Storm, Shock earn top marks in draft grades

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- If you didn't know much about center Amanda Zahui B. before Thursday's WNBA draft, you're now at least aware the kid is hilarious and loaded with personality.

She also gives Tulsa a boost inside that the franchise should capitalize on, and that's why the Shock get an A grade for their draft.

Grading the draft is usually about as difficult as predicting it, and that's the case again this year. There were some teams that were very, very busy in this draft (like New York) and others that were barely involved (Indiana).

There were teams that clearly got players who will have an impact for them (like Seattle) and teams that perhaps rolled the dice (Chicago).

Now, the truth is, we generally don't grade hard on draft day unless there are obvious whiffs. Hey, why not be optimistic?

That said, several of the players selected in the three rounds Thursday won't actually make a WNBA roster -- at least not this season, and maybe never. Others, though, might end up being pleasant surprises in regard to sticking in the league.

Here are our grades for each team, in order of who did the best (at least in our first impression of the draft).

WNBA draft grades

Seattle Storm
Grade: A-plus

The Storm had no idea when they won the lottery in August that it would turn out this well. Jewell Loyd's early departure from Notre Dame changed everything. Seattle also could have gone with Zahui as its top pick and still received a great grade, but the Storm see No. 1 Loyd as a franchise cornerstone. Loyd and No. 3 pick Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of UConn can be big answers to Seattle's scoring needs. Loyd said Thursday that she knows she has to improve her physical strength; Mosqueda-Lewis said she wants to be a better defender. Both are very confident about their ability to play at the next level. With their other picks, the Storm opted for players who are more wild cards and if they turn out well it will be a bonus. Oral Roberts' 6-foot-7 center Vicky McIntyre (the No. 20 pick), played two seasons at Oklahoma State and one at Florida before finishing at ORU, and she led the nation in rebounding this season (15.8 RPG). Texas forward Nneka Enemkpali (No. 26) will sit out this summer recovering from an ACL injury that cut short what had been a very good senior season.

Tulsa Shock
Grade: A

The biggest talent that 6-5 Zahui should bring right away to the Shock is her versatile and powerful scoring ability. She'll need to evolve more to be a high-level defender, but the Shock also have center Courtney Paris to rely on as Zahui adjusts. Zahui gives the Shock another important piece in regard to trying to secure their first playoff berth since moving to Oklahoma in 2010. The Shock also went for size with their third-round pick, choosing 6-8 center Mimi Mungedi of Nevada. She was the Mountain West's defensive player of the year. We'll wait to see what all this means for 6-8 center Liz Cambage's future in Tulsa. But it suggests Tulsa either doesn't expect her to play this season or maybe is ready to part ways with its 2011 No. 2 pick. The Shock chose a potentially underrated guard in Pittsburgh's Brianna Kiesel (No. 13) in the second round; however, Tulsa has a lot of depth at guard.

New York Liberty
Grade: A

If nothing else, we'll give "Trader Bill" Laimbeer and Liberty vice president Kristin Bernert an A for their effort in this draft. New York wanted a new point guard and selected Cal's Brittany Boyd with the No. 9 pick, which the Liberty got from San Antonio by trading Alex Montgomery. Boyd gets a lot done on the court and could be a good complement to Epiphanny Prince. The Liberty also made a deal with the Lynx in which they traded Anna Cruz and two draft picks to get three picks. When the dust cleared, the Liberty had selected UConn's Kiah Stokes (No. 11), Stanford's Amber Orrange (No. 23), Maryland's Laurin Mincy (No. 27) and Wisconsin's Michala Johnson (No. 28). So the Liberty have gone from a team that fired Laimbeer after last season to a team that rehired him to a team that has reshaped itself through trades and draft picks. There are a lot of moving parts; now we have to see how it all works.

Connecticut Sun
Grade: A-minus

Yes, we might be giving the Sun too high a mark, but they should be better because of this draft. Does that mean they will win very many games this year? Probably not, but they are building for the future, and No. 4 pick Elizabeth Williams of Duke should help with that process. The 6-3 post player is an excellent defender who could pair well inside with last year's No. 1 pick, Chiney Ogwumike, when Ogwumike returns from knee surgery. As for her offense, Williams said she can be more of a face-up threat to score than she was in college. She'll be joined in Connecticut by another former Duke player, Jasmine Thomas, a guard whom Atlanta traded Thursday to the Sun to get Connecticut's No. 19 pick, DePaul guard Brittany Hrynko.

