2017 WNBA Draft: Players To Watch
The San Antonio Stars own the first and fifth picks in the 2017 WNBA draft. Having two selections in the first round provides flexibility in the selection process. With many directions to go in, here are some prospects to keep an eye on.
Kelsey Plum (5’9 G, Washington)
Efficiency is the name of Plum’s game, and she happens to be the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history. Averaging 30.7 points per game, she was the nation’s leading scorer. Despite putting up large scoring numbers, Plum still managed to get her teammates involved by averaging 4.9 assists per game.
What makes Plum special is her ability to create off the bounce. The lefty guard as an array of moves to get herself open, which makes up for a lack of athleticism. She also excels at getting to the free throw line, where she is an 89 percent shooter.
Plum’s dynamic scoring ability makes her an attractive option for any team.
Sydney Wiese (6’1 G, Oregon St)
Picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 during the preseason, Wiese and the Beavers went out and brought another Pac-12 regular season title back to Corvallis. As the primary source of offense, she averaged 15.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. After losing Ruth Hamblin and Jamie Weisner to the WNBA Draft, Wiese saw her scoring and assist totals increase. She also shot a scorching 46 percent from the floor, which is also an improvement from last year. Wiese also set the Pac-12 record for career 3-pointers made earlier this season, and secured a triple-double Dec. 19 against UC-Davis by tallying 27 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.
She is most dangerous coming off screens, but has the ability to create space with her crossover and stepback. She also excels in catch-and-shoot situations, and needs only a little space to get her shot off. Her height and shooting prowess allows her to backup multiple perimeter positions.
For the past two seasons, the Stars finished last in three-pointers made and three-point percentage. Adding a shooter of Wiese’s caliber could be a huge step in improving production on the perimeter.
Alaina Coates (6’4 C, South Carolina)
At the beginning of the season, Coates was considered as one of the few players in contention to be the top pick. As the year progressed, she proved to be one of the top posts in the draft. An imposing paint presence, she averaged 12.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game while shooting 67 percent from the field.
Coates suffered an ankle injury playing against Kentucky Feb. 26 and was forced to miss time at the end of the season. She reaggravated the injury in the SEC Tournament Final against Mississippi State Mar. 4. It was later announced she would not play in the NCAA Tournament.
She finishes her South Carolina career with 1,603 points, 1,230 rebounds and 210 blocked shots.
Alexis Jones (5’9 G, Baylor)
A dynamic scorer and playmaker, Jones was a big reason why the Bears finished the regular season with a 30-3 record. With averages of 13.9 points and 4.8 assists per game, she was one of the driving forces behind Baylor’s balanced and efficient offensive attack. The do everything guard notched a triple-double Jan. 29 in a game against the Oklahoma with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Jones’ ability to create off the bounce makes her an attractive option for a struggling offense. She also connected on 42 percent of her 3-point attempts. Her combination of speed and scoring makes her a tough matchup on the perimeter. However, a knee injury forced her to miss the final five games of the regular season and the entire Big 12 Tournament.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (5’11 G, Maryland)
Shooting is second nature for Maryland’s Walker-Kimbrough. Last season she shot 54 percent fromg3-point range, which was best in the nation. This season, her shooting percentages have dipped some, but she is still incredibly efficient from the field. She averaged of 18.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, while shooting 44 percent from behind the arc and 54 percent overall.
Walker-Kimbrough has been an important piece for the Terrapins throughout her career, and should be one of the top prospects in the draft.
Erica McCall (6’3 F, Stanford)
McCall is an athletic post player, with the ability to step out and hit from 3-point range. She has shown tremendous growth and improvement during her time at Stanford, and should continue that upward trend in the WNBA. This season, she averaged 14.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
What separates McCall from the others post players in this class is her ability to run the floor. Defensively, she is a smart player who moves well, so she is able effectively defend outside the paint.
Her effort on both ends of the floor was a reason for Stanford’s success this season, which resulted in them winning the Pac-12 Tournament.
Her energetic style of play makes her an intriguing prospect, especially if she can continue to improve the way she has.
Tori Jankoska (5’8 G, Michigan State)
After playing with Dallas Wings forward Aerial Powers for three years, the spotlight this season was firmly on Jankoska. With this finally being her moment, she led the team in four statistical categories by averaging 22.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
She also became the leading scorer in Michigan State women’s basketball history in a game against Ohio State Jan. 10. Her 42 points in the Spartans’ 94-75 upset over the Buckeyes broke the Michigan State single-game scoring record.
Jankoska excels in transition, and can score from anywhere on the floor. However, her ability to do everything well makes her an intriguing prospect for WNBA teams.
The 2017 WNBA Draft airs next Thursday live on ESPN from New York.