11. Atlanta Dream selected Brianna Turner, 6’3 F/C, Notre Dame (traded to Phoenix)
Look: Chris Sienko and Nicki Collen built a contender in a year. So they deserve the benefit of the doubt. But I was definitely puzzled at first glance at their draft night.
At 11, Sophie Cunningham and Jessica Shepard were still available for a team that needs more shooting, versatility and secondary playmakers at the wings, not to mention scoring to help bridge the gap until Angel McCoughtry returns. Instead, a team that already employs Elizabeth Williams, Imani McGee-Stafford and Monique Billings already added Brianna Turner. Ah, but there’s a trade, sure, I got it now — except it was for another big, Marie Gulich, from Phoenix, talented but hardly an instant sensation as Brittney Griner’s backup in her rookie year.
This is an immensely talented Atlanta team, and a part like Cunningham to help get those final few wins for a WNBA title, or even an overseas stash because the roster is settled, both seemed plausible. This, well, I don’t really understand it.
The answer appears to lie not in Gulich’s limited rookie WNBA season, but what she did as a senior at Oregon State. A highly efficient big big who defended well, with a block percentage near 8, take a look not just at her overall effectiveness offensively, but how she got there, via Synergy:
When you think about how posts operate in Nicki Collen’s offense, it’s hard to script someone more built for her than what Gulich did here for Scott Rueck.
That said, I’m thinking there’s another shoe still to drop.
Speaking of Pac-12 products, Maite Cazorla, at 23, offers elite efficiency as well, a three-point shot and ability to run an offense. It’s fair to wonder whether she’d have been a first-round pick if she’d had the chance to shoot as often as she was capable, in a backcourt without Sabrina Ionescu as well. That’s a great value pick. So is Li Yueru at 35. If she comes stateside, Atlanta’s got her.