.
With Cynthia Cooper still somehow available at the 9th pick, building a team that could raise the roof was immediately the objective. The MVP and Finals MVP in both 1997 and 1998, Cooper could get shots anywhere on the court to the tune of just over 22 points per game in each of her first two seasons. Yo and Jonquel inside provide rebounding (each over 10 RPG at their peaks) and rim protection, with the latter able to space outside to open the floor when needed. No. 2 in both career assists and steals, it’s hard to find a better two-way floor general than Ticha Penicheiro, and Eva Nemcova provides length at 6’3 with elite shooting efficiency (45.2% from three and about 47% from the field in 1998) that defenses have to respect.
The bench provides nearly 1-for-1 substitutions with championship experience, with Natasha Howard providing defensive length and offensive versatility, Elizabeth Williams a modern-day Yolanda Griffith, and Briann January an efficient scorer as a two-way point guard. An underrated swing player, the “She-ro” Sheri Sam fills up a stat sheet, averaging double-digit points, nearly five rebounds, and over two steals per game over the 2001 and 2002 seasons. Getting two Olympians as backups in the post in Asjha Jones and Tammy Sutton-Brown provides major value so late in the draft, and both have the ability to score efficiently from inside and ensure that we will never stop rebounding as a team.
Lastly, I couldn’t pass up the chance to draft “Lady Magic” herself. A Basketball Hall of Famer, Olympian, and veritable legend of the game, the WNBA came along too late for Nancy Lieberman to play All Star-level minutes, but her experience and legend status — she’s the oldest player to appear in a WNBA game at age 50 in 2008 — is a value add I’ll never regret grabbing in the final round.”
|Team 10: Bobby Mummery|
|#10||Elena Delle Donne||2018-2019|
|#82||Elena Baranova||2001, 2003|
“I tried to build this team around Elena Delle Donne as much as possible. This meant finding players who would give her the opportunity not just to be a floor spacer but also to leverage her significant scoring ability in the mid-post. While McCoughtry was not a great shooter and commanded the ball a lot, I did not take her 2013 season in part to mitigate these factors. I would also plan to stagger Delle Donne and McCoughtry as much as possible.
I plan to start a fairly conventional starting line-up with my first five picks: Teasley-Douglas-McCoughtry-Delle Donne-Fowles. I also plan to deploy Epiphanny Prince as a relatively conventional sixth woman off the bench. My first planned sub in the rotation would be to bring Prince on for McCoughtry and slide Douglas to SF. Later in the rotation, I would bring McCoughtry back in at the same time that Delle Donne subs out, probably also swapping in Baranova for Douglas against relatively conventional teams.
An under-the-radar key player is Elena Baranova. I was excited to grab her for my bench as another 6’5” player who could shoot three-pointers extremely effectively while also being a very good shot-blocker able to slide across three positions. Baranova unlocks a lot of less conventional line-ups, playing both big and small. She is also extremely important because of Delle Donne’s tendency to miss games because of Lyme Disease flare-ups or various other nicks she has picked up over the course of her career. This also motivated the selection of Hampton; I did not want to rely on McCoughtry as my primary back-up PF in games that Delle Donne might have missed.
While I may lack a great driving and probing point guard, all three of my point guards (Teasley, Thomas, and Wright) provide significant positional size and defensive value. I also appreciate that I can play all three of them together if need be against teams with lots of good perimeter defenders. Prince, Douglas, and McCoughtry also provide significant amounts of secondary creation and ball-handling from the perimeter.”
|Team 11: Ari Chambers|
|#86||Riquna Williams||2015, 2017|
|#110||Amanda Zahui B||2018-2019|
|Team 12: Rachel Galligan|