All Scores

WNBA Draft team grades: Dream, Fever and Sparks earn top marks

The Sparks addressed a need on the wing by taking Rae Burrell with the 9th overall pick. (Evan Yu/Just Women’s Sports)

Now that the 2022 WNBA Draft is complete, we can evaluate the selections and take a closer look at how each of the 12 teams performed.

The Atlanta Dream made an aggressive move to trade for the No. 1 pick and land guard Rhyne Howard; Lexie Hull and Mya Hollingshed were easily the biggest surprises of the first round; and several projected first-round picks fell to the second round, which is not necessarily a reflection of their ability to compete for highly coveted roster spots in training camp.

Below, we hand out post-draft grades for every WNBA team.

Atlanta Dream: A+

No. 1 Rhyne Howard, No. 15 Naz Hillmon

The Dream had their eyes set on someone specific when they traded up to the No. 1 pick in a deal with Washington last week, and that someone was Howard. Howard’s pro-readiness and elite skill set have been highly touted for years, and the rebuilding Dream have an opportunity to make her a focal point of the organization under new management.

Landing Naz Hillmon in the second round was a home run, as the Michigan star easily could have been off the board at that point. Although she is undersized at 6-foot-2, Hillmon’s work ethic, character and heart make her a perfect fit for the culture Atlanta is looking to build as she develops her game over time.

Indiana Fever: A

No. 2 NaLyssa Smith, No. 4 Emily Engstler, No. 6 Lexie Hull, No. 10 Queen Egbo, No. 20 Destanni Henderson, No. 25 Ameshya Williams-Holliday, No. 34 Ali Patberg

The Fever’s 2022 draft class could be an expansion team of its own. There is a lot to unpack from Indiana’s draft night, but one thing is for certain: The Fever loaded up on young and promising talent at nearly every position.

General manager Lin Dunn is looking toward the future, a process that involves tearing down the roster and adding players with size and defensive tenacity. The team’s first two selections, NaLyssa Smith and Emily Engstler, fit that mold to a tee. While Lexie Hull at No. 6 was a bit of a surprise, she brings undeniable length and sharpshooting at the wing spot.

Reuniting Smith with Queen Egbo out of Baylor was a good move for the sake of chemistry and consistency. While some are higher on the 6-3 Egbo than others, her elite athleticism and efficiency at the rim are two highly valued traits in the WNBA.

Destanni Henderson shined in the national championship game as the floor general for No. 1 South Carolina and gives the Fever high-level depth at the point, which they need. While it will be challenging for Ameshya Williams-Holliday and Ali Patberg to make the roster, they bring size and, in Patberg’s case, homegrown talent that will make Fever training camp even more competitive.

Los Angeles Sparks: A

No. 9 Rae Burrell, No. 16 Kianna Smith, No. 19 Olivia Nelson-Ododa, No. 27 Amy Atwell

After loading up in free agency, the Sparks were on a mission to add length, depth and shooting ability at the wing in this draft, and they did just that. Rae Burrell played the majority of her senior season with Tennessee at less than 100 percent. If she can take the time to get healthy, her potential in the league is appealing as a 6-1 guard.

Kianna Smith was a bit overlooked in this draft. The 6-0 sharpshooting and steady guard out of Louisville has a legitimate chance to earn a roster spot. While the Sparks are fairly deep already in the post, they would have been remiss to pass on Olivia Nelson-Ododa in the second round given her skill set in the paint and history at UConn.

Amy Atwell is also an intriguing, late addition. An athletic, experienced and offensive-minded guard, she will bring a valuable element to Sparks training camp.

New York Liberty: A-

No. 5 Nyara Sabally, No. 18 Lorela Cubaj, No. 29 Sika Kone

The Liberty addressed the one glaring area on their roster — post play — by adding three extremely promising talents in this draft. Nyara Sabally has the potential to be one of the best post players in the class with her 6-5 frame, versatile skill set, touch around the rim and face-up ability. She has yet to hit her stride after battling injuries at Oregon, an issue that hung over her draft stock but does not seem to concern the Liberty. I did not expect her to be available at No. 5, so this feels like a steal for New York.

