The WNBA Draft is underway from New York City on Monday night. With each selection, prospects will learn where they’re continuing their professional basketball careers next season.
Just Women’s Sports analyst Rachel Galligan will share her thoughts on each pick as the event unfolds. Check back in throughout the first, second and third rounds for updated analysis on draft night.
For more on the prospects and WNBA teams’ needs, check out Rachel’s full WNBA mock draft and Top 50 big board.
1. Atlanta Dream: Rhyne Howard, G, Kentucky
The Atlanta Dream make it official! They had their eyes on one specific player who they felt could be a pillar of their franchise and traded up for that. Howard has pro-ready skill, size and potential and provides the type of impact player Atlanta can build around for the coming years. The 6-foot-2 guard has showcased her versatility and scoring ability at all three levels during her time at Kentucky. Howard averaged 20.1 points, 2.9 assists and 6.9 rebounds this season.
2. Indiana Fever: NaLyssa Smith, F, Baylor
The Fever secured a franchise player who easily could have gone No. 1. At 6-foot-4, Smith has been dominant during her time at Baylor and has yet to hit her ceiling, averaging 15.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. She has continued to expand her game and skill set every year and the sky’s the limit what she can do for the retooling Fever. She can play with her back to the basket, face up and attack off the dribble, knock down the mid range jumper and run the floor in transition.
3. Washington Mystics: Shakira Austin, F, Ole Miss
Shakira Austin’s length, power, strength and potential is scary! She can not only make an immediate impact on a roster, but she has the potential and confidence in herself to continue to be developed. Offensively, has she hasn’t even come close to the type of player she can become with her back-to-the-basket and face-up game. Austin wowed us at the SEC tournament in particular, where she showed out in front of nearly every WNBA GM and head coach.
4. Indiana Fever: Emily Engstler, G/F, Louisville
Fever general manager Lin Dunn wanted defensive tenacity, and that is exactly what she got in this pick. Engstler is a swiss army knife in terms of what she can bring to the floor and her competitiveness goes unmatched. She can score, defend, rebound and possesses phenomenal basketball instincts. The Fever immediately have a vital weapon in Engstler who brings an edge and passion on both ends of the floor. The Fever are off to a phenomenal start for 2022!
5. New York Liberty: Nyara Sabally, F, Oregon
Sabally has the potential to be one of the most impressive picks out of this draft. She has great vision and passing ability at 6-foot-5. She plays very well out of the pick and roll, which is a great asset for the next level. If she can stay healthy, remain consistent and continue to develop, her potential is really fun to think about. She has been efficient during her career at Oregon, shooting 51.9 percent and averaging 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds this season.
6. Indiana Fever: Lexie Hull, G, Stanford
OKAY!!!!!!! We have our first big-time shocker with Hull going at No. 6. Hull showcased her skill set, length and IQ extremely well during the NCAA tournament, where her stock really rose. The Fever clearly value her poise and shooting ability and what she can bring to a young rebuilding team. Hull might struggle with the physicality but has the IQ and work ethic to face that curve. You have to wonder: Could the Fever have gotten Hull at No. 10? Maybe they didn’t want to risk it.
7. Dallas Wings: Veronica Burton, G, Northwestern
A complete stat stuffer and the type of player who is a tireless worker and brings a tremendous amount of toughness. Burton has the tools and mindset to be the future in terms of top WNBA point guards. Burton led the country in steals this year at 4.0 per game and Wings coach Vickie Johnson feels this team has got to improve on the defensive end of the floor. Burton does just that.
8. Las Vegas Aces: Mya Hollingshed, F, Colorado
Big surprise here and probably the biggest in the draft so far. Hollingshed’s potential and length is what is appealing to the Aces. Hollingshed has worked really hard to become a more efficient shooter from beyond the arc, averaging 38.8 percent from 3-point range this season. She has elite athleticism and agility at 6-foot-3. While the physicality is going to be a concern, clearly the Aces do not feel that is as big of a concern given her upside.
9. Los Angeles Sparks: Rae Burrell, G/F, Tennessee
The Sparks look at this draft as a chance to improve depth and shooting ability on the wing. Burrell is a long guard capable of really shooting the basketball and stretching the floor forcing defenses to open up the paint for their dominant post players. A healthy Burrell is exciting to think about and she is versatile, but she struggled with lingering injuries this season. At 6-foot-1, Burrell has the length to play wing and make plays on defense as well. A big wing is always sought after in the WNBA.
