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Sparks looking to build depth, and add a post player, during the WNBA draft

The Sparks want to make the most of their one first-round pick at No. 11 when the WNBA draft gets underway Thursday at Nike Headquarters in New York.

"So much can happen ahead of us that it's hard to pencil in specific players or even a specific position, but we do need to add depth in the post at some point," Sparks coach Brian Agler said. "No question, we'll take at least one post player."

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If she's still on the board, the Sparks may opt for Oregon State center Marie Gulich, whose stock rose after a 26-point effort in the Beavers' NCAA tournament upset of Baylor.

"She's going to get a lot of consideration, not just from our standpoint but from other teams too," said Agler, whose team opens training camp April 29. "She played well this year … especially in the tournament on national television."

While UCLA's Jordin Canada is projected to be among the top five or six selections, Bruins forward Monique Billings is another possibility for the Sparks, said Agler, who plans to watch the draft proceedings from Nike Headquarters in Culver City.

"I've watched both of those ladies play and every team could benefit from players like them," Agler said.

The Sparks also had the 11th pick last year and chose another Oregon State player, point guard Sydney Wiese, who also played with the Townsville Fire in Australia.

Los Angeles, which lost to Minnesota in the WNBA finals last season, also has the 23rd (second round) and 35th (third round) overall picks.

The Las Vegas Aces, formerly the San Antonio Stars, have the No. 1 pick and are expected to take South Carolina senior A'ja Wilson, the national player of the year who averaged 22.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.

"I think that would be the upset of the draft if she doesn't go No. 1," Agler said. "I'll be very surprised if that doesn't happen."

Wilson, a 6-foot-5 forward, led the Gamecocks to the NCAA championship in 2017 and the Elite Eight this year.

"A'ja Wilson is ready for the pros right now," said Rebecca Lobo, an ESPN women's basketball analyst and former WNBA All-Star. "She could be an Olympian and All-Star. She has the pieces right now to contribute."

Aces coach and general manager Bill Laimbeer agreed while noting the challenge for college players to make an immediate impact: "You don't get many players who can drive like she can. A'ja will scare a lot of people by her ability to drive, but in this league it's so hard to make a roster spot. First-round picks get cut all the time."

The No. 2 pick belongs to Indiana. The Fever could choose between talented guards Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State, Diamond DeShields of Tennessee, who has played professionally in Turkey, or possibly Canada.

The third and fourth picks belong to the Chicago Sky, and coach Amber Stocks has plenty of options if Mitchell goes to Indiana — DeShields or Connecticut teammates Azura Stevens, who chose to declare for the draft and skip her senior season, and Gabby Williams.

"Azura declaring makes things very interesting because she's a unique player," ESPN women's basketball analyst LaChina Robinson said. "She could go No. 4 or fall to No. 6 and be available for Dallas."

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Robinson is also high on Canada, who could be on Seattle's radar at No. 5 as the successor to 15-year veteran point guard Sue Bird.

"Is there anyone more fun to watch?" Robinson asked about Canada. "She is crafty, she can penetrate the defense and she has a high motor. The only question mark is her durability because she's small."

(Sean Rayford / Associated Press)

WNBA draft order

First round

1) Las Vegas

2) Indiana

3) Chicago from Atlanta

4) Chicago

5) Seattle

6) Dallas

7) Washington

8) Indiana from Phoenix

9) Connecticut

10) New York

11) Sparks

12) Phoenix from Minnesota

Second round

1) Las Vegas

2) Indiana

3) Connecticut from Atlanta

4) Atlanta from Chicago

5) Minnesota from Seattle

6) Dallas

7) Washington

8) Phoenix

9) Phoenix from Connecticut

10) New York

11) Sparks

12) Minnesota

Third round

1) Las Vegas

2) Phoenix from Indiana via Las Vegas

3) Atlanta

4) Chicago

5) Seattle

6) Dallas

7) Washington

8) Las Vegas from Phoenix

9) Connecticut

10) New York

11) Sparks

12) Minnesota

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