Trades just as big as picks on draft day

CLEVELAND -- The nice weather we had here during the Final Four went away. Maybe Pat Summitt's crew took it back to Tennessee. It was cold and gray Wednesday, but offset by the sunny dispositions of all the players taken at the WNBA draft.

The league went to this setup last year, having the draft the day after the NCAA title game in the Final Four city. In Boston a year ago, we had the draft earlier in the day, and my wise-cracking friend Mel Greenberg had said before the Final Four, "What if the championship game goes into overtime, and we're all writing until 3 a.m. …"

And that's what happened. Of course, I don't need overtime as an excuse to take all night; I'm always writing until 3 a.m. -- or later -- anyway (my editor painfully can confirm that). But last year's turnaround -- title game to draft -- was really mind-numbing.

I'm not sure this year was any better, though, for us writers. But the WNBA believes it gets more publicity this way, and I'll trust the league's tracking research. However, for us hoops scribes -- and I would guess for the TV folks, too -- in trying to make the shift from college to pro overnight, there are bound to be some brain cramps.

Duke guard Lindsey Harding was selected first and was a member of the Phoenix Mercury for just long enough to have a news conference talking about the whirlwind it has been for her and teammate Alison Bales, who went a little later with the No. 9 pick to Indiana.

The Blue Devils were upset in the NCAA Sweet 16, then there was the "Gail Goestenkors watch" as Texas came calling, the announcement Tuesday that Coach G was relocating to Austin, and then the draft Wednesday. Oh, and for Bales, Wednesday was also her 22nd birthday. A lot going on.

Bales, who loved going to the Fever since so much of her family lives in Indiana, asked me a little later where 6-foot-9 Katie Feenstra was now, since she's not in San Antonio anymore. At that very moment, I probably would have hesitated before answering if someone asked me what my last name was. I was feeling so mush-brained, I had laughed for no reason when ESPN2 showed the Phoenix mascot.

Where was Katie Feenstra? Well … where was she? For Pete's sake.

Of course, she's in Detroit, traded there in the offseason for Ruth Riley, who is now in San Antonio, which was rumored to want Harding with the second pick, but took Ohio State center Jessica Davenport and then traded her and a 2008 first-round pick to New York for Becky Hammon, a 2008 second-round pick, and the top-50 most emotionally stable Becky Hammon groupies.

Did you follow all that?

OK, they didn't actually include the groupies as part of the deal. And I don't think anyone will quit a job and move from the Big Apple to San Antonio just to wear a No. 25 Liberty jersey to Silver Stars games, but …

These are Liberty fans we're talking about. Among my favorite things to do during the WNBA season is read what Liberty fans say on message boards, because it never fails to crack me up. They are so passionate about their team.

I've taken a shot or two at the Liberty front office -- although, in comparison to the exquisite barbs New York fans send that way, I'm little league -- but with Davenport and No. 5 pick Tiffany Jackson of Texas, it certainly seems like a good draft day for the torch bearers.

As for Harding, she was dealt to Minnesota, and Phoenix got veteran Tangela Smith. That answers needs for both teams. We know the Mercury have to have a post who can get up and down the court. Smith can. And Minnesota needs a strong-personality point guard who can also play defense. Harding is made-to-order for the Lynx, who spent too much time just watching Seimone Augustus last season.

Harding's Tobacco Road counterpart, Ivory Latta of North Carolina, went to Detroit with the No. 11 pick, and that seemed perfect, too. Latta's exuberant personality should not be mistaken, as it often is, for simple cockiness. Really, she's just being herself. It's kind of hard to not like Latta if you actually talk to her. She can't wait to get to Detroit, and she's Bill Laimbeer's kind of player.

Now I should mention -- which I think I did last year, too -- that one good thing about the draft coming right on the heels of the NCAA title game is that most of us don't have time to be forced to do mock drafts.

Some folks love that stuff … I am not one of those folks. After watching the WNBA draft camp workout for a while and chatting with coaches last Friday evening, I still had very little clue what buttons everyone was going to push. Had I done a mock draft, the only picks I would have correctly selected were Ole Miss's Armintie Price at No. 3 to Chicago and Katie Gearlds at No. 7 to Seattle. Both made complete sense.

As for Houston's pick at No. 8, I didn't even know there was a Southwest Tennessee Community College, so I was unaware of Ashley Shields. But the Comets were very much aware. They don't feel they're taking a flier on her; they think she can help soon.

Draft day, whenever it is and whatever the weather is like, is always kind of like that, though. It's always optimistic. A little like Selection Sun … er, Monday. New talent comes in and even though no one's sure how it will turn out, there's hope.

By the way, it's absolutely freezing now in Cleveland on Wednesday evening. But the draftees are already on their way, off to their new lives. Good luck, everybody.

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.