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WNBA 2022 mock draft: Projecting every pick in Rounds 1-3

Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard (Saul Young – USA TODAY NETWORK)

An NCAA champion has been crowned, bringing an end to the college basketball season, and the official list of players declaring for the WNBA Draft is in.

Before teams make their selections on Monday night, with the event being held in person in New York City and airing live on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET, Just Women’s Sports projects how every team will draft in the first, second and third rounds based on franchise needs and player fits. Be sure to check out our big board of the top 50 prospects in the draft class, and away we go!

Round 1

1. Atlanta Dream

Rhyne Howard, G, Kentucky

The Mystics had several directions they could have gone with this No. 1 pick, including using it as trade bait in the type of deal they made Wednesday with Atlanta. The Dream, who sent the No. 3 and No. 14 picks to Washington as part of the trade, are now in a position to add the best overall player and fit for the franchise. Howard is the most talented guard in this class and, at 6-foot-2, she has an elite skill set that can quickly translate to the pros.

Howard showcased her talents during the SEC tournament last month, leading the Wildcats to their first conference championship in 40 years while averaging 22 points and shooting 48 percent from the field. She makes the game look effortless at times. The Dream gave up quite a bit to target a specific player at the top of the board, and Howard fits the mold of a cornerstone the franchise can build around.

2. Indiana Fever

NaLyssa Smith, F, Baylor

If Smith falls to No. 2, she seems like a no-brainer for the rebuilding Fever. The 6-foot-3 forward was a walking double-double for Baylor and one of the most effective rebounders in the country, averaging 22.1 points and 11.5 rebounds this past season. Smith is the type of competitive forward and impact player the Fever desperately need on their roster to rebound from five straight losing seasons.

Smith has expanded her game and showcased her versatility, switching from a more traditional low-block role to one where she can face up, attack off the bounce and knock down mid-range jumpers. Her ability to run the floor and finish at the rim in transition is elite and will fit nicely into a pro setting. And while Smith has been playing the best basketball of her career in the past year, her raw potential is even more tantalizing.

3. Washington Mystics

Nyara Sabally, C/F, Oregon

The 6-5 forward has draft lottery potential due to her unique size and mobility in the paint combined with her ability to face up and stretch the floor. She has great vision as a passer and would be a strong match for the Mystics’ pick-and-roll action.

If Washington isn’t too concerned with her past knee injuries, Sabally has the potential to serve in a backup forward role right away behind the Mystics’ talented core and develop into an impact player for the future.

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Shakira Austin's stock rose during the season and SEC tournament. (Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

4. Indiana Fever

Shakira Austin, F/C, Ole Miss

Austin showcased her pro-ready frame and physicality during her standout senior season at Ole Miss. The Fever have to commit to investing in player development in order to turn around the franchise, and Austin is just that type of project.

The 6-5 Austin, capable of playing alongside another center, brings versatility to the post. She is an elite rebounder who can advance the ball herself in the open floor, and her ability to be a low-post and high-post threat is a rarity. With the Fever, Austin would likely have the chance to play and thrive early on in her career.

5. New York Liberty

Emily Engstler, G/F, Louisville

The Liberty have established something of a Louisville-to-New York pipeline over the years, and selecting Engstler here would also serve as a homecoming for the New York City native. Engstler’s edge makes her different from anyone else in this draft.

When she’s aggressive on offense, Engstler can score at all three levels, as evidenced by the 11.9 points per game and 37.2 3-point shooting percentage she averaged this season. Her instincts and length would be a game-changer for the Liberty on defense, where is also a strong rebounder at the guard position, having averaged 9.4 per game for Louisville. Engstler has the intangibles and willingness to shift roles and make plays for her team night in and night out.

6. Indiana Fever

Kierstan Bell, G, Florida Gulf Coast

With four picks in the first round, Indiana has an opportunity to add key pieces at nearly every position. Bell, as a big guard, can flat-out score the basketball. She has a pro skill set and a swagger that seem made for the WNBA. She will need to transition to a pure guard role after playing 1 through 5 in college.

Bell was one of the most prolific scorers in the country this season, averaging 22.8 points per game at FGCU. While those numbers can be attributed to the high volume of shots she took, she was also efficient from the floor, shooting 46.7 percent. While Bell will need to work on her 3-point shooting, after averaging 28.8 percent from beyond the arc this season, the Fever can add a pro-ready guard to go along with the size they picked up in the first two picks.

