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2021 WNBA mock draft: Projecting all 12 first-round picks

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 17 Women's West Virginia at Texas
Texas Longhorns forward Charli Collier (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The second-annual virtual WNBA Draft is here. The event, airing Thursday on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET, will start the clock toward the 32-game regular season, which begins May 14 with four primetime matchups.

This draft class isn’t as deep as last year’s – when eventual Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield went to Minnesota in the second round – but the first round should see many big names from the college game go off the board.

As expected, the Dallas Wings traded one of their four first-round picks before draft night, sending the No. 7 pick and a 2022 second-round pick to Los Angeles for the Sparks’ 2022 first-rounder on Wednesday. The Wings had the cap space to sign all four of their first-round picks ($268,389, the most in the league according to Her Hoops Stats), but not enough roster space to keep them without making cuts. They also have the youngest roster in the WNBA and could stand to add a veteran before the season starts.

1. Dallas Wings: Charli Collier, F/C, Texas

Collier going No. 1 overall was presumed even before the Liberty dealt the top pick in a series of trades in February. The 6-foot-5 Texas product wasn’t as dominant in the NCAA Tournament as some would expect for a projected top pick, but she has all the physical tools for a WNBA team to mold into an elite frontcourt talent.

2. Dallas Wings: Awak Kuier, PF, Finland

Speaking of ceiling, Kuier might have the highest among all of this year’s draft prospects. The rangy 6-5 forward has starred on Finland’s senior national team since she was 16 years old and has made dunking look easy (as evidenced below). The potential of Dallas’ frontcourt would soar with Kuier and Collier joining 2020 first-round draft picks Satou Sabally and Bella Alarie.

3. Atlanta Dream: Aari McDonald, PG, Arizona

Atlanta gave up 87.6 points per game last season, the second-worst in the WNBA. Aari McDonald’s draft stock has shot up since she led the Wildcats to the national championship game and averaged 24.8 points over six games in the NCAA Tournament. Her offensive abilities are well-known, but she’s also an underrated defender. The Dream would benefit from the full package.

4. Indiana Fever: Rennia Davis, SF, Tennessee

The only team worse defensively than the Dream last season was Indiana, who allowed nearly 90 points per game. Davis is just the type of two-way player who would give the Fever’s defense an immediate boost and be an off-the-ball scoring asset for point guard Julie Allemand, one of the WNBA’s top distributors.

5. Dallas Wings: Dana Evans, PG, Louisville

If McDonald is already off the board, the Wings would be hard-pressed to pass on Evans, the 2021 first-team All-American and engine behind Louisville’s Elite Eight run. With Evans running the point, Dallas could move WNBA-leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale to her more natural position of shooting guard and pick apart defenses.

6. New York Liberty: Arella Guirantes, SG, Rutgers

Guirantes is a proven scorer at the NCAA level who would fit right in on her hometown team. The Long Island native improved her 3-point shooting in her past two seasons at Rutgers to go along with her efficiency in the paint. She would give the Liberty another immediate scoring weapon in the backcourt next to Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney.

7. Los Angeles Sparks: Jasmine Walker, PF, Alabama (acquired from Dallas)

A player with Walker’s upside at the power forward position makes a lot of sense for any team with the seventh pick. Walker can beat defenses by doing a little bit of everything, including hitting her shots from 3-point range (she connected on 39.8 percent of them as a senior).

8. Chicago Sky: Chelsea Dungee, SG, Arkansas

Chicago would have good reason for selecting a point guard with this pick — veteran starter Courtney Vandersloot is an unrestricted free agent after this season. But if the Sky are intent on winning now, especially after adding Candace Parker in free agency, Dungee (who averaged 22.3 points per game this past season), would provide an immediate scoring punch.

9. Minnesota Lynx: Kiana Williams, PG, Stanford

A team that could use a point guard now to back up second-year player Crystal Dangerfield is Minnesota, and Williams is the type of player to whom Cheryl Reeve would likely feel comfortable handing the keys. Williams led the Cardinal in scoring, at 14.0 points per game, and was the de facto leader of the national champions.

10. Los Angeles Sparks: Michaela Onyenwere, SF, UCLA

If the Sparks hadn’t signed center Amanda Zahui B. in free agency, I could have seen them taking Natasha Mack with this pick. But if Derek Fisher is looking for a multi-tool player to develop and fit into his system, Onyenwere makes a lot of sense. The 6-foot forward has the ability to create her own shot and do damage on the defensive end.

11. Seattle Storm: Natasha Mack, PF, Oklahoma State

If Mack falls to No. 11, the reigning WNBA champions will have struck gold with the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. She led the NCAA in blocked shots, with 4.0 per game, and averaged a double-double of 19.8 points and 12.4 rebounds as a senior. Having Mack back up Breanna Stewart? That’s a scary possibility for WNBA opponents.

12. Las Vegas Aces: DiJonai Carrington, SG, Baylor

Any additions to the Aces’ already stacked roster are a bonus. Carrington is the type of WNBA-ready guard who could be an asset off the bench for the reigning WNBA finalists, helping to keep Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Angel McCoughtry fresh. The 5-11 Baylor transfer averaged 14.1 points per game and proved her value with a 22-point performance against UConn in the Elite Eight.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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