10. Indiana Fever: Queen Egbo, F, Baylor
The Fever have certainly loaded up in the paint this draft. Egbo is an elite athlete and brings a level of rebound and rim protection the Fever can utilize in the interior. She has a great amount of mobility and could be used to switch and be disruptive defensively. While her offensive skillet can continue to improve, Egbo has been highlight efficient around the basket shooting 51.5 percent during her collegiate career.
11. Las Vegas Aces: Kierstan Bell, G, FGCU
One of the most prolific scorers in this draft. Bell has an elite scoring mentality and has the tools to play 2-4 in this league. She can come in and backup the guards in Las Vegas, she can expose mismatches on the block with her size and strength and she comes from a pro system out of Florida Gulf Coast. Bell thrives in high pressure situations and showing out when she has the chance. She will need to continue to expand on her defensive presence on the floor, but the Aces added a player with confidence, swag and a willing ability to work to translate her game to the WNBA.
12. Connecticut Sun: Nia Clouden, G, Michigan State
Connecticut adds a combo guard here with ability to shoot the three, which is an area the Sun desperately needed shooting 40% this season. Clouden feels a bit overlooked in this draft but can completely stuff the stat sheet. She has a scoring mentality, ability to play in the pick and roll and be a versatile guard who can score at all three levels. The issue lies in the Sun’s cap space and ability to add picks to their already talented roster- who can Clouden beat out to make the team?
13. Las Vegas Aces: Khayla Pointer, PG, LSU
It’s just so poetic with Pointer going to play for her aunt Nikki Fargas, who was also her former coach at LSU. Pointer had two triple-doubles this season, and coach Kim Mulkey often mentioned the point guard as an overlooked talent. Pointer is competitive and she does not shy away from big moments. She has a shot to really compete for a backup point guard spot for the Aces — especially since they just waived Destiny Slocum.
14. Washington Mystics: Christyn Williams, G, UConn
Williams has played at a high level for UConn the last four years. When Williams is knocking down shots, she can have a significant impact on the game. With her speed, she’s difficult to stop when getting to the rim in the open court and is tenacious on defense. Williams is a flashy and exciting player to watch who adds a highly skilled option for Washington at the guard spot.
15. Atlanta Dream: Naz Hillmon, F, Michigan
I just love Naz Hillmon and the toughness she has. Naz has one of the best motors in this draft class as a scorer and rebounder. Hillmon is highly efficient around the rim, she is consistent and she can rebound. She has averaged a double-double the last two seasons in the Big Ten. Atlanta adds an undersized post who will need to continue to learn to stretch the floor and expand her offensive game beyond the paint. Hillmon brings the intangibles and toughness anyone would be lucky to coach in this league.
16. Los Angeles Sparks: Kianna Smith, G, Louisville
I love this pick for the Sparks as they add a solid guard who comes from a great program in Louisville. When we talk about long guards who can shoot, Kianna Smith could very easily be a steal in this draft for Los Angeles as one of the best pure shooters in the class.
17. Seattle Storm: Elissa Cunane, C, NC State
Seattle needs depth in the paint and the fact Cunane fell this far is a shock to me. At 6-foot-5, Cunane has gone against some of the best posts in the country during her career and is one of the most consistent players in the draft. Cunane can stretch the floor and shoot the three; she went 40 percent from behind the arc for her collegiate career.
18. Seattle Storm: Lorela Cubaj, F, Georgia Tech
After being selected by the Storm, Cubaj was dealt to the Liberty in exchange for the New York’s 2023 second-round pick. Cubaj is a great defender and veteran forward who can come to New York and compete as a pro because of her work ethic and passion. At 6-foot-4, Cubaj is a high-post threat whose vision and IQ make her an effective passer. She can face up, take defenders off the bounce and create separation with her shot. She needs to continue to expand her offensive game.
19. Los Angeles Sparks: Olivia Nelson-Ododa, F, UConn
The Sparks got themselves a long, versatile forward who has potential to thrive in the WNBA down the road. She comes from a phenomenal program and at 6-foot-5, she runs the floor, rebounds and brings a young forward who will challenge this team in training camp.