The Liberty also added a highly competitive, defensive-minded pro with a great motor in Lorela Cubaj. If she can expand her offensive game, she has a real shot at making an impact in this league. Sika Kone, at just 19 years old, has a high ceiling for the future of the franchise.

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The Mystics traded down and still landed a player they coveted in Shakira Austin. (Evan Yu/Just Women's Sports)

Washington Mystics: A-

No. 3 Shakira Austin, No. 14 Christyn Williams

The Mystics gave up the No. 1 pick and still had one of the best drafts, landing Shakira Austin and Christyn Williams with the No. 3 and No. 14 picks. As part of their pre-draft deal with Atlanta, they also still own the right to swap first-round picks in the highly touted 2023 draft.

Austin’s 6-5 frame, power and strength might be the most impressive in this class, and the Mystics have the opportunity to mold her into a long-term impact player.

Williams gives the Mystics necessary depth at the wing position. UConn has one of the best track records of preparing players for the WNBA, and Williams should be no exception given her explosiveness and ability to attack the rim in the open court.

Connecticut Sun: B

No. 12 Nia Clouden, No. 24 Jordan Lewis, No. 36 Kiara Smith

Connecticut, facing a limited salary cap, had a trade in place to move down the board on draft night, sources tell Just Women’s Sports. Instead, they were able to secure the player they had near the top of their list in Nia Clouden. The Sun needed scoring depth at the off-guard position, and Clouden’s ability to facilitate, score and play off the ball will force the Sun to make some difficult roster decisions out of training camp.

Jordan Lewis had a strong season for Baylor and enters the WNBA with an experienced resume. Kiara “Kiki” Smith was an absolute steal as the last pick in the draft. The Florida product is still recovering from a late-season injury, giving the Sun the option to suspend her contract and hold onto her playing rights for the future.

Las Vegas Aces: B-

No. 8 Mya Hollingshed, No. 11 Kierstan Bell, No. 13 Khayla Pointer, No. 23 Aisha Sheppard, No. 35 Faustine Aifuwa

The Aces addressed multiple positions in this draft, but they specifically needed depth at the stretch four, and they added that right at the top of the board in Mya Hollingshed.

Las Vegas’ decision to trade away vital 2023 first- and second-round draft picks to move up in this year’s draft and select a player who likely would have been available later on was perplexing. Hollingshed, however, does give the Aces elite length and athleticism coming off the best season of her NCAA career. They clearly view her as a valuable asset to Becky Hammon’s system in this new era of the franchise.

The Aces were fortunate to get Kierstan Bell at No. 11, since the confident and versatile scorer was projected to go higher. Bell’s game should translate well to Las Vegas’ high-octane offense. From there, the Aces reunited LSU’s Khayla Pointer and Faustine Aifuwa with their former coach and current Las Vegas president, Nikki Fargas, who knows the competitive edge both players will bring to camp. Aisha Sheppard gives the Aces another experienced offensive weapon who shoots the ball well from the perimeter.

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The Wings added Veronica Burton, a well-rounded point guard, with their first pick of the draft. (Evan Yu/Just Women's Sports)

Dallas Wings: B-

No. 7 Veronica Burton, No. 30 Jasmine Dickey, No. 31 Jazz Bond

This Wings team has so much young talent that it’s hard to determine where it goes from here. This season could serve as a barometer for the players Dallas decides to hold onto and those it opts to move on from.

Despite the lack of space on the roster, the Wings landed a great point guard in Veronica Burton. The Northwestern product has the mentality, facilitating and scoring ability, and defensive tenacity to carve out a long career in the WNBA.

Jasmine Dickey is a prolific scorer who will challenge for a spot in camp. Jazz Bond, a big who can shoot the 3, might warrant an extra look now that the Wings will be without Bella Alarie this season.

Minnesota Lynx: B-

No. 22 Kayla Jones, No. 28 Hannah Sjerven

Lynx head coach and GM Cheryl Reeve has spoken openly about the Lynx’s roster and cap space challenges this season. Trading the No. 8 and No. 13 picks to the Aces for 2023 first- and second-round picks was a savvy move given their current situation and the strength of next year’s draft. The combination of that trade and their current roster bind earned the Lynx the B- grade.

