Another Shuffle Draft is in the books and the sprint to the final event is on with a flurry of moves made across the league. There were 8 teams that made waiver moves and there was one trade involving 2 teams. While 2 of the teams had to make moves, Bay Area and Brooklyn, the fact that 75% of the league was involved in a transaction shows that players have limited opportunities to prove their worth with so much talent flooding into the sport. It may be a small sample size but, with a spot in Premier on the line, owners are not waiting around to hope that their teams can figure it out.
AZ Drive – Add: John Cincola, Drop: Wes Burrows
What is AZ doing? John Cincola is probably worthy of a Challenger male slot, but they had bigger fish to fry than their first round pick. The question with Burrows is not his talent. Rather, it is his commitment to pickleball and ability to impact winning. He may have been drafted too high, especially as an average singles player at best. Nevertheless, it sounds like AZ could be without their 2nd male, Andreas Siljestrom, for the final event in San Clemente. It’s odd they would not have dropped Siljestrom given his health continues to be a question.
Furthermore, the glaring need for this team was upgrading their women’s spot. There were options out there better than Heather Nobler, but AZ opts to drop their first round male instead. It’s a baffling set of moves from the draft through to this Shuffle Draft that has this team sitting in last place right now and maybe there’s a reason they are sitting in last place. As constructed, this team is now John Cincola, Andreas SIljestrom (?), Sarah Ansobury and Heather Nobler. Gulp.
D.C. Pickleball Team – Add: Judit Castillo, Drop: Amanda Hendry
Amanda Hendry was a puzzling pick-up in the first Shuffle Draft for D.C. She held her own in Daytona, but there were better options out there to gamble on. We should have expected this after Sam Querrey partnered with the quickly rising star of Judit Castillo at the US Open, and this should represent an upgrade even if Castillo lost badly in the first round at the PPA North Carolina to Lauren Stratman. Castillo has another month to improve her doubles game and she will also keep getting better in singles.
The problem for this team continues to be that they drafted a player not good enough for Challenger with their first overall pick, Sam Querrey, and they previously went low upside with their #2 female spots. They are finally gambling with some upside, which is what they should have done last time around. This team has been close to better results so we’ll see if lady luck can go their way in San Clemente.
Columbus PC – Trade Milan Rane to Atlanta Bouncers for Christine Trifunovic. Add: Rianna Valdes, Drop: Christine Trifunovic
Cutting to the chase of the move itself, which in effect was getting rid of Rane for Valdes, we like it. Valdes is a high ceiling female and has major talent. Rane’s a solid enough player but having some extra pop by Megan Fudge should be helpful for this team. Columbus got to the semi-finals, but the fact that they are looking to do more is a commendable as Fudge basically not winning in Daytona is a problem. Fudge is a bit of a mystery as a lead dog on a Challenger team and we’ll see if this move changes things for her on the women’s side.
As for the trade, it was an odd choice only because we don’t get why they did not simply drop Rane for Valdes. Instead, they give Atlanta the opportunity to pick-up Rane and drop a guy, which they did in Newell for Locklear. Were they wanting to choose which team got to upgrade with Rane? It meant that Orlando and Brooklyn did not have an opportunity to upgrade with Rane. Possibly because Rane is in the same area as Tyra Black and has familiarity there? Regardless, teams are getting creative and that is fun to see.
Brooklyn Aces – Add: Martina Frantova, Drop: Corrine Carr
Tough sledding for Brooklyn after they do not get the opportunity to pick up Milan Rane for the pregnant Corrine Carr. Martina Frantova has been playing a bunch of pro events recently but we have only seen limited amounts of Frantova playing. While it hasn’t been overly impressive, there could be some upside there. There were other options out there like Vivian Glozman we had higher on our list. However, at this point, teams are really praying that these players with such a small amount of experience can move the needle. Although there were a few players we had higher on our list, Frantova is getting lots of reps and we haven’t seen enough of the player pool to be confident that she wasn’t the right pick here.
