Inside the Dallas Wings ahead of the 2020 WNBA Draft

The team with four first round picks controls a lot of Friday’s action

With the 2020 WNBA Draft coming up on Friday, and the start of WNBA training camp postponed due to COVID-19, the Dallas Wings have many wondering just what they’ll do with all their first round draft picks.

The Dallas Wings hold picks number 2,5,7 and 9 in this year’s draft. They currently have 14 players already signed for the 2020 season and a 15 player maximum roster limit, so it brings up the questions as to whether or not the Wings will deal some of, if not the majority of these early first round picks.

Wings President and CEO Greg Bibb said the Wings are “using the draft as a reset” going into the 2020 season.

The organization has been in possession of some of these early picks for a near calendar year, but just less than two months ago acquired picks five and seven in this year’s draft in a blockbuster trade that sent four-time All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith to the Phoenix Mercury. What’s followed — an improving draft class — has only reinforced Dallas’ confidence in their return haul.

“I think all the players in the draft have steadily improved through their careers,” Wings coach Brian Agler told High Post Hoops on how much the stock rose for prospects over the course of this season. “I don’t wanna name anybody specifically, but I think all of them. I don’t know if anybody that’s really taken a step backwards. Some have improved much more than others, I’ll say that. I think in some cases injuries have hampered a couple, but I see this, especially with the juniors coming in, I see this being a deeper draft than maybe we thought four or five months ago.”

The assets provide a ton of flexibility — they may use three or even four of those picks they have in the first round, but a look at the current roster and how many players they already have, leaves many believing the Wings have a lot of tricks up their sleeve come draft day.

What would it take to move even three of those picks? According to Bibb it would have to be something “significant” to move picks 5, 7 and/or 9 ahead of Friday’s draft. Scenarios could include trading up, a packaging of picks to get a player and resolve the roster crunch, or even dealing for future picks.

Agler has some goals in mind for Friday, however.

“We have to get more playmakers, obviously,” said Agler on the Wings biggest area of need going into the draft. “We’d like to try to add some length to our team across the board. That doesn’t mean just post players, that means a lot of positions, three, four and five especially. Shooters, you know we’re addressed some of those issues in some of the trades we’ve made so we’re just trying to get better offensively, if we can. I think we’ve helped ourselves come to this point, but we’re always going to keep continuing to try to do that [get better offensively]. At the same time we want to build a real strong culture that is going to breed success. We want to get the right people as well.”

Last year the Wings had to make tough training camp cuts. One of the best players from the 2019 women’s college basketball season was not Megan Gustafson, the No. 17 overall pick in 2019, was waived on May 22.

Gustafson led Iowa to an Elite Eight appearance in her senior season while averaging an NCAA-leading 27.8 points per-game and third in the nation in rebounding at 13.8 rebounds per-game. The Wings last year also waived their No. 22 overall pick, Kennedy Burke.

Fortunately for both of those players, they later ended up back on WNBA rosters.

The Wings resigned Gustafson a few weeks later, when injuries produced an opening. Former Indiana Head Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman waived forward Asia Taylor to make room for Kennedy Burke on their 12-player roster after being cut by Dallas.

As for the top of that draft, it produced Arike Ogunbowale at the fifth overall pick. Ogunbowale led the team in assists with 3.2 assists per game as the starting point guard, which is the lowest team-leading average in franchise history. Moriah Jefferson will allow Ogunbowale to move off the ball more, but Agler’s playmaker point is understandable.

When evaluating how players fit in Dallas at the next level, the Wings didn’t have an NCAA Tournament this season. But USA Basketball’s tour provided more high-level competition to measure a number of college prospects.

“I think those are good tests for college teams obviously as far as good gauge on how they will do against some of the people in our league,” Agler said. “It was interesting. I watched those games and a couple players on both teams had big games. You mentioned Chennedy Carter, Sabrina had a big game, Satou had a big game, and big win for Oregon obviously. It’s a good gauge, good barometer on how you can see them play against good players in our league.”

So while the outcomes remains opaque to the rest of the league, clearly Bibb and Agler know exactly what they want on Friday.

Whether those desires are filled through the draft, or trades, remains unknown for, at most, the next 72 hours.

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