This draft was not going to be a focal point for the 2022 season, and it didn’t need to be. The Lynx still added Kayla Jones, a well-rounded player and effective rebounder and shooter. Hannah Sjerven put the world on notice after leading South Dakota to the Sweet 16. At 6-2, she will have a learning curve, but she brings a strong presence to the interior.

Seattle Storm: C+

No. 17 Elissa Cunane, No. 21 Evina Westbrook, No. 33 Jade Melbourne

Seattle jumped at the opportunity to select Elissa Cunane in the middle of the second round, since many did not expect her to fall to No. 17. Cunane showed at NC State that she is most effective when she can go one-on-one in the paint and shoot open 3s. Her physicality remains a concern, but the 6-5 center adds an element that Seattle will need to consider deeply after this season.

Evina Westbrook adds depth at the combo spot, but it’s unclear if the Storm have a place for her on their guard-heavy roster. Jade Melbourne, just 19 years old, could be an asset down the road if Seattle can hold onto her.

Phoenix Mercury: C

No. 26 Maya Dodson, No. 32 Macee Williams

With all of their picks coming in the third round, the Mercury were always going to be limited in this draft. Their biggest need was depth in the post given Brittney Griner’s uncertain future in Russia, and they added two five-year collegiate posts in Maya Dodson and Macee Williams.

The 6-3 Dodson, after a standout season at Notre Dame, brings athleticism and the ability to run the floor. Williams had one of the most dominant collegiate careers at IUPUI and might shock some people in camp with her strength, power, footwork and efficiency. They’ll both have their work cut out for them in training camp, competing against a talented Phoenix roster.

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.

How Pregnancy Made Me a Better CEO

I am pregnant. I am actually very pregnant — 39 weeks as we speak. I’m also the founder and CEO of an early stage company, and for the first time in my life, I’m wondering if I bit off more than I can chew.

For the last four years, I have poured my whole self into Just Women’s Sports. It’s been a wild, unpredictable ride, one that’s been both incredibly fulfilling and incredibly hard.

When I started JWS, no one wanted to bet on women’s sports, media, or a 26 year old with only one year of actual work experience under her belt. People didn’t think women’s sports could work as sports, and even stakeholders in the space talked about these leagues like they were charities — something nice to have, but not anything that would ever make real money. And that was from the people who "believed" in women’s sports — you don’t want to know what the doubters had to say.

In the early days, it was all heart and hustle. There was no playbook. We had a vision, but that was about it — no real money, connections, or media experience. To keep the lights on and get JWS off the ground, all I did was work. I ran from fundraising meetings to posting on social, to listening to and editing our first podcast with Kelley O’Hara. I designed graphics. I sold to brands. I worked all the time. 

At one point, I even hospitalized myself from working too much. But even that wasn’t enough to tell me to chill out — I closed our first big deal sitting in a hospital bed, with a virtual background so they couldn’t tell where I was. For better and for worse, I was willing to sacrifice myself in order to win.

Slowly but surely, we started stacking wins and building some real momentum. But even as we grew and found our footing, I still had the same existential paranoia and grind-it-out mentality that had been there from the beginning. Every win, every new milestone, felt like a reason to push even harder.

But getting pregnant changed that.

I’m fortunate to say this has been a healthy pregnancy, but even then… it’s been tough. I’ve been nauseous the whole time. I can’t sleep. I never knew my back and hips could feel this bad. And in these final stages of my pregnancy, I’ve been more emotional than I’ve ever felt in my life — which is just not ideal when the bulk of your job is to stay level-headed, decisive, and be able to make unemotional decisions.

For the first time in my professional career, I physically cannot just grind it out and push through. Being pregnant has forced me to do something not even a week in the hospital could do: recalibrate my work habits and take time off. 

The idea of stepping away for maternity leave is anxiety-inducing. I’ve poured my entire self into getting JWS to this point, women’s sports are taking off like never before, and now I’m supposed to just detach from it for an extended period of time? What will that mean for the company? Will I be able to balance being a CEO and a mom when I come back? Can we keep the momentum we worked so hard to achieve?

