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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.