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Elissa Cunane starred on a talented NC State team during her NCAA career. (Lance King/Getty Images)

7. Dallas Wings

Elissa Cunane, C, NC State

With so much young talent on the roster, the Wings’ immediate needs are less clear, and you could certainly make an argument for more depth on the wing. But if Cunane is still on the table at No. 7, she’ll be hard to pass up. The Wings are in a position where they can take the best player on the board who adds to their competition in the post.

The 6-5 center averaged 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game while shooting an efficient 39.7 percent from beyond the arc during her career with the Wolfpack. Cunane’s ability to stretch the floor and shoot the 3 makes her a unique weapon for Dallas at the center position.

8. Minnesota Lynx

Sika Kone, F, Mali

The Lynx can begin to prepare for the post-Sylvia Fowles era in this draft by adding interior depth. They also have the option to stash an asset for the future, with more immediate salary cap concerns looming.

Kone, at 19 years old, is one of the youngest prospects in this draft class, but she stands out for her impressive international resume. The 6-3 forward has competed for Spar Gran Canaria in Spain and is a member of Mali’s national team. At the U19 World Cup in 2021, Kone averaged 19.7 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. She is explosive on the block and has a knack for the basketball, pursuing it at will. Kone is still very much coming into her own, but she has appealing long-term value for Minnesota.

9. Los Angeles Sparks

Rae Burrell, F/G, Tennessee

Burrell’s final season at Tennessee was hampered by a mid-season knee injury, but the 6-1 senior still showcased her potential during key moments of the season and into the NCAA Tournament. Burrell has the length and shooting ability the Sparks could covet for wing depth on their retooled roster. After averaging 12.3 points per game during the regular season, the guard elevated her play in the tournament with 17 points per game on 36 percent shooting across her final five contests.

As a junior in 2020-21, Burrell showed what she’s capable of when 100 percent healthy, averaging 16.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from 3.

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Destanni Henderson showed off her electric skill set during the NCAA final. (Bri Lewerke/Just Women's Sports)

10. Indiana Fever

Destanni Henderson, PG, South Carolina

Here we are again, as the Fever get to cast a wide net in this draft. So far in this exercise, they’ve added interior depth and a scoring guard, and now they need a point guard. Henderson’s performance in the national championship game certainly caught the attention of WNBA teams. She would bring speed and playmaking ability to an initial backup role, and have a real chance to compete for a starting spot down the road with her steady and confident play. Henderson does well in the pick-and-roll game and has been an efficient 3-point shooting threat, averaging 39.9 percent from deep this season for the No. 1 Gamecocks.

11. Las Vegas Aces

Naz Hillmon, F, Michigan

The Aces could go a number of different ways to fill holes on their roster, but if Hillmon is still on the board at No. 11, she is an obvious choice because of her motor. At 6-2, Hillmon is undersized for a traditional post player in the WNBA and has limited range offensively, but she’s made up for it so far with her work ethic and efficiency, having shot nearly 60 percent from the field during her career.

She is highly effective around the rim, capable of being in the right place at the right time for rebound and putbacks. To make an impact in the WNBA, Hillmon will likely need to play more of a 3/4 role and learn to score against taller defenders, and who better to learn those skills from than A’ja Wilson?

12. Connecticut Sun

KiKi Smith, G, Florida

The Sun are in a tough drafting position this year, since it’s unlikely they’ll be able to roster 12 players under the salary cap unless they make drastic cuts. Connecticut is in need of a mid-range scorer on the wing, and Smith could give them that in the future while not affecting their salary cap this season. Smith suffered a knee injury in the SEC tournament and will need more time to recover and rehab, giving Connecticut the option to draft her and suspend her contract for the season so it doesn’t count against the cap.

Offensively, Smith has a quick first step and hunts for opportunities to score. She has gotten better every year, learning to elevate her play in big moments and against top opponents. Her stock rose significantly as Florida went on a run this season largely on her shoulders before she got hurt.

Round 2

13. Minnesota Lynx

Veronica Burton, G, Northwestern

The Lynx could afford to add depth at the point guard position, and Burton would give them that and more. The 5-9 point guard put WNBA teams on notice during her junior year at Northwestern, and now she enters the draft as one of the best facilitating options in the class. Burton knows how to stuff a stat sheet, averaging 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, four steals and 6.4 assists this season. She is known for her above-average defense, work ethic and toughness, all of which are key elements for any WNBA franchise.

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Christyn Williams is a crafty scorer and playmaker. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

14. Washington Mystics

Christyn Williams, G, UConn

Williams is one of the most exciting players in the draft class in terms of her ability to play downhill in transition, and the Mystics could stand to add a dynamic guard to their roster. The 5-11 Williams averaged 14.2 points per game on 45.4 percent shooting from the field for the Huskies this season. She can score in bunches when she gets going and finds ways to impact the game on both ends of the floor. With her speed, she’s difficult to stop when she gets to the rim in the open court, and she is also tenacious on defense.

