There are no easy decisions for Sun at WNBA Draft

Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller, center, yells to his players during a game against the Atlanta Dream on June 3, 2016 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Assistant coaches Steve Smith, left, and Nicki Collen flank him. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller, center, yells to his players during a game against the Atlanta Dream on June 3, 2016 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Assistant coaches Steve Smith, left, and Nicki Collen flank him. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Mohegan — Curt Miller, the Connecticut Sun’s head coach and general manager, was asked about the team’s biggest need headed into Thursday night’s WNBA Draft.

“Our biggest need is to get Chiney (Ogwumike) back,” Miller said, referring to the fact that the Sun’s starting center most likely won’t play this season after needed surgery on her left Achilles tendon last November.

The potential loss of Ogwumike for the second time in four seasons has made an already perplexing draft worse for the Sun. They were among the worst teams at mid-range and perimeter shooting last season, but should they address that need first when they may be without Ogwumike, their best rebounder and player?

It's also one of the weaker draft classes of the last decade, thus no one can say with any certainty who’ll be taken second after Washington's Kelsey Plum, never mind who’ll be available when Connecticut makes its first pick at number eight. Or if that player could even make the team.

“It’s interesting because we’re 72 hours away from the draft,” Miller said Monday, “and there’s a lot of conversations going on in the league as we speak. But what happens on draft day is a mystery to all of us.”

Connecticut also drafts 13th and 16th in the second round and 28th (third). The draft will be held at Samsung 837 in New York City starting at 7. ESPN2 will broadcast the first round. The second and third round will be shown on ESPNU at 8.

The draft doesn't have a can't-miss star such as Breanna Stewart, last year's No. 1 pick, nor is it as loaded as next year’s. Arguably the best strategy is to trade this year's picks for a 2018 first-rounder, but why would anyone pass up a chance to acquire talents such as A’ja Wilson of South Carolina, Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State, or UConn’s Gabby Williams?

“I think it’s definitely a solid year for (this) draft,” ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson said. “I don’t think there’s going to be one player that comes in and really just blows anybody away.”

Miller wouldn’t tip his hand about his draft plan. Ogwumike was the biggest reason why the Sun finished fourth in rebounding percentage last year because they had few players who were good at it. Her surgery requires six to nine months of recovery. If she can’t play, Connecticut is put in a no-win situation where it would have to either suspend her contract, or pay her while she rehabs and have her count towards its 12-woman roster.

The Sun need second-year post Jonquel Jones, last year’s sixth overall pick, to accelerate her development this season. Miller also traded for posts Reshanda Gray and Lynetta Kizer this offseason and signed Danielle Adams, Jennifer Hamson and Kayla Pedersen to training camp contracts. Pedersen was a reserve post for three seasons with Connecticut and took last season off.

Posts Evelyn Akhator (Kentucky), Erica McCall (Stanford) and Chantel Osahor (Washington) could still be on the board when Connecticut picks eighth.

The Sun finished seventh out of 12 teams in field goal percentage last season (43.9 percent) and were third-worst at 3-point shooting (30.8). Players such as starting small forward Alyssa Thomas and Ogwumike do their best work around the rim, so Miller had the team play inside-out last season instead of his using his system that requires perimeter shooting to create spacing.

This draft is deeper at guard, so the likes of Lindsay Allen (Notre Dame), Alexis Jones (Baylor), Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Maryland), Sydney Wiese (Oregon State) and Syracuse’s Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes may also be available for Connecticut.

“It’s crazy to try to figure it out,” Miller said.

n.griffen@theday.com

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