WNBA Draft: Discussing NCAAW Modern Guards
By Mark Schindler
One of the more sizable changes and trends in the past half-decade of the WNBA draft is the proliferation of guard play. While game manager, pass-first point guards still exist and have a place in professional basketball, multifaceted combos are becoming more and more essential.
As more players enter the League with perimeter skills at all positions, decision-making, and set initiation has steadily spread out. Why does this matter?
First and foremost, it’s cool! Witnessing the evolution of the game is humbling and exciting. It takes years of process for sweeping archetype changes to take form and reach the highest level of the game, when the formative impact on how a player develops probably took place a decade earlier.
One or two players playing a unique way in the present can alter skill development and what’s viewed as attainable for a prospect in the intermediate future.
Secondly, using our database and search tools at Cerebro, you can track that evolution and also pinpoint upcoming prospects that fit a similar mold or archetype.
Taking our set Modern Guard archetype, a stark vision is painted of players who have taken the helm of offenses over the past few seasons, as well as multiple younger players who have started to come into their own.
With a baseline of 70 or higher in Pure Scoring Prowess, 3 Point Efficiency, and Floor General Skills, while also setting a 20% usage starting point, 5'10 height limit, and searching the Top 12 conferences, we hone in on a group of players that can:
Carry significant usage
Shoot, often on volume
Distribute the ball well enough to ignite the offense
For reference, here are some senior seasons that come up in our database, which goes back to the 2014-15 NCAA season.
Rachel Banham at Minnesota in 2016 (98 PSP, 94 3PE, 70 FGS), now with the Lynx, has developed into a strong off-guard and one of the better volume and movement shooters in the WNBA.
University of Washington product turned Las Vegas Aces star, Kelsey Plum, tips the scales of the upper echelon, having made her first All-WNBA Team after winning Sixth Player of the Year the season prior. Her 2017 season is simply among the best in the database (110 PSP, 94 3PE, 76 FGS).
Others that stand out:
Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State 2018 (90 PSP, 95 3PE, 73 FGS)
Lexie Brown, Duke 2018 (80 PSP, 80 3PE, 74 FGS)
Jordin Canada, UCLA 2018 (71 PSP, 75 3PE, 86 FGS)
Natisha Hiedeman, Marquette 2019 (76 PSP, 87 3PE, 75 FGS)
Crystal Dangerfield, UConn 2020 (72 PSP, 86 3PE, 73 FGS)
Aari McDonald, Arizona 2021 (77 PSP, 79 3PE, 71 FGS)
Dana Evans, Louisville 2021 (78 PSP, 82 3PE, 72 FGS)
Veronica Burton, Northwestern 2022 (71 PSP, 70 3PE, 85 FGS)
Nia Clouden, Michigan State 2022 (78 PSP, 81 3PE, 72 FGS)
Players with lower FGS have naturally tracked more as two guards in the league, while players with higher FGS have tracked less as combos and more as lead guards. The ranges and archetype builds aren’t perfect by any stretch; context is still incredibly important, yet it’s worth noting that we have a pretty consistent archetype built here that has talent polarity based on skill set thresholds.
In taking that data and knowledge and applying it to the 2023 Senior class, we can try to draw an idea of some guards who may fit a similar mold.
Oregon Senior, Endyia Rogers, is a fascinating prospect to dive into. The Ducks are a fairly young team, starting two true freshmen much of the season. Hovering just above .500 in a very competitive Pac-12, they’ve understandably gone a bit under the radar, but that seemingly has impacted Rogers’ buzz as a 2023 Draft prospect.
Part of what makes our database so exciting is that you can do these cross-comparisons and look over historical trends. I watched Rogers multiple times the past week and she kept popping for me “that’s a pro,” that itch and feeling you get when watching a game and you just get a sense. In pulling the data and backtracking, you can legitimately make a founded projection along with an on-court sample.
It’s worth noting that Rogers has been a fairly average shooter much of her career, albeit on decent volume, shooting 31.6% in her sophomore and junior seasons (66/209). Shooting 42% from deep on similar per game volume this season has been a welcome surprise, but how teams feel about her actual shooting ability and versatility will impact her draft stock undoubtedly.
As can be seen with the historical comps in the database, shooting is pretty important! You can still be a productive pro with lesser shooting ability, but it’s largely determinant in hitting the upper echelons of role and unlocking the capability to play multiple positions.
For reference, Jordin Canada has been one of the better rotation guards in the League but has struggled to gain traction as a starter due to her shot not translating well.
I find myself optimistic about Rogers’ potential translation even if she doesn’t wind up with the same efficiency she has this season. Her shot diet isn’t heavily pull-up based, taking roughly one off the dribble three per game.
The way she moves without the ball and relocates matters more to me, particularly in the role of combo guard.
Playing off of other guards, wings, or any player initiating sets arguably makes the ability to be a consistent off-ball threat more important than a routine pull-up shooter.
However, her ability to get to her pull-up inside the arc stands out. She has an adept change of pace and shiftiness that allows her to take advantage of savvy screening and how defenses play her.
She has, for my money, perhaps the best floater in the draft, capable and willing of letting it fly from outside the free throw line or getting it over a big from 6 feet out.
Rogers really impresses with quick change of direction and deceleration to get into said floaters comfortably. So many players are still impacted by their forward momentum, leading to an inconsistent touch on push shots and floaters, but Rogers continuously oscillates between speeds.
She excels as a pick-and-roll playmaker and regularly impresses during broken plays, a great sign of her feel for the game and ability to make things happen as she reads the court.
Keep Rogers on your radar moving forward when contemplating the 2023 Draft. Past projections, samples, and knowledge can help us greatly in deciphering the present to estimate or ponder the future. Using the Cerebro Database, scouting can be easier and better honed in at all levels, done more efficiently before, and this is just another example of that!