15. Atlanta Dream

Lorela Cubaj, F, Georgia Tech

Cubaj would bring both experience and competitiveness to the Dream, while not straying too far from the place where she became a college star. There’s a good chance she doesn’t fall this far, but the 6-4 forward is a tenacious defender with coveted size and strength to go along with an elite rebounding ability. While her offensive game still needs to expand, she was a consistent double-double contributor for Georgia Tech, averaging 10 points and 11.1 rebounds per game this season.

16. Los Angeles Sparks

Lexie Hull, G, Stanford

Hull’s draft stock has been on the rise, and if she were to fall this far into the second round, I don’t see how the Sparks can pass her up based on their short- and long-term needs. Hull has valuable length, a strong IQ and impressive shooting ability. Before the Final Four, Hull had been playing the best basketball of her career, elevating her scoring average to 22 points per game for Stanford in the NCAA Tournament.

17. Seattle Storm

Queen Egbo, F/C, Baylor

The Storm have always had success with long, highly athletic paint threats, and Egbo fits that bill with her aggressiveness on the glass and efficiency around the rim. At 6-3, she shot over 50 percent from the field during her collegiate career, and her rebounding numbers increased every season while at Baylor. Her activity around the rim and ability to disrupt opponents on defense are appealing attributes for any team, and especially the Storm as they build with an eye toward the future.

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Nia Clouden set multiple scoring records at Michigan State. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

18. Seattle Storm

Nia Clouden, G, Michigan State

Clouden, a high-octane scorer at Michigan State, could be an underrated player in this draft. Seattle is undergoing changes at the guard spot — after Jordin Canada left for the Sparks in free agency, Briann January signed a one-year deal and Sue Bird announced her intention to retire after this season — and Clouden could be a future asset there. She can initiate offense, play off the ball and manufacture points as well as any other player in the class.

19. Los Angeles Sparks

Aisha Sheppard, G, Virginia Tech

Sheppard is an experienced guard who is capable of scoring it in a multitude of ways, but her ability to stretch the floor is what sets her apart and is what the Sparks could look to add to their arsenal. A high-volume 3-point shooter who averaged 37 percent during her college career, she has also made big strides in her passing game.

20. Indiana Fever

Olivia Nelson-Ododa, F, UConn

With as many picks as Indiana has in this draft, zeroing in on size and depth in the post seems like the smartest approach. Nelson-Ododa, at 6-5, has the length and athleticism to be effective in the pick-and-roll and run the floor before creating separation to score at the rim. Defensively, she is disruptive with her rim protection in the lane, but she will need to get stronger to compete against WNBA bigs. Overall, Nelson-Ododa is at her best in the paint, which can be extremely valuable at the next level.

21. Seattle Storm

Joanne Allen-Taylor, G, Texas

As a reliable off-ball guard, Allen-Taylor would bring a defensive tenacity to the Storm, allowing them to slide players over and fill gaps within their rotation. Allen-Taylor is a capable scorer at all three levels, but it’s her toughness and competitiveness teams will be vying for this draft.

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Khayla Pointer had her best season under first-year LSU head coach Kim Mulkey. (John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

22. Minnesota Lynx

Khayla Pointer, G, LSU

Pointer is a highly experienced point guard who wants the ball in her hands and thrives in big moments. She makes up for her lack of size with her quickness, motor and determination. In addition to her two triple-doubles this season, Pointer led LSU with 19.6 points per game on 36 percent shooting from the 3-point line, the best mark of her NCAA career.

23. Las Vegas Aces

Evina Westbrook, G, UConn

Westbook has good size at the guard spot and a well-rounded skill set that should make her a versatile option at the next level. Westbrook was a consistent offensive weapon for the Huskies this season, averaging nine points, 3.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game through the regular season and NCAA Tournament. Her length, ability to facilitate and overall IQ should be appealing to any franchise looking for depth at the guard spot.

24. Connecticut Sun

Kianna Smith, G, Louisville

We know the Sun are in the market for shooters and scoring guards, and Smith is one of the purest shooters in the class. Her arsenal also isn’t just limited to 3-pointers, which she made at a 36.7 percent clip this season. The experienced 6-foot guard helped Louisville to the Final Four by scoring in a number of ways, averaging 12 points per game on 37 percent shooting from the field this season.

