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WNBA 2023 mock draft: What every team needs in Round 1

South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston (Gerry Melendez/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The 2023 WNBA Draft Lottery took place last week, setting the draft order just as the NCAA women’s basketball season gets underway. It’s never too early to start analyzing WNBA teams’ needs and the pro potential of top college prospects.

While the next versions of this could look very different based on changes to the draft order and players’ stock rising and falling, our first-round mock draft will serve as a starting point. So, let’s have some fun with it.

Note: This mock draft is taking into account draft-eligible student-athletes. It is unknown right now who will declare for the 2023 WNBA Draft and who will opt to use their fifth year of NCAA eligibility.

1. Indiana Fever

Aliyah Boston, F, South Carolina

Indiana couldn’t have secured the first No. 1 draft pick in franchise history at a better time. The Fever are still in the midst of a full-fledged rebuild, most recently naming longtime WNBA assistant Christie Sides as their next head coach.

Indiana could use franchise talent at any position to build around for the future. Assuming the reigning National and Defensive Player of the Year Aliyah Boston declares for this year’s draft, she is the clear No. 1 pick. The South Carolina forward is a generational talent with her combination of size, offensive and defensive impact and experience.

At 6-foot-5, Boston makes everyone around her better, requiring opponents to game-plan specifically for her night in and night out. She is an elite rebounder, especially on the offensive glass. She is also an efficient shooter even when facing double and triple teams, shooting nearly 77 percent from the field through the first two games this season and 55 percent from the field for her career.

2. Minnesota Lynx

Elizabeth Kitley, C, Virginia Tech

The Lynx will look to retool this offseason as they turn the page from the Sylvia Fowles era. This is a pivotal moment for Minnesota, who scored big with the No. 2 pick in the lottery. The direction they take with this pick will follow them for years to come, and what they need most is an interior presence in the post, followed by a point guard.

If Elizabeth Kitley declares for the draft, Minnesota would be remiss not to seriously consider the center. Kitley brings versatility and efficiency on offense, length at 6-6 and strong rebounding instincts. She arguably is the most skilled of any post player in this class with her ability to play with her back to the basket, face up and attack off the dribble, and advance the ball in the open court. She can also stretch the floor with an improved 3-point shot. Kitley offers the full package that WNBA teams covet.

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Stanford's Haley Jones embodies the evolution toward positionless basketball. (James Snook/USA TODAY Sports)

3. Atlanta Dream

Haley Jones, G, Stanford

The Dream could certainly afford to add a dominant forward this offseason, but I think they’re better off fulfilling that need in free agency. Their next area of concern is the backcourt after the team finished last in the league in assists per game last season.

Haley Jones is in a category of her own with her combination of size, athleticism, versatility, court vision and basketball IQ. While it is too early in the season to evaluate how much she has improved her perimeter shooting, Jones’ assist numbers have increased every season she’s been at Stanford, with the senior averaging 3.8 through five games this season. She has great instincts and can defend any position on the floor.

4. Washington Mystics

Diamond Miller, G, Maryland

Newly named head coach Eric Thibault said in his introductory press conference that he intends for the Mystics to play with more pace and space on both offense and defense next season. Diamond Miller is exactly the type of two-way player who can thrive in that system.

Miller has the rare blend of length, as a 6-3 guard, and athleticism that can fit into any WNBA offensive scheme. She’s used to playing in a high-paced offense under Brenda Frese at Maryland, averaging 17.3 points, 2.3 assists and two steals while shooting a career-best 36.4 percent from beyond the arc. Miller’s future hinges on her consistency after she missed the majority of her junior season with a knee injury. If Miller can stay healthy and continue to showcase her unique skill set, she has the potential to be a home-run for any franchise in this draft class.

5. Chicago Sky

Ashley Joens, G/F, Iowa State

It is difficult to predict what exactly the Sky’s needs are this early in the offseason, but roster change feels imminent. Most of the Sky’s core players are unrestricted free agents, and there is always the possibility that 14-year veteran Allie Quigley retires.

Chicago is going to need scoring, versatility and high IQ to replace the skill they might lose. Ashley Joens fits that mold well as a tough fifth-year guard who brings high-level experience, a nonstop motor, competitiveness and versatile scoring abilities. The 6-1 guard has averaged over 20 points per game and 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc her last four seasons in Ames.

While Joens has been one of the most offensively prolific scorers in the country for years, she impacts the game in a multitude of ways. She is a strong rebounder from the guard spot, she can take advantage of mismatches while playing with her back to the basket, and she has great vision as a passer and an elite understanding of the game. Joens is rarely rattled on the court, and she would be a great addition to a Sky roster that might be in rebuild mode.

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Jacy Sheldon does it all for Ohio State on the offensive and defensive ends. (Joseph Scheller/USA TODAY Sports)

6. New York Liberty

Jacy Sheldon, G, Ohio State

The Liberty were able to piece together their backcourt last season to give Sabrina Ionescu the ability to play off the ball, but now they’re tasked with finding a more permanent solution and depth for the future.

