Griner Highlights Talented WNBA Class

While the NBA franchise that wins the draft lottery won’t receive a game-changing superstar, the top picks of Monday’s WNBA Draft could drastically alter the state of the sport.

With the first pick, the Phoenix Mercury selected center Brittney Griner from Baylor. One of the most dominating forces in the history of college basketball, Griner became the first player to register 2,000 points and 5,000 blocks during her four years with the Bears.

Last season, the 6-foot-8 center averaged 23.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game, but Griner’s team lost to the Louisville Cardinals during the NCAA Tournament. The Bears lost just five games during Griner’s last three seasons and went undefeated in the 2011-12 season en route to a championship.

Griner-who has dunked a record 18 times in a sport that seldom bears witness to that feat-will team up with veteran guard Diana Taurasi to re-energize a Mercury squad that went 7-27 last season. This selection comes a week after Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggested that he would consider picking Griner if she declared for June’s NBA Draft.

Although the Chicago Sky and Tulsa Shock missed out on Griner, each squad received a worthy consolation prize in the ensuing selections. With the No. 2 pick, the Sky selected guard/forward Elena Della Donne from Delaware. The senior led the Blue Hens last season with 26.0 points per game while recording 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per contest. Della Donne finished her college career ranked fifth in NCAA on the all-time scoring list with 3,039 points scored throughout her four years.

With the next pick, the Shock took guard Skylar Diggins, who became the first player in Notre Dame history to post 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals throughout her career. Diggins averaged 6.1 assists and led the Fighting Irish to the Final Four during her final year in school.

Following their first sub-.500 season since 2009, the New York Liberty were armed with five picks to revamp their roster. New York used the fifth overall pick of the draft to grab forward Kelsey Bone, who snatched 9.3 rebounds per game last season for Texas A&M. At pick No. 7, they further bolstered their inside presence by picking Toni Young, who averaged a double-double last season with Oklahoma State.

The Liberty selected guard Kamiko Williams in the second round and added Shenneika Smith and Olcay Cakir in the third and final round.

California guard Layshia Clarendon raised some eyebrows with her performance during the NCAA Tournament, propelling the Golden Eagles to their first ever Final Four appearance with 21.4 points per game. Her postseason success caught the attention of the defending champions, the Indiana Fever, who picked Clarendon with pick No. 9.

The Connecticut Sun finished the regular season on top of the Eastern Conference at 25-9, but it wasn’t enough to reel in a title. They used their first-round choice to acquire a hometown guard Kelly Farris. Her steady play helped the Connecticut Huskies win the NCAA Tournament last season.