Draft picks face challenge of making deep Lynx team

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 15, 2013 - 12:27 AM

The WNBA runners-up will pick last in the first round, so depth might be the goal.

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Baylor center Brittney Griner will be one of the top selections in Monday's WNBA draft.

Photo: Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press

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This time around the Lynx will have to wait.

The WNBA will hold its draft Monday night, and for the first time in eight years the Lynx won’t be one of the first four teams making a pick. That means less certainty and more nuanced preparation for the Lynx, who have the last pick in the first round (12th overall) and the second pick in the second round (14th).

“When you’re up there in the early part of the draft you pretty much know who you can get,” Lynx executive vice president Roger Griffith said. “In this case, there are so many picks beyond the consensus top three and No. 12. A lot of picks could go different ways. There are so many variables, it’s hard to know, to make a good guess, as to who we think we’re going to get.”

The consensus top three are Baylor center Brittney Griner, Delaware guard/forward Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, with Phoenix a lock to take the game-changing Griner with the top overall pick.

But after the top three? The Lynx will have to see what happens between picks Nos. 4 and 11 before zeroing in on a player.

The team needs include a backup point guard with Candace Wiggins traded away, three-point shooting with Wiggins and Erin Thorn gone and a shutdown defender. Three-point shooting is even more of an issue since the WNBA decided to move the three-point arc back to international length (22 feet, 1¾ inches), though the Lynx were tied for first in the league on threes last season.

But know this: The players taken at Nos. 12 and 14 — the Lynx also have the 24th and 36th overall picks — will have an uphill climb just to make the roster of a team that has one title and two trips to the finals the past two seasons.

Griffith has worked to improve that roster during the offseason. Minnesota traded for center Janel McCarville to replace the retired Taj McWilliams-Franklin. The Lynx signed guard Jacki Gemelos, their third-round pick a year ago, hoping she is past multiple knee injuries. The team also signed forward Rachel Jarry, an Australian star.

Those two signees and Lynx draftees will be competing for two or three roster spots. Even though backup point guard is a need, Monica Wright figures to start the season backing up Lindsay Whalen no matter who gets drafted.

“We would think the top pick would make the team,” Griffith said. “But that person has to come in and win that spot, be in the top 11. And then the next level is playing time. … We clearly have eight or nine [players] who are locks. And then there is probably a group of three or four people who will be competing for those last two or three spots. Some of it on the fringe could depend on the health of some players.”

Griffith said preparation has been focused on examining the group of players who might be available when the team picks and evaluating them against the backdrop of team needs. The possibility of a trade involving the team’s draft picks always is possible, but Griffith said there hasn’t been a lot of talk on that front.

Among the players who could be available with the 12th pick are Kentucky guard A’dia Mathies, Kansas forward Carolyn Davis, Nebraska guard Lindsey Moore, Georgetown guard Sugar Rodgers, Baylor forward Destiny Williams, Penn State guard Alex Bentley, Oral Roberts guard Kevi Luper and Iowa State forward Chelsea Poppens.

The Lynx will have to wait out the first round to find out. Then that draftee will have to buck the odds to get playing time.

“If we get someone who plays a lot of minutes, it bodes well for our team, because that means they turned out to be really good,” Griffith said. “Which means we’re even better.”

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