20. Indiana Fever: Destanni Henderson, PG, South Carolina
I’m shocked Henderson fell this far down the draft board, but it is a phenomenal pick up for the Fever. Henderson showed out in the national championship game and has the poise and speed to be effective at the next level. As the floor general for the No. 1 team in the country, Henderson does a great job of controlling the pace and setting up the offense with strong decision-making. She has the quickness and agility to get to the rim with ease, fitting the mold of a pick-and-roll player at the next level.
21. Seattle Storm: Evina Westbrook, G, UConn
Westbrook has good size at guard and a well-rounded skill set that should make her a versatile option at the next level. She has a good amount of experience and would be a viable option for any team looking for depth and competition at the guard spot in camp.
22. Minnesota Lynx: Kayla Jones, F, NC State
A good late option at the forward spot for the Lynx, who face similar cap space situations as Connecticut. Jones averaged 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and shot 48 percent from the field for NC State.
23. Las Vegas Aces: Aisha Sheppard, G, Virginia Tech
Las Vegas gets sharpshooting and an efficient 3-point threat in Sheppard. Her game evolved and she showcased her versatility this year at Virginia Tech.
24. Connecticut Sun: Jordan Lewis, G, Baylor
Lewis is a veteran guard who will compete in training camp. She can facilitate, makes sound decisions and has really strong vision. But again, it will be very, very difficult to make the Suns roster for any of these picks.
25. Indiana Fever: Ameshya Williams-Holliday, C, Jackson State
26. Phoenix Mercury: Maya Dodson, F, Notre Dame
Dodson played some of the best basketball of her career for the Irish this season. The 6-foot-3 forward is another solid late-round pickup for the Mercury, and she has yet to hit her ceiling with her frame, strength and athleticism.
27. Los Angeles Sparks: Amy Atwell, F, Hawai’i
A long forward with wing potential at the next level, which is exactly what the Sparks have been looking for, Atwell averaged 17.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and shot 38 percent from beyond the 3-point line for Hawai’i this season.
28. Minnesota Lynx: Hannah Sjerven, F, South Dakota
Sjerven and her South Dakota squad wowed us during the NCAA tournament with their Sweet 16 run. Sjerven averaged 12.8 points and 6.9 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field. While cracking the Lynx roster will be tough, she is a nice post option in camp as Minnesota looks to the future.
29. New York Liberty: Sika Kone, F, Mali
Many had Kone going in the first round, so it is a bit surprising she fell this far down, but there are so many question marks sometimes surrounding international players. The late selection will spur questions on Kone’s availability and health in the coming months.
30. Dallas Wings: Jasmine Dickey, G, Delaware
Dickey is an elite scoring guard who can go into Dallas and challenge the Wings’ young and highly talented roster. Given a shot, Dickey could surprise some people.
31. Dallas Wings: Jazz Bond, F, North Florida
32. Phoenix Mercury: Macee Williams, C, IUPUI
I’m so happy for IUPUI and the dominant career Williams has had. With so much uncertainty swirling around Phoenix’s post players, Williams could be a pleasant surprise in camp. The four-time Horizon League player of the year had one of the most dominant collegiate careers in the country during her five years at IUPUI. The 6-foot-2 forward averaged a double-double this year at 18.7 points and 10.7 rebounds and is one of the most efficient players on the board, shooting 64-percent from the field, which ranked fifth in the country.
33. Seattle Storm: Jade Melbourne, G, Australia
A young, promising guard, the 5-foot-10 Melbourne is a member of the Australian national team and an impressive scorer. Keep your eye on her.
34. Indiana Fever: Ali Patberg, G, Indiana
Patberg stays home in Indiana, which makes me so happy. The veteran guard has been deeply rooted in the state of Indiana her entire career, so it’s just perfect that she will get a shot to make the Fever’s roster. Patberg is poised, smart, experienced and has a phenomenal work ethic.
35. Las Vegas Aces: Faustine Aifuwa, C, LSU
Nikki Fargas loves her people! For the second time this draft, an LSU product reunites with her former coach. Aifuwa has size, rim protection and a powerful body that should allow her to compete in camp.
36. Connecticut Sun: Kiki Smith, G, Florida
Smith is an elite guard who has shown time and time again her ability to elevate her play in big moments. This is a steal for the Sun. I can only imagine her late selection is due to her knee injury, which leaves her unable to play in the upcoming WNBA season. But that is a plus for the Sun, who are in a cap bind.
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.