Jacy Sheldon is a versatile scorer who can play on or off the ball and does a good job of reading what the defense gives her. The 5-10 guard is a career 35 percent 3-point shooter and is an efficient finisher at the rim, an area where the Liberty struggled last season. While Sheldon might take some time to adjust to the speed and physicality of the WNBA game, she is tough enough to compete on the defensive end, currently leading the nation with 8.5 steals per game. Sheldon could be just the complementary piece the Liberty need for Ionescu to take the franchise to the next level.

7. Indiana Fever

Grace Berger, G, Indiana

The Fever’s future is promising with a roster full of young, skilled talent, but they still have holes to fill. Indiana struggled to take care of the basketball, score efficiently and defend last season, making room for a poised combo guard who can help bring all the talent on this roster together.

Fifth-year guard Grace Berger has been a consistent leader and calming presence for the rising Hoosiers, with the ability to process the game three steps ahead. Berger can play on or off the ball as a complementary guard, and she can create for others, averaging a career-high 5.7 assists through three games this season. At 6-1, she has the size, strength and athleticism to make the jump to the pros. Berger is smooth off the dribble and can create space for herself with an elite mid-range pull-up. She’ll need to continue to work on her perimeter shot, but she would be a piece to the puzzle that this Fever roster does not currently have.

8. Atlanta Dream

Rickea Jackson, F, Tennessee

I would be surprised if the Dream ended up keeping this pick. It’s more likely that they include it in a trade package for a top free agent, but if they don’t, they could use it for additional depth at the forward position.

If Rickea Jackson fell to No. 8, Atlanta would be hard-pressed to pass on her. Jackson can go get her own shot, averaging 16.2 points per game during her college career and a career-best 7.7 rebounds per game this season. With a quick first step toward the rim, she’s tough to defend off the dribble. As more of a natural wing, she has the size and skill to expose mismatches and play in an up-tempo, pro-style system.

Jackson’s time at Mississippi State was plagued by head coaching changes. The extent to which she buys in and evolves under Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper this season will determine how teams evaluate her. If she can fine-tune certain areas of her game and improve her defense, I see no reason for her not to be one of the top prospects in this class.

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Dyaisha Fair transferred to Syracuse with her head coach after a prolific three years at UB. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

9. Seattle Storm

Dyaisha Fair, G, Syracuse

Assuming the Storm don’t use this pick in a trade for a veteran, they could clearly use depth at the point guard position in the wake of Sue Bird’s retirement. While time will tell how well Dyaisha Fair transitions from the MAC to the ACC this season, she has the potential to be the most dynamic guard in the 2023 draft class.

Fair can flat-out score the basketball, tallying over 2,000 points in three seasons at the University at Buffalo and averaging 20-plus points per game since she was a freshman. She is a shifty guard with a high motor who also impacts the game on the other end of the floor as a pesky on-ball defender. She can create for herself and score at all three levels, shooting a career-best 37 percent from the field her junior year. At just 5-5, Fair has also averaged 4.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game for her career.

10. Connecticut Sun

Aijha Blackwell, G/F, Baylor

It’s the end of an era in Connecticut, where the roster could look vastly different next season. Regardless of the changes to come, it seems safe to assume the Sun will need depth at the wing/forward position.

Aijha Blackwell is one of the most elite rebounders in the country with her power and explosiveness to the glass. With a pro-ready frame, she gets to the free-throw line often and can defend anywhere on the court. At 6-0, Blackwell has been a bit of a tweener during her college career, primarily playing forward. Her ability to shift over to the wing permanently will be crucial to her WNBA draft stock, but Blackwell has all the tools to make the change. She can handle the ball in the open court, be aggressive in transition, finish through contact and score at three levels. While her full-time perimeter transition could take time, she’ll be one of the most sought-after prospects in the draft because of her upside.

11. Dallas Wings

Stephanie Soares, F/C, Iowa State

Depending on how free agency shakes out, there is a good chance the Wings add size and depth in the paint. That leads me to my surprise pick in Stephanie Soares.

Players with Soares’ skill set don’t come around very often. At 6-6, she can protect the rim with her size and athleticism while also stretching the floor with a 3-point shot. Through her first three games with the No. 7 Cyclones this season, she is averaging 15.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 2.3 assists. Teams will continue to evaluate how the two-time NAIA Player of the Year’s game translates to the physicality of the Big 12, but Soares has the potential to be a hidden gem for first-year head coach Latricia Trammell if the Wings can be patient with her development.

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Charisma Osborne is off to a hot start with UCLA this season. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

12. Minnesota Lynx

Charisma Osborne, G, UCLA

The Lynx can’t afford to have a bad offseason — the moves they make in the next six months will define their trajectory for years to come. After securing elite size, length and skill in Kitley, Minnesota has a chance to cure their backcourt woes by adding a point guard with this pick.

Osborne can play on or off the ball, has the size and speed needed for the WNBA and is one of the most efficient guards in the class when attacking off the dribble. She can also make defenses respect her from the perimeter as a career 33-percent 3-point shooter. Osborne seems to be on a mission early in her senior year with UCLA, averaging career-highs in points (20.3) and rebounds (10.7) per game.

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.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrives in DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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