- Nancy Lieberman, Basketball analyst / Writer
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White is red-hot this week.
Tan White, Mississippi State's guard who earned Kodak All-America honors this season but remained relatively under the radar because of the Lady Bulldogs' 17-12 mark, is dominating draft rumors.
White has always been widely respected in the women's college basketball world, and several WNBA GMs and coaches think the 5-foot-7 senior from Tupelo, Miss., could even be selected as the No. 1 overall pick Saturday in the WNBA draft (ESPN2, noon ET).
White led the nation in scoring in 2004-05 with 23.5 points per game, tallying at least 25 points in 12 contests. The SEC's all-time career steals leader, White set this season's NCAA Division I single-game record with 47 points (Feb. 3 overtime loss to Vanderbilt), is a four-time All-SEC honoree and will graduate with 2,421 career points and five school records. She was also the 2005 Frances Pomeroy Naismith winner for the country's best player 5-8 or shorter.
Early on, most draft pundits picked Janel McCarville as the overall top prospect. The 6-2 Minnesota center averages nearly a double-double, is a two-time Kodak All-American and followed up the Golden Gophers' first Final Four a year ago with a Sweet 16 appearance last month before losing to eventual NCAA champion Baylor.
But Charlotte would better serve its draft day needs by selecting White, especially after the recent news that the Sting won't offer a contract to Andrea Stinson, a 37-year-old unrestricted free agent who has started each of the franchise's 273 games. Stinson led the team in scoring six of the past eight seasons, but her stats dipped last summer to career lows (6.0 ppg, 41 percent from field).
The move, which will break up the WNBA's longest-running backcourt (Stinson and point guard Dawn Staley have started side by side for six seasons), is one of several Sting coach Trudi Lacey has made since Charlotte went 15-17 last season and failed to reach the playoffs. Lacey told the Charlotte Observer her goal is to infuse the team with youth. So far she's sticking to it, trading for former Sacramento forward Tangela Smith (28), guard Helen Darling (26) and signing free-agent guard Sheri Sam (30).
So ultimately, Charlotte picking up White -- who in my opinion is probably the best overall player in the draft -- makes sense. The Sting don't need McCarville; they already have a proven big in Tammy Sutton-Brown.
And though everything depends on several trades that are in the works, here's a look at what else might happen, potential draft picks and how the first round might shape up Saturday (listed in draft order):
The word out of Indiana is that the Fever really wanted White, as well, and even offered Natalie Williams and their draft pick to Charlotte. Instead, expect Indiana to bolster its lineup with McCarville.
Phoenix could benefit from picking up a player such as Kansas State's Kendra Wecker or TCU's Sandora Irvin, although the Mercury might be turned off by Irvin because they had a player like that in Adrian Williams. There's also some talk that the Mercury would draft Wecker and then package her with Plenette Pierson in a trade with Washington for Chasity Melvin and a future draft pick.
San Antonio Silver Stars
Per league rules, it can't happen until Saturday's draft is over. But don't be surprised if the Silver Stars send Margo Dydek to Connecticut in exchange for the Sun's first-round picks this year and in 2006.
If Dydek is gone, look for San Antonio to look to go big in the draft. If that deal falls through, the Silver Stars would probably look to select a player such as TCU's Irvin, Houston's Sancho Lyttle or Georgia's Kara Braxton, who reportedly put in a really nice effort in last weekend's pre-draft camp. A lot of people were pretty high on Braxton coming out of the camp.
If you've heard the rumors that the Comets were shopping Sheryl Swoopes around, they are correct. However, Swoopes' biggest asset is her tremendous marketability in Houston, and with her ability to sell tickets in that area, expect Swoopes to remain there for now.
Without any offers for Swoopes, right, expect the Comets to select the best available player or whoever's left from the Irvin, Lyttle, Braxton, Wecker, McCarville and White pool. LSU point guard Temeka Johnson is also a possibility here.
The Mystics need a scorer, and Wecker would fit the bill perfectly if she's still on the board. Also, Johnson could be a nice fit in coach Michael Adams' running style. And Oklahoma's Dionnah Jackson could be a fit for No. 6 overall.
Bill Laimbeer would love to be able to put Lyttle on his team, and it would be a good fit. She can play the top of a press, is long and active and can dunk. She also likes to defend and there's talk that Laimbeer might even look to trade up to ensure he can get Lyttle in the draft.
I'm so confident the trade between San Antonio and Connecticut will happen after the draft that I'm looking at the eighth overall pick -- which was awarded to the Sun -- through the Silver Stars' eyes. Though the selection will be made by Connecticut, it's likely the player picked up will be part of the Dydek trade. So at this point, because Adrienne Goodson isn't coming back to the Silver Stars, Notre Dame's Jacqueline Batteast, another Kodak All-American, is probably a great fit here.
The Monarchs like to run, and if she's still available, LSU's Johnson would be a great fit in California's capital.
However, it's no secret the Monarchs might be looking to trade Yolanda Griffith, and both New York and Washington are very interested in a possible deal. If it happens, the Monarchs -- though they love the way Johnson pushes the ball -- must instead go big. They've already lost Tangela Smith to Charlotte.
New York Liberty
Johnson could end up in New York, too. But the Liberty are also taking a look at Penn State's Tanisha Wright and 3-point threat Roneeka Hodges for the 10th overall pick.
No surprise here -- the Lynx really want a wing. After re-signing point guard Kristi Harrower -- who returns to the league after spending all of 2004 training with the Australian national team -- Minnesota needs a wing. Again, Hodges or Wright could make a good fit.
The Lynx also have an outside shot at Batteast. And apparently they are very impressed and interested in Tennessee's Shyra Ely, a 2004 Kodak All-American who played in four Final Fours.
Free agency ravaged the defending WNBA champion Storm. Starters Kamila Vodichkova (Phoenix) and Sheri Sam (Charlotte) are gone, and guard Tully Bevilaqua has left for Indiana. This might be the perfect spot for players such as point guard Kristin Haynie -- who led Michigan State to its first national championship game appearance -- or Liberty's 6-8 center Katie Feenstra to hope to hear their name called on draft day.
The Mystics' draft day decisions will depend on that supposed trade with Phoenix. But while the Mystics are after Wecker, they have also been wanting to get Anna DeForge for some time. Seth Sulka, Phoenix general manager and vice president, isn't budging so far.
Second round notes
This class might lack the star power of last year's, but it's deep and we should expect two solid rounds. In the second round, expect to hear these names -- Steffanie Blackmon (Baylor), Ashley Battle (Connecticut), Jamie Carey (Texas), Nikita Blue (North Carolina), Loree Moore (Tennessee), Jenni Lingore (Southwest Missouri State), Yolanda Paige (West Virginia), Natasha Brackett (Auburn), Dee-Dee Wheeler (Arizona), Angelina Williams (Illinois), Kristen Mann (UC Santa Barbara) and Jenni Dant (DePaul).
Nancy Lieberman, an ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. Contact her at www.nancylieberman.com.
As the draft approaches, some GMs think Mississippi State's Tan White could be the No. 1 overall pick.