What Atlanta Dream fans need to know before Friday’s WNBA draft

The top things Atlanta Dream fans need to know before the draft on Friday

Atlanta Dream coach Nicki Collen and general manager Chris Sienko met with media via Zoom on Monday to discuss everything from the upcoming draft to what impact the new CBA could potentially have on roster sizes down the road. Here’s the most important things to know for Dream fans before the 2020 WNBA Draft commences on Friday.

Approach to their first-round pick (and three other picks)

Despite finishing with the worst record in the league in 2019, the Dream hold the No. 4 overall pick in this draft because it’s based on their last two years’ record. On the call, Sienko said the Dream would obviously prefer to have a higher pick, but Collen was quick to address that there are a multitude of players who could fit the Dream’s needs that will be available at fourth overall.

As far as strategy goes, Collen and Sienko — like most teams — plan to find the balance of taking the best player available with drafting for team need. Collen identified point guard and small forward as positions of need, and went on to name a handful of players who could fit that description.

“When you have a lottery pick, you feel like you can get a player that can impact you, so I think from that perspective you’re not just basing your pick on depth – we need someone that can impact us,” Collen said. “You should be able to get a player at four that impacts you. So it’s a little of both, when you talk about who those options are at the top of the draft, we can assume Sabrina (Ionescu) is off the board, but when you look at those other guys – Satou Sabally can fit the small forward, Chennedy Carter obviously a guard that can play off the bounce, even Megan Walker has size and shooting ability and can be a small forward. Bella Alaire’s a little bit of a unicorn, so probably a four right now, but ultimately could be a little four-three-ish in the right system. Those are some of the names we’re obviously talking about.”

That matches High Post Hoops’ latest big board, which has the Dream selecting Carter out of Texas A&M. Carter is coming out of school a year early and averaged 21.3 points, 3.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game for the Aggies this year.

Beyond the fourth-overall pick, the Dream have three more picks in this year’s draft — picks 17, 25 and 27 round out Atlanta’s four picks this year. After adding Kalani Brown, Courtney Williams, Shekinna Stricklen and Glory Johnson in free agency, the Dream have basically entirely retooled their roster from the 2019 campaign. Collen mentioned there’s still room for depth in the post, which could be where a second- or third-round pick slots in.

Virtual draft night

There will be no classic war room for the Dream — or, likely, any other WNBA team — during this year’s draft. Due to COVID-19, the draft will take place virtually, and both Sienko and Collen addressed the logistical challenges of not all being in the same place.

Sienko lives in Connecticut, Collen in Atlanta and Dream assistants Mike Petersen and Darius Taylor live in Dallas, Texas and Athens, Ga., respectively. Sienko hopes to head down to Atlanta to be in the same room as Collen on draft night — though, of course, six feet apart, which Sienko joked is a good idea with Collen even in normal times.

“As we go through the draft and if there’s any potential opportunity to switch things around or make a shift in where we stand and what we acquire, we kind of have a good feel for that ahead of time,” Sienko said. “The interesting part is that if we’re in different locations, there’s a lot of time that’s lost in that communication. If Nicki and I are fortunate enough to be in the same location, we’re talking, I’m talking to another team, they maybe have a counter, I have to get back to Nicki, then we come back, then we still have to call into the league. So it’s going to be interesting for sure for all teams. So we’re better off being as prepared as possible before Friday, that doesn’t mean that things couldn’t come up suddenly that we weren’t expecting.”

Collen’s expectations for a first-round pick

Making the final roster in the WNBA is notoriously hard, and even can be challenging for first-round picks. With only 12 spots on each team, and well more than 144 capable players, roster spots can come down to how a player acquits themselves in camp — and unfortunately for rookies, there isn’t always room to stick a young player at the end of the bench and let them develop. Coaches have to weigh the potential of a young player over the experienced players already at the end of the bench when making those final decisions.

Of course, no one expects rookies to come in and be stars right away, but Collen expects her top talent to be in competition for a starting spot on the team.

“Whoever we draft my expectation is they’re going to come in and compete for a starting spot,” Collen said. “And that if I don’t think they’re ready, or they don’t come in and really beat somebody out for that spot, that we figure out what their role is, and and you know, adjust accordingly. But I don’t think anyone we draft – I’m not going to say, ‘Hey, your job is to come in here and fit in.’ I mean, certainly all rookies have to figure out how to fit in, but the best way you can fit in is to show up and compete.”

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