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WNBA mock draft roundup: Who will be picked in the first round?

NaLyssa Smith. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

As many of the NCAA’s best descend on New York City for the WNBA draft, which starts at 7 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN, Just Women’s Sports has rounded up the projected first-round picks from the latest the mock drafts.

For an analysis on the top 50 prospects in this class, see Just Women’s Sports’ Draft Big Board.

No. 1: Atlanta Dream (from Washington)
Consensus: Rhyne Howard (Kentucky, Guard)

JWS analysis: Rhyne Howard “is an all-around playmaker and scorer who can come in and make an immediate impact as the Dream look to build around her for the future,” according to Lyndsey D’Arcangelo.

No. 2: Indiana Fever
Consensus: NaLyssa Smith (Baylor, Forward)

  • JWS: NaLyssa Smith (Baylor, Forward)
  • ESPN: NaLyssa Smith (Baylor, Forward)
  • CBS Sports: NaLyssa Smith (Baylor, Forward)
  • Bleacher Report: NaLyssa Smith (Baylor, Forward)
  • The Athletic: NaLyssa Smith (Baylor, Forward)

JWS analysis: NaLyssa Smith “has the impact potential the Fever can build around for the future, and she fills an immediate (and desperate) need on their roster with her size, competitiveness and athleticism,” Rachel Galligan says.

No. 3: Washington Mystics (from Atlanta)
Consensus: Shakira Austin (Ole Miss, Center)

  • JWS: Nyara Sabally (Oregon, Center)
  • ESPN: Shakira Austin (Ole Miss, Center)
  • CBS Sports: Shakira Austin (Ole Miss, Center)
  • Bleacher Report: Nyara Sabally (Oregon, Center)
  • The Athletic: Shakira Austin (Ole Miss, Center)

JWS analysis: Shakira Austin’s “pro-readiness is too appealing to pass up, especially as Elena Delle Donne’s health remains up in the air,” according to managing editor Hannah Withiam.

No. 4: Indiana Fever
Consensus: Kierstan Bell (FGCU, Guard)

  • JWS: Shakira Austin (Ole Miss, Center)
  • ESPN: Emily Engstler (Louisville, Forward)
  • CBS Sports: Kierstan Bell (FGCU, Guard)
  • Bleacher Report: Shakira Austin (Ole Miss, Center)
  • The Athletic: Kierstan Bell (FGCU, Guard)

JWS analysis: Kierstan Bell “has good size at the guard spot and the overall skill and strength to do well in the pros,” per Galligan.

No. 5: New York Liberty
Consensus: Emily Engstler (Louisville, Forward)

  • JWS: Emily Engstler (Louisville, Forward)
  • ESPN: Nyara Sabally (Oregon, Center)
  • CBS Sports: Emily Engstler (Louisville, Forward)
  • Bleacher Report: Emily Engstler (Louisville, Forward)
  • The Athletic: Nyara Sabally (Oregon, Center)

JWS analysis: Emily Engstler’s “instincts and length would be a game-changer for the Liberty on defense,” according to Galligan.

No. 6: Indiana Fever (from Dallas)
Consensus: –

  • JWS: Kierstan Bell (FGCU, Guard)
  • ESPN: Elissa Cunane (NC State, Center)
  • CBS Sports: Nyara Sabally (Oregon, Center)
  • Bleacher Report: Veronica Burton (Northwestern, Guard)
  • The Athletic: Christyn Williams (UConn, Guard)

No. 7: Dallas Wings (from Chicago)
Consensus: –

  • JWS: Elissa Cunane (NC State, Center)
  • ESPN: Rae Burrell (Tennessee, Guard)
  • CBS Sports: Rae Burrell (Tennessee, Guard)
  • Bleacher Report: Kierstan Bell (FGCU, Guard)
  • The Athletic: Sika Kone (Mali, Forward)

No. 8: Las Vegas Aces (from Minnesota)
Consensus: –

  • JWS: Sika Kone (Mali, Forward)
  • ESPN: Sika Kone (Mali, Forward)
  • CBS Sports: Destanni Henderson (South Carolina, Guard)
  • Bleacher Report: Khayla Pointer (LSU, Guard)
  • The Athletic: Emily Engstler (Louisville, Forward)

No. 9: Los Angeles Sparks (from Seattle)
Consensus: –

  • JWS: Rae Burrell (Tennessee, Guard)
  • ESPN: Kierstan Bell (FGCU, Guard)
  • CBS Sports: Christyn Williams (UConn, Guard)
  • Bleacher Report: Rae Burrell (Tennessee, Guard)
  • The Athletic: Elissa Cunane (NC State, Center)

No. 10: Indiana Fever (from Minnesota)
Consensus: –

  • JWS: Destanni Henderson (South Carolina, Guard)
  • ESPN: Destanni Henderson (South Carolina, Guard)
  • CBS Sports: Nia Clouden (Michigan State, Guard)
  • Bleacher Report: Christyn Williams (UConn, Guard)
  • The Athletic: Queen Egbo (Baylor, Center)

No. 11: Las Vegas Aces
Consensus: –

  • JWS: Naz Hillmon (Michigan, Forward)
  • ESPN: Naz Hillmon (Michigan, Forward)
  • CBS Sports: Elissa Cunane (NC State, Center)
  • Bleacher Report: Evina Westbrook (UConn, Guard)
  • The Athletic: Rae Burrell (Tennessee, Guard)

No. 12: Connecticut Sun
Consensus: –

  • JWS: KiKi Smith (Florida, Guard)
  • ESPN: Christyn Williams (UConn, Guard)
  • CBS Sports: Veronica Burton (Northwestern, Guard)
  • Bleacher Report: Destanni Henderson (South Carolina, Guard)
  • The Athletic: Nia Clouden (Michigan State, Guard)

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin 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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