The Storm just can’t get away from injuries, even in the WNBA draft.
Had Duke point guard Chelsea Gray (knee cap) and Notre Dame forward Natalie Achonwa (ACL) not suffered season-ending injuries, Storm coach Brian Agler may have been certain about his No. 7 pick in Monday’s draft.
“Both Chelsea Gray and Natalie, in this draft, are pretty rare talents,” said Agler, who’s also the Storm’s general manager. “You don’t take them off the board because they’re injured at the moment. You can look for immediate impact and you look for long-term.”
The best example of long-term payoff was Tamika Catchings, who was drafted third overall in 2001 despite suffering a knee injury as a senior at Tennessee. Catchings was named WNBA rookie of the year in 2002 and was a league MVP in 2011 and won a championship in 2012.
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Achonwa, who suffered her knee injury in an NCAA tournament regional final win, and Gray have similar potential. The WNBA and its players union even negotiated for an optional extra roster spot in the new collective-bargaining agreement for an injured reserve.
But Seattle, which also has the 19th (second round) and 31st (third round) picks in the draft, has pressing concerns that might make them pass on drafting a player who won’t help immediately. Agler has been searching for post help since veteran Tina Thompson retired and three-time league MVP Lauren Jackson announced in February she’d miss a second straight season due to injury.
Forward Camille Little, a member of the 2010 championship team, re-signed and Agler signed Angel Robinson, a 6-foot-5 post originally drafted in 2010 and is making a third attempt to make a WNBA roster. Yet, the Storm needs more depth and height inside.
The guard position is another area Seattle needs to address. Storm All-Star Sue Bird is returning from injury but Tanisha Wright is in the final year of her contract and intimated in the past she could retire after this season, her 10th. With a veteran backcourt that includes Temeka Johnson, Agler has to seriously look at finding a floor leader for the future.
Louisville star Shoni Schimmel is an obvious choice because of her electric style and Northwest roots. She was raised in Mission, Ore., on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and had a massive Native American following in college.
“It’s a guarantee when you watch her (Shoni) play, she will make something spectacular happen,” ESPN broadcaster Carolyn Peck said. “She doesn’t rely on just the three-point shot. She gets to the midrange and she delivers the basketball. … She’s fun to watch.”
Other prospects like Connecticut All-American Bria Hartley and Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons also have flair but play better defense, an aspect Agler prefers in his players.
He also likes options and there will be plenty Monday.
“We’re wide open right now,” Agler said.
The first-round selections will be made on ESPN2 starting at 5 p.m. PT from the Mohegan Sun Arena, where home team Connecticut has the top overall pick. The Sun is debating whether to pick Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike or Baylor point guard Odyssey Sims.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.