8. Phoenix selected Alanna Smith, 6’4 F/C, Stanford
Here’s another example of a team that did extremely well for itself, starting with its top pick, but not ending there. Smith is an astonishingly perfect fit for the Mercury, a two-way potential star who can help Brittney Griner on both the boards and rim protection, the two of them giving opposing fours and fives endlessly difficult tasks defensively as well both around and away from the basket. She is an extremely efficient three-point shooter, who resolutely declared that she’d chart her own path, but who credited Elena Delle Donne for helping to clear the way for big players who can do what she does.
Smith is a great fit, but so is Sophie Cunningham, who I think Atlanta and Seattle may well regret passing on at 11 and 12 before the Mercury got her at 13. I spent a bunch of time with Cunningham on draft day, and you need to understand: she’s 6’1, but she isn’t thin, she’s strong, and her basketball IQ means she can play anywhere 1-4 at the WNBA level. Like Shepard, she is first-round talent that fell to 13, and you can be sure she’ll let the teams that passed on her know it.
Then there’s Arica Carter at 31, who is a knockdown shooter, and Jeff Walz swears by. Expect her to compete for a roster spot. And to cap it off, Brianna Turner, who can defend bigs and block shots, can give Griner some additional rest without compromising the Mercury’s interior defense in the process. Well done, Jim Pitman.