Minnesota Lynx
Grade: B

It was expected to be a pretty quiet draft, but the Lynx actually made something of it. They got Cruz, an experienced European player, in the trade from New York to shore up their guard corps. And they got two draft picks that at least in theory could help the Lynx, who are stacked with talent. At No. 16, they selected Cal forward Reshanda Gray. And at No. 35, the Lynx picked a player from nearby: Zahui's Minnesota Gophers teammate Shae Kelley. Gray and Kelley can learn from standout Rebekkah Brunson if they make the squad.

Atlanta Dream
Grade: B-minus

The aforementioned trade brought the Dream a long and athletic guard in Hrynko. But Atlanta used its first-round pick (No. 10) to get a point guard: Iowa's Samantha Logic. She is the style of PG that has the capacity to do well in the WNBA: She can score proficiently as well as set up her teammates, sees the court well and really understands the game. The doubt that will follow Logic until she proves it wrong is whether she is quick enough defensively. In the third round, the Dream also got Tennessee guard Ariel Massengale (No. 29) and James Madison center Lauren Okafor (No. 34). Atlanta's interior game is aging, and the Dream weren't able to do much to address that in a high-level way in this draft.

San Antonio Stars
Grade: B-minus

The Stars got a post player who really wants to run (and run and run) with their first pick, Wake Forest forward Dearica Hamby at No. 6. She wants to push the tempo as much as she can, and that's music to the ears of veteran guard Danielle Robinson. San Antonio traded its No. 9 pick to New York for Alex Montgomery, who is a role-player type. The Stars got two players in the third round. No. 30 Dragana Stankovic is a 6-5 center from Serbia. Iowa State guard Nikki Moody (No. 33) wants to be an exception to the rule that Cyclones players don't stick in the WNBA. The Stars will be without Becky Hammon, who retired last season and is now coaching in the NBA, so they will need to forge a different identity without her.

Chicago Sky
Grade: B-minus

This could be another grade we have all wrong. But we're giving the Sky and Pokey Chatman the benefit of the doubt that they really did their homework on Middle Tennessee's Cheyenne Parker, whom they chose with the No. 5 pick. It was the biggest surprise of the draft, but it suggests that the Sky valued her enough that they didn't want to wait to see whether she was still around later. Parker, who is 6-4, averaged a double-double this season but was dismissed at Middle Tennessee in late February for unspecified, repeated violations of athletic department policy. Parker had spent the first three years of her college career at High Point. The Sky have a lot of size and strength inside, but they see Parker as worth the risk. In the second round, Chicago picked up two "tweener" 6-footers who are accomplished rebounders: Rutgers' Betnijah Laney (No. 17) and South Carolina's Aleighsa Welch (No. 22).

Washington Mystics
Grade: C-plus

Dayton forward Ally Malott -- a big kid with range -- seemed to rocket up the draft board after the Flyers' NCAA tournament performance. And you can see her fitting into coach Mike Thibault's system, which is why she went at No. 8. But what does Thibault have up his sleeve in taking Saint Joseph's guard Natasha Cloud at No. 15? She's a defensive-minded player who also is a good facilitator on offense. With their third-round pick at No. 32, the Mystics went for Bosnia's Mrica Gajic, a 20-year-old post player.

Phoenix Mercury
Grade: C

The defending champion Mercury won't have Diana Taurasi this season, as she is resting. But this is still a very strong team, and so Phoenix had the luxury of using its first-round pick on a player who also won't be competing this year. Tennessee center Isabelle Harrison, taken with the No. 12 pick, will rehab her knee injury and prepare to join the Mercury next season. She was at least in the mix at the No. 1 spot before she was hurt in February, as she was having a very good senior year. The Mercury also took a strong scoring wing from Wichita State, Alex Harden (No. 18); a European project in forward Zofia Hruscakova (No. 24); and a "local" favorite, Arizona State guard Promise Amukamara (No. 36).

Los Angeles Sparks
Grade: C

The Sparks seem to have the talent they need to make a run at winning the Western Conference even if none of their 2015 draftees ends up making an impact. It still seemed as if maybe the Sparks could have done a little more to shore up some perceived weaker spots. That said, Central Michigan guard Crystal Bradford (No. 7) could be a very solid pickup. It might be tougher for the Sparks to find roster space for Tennessee's Cierra Burdick (No. 14) or Dayton's Andrea Hoover (No. 31). But both are very savvy, tough competitors, and that mentality is a big part of what new coach Brian Agler wants to see instilled in the Sparks.

Indiana Fever
Grade: C

The Fever didn't have much invested in this draft with just one pick. They went with a player who has promise: Kansas forward Chelsea Gardner (No. 21). If she is able to make the roster and pick up on the work habits of the likes of Tamika Catchings, Gardner could blossom into a good player.