"Don't get four," Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said he was thinking before Wednesday's draft lottery.
He didn't. The Mercury will have the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft in early April. and with it, the Mercury will almost certainly take 6-8 center Brittney Griner.
She led Baylor to a 40-0 record and the NCAA title last college season.
The next three picks will be by:
No. 2 Chicago Sky
No. 3 Tulsa Shock
No. 4 Washington Mystics
"I know a lot of people in Phoenix are screaming right now," Gaines said.
And in other WNBA cities, too. In outrage. It sure looked too many like Phoenix was not trying to win. Diana Taurasi, its star player, sat out most of the first half with injuries, played for the U.S. team in the Olympics, then sat out the second half. Explain please.
“I have at least 40 texts," Gaines said, "and I haven’t gotten a chance to look at all of them, but when I was walking out the door, Diana (Taurasi) hit me with a ‘Wow’ and I know that pretty big smile that must be on her face."
Said Gaines, “We have a solid four in Diana, Penny Taylor, DeWanna Bonner [who] had a superstar year, Candice Dupree who has also been an All-Star. I think that who we take, and we haven’t decided that yet, that person will add to that mix and I think that they’ll improve – coming in as a rookie with all of these veterans around who have won European championships and won gold medals, and have ability to bring whoever we pick up to speed fast.”
Really, the Mercury haven't decided who they will take? Who believes that.
"This one is extra special," WNBA prez Laurel Richie said of this draft class.
At the top is Griner. Two other potentail pro superstars in the draft will be 6-5 Elena Delle Donne of Delaware. She averaged an NCAA-high of 28.1 points last season. The third highly anticipated college prospect is guard Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame. The Irish have lost in the NCAA championship game the past two seasons.
EXPN analyst Carolyn Peck said this class is similar to the 2008 class. The top three picks that year were Candace Parker of LA, Sylvia Fowles of Chicago and Candice Wiggins of the Lynx.
The Sky had the worst chance at No. 1; only 10.4 percent. Chicago was 14-20 an was competing for its first playoff spot in franchise history until the final week of the regular season.
Tulsa had a 17.8 percent chance at Griner. The Shock were 9-25 and like Chicago have not had a No. 1 pick before.
Phoenix had a 27.6 chance at Griner. The Mercury was 7-27. Phoenix had drafted No. 1 twice, in 2004 and '07.
Washington, which recently fired its entire coaching staff, had the worst record in the WNBA (5-29) and had the best chance of getting the No. 1 pick, 44.2 percent. The Mystics had the top pick once, way back in 1999.
This is the third year in a row the team with the league's worst record will not have the No. 1 pick.
"Somebody like Brittney Griner has the ability to garner [the WNBA] a lot of attention," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, "if she continues to play the way she has through college. The biggest thing about her game is that people find appealing is her ability to dunk the ball.
"[The dunk] gets us into more of the masses' [homes] that we try to reach. And so are on SportsCenter more and that sort of thing."
Delle Donne and Diggins will turn nonplayoff teams into teams coming for postseason spots pretty quickly, Reeve said.
"But Griner is the one who is a special one," Reeve said.
DRAFT ORDER FOR REST OF FIRST ROUND
5. New York Liberty 15-19
6. Seattle Storm 16-18
7. Atlanta Dream 19-15
8. San Antonio Silver Stars 21-13
9. Indiana Fever 22-12
10. Los Angeles Sparks 24-10
11. Connecticut Sun 25-9
12. Minnesota Lynx 27-7
Obviously, this order is based on how teams fared in the regular season. The playoffs don't matter.