Atlanta Bouncers – Trade Christine Trifunovic to Colubmus PC for Milan Rane
Christine Trifunovic was an obvious spot to move off and Atlanta made a big mistake not dropping her after the first event. They benefit from the Milan Rane trade who offers steadiness to a team that has Hunter Johnson’s ceiling and Brooke Buckner’s steadiness. We get into it more below but the Newell drop for Locklear was a bit of a head scratcher. We are not big fans of Ben Newell, but Newell offers high end shot making and hands. Either way, Rane will bring steady play and more ability than Trifunovic so that’s a quality upgrade for a team that gets another legitimate, Challenger level player on their squad.
Miami PC – Add: Wes Burrows, Drop: Jeff Warnick
We likely have a contrarian take on this and we don’t like the move. We aren’t energy guys but there is something about Warnick’s weirdness both with his play and mouth that hits differently for the Challenger division. He brought the mojo for Miami and, while Burrows may have more upside, there is a similar level of volatility in his game. Is this truly a doubles upgrade? It has been pointed out to us that Burrows went undefeated in Mesa and he is finally in a winning situation. Warnick is no sure bet and any Dreambreakers could be curtains for him, but there is an argument that Burrows is only an upgrade on the singles side of things.
The results for Miami, whether they made this move or not, could simply depend on which version of Warnick or Burrows shows up at the final event. Burrows has not committed himself to pro pickleball but has the natural talent to be a higher end pro, except Burrows isn’t brand new to the sport. Conversely, the game has somewhat passed Warnick by and he doesn’t travel the pro circuit anymore. We usually like to go talent over energy/craziness, but we’re going to let our recency bias get the best of us here to say getting rid of the energy may end up being a mistake.
Texas Ranchers – Add: Tina Pisnik, Drop: Genie Erokhina
Two Shuffle Drafts. Two lesser known pick-ups for the Ranchers. Pisnik is newer to pickleball and as a very high level former pro tennis player she appears to be grinding that pickle game hard. She and Tammy Emmrich had a strong showing at the US Open in April, and this is a bet on talent and professionalism from Texas despite their playoff run in Daytona.
We have heard rumblings about Erokhina not exhibiting a certain level of professionalism that an MLP Challenger player should, and the move away from her does not dissuade us from trusting those rumblings. We still think Genie holds up as a Challenger level player, at the lower end of the spectrum, but with so many talented players coming in you can’t be a fringe player with questions about your ability to conduct yourself as a pro. At worst, this seems like it will be a wash for Texas on the court and, at best, it is an upgrade on and off the court.
Atlanta Bouncers – Add: Phillip Locklear, Drop: Ben Newell
One good move deserves a questionable move. The Milan Rane move was a good one to provide steadiness to this team but the Locklear move for Newell is a head scratcher. The caveat here is outside of the Johns footage and some limited mixed play, we aren’t working off of much with Phillip Locklear. Now, we are not big fans of Ben Newell’s game. He has stretches of brilliance mixed in with a lot of inconsistency. Newell and Locklear beat the Johns brothers in Newport and proceeded to get smoked by Whitehead/Tardio.
If Locklear was suddenly on the Challenger radar because of his win against the Johns brothers, what does that mean for Newell who was his partner? Locklear may have a small edge because players haven’t seen him, but this is a surprising move for a team that’s biggest weakness was its Dreambreaker prowess. If you’re going to take a risk, why not Pesa Teoni? All of these fringe pro players are able to hang to a certain extent but, outside of that Johns win, Locklear’s doubles results are no better than any random fringe pro player you can find. This Atlanta team is solidly constructed and should still be competitive, but to go upside with a guy who doesn’t play any singles is dubious.
Bay Area Breakers – Add: Vivian Glozman, Drop: Rachel Summers
This drop was a necessity as Summers disclosed before the draft she was only available for 2 events. They got everything they could out of Summers and, despite all the moves, somehow Vivian Glozman falls to them. Glozman is out of the PNW and has a high end ceiling. She’s likely somewhat raw but she is a great choice here for Bay Area. They’ll have a ton of power with Radzikowska and Glozman, and if Glozman can hold up in mixed they might be able to sneak enough wins out of her to still be a contender. This is a steal at the last draft spot for Bay Area, in our opinions.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and also make sure you subscribe to our newsletter for fresh content!