UNCASVILLE — The third phase of the rebuilding process for the Connecticut Sun gets its start Thursday when the WNBA holds its 2015 draft lottery.
The Sun (13-21) finished the season in last place in the Eastern Conference for the second straight time. They join Seattle, Tulsa and New York in the process that will unfold in Secaucus, N.J., during halftime of Game 1 of the Washington-Indiana playoff series on ESPN2.
Tulsa and Seattle, which both finished 12-22, have the most chances to land the top pick (359 each). Connecticut has 178 chances of its own and another 104 from New York (15-19) through the acquisition of its pick in April in exchange for Tina Charles.
Last season, the Sun selected Stanford rookie Chiney Ogwumike with the first pick. After leading the team in scoring and rebounding, Ogwumike will probably be named rookie of the year later this month.
However, unlike the past two drafts when players such as Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, Ogwumike and Odyssey Sims were available, the 2015 class does not appear as strong at the moment.
UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Duke center Elizabeth Williams are generally considered the top players in the senior class.
Even though Mosqueda-Lewis might be the best perimeter shooter in the nation — a skill that the Sun, last in the league in shooting percentage, desperately need — there is concern about her conditioning, ability to create her own shots and guard the lightning-quick small forwards she will face in the WNBA.
Sun guard Kelly Faris, whom Mosqueda-Lewis admired and tried to emulate during their two years together at UConn, is convinced that the UConn All-American understands the challenge being handed to her.
"She knows what's going on. She has grown up a lot," Faris said. "I've watched her grow since her freshman season. We all come to college as immature freshmen. I certainly did in a lot of ways. She's been able to realize what needs to be done. I have full confidence in her that she can get it done.
"She will understand that the responsibility is totally on her to do it. When you are on a team that has two or three other players who can get it done, carry the load if you are having a bad game, it's human nature to think that someone else will pick it up for you. But now as a senior, she will know she is the No. 1 person. She's been working and she will get herself where she needs to be."
There are also concerns about Williams, the 6-foot-3 post, a three-time defensive player of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference and premier shot blocker.
"Elizabeth is athleticism all the way," Sun guard Chelsea Gray said about her former Duke teammate. "I have never seen anybody do certain things, grab certain balls that she does and get up in the air like she does. She is quick off the ball, has a knack for the ball when she goes to rebound. She gets a lot of bumps and bruises out there, but she tries her best to finish."
But Williams has flaws, particularly with her awkward free throw shooting style, which the Duke coaching staff is trying to correct. Still, Gray, who missed all of this season with a kneecap injury sustained in January, would naturally love to be reunited with Williams on the Sun.
"That would be great, you see that happen throughout the WNBA, two people who played in college play in the WNBA, what else can you ask for?" Gray said. "You know them already; it is not like you have to adjust."
If the Sun roster stays the same next season, they will begin 2015 with Gray, Ogwumike, Alyssa Thomas, Alex Bentley and Kelsey Bone, all with fewer than three years pro experience. It's unlikely that the Sun will want to add much more youth unless they are convinced of someone's ability to immediately make an impact.
That makes it a real possibility that Sun management might use its lottery picks as trade bait in hopes of landing more experience. If they persuade Spaniard superstar Alba Torrens, whom they drafted as a 17-year-old in the third round in 2009, to play with them for the first time in 2015, the need for a perimeter scorer like Mosqueda-Lewis will be even less.
"I'm not in the front office, but I do think having those picks will give it great leverage," Sun guard Renee Montgomery said. "Some teams in the league are a lot older than we are. It would be good for them to have more youth.
"But we are about as young as it gets. I don't necessarily know if we could add two more rookies onto the team. Still, if management wants these [rookies], it can get them, and if they want to use them to make trades, they can. It's a good position to be in."Copyright © 2015, CT Now