The potential for a second or third round pick in the WNBA Draft to make a team’s initial regular season roster during a normal year is somewhere between “maybe they have a chance” and “look, there’s just no room here.” Add in the fact that roster cutdowns in 2020 happened without a training camp or a preseason and the situation gets even more dire.
But while there has been a lot of talk about the lack of opportunity for players taken outside of the first round, 6 players did make rosters this year. I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the value that those players bring to their new teams.
Pick 13 – Kylee Shook – New York Liberty
The Liberty have gone very, very young this season as they open the year with six rookies on their 12-player roster. Yes, half of the Liberty’s players haven’t played a WNBA game yet.
The team is also eschewing some of the more traditional elements of WNBA team building. Having a dominant post big has long been a defined path towards success in this league. But there’s only one paint-bound big on this roster, veteran Kiah Stokes.
The other bigs on this roster are much stretchier. Amanda Zahui B should enter the year as the starting center, while former Louisville Cardinal Kylee Shook will see time as a backup four and five. Shook’s role on this team should look a lot like Zahui B’s role based on what Shook did in college. Offensively, she has a game that stretches out to the perimeter and she scored in the 73rd percentile as a spot up shooter in her last year with the Cardinals.
Where the big learning curve will come in with Shook on that end will come in the pick-and-roll. New York has a lot of ball-handlers who excel in the pick-and-roll, which means that we’re likely going to see new head coach Walt Hopkins drawing up a good number of those plays. But Shook ranked in the 39th percentile as a pick-and-roll roller last year. She’ll need to get better at setting screens and at using her size to finish at the basket. She did a good job in college finishing pick-and-pops, especially catch-and-shoot ones. But the rolling part didn’t go as well, though it’s worth noting that Synergy only logged her as having 11 rolls to the basket.
On the defensive side, Shook’s ability to block shots will be useful, as will her ability to be a responsive defender:
Kylee Shook's ability to move from the paint to the perimeter & then back to the paint & then to chase down the driver to get the block is good. pic.twitter.com/9FsSG0ru9e
— Justin Carter (@juscarts) April 19, 2020
Shook’s not going to wow anyone with her defensive agility, but she’s a smart defender who won’t get lost when she has to rotate outside.
Pick 14 – Kathleen Doyle – Indiana Fever
For the second year in a row, an Iowa Hawkeye is heading to the WNBA.
Doyle averaged 18.1 points per game on 44.1% shooting last year, while also finishing eighth in Division I in assists per game. She had some turnover issues — 3.8 of them per game, ranking her near the worst in D-I in that regard — but mostly showed that she could be a high-usage point guard at a Big 10 school.
Now comes the question of what Doyle can do in the pros.
Indiana is in an interesting spot because Stephanie Mavunga’s contract is currently suspended temporarily due to an injury she suffered overseas. The fact that Mavunga’s suspension is temporary suggests that the Fever do expect her back at some point, which means that Doyle’s roster spot isn’t necessarily secure yet.
Last year, Doyle proved to be a capable lead guard, rating well in transition, isolation, and pick-and-rolls. But she wasn’t quite as effective when working off the ball. Her catch-and-shoot numbers were especially worrisome as she scored in the 25th percentile on guard catch-and-shoot attempts.
Doyle is essentially competing with Julie Allemand for backup point guard duties and, probably, the 12th roster spot once Mavunga returns. Allemand is older and likely farther along in her development, but Doyle’s got promise. We’ll see if she gets the chance to show that promise.
Pick 15 – Leaonna Odom – New York Liberty
Of all the second-round picks to make a team, Odom was perhaps the most surprising because it didn’t seem like the numbers were going to work in her favor on cutdown day. But New York suspended the contracts of two international players — Marine Johannes and Han Xu — and had a spot left for Odom.
Still, it’s hard to see an easy path to minutes for Odom this year. She has the size, length, and athleticism to play and defend multiple positions. She is also a solid passing wing. But her lack of shooting doesn’t seem like a great fit with an offense that seems intent on shooting a ton of threes.
But her ability to get up and down the floor does fit on a team that wants to run a lot. You have to figure that one reason why Odom stayed on this roster over veteran Reshanda Gray is that the team wanted to see if she could develop into a high-rising point forward. The minutes might not be there, but I do think we’ll all have a lot of fun watching Odom in the minutes that she does get.
