Good teams play with each other, but great teams play for each other.— Basketball Psychology (@BallisPsych) March 8, 2020
Here at Building The Dam, we all love Mikayla Pivec. In reality, it’s impossible not to, as the Oregon State star on the hardwood (and in the track & field world) over the past few seasons was endearing for her blue-collar work ethic and ability to play so many different roles for the Beavers. I recently even dampened our usually joyful Slack chat with the accompanying tweet, showing her true character on display after the Pac-12 Tournament.
So while we were all stoked when Pivec was taken with the 25th overall pick in the recent WNBA Draft by the Atlanta Dream, her selection was a slight free-fall from earlier mock draft projections and a crowded Dream roster propped up more questions than answers. Could Pivec not only make Atlanta’s roster for this season, but would she also find a way to cut her niche into the league for years to come?
Although I claim to be a fair-weather WNBA fan and am currently in an existential crisis with my New York Liberty because they will now be led by a former Duck in Sabrina Ionescu, I am by no mean an expert on the sport by any stretch of the imagination. So I reached out to the amazing Cat Ariail over at Swish Appeal, the best resource for the WNBA and women’s basketball on the internet, for answers to a few questions I had about how much we can expect from Pivec in the WNBA.
What does the Atlanta Dream roster currently look like in terms of spots available and how does Mikayla Pivec fit into that depth chart?
CA: Heading into training camp, the Dream have 16 players on roster. That number will have to be cut to 12 before the season starts. In my estimation, 10 spots are taken, with it being more that likely that Brittany Brewer, who the Dream selected with the 17th pick, will take the 11th spot. This leaves Pivec likely battling Blake Dietrick and Alexis Jones for the final spot.
Dietrick played with the Dream during the 2019 season. After she spent last season with the Storm, the Dream signed her to a training camp contract. Based on public statements, Coach Nicki Collen really likes Dietrick. She is solid 3-point shooter with a quick release who plays hard on defense. That she knows Collen’s system could give her an edge in the contest for the final spot, since the 2020 Dream will include many new players.
The Dream signed Jones off waivers. She was targeted in an effort to improve the Dream’s 3-point shooting, which was league’s worst last season. However, she has bounced from the Lynx to the Sparks to the Dream because her potential as a surefire 3-point markswoman has yet to be realized (in part due to injury troubles).
That Pivec possesses a more diverse skillset than Dietrick or Jones makes her a theoretically more appealing option as a benchwarmer or sporadic player. However, in the specific context of the 2020 Dream, it seems the organization might prioritize the veteran in Dietrick or the specialist in Jones.
Mikayla has a fantastic rebounding skill-set for her size. She’s a high-level athlete (in multiple sports). Is she the type of player who can grow with this team into the future? Or is she a more moveable piece that might bounce around the league a bit?
CA: In an ideal world of expanded rosters, Pivec would be able to stay and grow with the Dream. Due to roster constraints, she likely will have to hustle a few years in order to carve out a place in the league. Someone like the Chicago Sky’s Allie Quigley might be instructive example. Quigley bounced around the league for five seasons before finding a team that maximized her skillset; she’s now a multi-time All-Star. While Pivec does not possess Quigley’s elite 3-point shooting, her diverse, box-stuffing style of play could, one day, make her a valuable contributor for a WNBA team. She just has to be willing to fight (and fight and fight) for a place in the league.
Do you see any part of her game that severely needs to improve to make an impact in the WNBA?
CA: As more WNBA teams are prioritizing the 3, increasing her 3-point attempt and conversion rates could allow her to contribute to a team as an off-the-bench shooter. She also likely will need to alleviate concerns about her athleticism, particularly proving that she has the speed (and/or smarts) not to be targeted on defense.
It goes without saying, but I can’t thank Cat enough for these answers. She not only (literally) answered my questions, but in a broader sense, gave me the exact responses that I was looking for in terms of what we can hope and expect from Pivec in the future.
The WNBA is currently sitting at a few different crossroads with the global growth of the game and the continuous rise in the talent level of players, and a guard like Pivec who a decade ago would’ve been a sure lock for a roster spot, is now thrust into a battle for a role to even make a roster after being a third-round pick.
While of course we wish Mikayla the best in terms of making the Atlanta Dream roster, we also want to wish everyone out there great health and safety as we currently continue to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.