Experts Weigh In On 5 WNBA Draft Sleepers That You Need To Know

The 2019 WNBA Draft is loaded with elite college players who may have a hard time finding a spot on deep WNBA rosters.

The WNBA Draft 2019 presented by State Farm® will be held on Wednesday, April 10 at the Nike New York Headquarters(NYHQ).  

ESPN2 will air the first round beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

A’ja Wilson was the clear cut No. 1 overall pick and considered a generational star in 2018. The expansion Las Vegas Aces nabbed the University of South Carolina baller.

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The Aces have the No. 1 pick again but with the status of several underclassmen  (Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu and Notre Dame’s Jackie Young) who could go No. 1 overall is still uncertain until after the NCAA Tournament. The WNBA Draft will be as much of a mystery as it’s ever been, which will also provide some much-needed excitement on Draft night.

Louisville guard Asia Durr, Mississippi State’s 6-foot-7 Teaira McCowan and one of the UConn ballers — PF Napheesha Collier or shooting guard Katie Lou Samuels —  are seniors who are almost guaranteed to go in the top 8 picks.

This Draft is deep with players who can immediately contribute on the WNBA level. But the way rosters are constructed, combined with the abundance of talent, some damn good college players with all-star potential will be on the outside of the first round.

The WNBA held a pre-draft teleconference this week, to address the upcoming Draft.  In attendance were ESPN women’s hoops analysts Kara Lawson and LaChina Robinson. Several WNBA head coaches and executive were also in attendance: Derek Fisher (Los Angeles Sparks Head Coach), Bill Laimbeer (Las Vegas Aces, President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach) Four-time WNBA championship coach Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx, General Manager and Head Coach) and WNBA legend Katie Smith (New York Liberty Head Coach).

With some help from the experts, here’s the Shadow League’s Top 5 WNBA Draft Sleepers

Maite Cazorla – PG, Oregon

Derek Fisher: “I’m afraid to say it on this call because I don’t want to draw more attention to her, but I like Maite a lot. “I think obviously Sabrina gets a lot of the attention, but I think Maite is one of those players that literally on any basketball team she would have an impact because of her ability to make decisions with the basketball, her ability to shoot, in terms of catch-and-shoot without the ball. But just high IQ and adds a lot of value to a really successful team. I think she has a bright future.”

Cazorla is averaging 9.8 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 49.6 percent from the field including 41.1 percent from three-point range this season.

Most draft projections have Cazorla going in the third round of the WNBA Draft, which is April 10 at Nike’s New York headquarters, but Fisher is suggesting she is worth one of the Sparks’ three picks.

Fisher: “For us, we have 7, 19 and 31 and shes definitely on our radar.”

Allazia Blockton — G, Marquette

Mock draft projections have the 6-0 Marquette guard going in the third round. The 2018 Big East Player of the Year would definitely be projected higher if she didn’t injure her ankle in the conference opener and miss five Big East games. Upon her return, she transitioned to a new role as a scorer off the bench and still averaged 14.1 points per game.  

LaChina Robinson: “The number one thing with (Blockton) is her versatility. Her size… The fact that she’s six-foot helps you at the WNBA level at any perimeter position because the league is long, strong and fast. She’s been hesitant in developing her long game range, but she’s as good a mid-range shooter as exists in college basketball.”

Natasha Hiedeman —  G, Marquette

The Golden Eagles senior guard was the unanimous pick this season for Big East Player of the Year. Hiedeman averages 18 points per game for the Golden Eagles, who won the regular-season Big East title. She had 11 games of 20 or more points in conference play.

She was also the only unanimous pick for the all-conference first team.

Kara Lawson: “It’s really hard to make a WNBA roster. It’s going to be an uphill battle for her to do so. NOT because she’s not a good player, but there’s just not a lot of spots and to make it as a guard. However, most coaches want you to knock down threes which is something she can do very well and she’s solid defensively. She plays efficiently and rebounds well for her position. Where she’s drafted will determine whether she makes the team or not.”

Han Xu — Center, China

The WNBA has never had a successful player from China before. The 19-year-old Han could be the first. At 6-foot-9 she’s hard to miss and brings unprecedented height to the league. Her only setback is that many of the coaches don’t have a lot of information on her.

Derek Fisher: “She trains out in LA. I haven’t gotten a chance to see Han in person. Due to the way rosters are constructed, it’s going to be hard to stick. She has the ability, potential and the size is very rare in our game. I’m not sure where she will get drafted or if she will get drafted.”

Cheryl Reeves: “With my USA basketball experience and seeing China so much over the past four years, I think for sure the talent is increasing and China is on the verge of having a couple of players in the league. Han is a good post player and the league has needs in that area.”

Sophie Cunningham — G, Missouri

The 6-foot-1 third-team All-American and all-time scorer in Mizzou history has the skills to pay the bills, despite her athletic shortcomings.

LaChina Robinson: “She’s had a tremendous career, she’s a fierce competitor, tremendous work ethic. Her impact on Missouri’s program as a whole has just been tremendous…When I look at the competitiveness across this draft, she is definitely in my top three just in terms of how she gets after it at both ends.”

Cunningham’s rough and rugged style of play can be appreciated by Aces coach Bill Laimbeer, who made a fierce reputation for himself as the antagonizing, cantankerous emotional leader of the Bad Boy Pistons in the 80s.

Laimbeer: She’s a quality basketball player, not afraid she’s smart, she makes plays for herself and her teammates. She can make shots …her physical abilities will be tested in this league so the competition at her position will be enormous.”

 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.