The Lynx will have the No. 1 and 4 picks in the 2011 WNBA draft in early April. The order of the teams making the top four picks was determined Tuesday in a lottery held in New York City.
Minnesota had the second-best chance (38 percent) at obtaining the top pick in what could be called the Maya Moore lottery. Moore, a 6-foot senior guard for Connecticut, is widely regarded as the best player available.
"I let out a big yelp," said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve when asked her reaction to winning the ping-pong ball lottery. "Everybody knows who the best player in the country is. No matter who has the No. 1 pick, it is pretty easy."
Moore, a 6-foot guard for the University of Connecticut, is a two-time winner of the Wade Trophy, presented to the nation’s best player, and a three-time all-america pick.
Last season, Moore averaged 18.9 points as UConn won its second consecutive NCAA title and extended its winning streak to 78 games. She was only college player on the U.S. team which won gold medal in FIBA World Championships this fall.
On Tuesday, Moore became only the second two-time unanimous pick to the Associated Press preseason All-America team. Former Duke guard Alana Beard, now with the Washington Mystics, was the first.
"Watching [Moore] practice the last three weeks, she’s even better than she was the last three years." UConn coach Geno Auriemma was quoted as saying by theday.com of New London, Conn.
"I don’t know if she dribbles better or passes better. … But with 8 seconds left on the shot clock and we need a bucket, she’s getting one. It’s just overwhelming."
Tulsa, which had the WNBA’s worst record (6-28) in the WNBA, had the best chance (44.2 percent) at Moore but settled for the second overall pick. Chicago, which had a 17.9 percent chance at Moore, will pick third.
The Lynx (13-21) improved their Moore lottery chances by making a draft day trade last April with Connecticut. Minnesota took Nebraska forward Kelsey Griffin with the third overall pick, then traded her rights to Connecticut for the Sun’s first and second-round picks in 2011 and crossed their fingers.
When the Sun (17-17) finished fifth in the Eastern Conference, thereby missing the playoffs, Lynx officials celebrated having two lottery picks, theirs as a non-playoff team and the Sun’s.
Minnesota also has the top two picks in the second round, Nos. 13 and 14. The No. 13 pick originally belonged to Tulsa, but was traded twice, to Connecticut and then to Minnesota. The No. 14 pick is the Lynx’s, based on Minnesota tying for the WNBA’s second worst record.
Reeve said two of the Lynx’s needs are more size at center and three-point shooting. She said this draft is deep in 6-4, 6-5 centers and especially rich at the top.
"This year happens to be a good time to have a No. 1 pick," Reeve said. "It is exciting. It is a consolation to the rough season we had."
This is the third time in their 13-year history, the Lynx have either had or traded for the No. 1 pick. In 2006, Minnesota took Seimone Augustus of Louisiana State with the top pick. In 2007, the Lynx traded Tangela Smith on draft day to Phoenix for guard Lindsey Harding, whom the Mercury had taken No. 1 out of Duke.
Last year Minnesota dealt Renee Montgomery and the No. 1 pick to Connecticut for Lindsay Whalen and the No. 2 pick.
With four of the top 14 picks, the Lynx have a lot of options to change the face of their franchise or to make more deals.
"We will be ready to move up, down or whatever the situation is," Reeve said.
She said only a handful of rookies will make a really big impact in the WNBA next season and ‘we will get one of them.
"We on paper will be talented but learning to win together is the biggest thing in this league," Reeve said.
Here’s a short list of possible top five picks besides Moore:
* Elizabeth Cambage, Australia: The 6-8 center is only 19 years old, but has competed in international tournaments with the Aussies for three seasons. She has the option to enter for draft if she wants. She averaged a team-high 13.6 points per game for Australia in World Championships. She’s strong, athletic.
* Amber Harris, Xavier: She is a 6-5 forward who was the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. She averaged 16.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game and shot 56.1 percent from the field.
* Jantel Lavender, Ohio State: The 6-4 center is the three-time Big 10 Player of the Year. She averaged 21.4 points and 10.3 rebounds as a junior. She is on pace to become the Buckeyes’ all-time leading career scorer.
* Kayla Pedersen, Stanford: The 6-4 forward averaged 15.8 points and 9.5 rebounds last season for the Cardinal. She is a 36.1 percent career shooter on three-pointers.