Round 3

25. Indiana Fever: Maya Dodson, F, Notre Dame

26. Phoenix Mercury: Mya Hollingshed, F, Colorado

27. Los Angeles Sparks: Chloe Bibby, G/F, Maryland

28. Minnesota Lynx: Macee Williams, C, IUPUI

29. New York Liberty: Jasmine Dickey, G/F, Delaware

30. Dallas Wings: Faustine Aifuwa, C, LSU

31. Dallas Wings: Hannah Sjerven, C, South Dakota

32. Phoenix Mercury: Jordan Lewis, G, Baylor

33. Seattle Storm: Jenna Staiti, C, Georgia

34. Indiana Fever: Ali Patberg, G, Indiana

35. Las Vegas Aces: Kayla Wells, G, Texas A&M

36. Connecticut Sun: Chloe Lamb, G, South Dakota

Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at Just Women’s Sports. A former professional basketball player and collegiate coach, she also contributes to Winsidr. Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachGall.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

Chicago Sky Upset New York to End Liberty’s Unbeaten Streak

chicago sky's angel reese on the court against new york liberty
Angel Reese registered a near double-double against a strong Liberty side. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Liberty’s unbeaten streak came to an end on Thursday as Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky got the upset win over New York with a final score of 90-81. 

Angel Reese stood out with a near double-double, registering 13 points and nine rebounds. She’s currently the only rookie this season to exceed 10 points in her first three games, and the first player in Sky history to begin their career with three consecutive double-digit scoring games, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The outcome may not have come as a surprise to Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who sung Reese’s praises ahead of the game.

"She’s a workhorse," Stewart told The Post. "She doesn’t stop. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s tough to box out and good at cleaning up for her team offensively and defensively."

"I feel like she’s an energizer bunny," Jones added. "She doesn’t stop moving, she doesn’t stop crashing the boards. Just someone that is gonna be relentless in her approach to getting to the glass and playing tough."

It was the first time Chicago has met New York this season. The game was especially meaningful for new Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who led the Liberty for seven years as a player and joined the team's Ring of Honor in 2011.

"This place means a lot to me... I played in that jersey, I adored that jersey, I adored every player that I had an opportunity to play with. The love that I received even today was overwhelming," Weatherspoon reflected after the game.

Following the win, Sky guard Dana Evans had some kind words for her coach.

"I mean, it's just special. She's special," Evans said. "She just breeds confidence in each and every one of us. We love her. We just wanted to go so hard and play hard for her, and I feel like this one was really for her. We really wanted this for her more than anything."

Thursday's victory brings Chicago's record to 2-1, a somewhat unlikely feat given that their offseason featured starter Kahleah Copper getting traded to Phoenix. The Connecticut Sun are now the only undefeated team left in the league this season, and will formidable foes for the Sky as they take their winning streak on the road to Chicago this weekend.

New USWNT Coach Emma Hayes Embracing the Challenge

United States Women's Head Coach Emma Hayes
The ex-Chelsea skipper has officially arrived in the US — now it's time to get down to business. (USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Emma Hayes has officially begun her tenure as USWNT manager ahead of the team’s June friendlies.

Hayes made the rounds on Thursday, appearing on the Today Show and speaking with select media about her goals and underlying principles with the team. It’s a quick turnaround for the decorated coach, who just won the WSL with Chelsea last weekend.

One thing that she won’t do, however, is shy away from the high expectations that come with managing the US. The squad is looking to reinstate its winning reputation at the Paris Olympics this summer following a disappointing World Cup in 2023. 

"I know the challenge ahead of me. There is no denying there is a gap between the US and the rest of the world," she told ESPN. "We have to acknowledge that winning at the highest level isn't what it was 10 years ago. It's a completely different landscape. And my focus is going to be on getting the performances required to play at a high level against the very best nations in the world."

While Hayes was formally hired six months ago to lead the USWNT, her deal stipulated that she remain with Chelsea through the conclusion of their season. In her stead, Twila Kilgore has led the team, with the coach "drip feeding subliminal messages" to the roster on Hayes’s behalf.

"It's a bit ass-upwards," Hayes joked to reporters. "I know about the staff, and the team, and the structure behind it. We got all of that. Now it's time, I need to be with the team."

With Olympics now just two months away, Hayes dropped hints this week regarding her thought process behind building the roster, saying there’s still time for players to make their case.

"You can't go to an Olympics with a completely inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16th," she said on the Today Show.

"What I can say from my time [in the US] is, I've always loved the attitude towards performance and the expectation to give everything you've got," she later affirmed to reporters.

And as for winning gold?

"I'm never gonna tell anyone to not dream about winning," she added. "But… we have to go step by step, and focus on all the little processes that need to happen so we can perform at our best level.

"I will give it absolutely everything I've got to make sure I uphold the traditions of this team."

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