Credit: Kahla Edmonson
Whilst no Australians may have heard their name called on WNBA Draft night, there was nonetheless one Aussie player involved in the action.
Minnesota’s Steph Talbot was sent to the New York Liberty in a draft-night trade, joining fellow Opals star Bec Allen in Brooklyn as the Liberty sent 26th pick Erica Ogwumike – younger sister of LA Sparks stars Chiney and Nneka – to Minnesota in return.
Originally drafted by Phoenix in 2014, Talbot made her WNBA debut with the Mercury in 2017. Having spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons with Phoenix, Talbot was then traded to the Lynx in 2019 for the 18th pick in the 2020 draft.
The Katherine-born wing posted a career-high scoring average in her sole season with the Lynx, posting 5.2 points per game. However, her shooting percentage was well down on her previous production, connecting on just 32.6% from deep after hitting at over 38% in each of her seasons at the Mercury. That deeply under-appreciates Talbot’s value to teams over her three seasons in the league though. A dangerous combination of length, versatility, and work rate have made the 2016 Olympian a tough proposition to handle, particularly at the defensive end in the WNBA.
It is also worth remembering that Minnesota suffered through some injury troubles in the middle of the 2019 season, at which point Talbot proved herself to be a reliable member of the rotation, and even the starting lineup at times. The Opals star’s seven best scoring performances of the season came in a 14-game stretch from late June to early August, but those opportunities dried up towards the end of the season. The Lynx would reach the playoffs, but were knocked out in a one-game showdown by Seattle in the opening round.
Whether there is a training camp in 2020 remains to be seen as the COVID-19 global pandemic continues. If and when the rosters do assemble, there will be plenty of competition for roster spots at the Liberty.
Having already received Tayler Hill and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough in the trade that saw star forward Tina Charles leave for Washington, the Liberty then added six players on draft night. That included five of the top 15 picks, including #1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu. New York also flipped Walker-Kimbrough to Phoenix for #10 overall pick Jocelyn Willoughby. With just 12 spots available on the roster and very few players on guaranteed contracts, the competition to land a spot on the opening night roster will be particularly fierce in New York.
Of course, there was one other Australian heavily involved in the draft: Phoenix Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello.
As well as trading #10 pick Willoughby to the Liberty for Walker-Kimbrough, the Mercury also picked at #18 and #29. That 18th pick, which the Mercury acquired when trading Talbot to Minnesota, was used on Baylor point guard Te’a Cooper. The 29th pick saw Brondello take mid-major star Stella Johnson from Rider, the college home of former Sacramento Kings forward Jason Thompson. Johnson’s selection marked Rider’s inaugural WNBA draft pick, and indeed the first pick in either the WNBA or NBA Draft for the school since Thompson was taken #12 in 2008’s NBA Draft.