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WNBA draft lottery: What each team needs from its pick

Destanni Henderson and the Indiana Fever have secured the No. 1 overall pick. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Indiana Fever, Minnesota Lynx, Atlanta Dream and Washington Mystics will have the top four picks in the 2023 draft, in that order.

Aliyah Boston is likely to be the No. 1 pick, but each team has very different personnel needs. Here’s what the teams should look for come draft night.

Indiana Fever

The Fever have the No. 1 pick, and they also have the most holes to fill.

The team finished last season in last place in the league, with a 5-31 record, and parted ways with coach Marianne Stanley just nine games into the year.

Christie Sides was named the new head coach on Nov. 4. But a new coach doesn’t change the overall outlook of this team. Indiana did well in last season’s draft, picking up NaLyssa Smith, Emily Engslter, Destanni Henderson, Queen Egbo and Lexie Hull. In total, the Fever had seven rookies on their 12-player roster.

This team has solid young players, but what they need more than anything is experience. Right now, the best strategy for the Fever is to draft the best available player rather than trying to decide what gaps to fill, since there are so many. In the next couple of seasons, a clearer picture of their identity will emerge, but for now, they can’t afford to pass on the best player on the board.

Minnesota Lynx

There can’t be a discussion about what the Lynx need without talking about what they lost. After 15 seasons, two WNBA titles, two Finals MVPs and plenty of other accolades, Sylvia Fowles retired from the league at the end of the 2022 campaign.

The Lynx will be hard-pressed to replace her, and there isn’t a one-for-one replacement for a player as talented as Fowles. But the Lynx will need some kind of post presence, whether they get that in the draft or through free agency. The Lynx were an excellent rebounding team last year, but a lot of that was because of Fowles and her 9.8 boards per game.

Napheesa Collier will be back next season, so she will serve as the team’s centerpiece. But after that, they need a little bit of everything. Collier is an excellent playmaker that can benefit from having shooters around her, and the Lynx also need to step up their defense – Minnesota gave up 102.5 points per 100 possessions, ranking 10th in the league.

In other words, the Lynx have a lot of issues to work out besides simply finding someone to try and replace Fowles. Because of that, they should choose the best available player.

Shakira Austin and Rhyne Howard were selected with the No. 3 and No. 1 overall picks in 2022, respectively. (Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Atlanta Dream

The Dream had the top pick last season, and they were blessed with a draft class that had Rhyne Howard, the kind of player to build a franchise around. Howard led her team with 16.2 points per game, but overall, the Dream were 11th in the league in points scored and shooting percentage.

The Dream needs scorers, and more importantly, scorers that aren’t guards. Cheyenne Parker averaged 11.8 points per game at center, but after that, nearly all Atlanta’s production came from guards. The Dream need an inside presence to balance their attack and to provide an efficient option from close range.

Washington Mystics

Washington is the rare team up for the top pick that actually made the playoffs. The Mystics’ position in the lottery comes via a trade last offseason.

The Mystics, who went 22-14 and earned the No. 5 seed in the 2022 playoffs, are in a much different position than a team like the Fever. Washington already features Elena Delle Donne, Ariel Atkins, Natasha Cloud and last season’s No. 3 pick, Shakira Austin.

While the team likely wouldn’t want to pass on an elite talent like Boston if they were in position to take her, the Mystics should also be on the hunt for a shooter. They shot just 33.8% from 3-point range last season, a number that ranked 10th in the WNBA. Bonus points if they can get a shooter who can also defend, adding to the already lethal defensive combo of Cloud and Atkins.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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