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Take Your Pick: Fever Have First-Round Options

By Matt Velazquez

Though there’s still an afterglow at Bankers Life Fieldhouse as a result of the Indiana Fever’s championship run, it’s time to seriously think about next season. That’s because the WNBA Draft, which ESPN will televise in primetime on April 15, is right around the corner.

Industry experts expect that the Phoenix Mercury will select Baylor center Brittney Griner with the first-overall pick. After that, Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins and Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne will go two and three in some order. Following those three locks everything’s in the air.

There will be plenty of talent available when the Fever make their first-round selection at pick No. 9, which makes the team’s decision a tough one. Below are some of their best options.

Tianna Hawkins, Forward, 6’3”, Maryland; Kayla Alexander, Center, 6’4”, Syracuse

With Tamika Catchings and Tammy Sutton-Brown entering their 12th season, the Fever would be well-served to add some depth to their frontcourt. Maryland’s Tianna Hawkins or Syracuse’s Kayla Alexander could be the dominant player that the Fever are looking for.

If she slips down to Indiana, Hawkins has the potential be Indiana’s star of the future. Virtually coming out of nowhere, Hawkins has excelled at with the Terrapins and made a name for herself on a national stage. She finished with the top field goal percentage (62.3 percent) in the country in 2011-2012 and through 18 games this season Hawkins leads the ACC in scoring (18.9 points per game) as well as field goal percentage (58.1 percent).

Hawkins scores most of her points in the paint and has an arsenal of impressive post moves, but she can also step out and drain jumpers, which is a skill she’ll have to continue to improve on in the WNBA.

As impressive as Hawkins’ ability to convert buckets is her skill at pulling down rebounds. She leads the ACC with 10.4 per game and set the University of Maryland record with 24 boards in a game earlier this season against Wake Forest.

Hawkins’ interior skills would add depth and could stabilize Indiana’s frontcourt for the long term. The biggest problem with Hawkins is that she might be off the draft board by the time the Fever make their pick.

If Hawkins is unavailable, Syracuse’s Alexander is an awesome option and provides a slightly different low-post skill set. She scores nearly as much as Hawkins (18.6 points per game over 18 games) and is on the verge of setting the Syracuse record for career point. Alexander has 1,785 points, which puts her just two away from the record, which she should break on Saturday against Villanova.

On the defensive end, Alexander is one of the premier shot blockers in the country. She averages 3.5 per game, which is currently good for fourth in the nation. Through the same number of games, Alexander has seven more blocks than Griner – the consensus No. 1 pick.

The Fever were near the top of the WNBA in blocks last season and their defense and rebounding can only get better with Alexander in the mix.

Honorable Mention: Carolyn Davis, F, Kansas

Lindsey Moore, Point Guard, 5’9”, Nebraska; Alex Bentley, Point Guard, 5’7” Penn State

The Fever have a stable of solid guards, but no team can ever have too many skilled ball handlers. There are plenty of guards that are projected to go in the top 10 of the draft, including the country’s leading scorer Sugar Rodgers, Kansas’ Angel Goodrich, and Ohio State’s Tayler Hill. If any of those three fall to the Fever they should seriously consider snapping them up, but that’s not very likely.

Among those that might be available near the end of the first round are Nebraska’s Lindsey Moore and Penn State’s Alex Bentley.

Fever fans might remember both of these players from their play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse during the Big Ten conference tournament over the past few years. Bentley’s name might ring a few more bells, as she is from Indianapolis and graduated from Ben Davis High School.

This year, Moore has distinguished herself as one of the top point guards in the country. She’s averaging 15.3 points and 5.5 assists per game, which are among the best totals in the Big Ten. Bentley is right up there with Moore, averaging double-digit points and sporting an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio, but her preeminent ability is steals. Bentley is among the top five thieves in college, averaging about four thefts per game.

When it comes to the Fever’s needs, either Moore or Bentley would be a strong addition to the backcourt. Moore might have a leg up in terms of ability and height, but the fact that Bentley hails from Indianapolis can’t be discounted.

Honorable Mentions: Kelly Feris, G, Connecticut; A’dia Mathies, G, Kentucky

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