As much attention as she's been attracting lately, Minnesota's Rachel Banham has been something of a Wild Card when it comes to where she'll end up going in April's WNBA draft. Keep in mind that she applied for an extra year of eligibility after last season's knee injury and there were questions about how well she'd recover and how good she'd be without Amanda Zahui B., the dominant Gophers center who was the second overall pick in last year's draft.
Banham has answered the questions about her skills and, apparently, her health.
But how good is she?
"She was a sure-fire first round pick last year," said Mike Robinson, managing editor of the women's basketball web site swishappeal.com. "But the hype around her dissipated after suffering such a tough knee injury."
<"I could see someone taking her in the mid to late first round," he said in an email.
Another WNBA insider said that Banham has probably worked her way up to being picked among the top seven players in the draft, adding that her decision to return to Minnesota rather than entering last year's draft was a wise one. That seems obvious now but wasn't as clear as the time that Banham made her choice.
There are a couple of WNBA mock drafts worth following. At Excelle Sports, WNBA expert Howard Megdal has Banham being taken by the Indiana Fever with the ninth pick. The latest one at draftsite.com, which was posted before Banham's 60-point game at Northwestern, had her being taken by Atlanta with the first pick of the second round -- No. 13 overall.
All of those outcomes leave the Lynx out of the running. The defending WNBA champs have the 14th pick in the draft after sending their first-round choice (No. 11 overall) to Atlanta in the trade that brought center Sylvia Fowles, who was the MVP of the championship series.
So if you're imagining Banham as an understudy and then a replacement for Lindsey Whalen, it's not going to happen.
Where does that leave the Lynx, a team of veteran talent that has suffered from a suspect bench at the same time they have been among the WNBA's elite teams? Megdal has the team taking a center: In this week's most draft his pick is 6-foot 4 Adut Bulgak, who plays for Florida State. (In his previous draft, he had them taking 6-6 Ruth Hamblin of Oregon State.)
But here's an alternative. According to Robinson of swishappeal.com, the Lynx scouted 6-3 guard Whitney Knight from Florida Gulf Coast University earlier this month, whom Robinson considers the potential steal of the draft.
In his review of Knight, Robinson made comparisons to Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, which should leave you equal parts intrigued and skeptical. (More skeptical than intrigued is also understandable.) Her numbers aren't close to Banham's and she missed time at the start of the season with a fractured foot, both of which could combine to give the Lynx a shot at Knight with one of their second-round picks.
Here are a couple of highlight videos from earlier this season: