A decision was made long before this morning. The top potential draftees will be whisked to the WNBA draft in stretch limos today, anxiously...

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A decision was made long before this morning.

The top potential draftees will be whisked to the WNBA draft in stretch limos today, anxiously hoping to hear their names called. The Storm, though, won’t be worried about making an early pick.

Seattle wanted to win a championship, so it swapped its No. 6 overall pick last April in the league’s deepest draft since the ABL folded in 1999, receiving veterans Sheri Sam and Janell Burse from Minnesota. Sam’s hefty $70,000 salary, coupled with league-maximum contracts to previous No. 1 draft picks Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, pushed the Storm near the limit of last season’s $647,000 cap.

Storm’s top picks

The Storm’s No. 1 draftees and where each was selected overall (the Storm traded its first-round pick in 2004):

2004 — Trina Frierson, 19th (second round)

2003 — Jung Sun-Min, eighth

2002 — Sue Bird, first

2001 — Lauren Jackson, first

2000 — Kamila Vodichkova, ninth

But on Oct. 12, 2004, the Storm won that coveted title. And the colorful confetti that poured from KeyArena rafters should have been dollar bills.

Almost every Storm player’s value rose, with veterans Sam, guard Tully Bevilaqua and center Kamila Vodichkova cashing in on bigger paydays elsewhere. Anne Donovan, the team’s coach and director of player personnel, signed six free agents and got back a 2003 pick who never played with the team to fill the holes. But the rebuilding Storm is in a position none of the past defending WNBA champions have experienced.

“At some point every team is going to have to face what they’ve gone through this year,” said Connecticut coach Mike Thibault, who lost to Seattle in the finals. “But they also said, ‘Hey, we made the decision to try to win a championship,’ and they did. It paid off for them.”

The Storm has the 12th, 25th and 38th selections today in what is considered a shallow draft. With a collection of unproven talent — including five international players — already added to the team during the offseason, Donovan might be looking for a rookie to make an impact.

WNBA draft:

Preview show starts at 9 a.m. on ESPN2

“We’re definitely in the rebuild mode,” Donovan said. “But you can’t say that without some facetiousness when you’ve got Lauren, Sue and Betty [Lennox]. But those other pieces are important. That’s how we won a championship. We all understand that Lauren and Sue are two of the best players in this league, but you’ve got to have those other pieces around them.

“On paper, we are pretty solid. But there’s a lot of players that are unproven. We’ve got some real question marks, so we can go either way with what we feel is the best player available.”

Filling in the roster

The Storm has the 12th, 25th and 38th picks in today’s WNBA draft. Seattle has to replace veterans Kamila Vodichkova, Sheri Sam and Tully Bevilaqua, who left through free agency after helping the Storm win the championship last summer. The Storm’s roster currently stands at 16, including six free agents and Suzy Batkovic, an Australian the Storm drafted in 2003.

Returning players

F/C Lauren Jackson

G Sue Bird

G Betty Lennox

C Janell Burse

F Alicia Thompson

G Michelle Greco

C Simone Edwards

F Adia Barnes

F Trina Frierson

New players

C Suzy Batkovic

G Jessica Bibby

F/G Iziane Castro Marques

G Adrienne Johnson

C Eva Montesdeoca

G Shaquala Williams

F Natalia Vodopyanova

Departed players

F Sheri Sam

C Kamila Vodichkova

G Tully Bevilaqua

Players including Tennessee forward Shyra Ely, Penn State guard Tanisha Wright and Michigan State guard Kristin Haynie have been batted around as potential Storm first-round selections. How the first round plays out, however, depends largely on what Charlotte does with the first overall pick.

Charlotte is trying to get younger and get scoring. Coach Trudi Lacey could do both with either Minnesota center Janel McCarville or Mississippi State shooting guard Tan White. Or the Sting could trade the pick, since it didn’t get much from drafting Stanford forward Nicole Powell third overall last season.

For the Storm, Donovan doesn’t expect Ely to be available at the 12th pick. Haynie could be an interesting long-term selection, if her surprising ride recently to the NCAA final didn’t raise her stock too high. She’s battling health issues, but after Bevilaqua signed with Indiana, the backup point-guard position behind Bird is open.

“Every [NCAA] game [Haynie] raised her stock to me,” said Donovan, who also scouted the NCAA regional games at Edmundson Pavilion. “She’s such a great floor leader and she’s a system player. But that’s the kind of kid that gets to predraft camp and doesn’t really show well because it’s an All-Star-type of situation and she’s a system player. But coaches gotta do their homework. If you’re relying just on the predraft camp, then Haynie is not even on the radar screen.”

At guard, the Storm already has returning guard Michelle Greco, and Donovan invited former Oregon star Shaquala Williams to training camp again. She also signed Australian Jessica Bibby and veteran Adrienne Johnson, who will make runs at the backup perimeter slots.

Bird, playing in the postseason with her Russian team, won’t return to Seattle until around May 10, which will give Donovan plenty of time to evaluate the potential backups. The same goes for the post players. Australian Olympian Suzy Batkovic, who agreed to play for the Storm this season after being drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft, won’t be available until June. She’s currently playing in Spain and needs to return home before joining the Storm.

Donovan’s past two drafts haven’t been successful. In 2003, the Storm drafted South Korean Jung Sun-Min with the eighth overall pick. After much hype, Jung suffered from a cold-like sickness and played only 17 games, which angered her and her agent. She still has one season remaining on her contract but won’t be returning.

Batkovic and guard Chrissy Ford, a third-round pick, were also drafted in 2003, but Batkovic held out to prepare for the Athens Games and because of more lucrative pay overseas. Ford, a rookie out of Clemson, was cut in training camp.

Last April, Donovan selected Louisiana Tech forward Trina Frierson in the second round (19th overall). But Frierson needed knee surgery and spent most of the season on the injured list rehabilitating. She appeared in just five games.

Frierson played in Spain during the offseason and, like Batkovic, is expected to make a contribution this summer. How much is just another question mark.

WNBA mock draft
How the first round could go, according to ESPN.com’s Melanie Jackson:
No. Team Player Pos. College
1. Charlotte Sting Janel McCarville C Minnesota
2. Indiana Fever Sandora Irvin F Texas Christian
3. Phoenix Mercury Kendra Wecker F Kansas State
4. San Antonio Silver Stars Jacqueline Batteast F Notre Dame
5. Houston Comets Tan White G Mississippi State
6. Washington Mystics Dionnah Jackson G Oklahoma
7. Detroit Shock Sancho Lyttle C Houston
8. Connecticut Sun Katie Feenstra C Liberty
9. Sacramento Monarchs Roneeka Hodges G Florida State
10. New York Liberty Kristin Haynie G Michigan State
11. Minnesota Lynx Temeka Johnson G Louisiana State
12. Seattle Storm Tanisha Wright G Penn State
13. Detroit Shock Angelina Williams F Illinois

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com