I have so many people asking me if I'm ready. And I can say with unequivocal confidence: No, I am absolutely not. My only expectation is that I’m about to get smacked in the face with a brand new version of my life any day now. 

But this pregnancy and impending leave have had an unexpected side effect — being forced to "take it easy" and think about not being here has actually improved my leadership.

I’ve had to learn how to get out of the weeds. I’ve had to empower other leaders at the company and build systems where they can step up and take ownership. I’ve also gotten better at saying no and being ruthless about what matters.

Ultimately, I’ve had to learn how to let go a little bit and trust the people around me to a greater degree than I’ve ever felt comfortable doing.

And so far, the wheels haven’t fallen off. In fact, it’s been the opposite — people have stepped up in big ways across the board, traveling for me when I can’t go to events, driving initiatives that I usually would have been leading, and taking things off my plate to help ease the transition. We’re actually growing faster than we ever have before, and the team has collectively taken on a whole new level of ownership.

I’m definitely not the first pregnant CEO, but the fact is, there just aren’t many places where women can lead and grow a family. There isn’t a tried and true blueprint for how to balance being both a mother and a founder. And I won’t lie — that scares me. There’s no way to know what this future will look like. But to be able to build a company and culture where that is possible is, I think, really special.

As we all step into this next chapter, my overwhelming feeling is gratitude. For my family and for a healthy pregnancy, but also for everyone I get to work with everyday building this company and changing women’s sports. For my leadership team, who were the first people I told about my pregnancy after my immediate family. For the whole JWS team that has been unbelievably empathetic, thoughtful, and simply human during this time. And for our investors, advisors, and partners, who never made me feel like I was neglecting the company by starting my family.

We’re all nervous, to some degree. Inevitably, something will happen while I’m away that will be intense. There will be decisions that I would have made differently. Something will slip through the cracks.

But I’m also hopeful — this pregnancy forced us to empower the team to steer the ship and make decisions autonomously, and we’re already seeing the payoff.

There wasn’t a playbook when we started and there isn’t one now. But as has been the story of JWS since day one: We believe in our vision, and we’re taking the leap.

Haley Rosen is the CEO and Founder of Just Women's Sports. Follower her on X @haleyrosen.

The Women’s Cup Finalizes 2024 Tournament With Chile’s Colo Colo

Patricia Padium (L) of Brazils Audax/Corinthians, vies for the ball with Claudia Soto of Chile's Colo Colo during the Women Copa Libertadores final match
The addition of the Chilean side rounds out the Cup's four-team field. (FAVIO FALCON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Women’s Cup field has been finalized, with Chilean club Colo Colo joining the four-team field. 

Colo Colo will join Racing Louisville of the NWSL along with Italy's Juventus and Brazil's Palmeiras at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville from August 9th through 13th. 

The tournament will have a $100,000 prize pool.

"We are honored to have Colo-Colo as the first Chilean Team to play in The Women’s Cup," said J.P. Reynal, CEO of The Women’s Cup, in yesterday's press release. "Women’s soccer has seen exponential growth in South America and having two of the best teams in the region participating in this year’s tournament is proof they can compete with the top teams from Europe and the United States."

"We are pleased to be considered in this important championship for women’s soccer and very proud that Colo-Colo is one of the most important exponents of this discipline in Chile," echoed Enzo Caszely, president of women’s football at Colo-Colo. "As a club, we have been pioneers in its professionalization at a national level, and this instance is proof of it."

Juventus and Colo-Colo will square off on Friday, August 9th at 5 PM ET followed by Racing Louisville and Palmeiras at 8 PM ET. Tickets can be purchased now via both The Women's Cup's and Racing Lousiville's websites.

This is Racing Louisville's third time featuring in the competition. The team won The Women's Cup's first iteration in 2021, beating German side FC Bayern in penalty kicks at Lynn Family Stadium. The Seattle Reign claimed The Women's Cup in 2022.

The Kansas City Current will also host a Women’s Cup tournament from August 14th through the 17th. The winners of each 2024 tournament will then face each other in the Global Series Finals, scheduled for February 2025.