Pick 16 – Crystal Dangerfield – Minnesota Lynx
Dangerfield could be the second rounder with the best path towards serious minutes early on. The Lynx have temporarily suspended Odyssey Sims, leaving a hole at point guard. There are really only three guards on this team right now: Rachel Banham, Lexie Brown, and Dangerfield.
While Dangerfield was a second round pick, she was also a player that a lot of people were high on pre-draft and had been mocking into the first round. There were a lot of surprises in the latter half of the first, which ultimately led to Dangerfield still being on the board at 16 for a Lynx team who some thought would have taken her where they selected Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan.
The former UConn product was a great offensive player during the 2019-20 college season. Her play type data from Synergy almost speaks for itself:
If you want some more traditional scoring metrics, Dangerfield’s 41% mark from three ranked 122nd in Division I and her free throw percentage ranked 71st. She was an excellent shooter for the Huskies and dished out 3.9 assists per game. Minnesota can use her on and off the ball, which should help her find a role on this team.
Of course, Dangerfield’s not a perfect prospect or she wouldn’t have dropped to the 16th pick. Her height is a concern. At 5’5’’, she’s the shortest player on the Lynx roster by four inches and it’s going to be tough to be a point guard in the WNBA at that size. Leilani Mitchell is the only other current WNBA player at Dangerfield’s height, and only two other players — Moriah Jefferson and Jordin Canada — are 5’6’’. Dangerfield will be at a big disadvantage if she’s asked to guard a team’s primary initiator. And while I trust her tenacity on both ends of the floor, it’s really hard to think of her as a sure thing at this point.
Pick 17 – Brittany Brewer – Atlanta Dream
Brittany Brewer made a team!
When it’s not the WNBA season, I write about women’s college basketball in Texas for another site. So I spent much of the 2019-20 college season thinking “Brittany Brewer is so good and I hope a WNBA team realizes that.” Way back in January I wrote about her WNBA potential, and her star only rose from there.
Brewer has stretch five potential, though we did see a downtick in her shooting numbers as a senior vs. where they were at her junior season. She has the potential to be a viable multi-level scorer in the WNBA. This past season, she scored in the 89th percentile on her most used play type: the post-up. Pre-draft, I think people tended to forget about Brewer’s potential in the post, instead focusing on her great shooting touch. But she can be a valuable player in the paint offensively:
Brittany Brewer scored in the 89th percentile on post ups last year. pic.twitter.com/XoJLMcAE6G
— Justin Carter (@juscarts) May 28, 2020
Brewer also scored in the 90th percentile on spot ups, though only 4.6% of her total possessions were spot ups. She has a pretty good mid-range jumper and the potential to be a solid catch-and-shoot threat for the Dream.
And then, there’s her defense. Brewer had 16 blocks in a game against Louisiana-Monroe. She finished second in Division I in blocks per game, as well as 31st in rebounding. She also grabbed 3.7 offensive boards, consistently generating additional opportunities for the Lady Raiders, Though, it should be noted that Brewer did struggle to convert those chances into points, scoring in the 18th percentile on put backs.
But back to defense. Brewer has some great instincts for the ball and should be able to defend in the post and hold her own in pick-and-roll defense. She’ll slot in as the fifth big in Atlanta and might not see the court a ton as a rookie. But she has the upside on both ends of the floor to stick in this league.
Pick 23 – Kaila Charles – Connecticut Sun
The only sub-20 pick to make a roster, Charles probably won’t see a ton of minutes on a veteran-heavy Connecticut squad. But she had enough promise to get the team’s final roster slot.
Let’s start with the thing Charles doesn’t really bring to the court: She’s not the kind of wing that’s going to knock down shots for the Sun. If they were looking to keep a three-point specialist, third-round pick Juicy Landrum would have made the team. But what Charles lacks in shooting — she only attempted 10 three points last year for Maryland — she makes up for in other ways.
First, athleticism. The 6’1’’ wing averaged 3.5 offensive rebounds per game for the Terrapins, and she scored in the 78th percentile in transition. 54.9% of her total shot attempts came at the basket on non post-up attempts, and she scored in the 85th percentile on those. She can get to the basket. She can finish when she gets there.
Depending on what the Sun’s lineups look like when Charles is on the floor, she doesn’t necessarily need to develop a jumper overnight. There’s some good shooting on this team, and Charles can serve as a driver and cutter when on the floor. Although, how much playing time she manages to get on Curt Miller’s team is also a big question.