Did Phoenix Throw 2012 Season for #1 WNBA Lottery Pick?

Did Phoenix Throw 2012 Season for #1 WNBA Lottery Pick?
ESPNW's photo of Baylor's 6'8 Brittney Griner, who is expected to go #1 to the Phoenix Mercury in tonight's WNBA draft

A controversial #1 lottery pick will make the 2013 WNBA draft awfully interesting tonight. The Phoenix Mercury earned the right to the #1 pick with just a 27.6 % chance.

Seems like long odds, doesn't it?

So much less of a chance than the lowly Washington Mystics, who had the losingest record last season, that their  star player, Monique Currie, seemed to question the pick, tweeting just after the draft lottery,

"Sometimes, it's better to say nothing."

Washington Mystics All-Star Monique Currie

Washington, which posted a record of 5-29 this season, had the best opportunity (44.2 percent) to win the top pick in the Draft.

After all, the Phoenix Mercury, which finished the 2012 season 7-27, had the next best odds of winning the Draft Lottery. The Tulsa Shock, which posted a 9-25 record, had a 17.8 percent chance, and the Chicago Sky (14-20) had a 10.4 percent chance.

To me, it seemed a little unusual that the Mercury qualified for the draft in such horrific numbers, given that the following:

  • The Mercury have been a consistent contender in the Western Conference in the years just prior to the 2013 draft
  • Their  last championship was only four years ago (2009)
  • They haven't been in a position for a lottery pick since 2003, when they went 8–26 in the 2003 season and got  UConn sharpshooter Diana Taurasi,

In all, the Mercury has made the WNBA Playoffs in six of its fourteen years in Phoenix. Besides Taurasi, the franchise has been home to many high-quality players such as Rutgers grad Cappie Pondexter, former Temple power forward and Chicago Sky inaugural draftee Candice Dupree, and Australian guard Penny Taylor. In 19982007, and 2009, the Mercury went to the WNBA Finals; they lost to Houston in 1998, but won the title in 2007 and 2009 over Detroit and Indiana. The team ended the 2011 season with a third seed in the 2011 WNBA Playoffs, and upset the Seattle Storm in the opening round, closing an 18-point deficit to win on Seattle's home floor, allowing the Mercury to reach its third straight conference finals. They came up short against the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx, losing in two games.

In the 2012 campaign, Dupree had arthroscopic surgery on her left knee and Prahalis recovered from a shoulder injury. At the time of their injuries, Prahalis was averaging 12.1 points and 4.5 assists (she led the Mercury to a pair of wins over playoff teams averaging 14 points, 5.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds). Dupree began the season scoring 17.3 points through eight games, including seven straight games of scoring at least 13 points, her longest streak since 2007.

Here 's how the lottery worked:

According to a press release sent to the media just after lottery selections were made, WNBA officials and a representative from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young conducted the Draft Lottery to establish the order of selection for the first four picks. The order of selection for the remainder of the first round as well as the second and third round was determined by inverse order of the teams’ respective regular-season records.

The Washington Mystics, which posted a record of 5-29 last season, had the best opportunity (44.2 percent) to win the top pick in the Draft.  The Phoenix Mercury, which finished this season 7-27, had the next best odds of winning the Draft Lottery (27.6 percent). The Tulsa Shock, which posted a 9-25 record, had a 17.8 percent chance, and the Chicago Sky (14-20) had a 10.4 percent chance

Coincidentally(?) for the Mercury, the 2013 draft is one of the deepest on record--probably since Taurasi herself was chosen. And in the 2013 WNBA season, beginning on  Memorial Day, Phoenix is scheduled to appear in 6 of the 14 regular-season games carried by ESPN and ABC.

At the top of the draft, is 6'8 Brittany Griner of Baylor. She will change the women's basketball game. Mark my words. Griner plays a man's game. With a man's height. And a man's wingspan. And because of her ability to control the ball, she will be the most dominant player of her era.

Who wouldn't want something like that on their roster? The core of the NBA can be summed up in three words: 1) Faster 2) Bigger 3) Stronger. Marc Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said recently he'd consider Griner for the NBA draft in June. Many laughed it off as a publicity stunt. While much of Griner's impact, whether it be in WNBA or NBA, remains speculative, there is some merit to Cuban's words. Women are bigger and stronger these days.   Their game is becoming a version of "Showtime' at the college level. There are certainly many more players in the 6'4-6'6 range than their have been in previous years.

As ESPN  reported, neither their coach nor their general manager would confirm, but it is presumed that Griner, the national player of the year, who guided the Bears to an undefeated (40-0) national championship season in 2011-12 and a 32-game unbeaten streak in 2012-13 before falling to Louisville in the Round of 16, is the only NCAA player on the 2012 gold medal winning Olympic team.

 

Notre Dame Lady Fighting Irish, led by point guard Skylar Diggins (#4) 2013 Big East Champions. Will she end up with the Chicago Sky this year?

Notre Dame Lady Fighting Irish, led by point guard Skylar Diggins (#4) 2013 Big East Champions. Will she end up with the Chicago Sky this year?

After Griner, though, there is Delaware's 6'5  forward Elena Delle Donne,  Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, who helped lead the Fighting Irish to back-to-back NCAA championship games and went to the Final Four this year, losing to eventual winner UConn.

 

Elena Delle Donne of Delaware is one of the top three WNBA draft candidates. She find out tonight which WNBA team will select her.

Elena Delle Donne of Delaware is one of the top three WNBA draft candidates. She find out tonight which WNBA team will select her.

The Chicago Sky will select second, the Tulsa Shock drew the No. 3 pick and the Washington Mystics drew No. 4.

“Having one of the top picks in the upcoming WNBA Draft gives us an opportunity to immediately improve our team,” said Pokey Chatman, head coach and general manager of the Chicago Sky, who re-signed in the offseason to a two-year contract. “We have a lot to assess after finishing the season, and we will use every resource we have to make the best possible decision for our franchise when the time comes.”

This marks the third time in the team’s history that the Sky have had the No. 2 overall pick in the WNBA Draft. The Sky drew the No. 2 pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft and opted to trade the pick to the Seattle Storm for 2012 Olympian Swin Cash and nine-year veteran forward Le’coe Willingham. The Sky also had the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2008, which the team used to select Sylvia Fowles, Chicago’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and field-goal percentage, and the 2011 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.

The Sky drew the No. 2 pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft and opted to trade the pick to the Seattle Storm for 2012 Olympian Swin Cash and nine-year veteran forward Le’coe Willingham. The Sky also had the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2008, which the team used to select Sylvia Fowles, Chicago’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and field-goal percentage, and the 2011 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.

It remains to be seen if Griner will make the expected impact on the WNBA. It would be even more interesting to find out if Phoenix really did throw the season to pick her at #1. It would seem that we'll find out tonight, 7:00 pm CDT, on ESPN2.

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