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WNBA draft lottery: Five players who could top 2023 draft class

Stanford's Haley Jones can make an impact at any position. (James Snook/USA TODAY Sports)

With the WNBA draft lottery set to take place Friday, attention will turn to potential draft picks. The Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics, Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx all have a shot at securing the No. 1 pick in the lottery, which will air at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

There’s plenty of talent to choose from at the college level, and a few of those players will be on the court after the lottery, as No. 1 South Carolina takes on No. 17 Maryland.

Just Women’s Sports looks at five college players with professional potential for WNBA teams (and fans!) to keep an eye on this season:

Aliyah Boston, South Carolina

Much of the draft order is up for debate, but I don’t think anyone is arguing when it comes to the first overall pick. That spot belongs to Boston, the reigning Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Wooden Award winner… you get the idea.

The best part about Boston’s game is that from offense to defense – or vice versa – there is no drop-off. She’s a great rim protector and help defender while also being an efficient, strong scorer on offense. The 6-foot-5 forward averaged 16.8 points and 12.5 rebounds a game last season while shooting 54% from the field.

Boston’s one weakness is that she doesn’t extend the floor by shooting 3s. But another Gamecock, A’ja Wilson, didn’t shoot 3-pointers in college, and she was able to extend her range once she got to the WNBA.

Diamond Miller, Maryland

In many ways, Miller is the perfect prospect. She’s versatile, with a great build for the next level – 6-foot-3 with long limbs – and has shown proficiency in almost every category.

Miller has a lot of raw skills and there is still untapped potential within her game. But she already does well in several areas that the WNBA values, such as running the court and playing multiple positions.

She battled injuries last season and because of that actually saw her production dip from the season before – as a sophomore, Miller averaged 17.3 points and 5.8 rebounds a game, compared to 13.1 points, 4.0 rebounds as a junior. I’d like to see her shoot a bit better this season, improving on 40.8% from the field and 31.6% from 3-point range. Her form is slightly jerky, so there may be some adjustments to be made when she becomes a pro.

Haley Jones, Stanford

Her value is super high because Jones is truly positionless. She’s played in the post, at the point guard spot and everywhere in between for the Cardinals over the last three seasons.

Another thing WNBA teams will love is her maturity. She bounces back the same whether win or lose. She’s also a great playmaker, with a high basketball IQ and elite court vision.

The biggest weakness I see for Jones: She’s not going to break people down off the dribble, and with more isolation ball popping up in the WNBA, some teams may want that. But there is still plenty of room in the league for a player like her, whether or not she can blow by defenders.

Ashley Joens, Iowa State

The Iowa State star popped up on plenty of draft boards last season, but she chose to come back for one more year as a Cyclone.

The fifth-year remains an exciting prospect because of her array of skills. Versatility is key in the WNBA, so you will see that as a factor throughout this list, and Joens fits the bill. She’s 6-foot-1 but has surprising strength for her size, and she can play three positions – guard, point guard or forward.

Joens averaged 20.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season, and she can score from the inside out, shooting from long range at a 37.6% clip last season. Her post game makes her an asset as well, as she is capable of scoring on smaller guards in the paint.

Her weak spot is defense, and at the WNBA level she may struggle to stay in front of quicker guards. But she fills so many holes offensively that plenty of teams should be willing to overlook that aspect of her game.

Ashley Joens (center) has started in every game for Iowa State since her freshman year. (Nirmalendu Majumdar/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech

One of the few true centers in the NCAA, Kitley has carved out an impressive career at Virginia Tech. And this season, she has All-American potential.

She’s 6-foot-6, which already will turn heads, and she averages 18.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

Kitley’s best asset is her body control, which helps her on offense and defense. Offensively, she boasts great awareness when it comes to the position of her defender, help defenders and double-teams, often scoring without having to dribble – and that will be especially important with the athleticism of WNBA guards coming down to help. Defensively, she’s able to block shots without fouling and rarely has to sit due to foul trouble.

Kitley isn’t going to blow you away with her footspeed or athleticism, a weakness she’s overcome at the college level but that may require more adjustment in the WNBA. Other than that, her main weakness is a lack of an outside game. But Kitley has great form out to the free-throw line, so a 3-point shot likely could come with practice.