Best Players Taken With the #5 Pick
By Rebecca Rider
This afternoon’s draft lottery will determine the fate of those four teams that missed the 2013 postseason: the Eastern Conference’s Chicago Sky and New York Liberty, and the Western Conference’s San Antonio Silver Stars and Tulsa Shock. The Fever already know where they’ll be – just outside the lottery, holding the fifth selection in the 2013 draft.
There have been 13 #5 picks in the WNBA’s history, taken by nine different teams. The Los Angeles Sparks, New York Liberty, and San Antonio Silver Stars have each picked fifth three times (San Antonio once in their original incarnation as the Utah Starzz). It’s been traded five times, twice on draft day.
The #1 overall pick is a prize most general managers crave, but a savvy front office will be able to maximize every pick they have, and sometimes the future doesn’t always turn out to be as rosy as the top pick in the draft expects. The five examples below shone as the fifth picks in their respective drafts:
Nikki Teasley (2002, Portland Fire)
Sent to Los Angeles in a draft-day trade, the point guard out of North Carolina directed the Sparks to their 2002 championship, hitting the game-winning shot in the series-clinching Finals game. She followed that season up with the All-Star MVP in 2003, averaging 11.5 points and 6.3 assists per game for the Western Conference champions. She would spend eight seasons in the league, finishing with career averages of 8.2 points and 4.7 assists.
Sancho Lyttle (2005, Houston Comets)
Sometimes, patience is the key. In four years as a Comet, the athletic forward out of Houston never played more than 19 minutes per game, though there were hints of her potential in 2008 (8.2 points, 6.1 rebounds per game). When Atlanta took her in the expansion draft, she developed into a fearsome rebounder, a solid scorer, and a defensive nightmare. She’s averaged 11.7 points since joining the Dream, and came within four total rebounds of averaging a double-double in 2010. She earned an All-Star nod in 2009, as well as four straight All-Defensive Team selections.
DeWanna Bonner (2009, Phoenix Mercury)
A star forward out of Auburn, Bonner was Sixth Woman of the Year her first three years in the WNBA before stepping into a starting role for Phoenix. She carried a heavy load during the 2012 season, while the Mercury were bereft of most of their stars, averaging 20.6 points and 7.2 rebounds. Even with the return of star Diana Tauarasi and the drafting of Brittney Griner, Bonner continued to excel in 2013, averaging 14.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 2013. She already owns several of Phoenix’s franchise rebounding records.
Ruth Riley (2001, Miami Sol)
Part of one of the deepest entry drafts in WNBA history, the center out of Notre Dame came off an NCAA title to help the Sol to the Eastern Conference Finals in their second season of existence. After Miami folded, she ended up in Detroit, where she blossomed into a solid interior presence, earning two WNBA championship rings and the 2003 Finals MVP as one of the Shock’s “Bad Girls”. She would also spend time with San Antonio, Chicago, and Atlanta over thirteen seasons. Statistically, her best season was 2004, when she put up 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in WNBA play; in the same year, she won Olympic gold as part of USA Basketball.
Kara Lawson (2003, Sacramento Monarchs)
Though technically a selection of the Detroit Shock, the hard-nosed guard out of Tennessee never spent a moment in Detroit, as the pick was traded to Sacramento on draft day. A Monarch for seven seasons, until the end of the franchise, she was an offensive catalyst for a defensive team. In 2008, she started 32 games and averaged 12.2 points, garnering Olympic gold in the middle of that season. With the Connecticut Sun, she’s played both guard positions, posting a career-high 15.1 points in 2012 to go with 4.0 assists. Lawson’s career has undeniably outshone 2003′s #1 overall pick, LaToya Thomas of Mississippi State.