I started out a recent morning messaging with two different coaches – one high school and one college – about various topics in basketball, which is a great way to start my day. The high school coach said he thinks Elena Delle Donne should be chosen first in next year’s WNBA draft. I asked him why he thought so, and also who he thought the Los Angeles Sparks should take with their first pick this year. Below is the response he sent me.
Some of Jermy “Jersey” St. Louis’ proposals seem radical to me, but I’ve heard some of his thoughts expressed by other fans. And in the spirit of an old-school journalist, everyone has the right to express their opinion. Feel free to express your own on these matters.
by Jermy St. Louis
The Los Angeles Sparks have the number one pick in the 2012 WNBA draft, and I can assure fans that they are going to have a hard time making a choice. This year’s draft class is one of the weakest I’ve seen in a very long time, which means that improving from last year’s team is a long shot, in my opinion.
Most pundits and draft engines have Stanford forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike as the first draft pick and yes – they should and probably will take her at number one – but only because she’s the best SENIOR in the draft. Yes, there’s Shenise Johnson from Florida; Tiffany Hayes of UConn; Tennessee’s Glory Johnson, and a host of other players that are pretty much lackluster role players off of some of the top teams in the country. But Ogwumike has the most talent by far.
She is not going to wow you with deep threes and no-look passes, nor is she going to average 40 points a game, (although she did give the Lady Vols 40 this year….sorry Sue). Ogwumike WILL work hard – very hard. She is going to cause a lot of trouble on the boards but most importantly, she will be the kickstart into getting past the Tina Thompson and Delisha Milton-Jones era.
If the Sparks draft Ogwumike, they will have to make a decision on whether or not to trade those two veterans, which makes this draft the most interesting and important draft maybe EVER for the Sparks. This is only due to the fact that the tide is changing in the WNBA, and this will hopefully be the push the league needs to make names for the new faces of women’s basketball and the Sparks as a whole. Most of these kids coming into the draft this year are all 90’s babies, which means that when the WNBA kicked off in 1997 and the Sparks picked Thompson in that inaugural draft, the majority of this year’s draft class was around six years old. And if you’re Sparks General Manager Penny Toler, you have to know when to cut your losses and start fresh.
The WNBA roster limitation of 11 is tough when it comes to drafts, because in the blink of an eye, you can be here today and down to a skeleton roster with injuries tomorrow. The Sparks currently have five forwards on their team, which means somebody has to get either traded or waived. Right now, it’s looking like the Sparks should definately go younger. I think they should trade DMJ or Thompson while they can still get something for them, and attempt to get a back up center and a draft pick for the motherlode of all drafts: 2013. I would even go as far as trading Noelle Quinn and unloading one or two of the 2012 picks this year for some late round picks next year, being that Quinn is still young and can play.
The Sparks need help at point guard like how old people need help getting out of bed. Ticha Penichiero is well beyond her Sacramento Monarch days. Kristi Toliver should be given the point guard reins after averaging 11.2 ppg and almost three assists last season. She is young, can push the tempo and has a great pull up jump shot, although it’s sometimes ill-advised. Now why wouldn’t the Sparks pick a PG this year instead of a post player? Great question – glad you asked! Here’s why: the best point guard in this years draft is Samantha Prahalis from Ohio State, and if you’ve ever seen her play, you know that she can and will wow you with her passing. But Prahalis’ decision-making may or may not be what the Sparks need. Some would even say, pick Ogwumike and then trade her for a top five pick for next year. There are so many dimensions to how you could approach it but it all boils down to one player and one player only: Candace Parker.
I have never been sold on Parker. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “Are you crazy?” Yes, I actually am. Let me show just how crazy I really am. I would trade Parker and Ogwumike to whichever team has the #1 pick in the 2013 draft. I would actually unload the entire Sparks team except Jantel Lavender and Kristi Toliver, because let’s be honest: this year’s draft should be called the trade bait draft because there are only role players and no real stars. I would trade all of those picks the Sparks have in the second round of this year’s draft for picks in the 2013 draft because of how deep that class is. I would try my hardest to move up to get either Brittany Griner, Skylar Diggins or Elena Delle Donne. All three of these players are game changers.
Theres nothing else to be said that you don’t already know about Griner and Diggins. Delle Donne went AWOL from basketball for volleyball for a few years, but I would still go after her because she’s 6-foot-5 and can flat-out score the ball from inside and out. She is a better and much more polished player than Griner, and should go #1 followed by Griner, and then Diggins.
The bottom line is this: the Sparks need a spark. They need to jump start the franchise, which has been sputtering the last few years. The Sparks need to unload, rebuild and get ready for the new wave of WNBA stars. They need to be major players in the league, because they are in a huge metropolitan area and have media and other resources at their ready that smaller cities don’t have. They need to continue growing the Sparks brand by bringing in the brightest of talent to the city.
The 2012 WNBA draft is just a set up for the 2013 draft, which will probably go down as the greatest draft class in league history. So I say, take drastic measures to ensure the Sparks legacy stays intact. It may be a long-shot, but it’s still a shot nonetheless, and as a wise coach once said to me, “A shot not taken is a shot not made.”
Jermy St. Louis is a Los Angeles-area high school girls basketball coach and a lifelong student of the game.
The opinions above are those of the author only.