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Originally published Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 8:00 PM

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Once you get past the top three, WNBA draft becomes a guessing game

Seattle, selecting at No. 6, hoping its needs will be met

Seattle Times staff reporter

Monday

WNBA draft, 5 p.m., ESPN2

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On a raucous teleconference with notable WNBA coaches last week, one thing was clear — the league is actually featuring two different drafts Monday.

The main billing is obvious. The first three choices will be Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins to either Phoenix, Chicago or Tulsa. Then there's the remaining selections beginning with Washington, New York and Seattle.

"The joke around here is that I have the first pick in the other draft," said Mike Thibault, in his first year as the Washington coach.

But Lin Dunn, who won her first WNBA championship with Indiana in 2012, cut through the laughter.

"It's not a joke, it's the truth," she said.

Unlike the top three, the remaining nine prospects for the opening round are muddled. Talent is even and diverse, featuring quality players with traditional skill-sets and others with versatility.

And it all depends on what Thibault wants.

"Seattle is at the mercy of Mike and I right now," said New York coach Bill Laimbeer, a three-time championship winner with the Detroit Shock who's returning to the WNBA after three seasons away. The Liberty has the fifth and seventh selections in the first round.

Thibault and Laimbeer mentioned posts as being a priority with their first choices, which doesn't bode well for Storm coach and general manager Brian Agler.

Seattle will play the 2013 season without centers Lauren Jackson (injury) and Ann Wauters (personal leave). It could also be without Polish reserve Ewelina Kobryn for part of the season due to her sister's summer wedding.

"New York is probably going to try to find out who we're going to pick at six and they'll take that person," said Agler, who also has the 18th and 30th overall selections. "But there's going to be multiple players we feel like can help us and be part of our team for a long period of time."

Behind Griner and Delle Donne, top posts Kelsey Bone (Texas A&M) and Tianna Hawkins (Maryland) will probably be gone. Agler said he's also looking at Syracuse center Kayla Alexander, a strong shot blocker and scorer, along with Oklahoma State forward Toni Young, who's a strong offensive rebounder and scorer.

Yet, with All-Star point guard Sue Bird (injury) also out this season, guards Tayler Hill (Ohio State), Kelly Faris (Connecticut) or even former Kentwood High School star Lindsey Moore (Nebraska) could help.

"Speed-wise, (Hill) is probably one of the fastest," said Laimbeer, sounding again like he'll poach a desperate Seattle need. He already lured veteran guard Katie Smith from Seattle to New York via free agency.

"(Tayler's) a very talented three-point shooter and she's not afraid," Laimbeer continued. "She attacks the basket at will and can get to the free-throw line ... those are great characteristics to move on to the next level."

Jackson's maximum guaranteed salary doesn't count against the Storm's $913,000 cap, but Bird's $107,500 does. Financially limited, Agler signed point guard Temeka Johnson, guard Noelle Quinn and center Nakia Sanford via free agency. The trio could easily move into the starting rotation to complement guard Tanisha Wright and forward Camille Little.

Shekinna Stricklen, who Agler selected with the No. 2 overall selection last year, also is expected to play a bigger role this season. Agler anticipates leadership and depth on the bench from Tina Thompson, a 16-year WNBA veteran.

"It's going to be weird," Little said of a full season without Jackson and Bird. "It's impossible to replace (them). But Tanisha, Tina and I know what lies ahead for this team and know we're going to have to take on more responsibility."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com.

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