PWHL Draft Spurs Controversy for League Champs Minnesota

pwhl draft first pick Sarah Fillier
PWHL New York kicked off the 2024 PWHL Draft by selecting Princeton's Sarah Fillier No. 1 overall. (PWHL)

The 2024 PWHL Draft took place on Tuesday, with Princeton and Canadian national team forward Sarah Fillier going first overall to PWHL New York. 

New York also added two defenders and a goaltender, as well as three forwards to make seven solid additions to next season's roster. 

But it was first-ever PWHL champions Minnesota that created the most buzz, with the draft happening just three days after they announced the abrupt departure of general manager Natalie Darwitz following a league review. 

With the 9th overall pick, PWHL Minnesota took Team USA forward Britta Curl. Fans immediately took to the internet to voice their concerns, citing Curl's social media activity. In the past, Curl had "liked" posts on X that targeted the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly transgender individuals. Her activity also showed support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Wisconsin man who shot three unarmed people, two fatally, during a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest.

When asked about the pick — and whether or not he had consulted with any members of the LGBTQIA+ community prior to making the pick — PWHL Minnesota coach Ken Klee opted to defend Curl.

"Did I speak to anyone from the community? I talk with players, with coaches. That’s tough to answer for me," Klee said. "I spoke with a lot of different people. I mean, at the end of the day, I was told she’s a great teammate, a great person. She’s obviously a great player."

The team also had PWHL Minnesota assistant coach Mira Jalosuo, who is married to a woman, announce the pick.

"We have people in that community and obviously Mira making that selection for us, I think that speaks volumes for us," Klee added. "We were just trying to pick the best players available. I wouldn’t want anything to take away from any of those players' experience. It’s unfortunate a little bit at the beginning, but again, it’s okay. People are entitled to their opinion."

Washington Mystics Snap 12-Game Losing Streak

Brittney Sykes #20 of the Washington Mystics shoots the ball during the game against the Atlanta Dream during the 2024 WNBA Commissioner's Cup game on June 11, 2024
Washington guard Brittney Sykes returned from injury Tuesday night to post a game-high 18 points. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Washington Mystics snapped a team-record 12-game losing streak on Tuesday, taking home their first win of the season over the Atlanta Dream. 

Brittney Sykes returned from injury and made an immediate impact with game-high 18 points, four assists, and three rebounds. As a team, Washington shot over 50% from behind the arc.

"The feel is it's been coming," coach Eric Thibault said after the game. "I said the other night that we're turning into a good basketball team and we just haven't had the wins to show for it yet. We've been playing better basketball now for a while.

"We're obviously shooting well, but I think the quality of the shots we're getting is really good."

Still, the team’s slow start isn't exactly in the rearview mirror. With star forward Elena Delle Donne sitting this season out, the Mystics were always predicted to face an uphill climb in what has been described as a rebuilding year. 

But with a franchise-worst 0-12 record to kick off the 2024 season, the Mystics are likely on track for a lottery pick. However, Washington can point to positive performances from star draft pick Aaliyah Edwards and league newcomer Julie Vanloo.

Elsewhere in the WNBA, the Las Vegas Aces continued their skid with a surprising 100-86 upset courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx. The reigning WNBA champions were shorthanded this week, falling to 5-5 on the season despite MVP-level play from A'ja Wilson, who scored 28 points in Tuesday's loss.

Minnesota shot over 55% as a team, with Alanna Smith leading the team with 18 points. The game marked the Aces' first three-game losing streak since 2019.

"This is a long, long, long season," Wilson said in her postgame remarks. "I'm not going to press the panic button. I'm still going to bet on us. I know exactly what's in that locker room."

Aces stalwart Chelsea Gray has been out with injury since last year's WNBA Finals run. And while she told reporters on Tuesday that she's set to return before the Olympic break, the team can’t get her back soon enough as they continue to struggle with depth. 

"I don't want them thinking too much; then you get paralysis [by] analysis," coach Becky Hammon said. "We're just not being solid in our base. Just be solid defensively. We're not a very good team right now, that's just reality. But we know we can get better. I still have a lot of belief in this ball club."

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