No first, no second: Aces prep for different kind of draft

Aces hold No. 33 overall pick in Friday’s draft

Bill Laimbeer and Dan Padover will have plenty of time to work the phones and observe the 11 other teams this Friday during the 2020 WNBA Draft. The Las Vegas Aces don’t have a first-round pick. Nor do they have a second-rounder.

The franchise kicked off the past three drafts by making the No. 1 overall pick, landing Kelsey Plum in 2017 followed by A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young. Barring a trade, 32 names will come off the board before Laimbeer and Padover are on the clock this time around.

The Aces sent their own 2020 first- and second-round picks along with Moriah Jefferson and Isabelle Harrison to the Dallas Wings in exchange for Liz Cambage last May. The All-WNBA center, All-Star Kayla McBride, Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby and that trio of No. 1 picks powered the Aces to a 21-13 record in 2019.

This is right where the Aces want to be: Aiming to add to a real contender. “Free agency was important to us,” Padover said. “More than anything, just continuing to build off of the team we have is the most important thing.” The franchise has the star power and a core that can spearhead deep playoff runs this decade.

Nailing a pick in the 20s and 30s or via a training camp invite would be a tremendous help in the long haul, especially as they face steeper challenges to stay under the league’s hard cap in 2021 and 2022. Padover and Laimbeer have done their due diligence hoping to find this year’s ‘sleeper’. “I think diamond in the rough is the right term,” Padover said. “A raw talent that is maybe a year or two away….a specific skill set you’re really intrigued by. There’s an international market out there.”

Padover noted that the time invested now to communicate with and learn about these prospects during the pre-draft process will pay off down the line. Some will inevitably hit the waiver wire before training camps even begin. Others will get waived or become available via trade as rosters fill up in future seasons. Having a knowledge base of what those players are right now will help the Aces track and evaluate the early stages of their pro careers.

Training camp signees Raisa Musina and Avery Warley-Talbert may vie for a roster spot as the fifth big behind Cambage (currently a restricted free agent), Wilson, Hamby and JiSu Park. The club already has seven perimeter players under contract after signing unrestricted free agents Angel McCoughtry and Danielle Robinson, re-signing Sugar Rodgers and bringing back two-year pro Lindsay Allen.

A wing shooter could be a valuable commodity for the Aces with one of their final roster spots. Creighton’s Jaylyn Agnew and Western Kentucky’s Dee Givens fit that billing. Our Howard Megdal had Louisville’s Kylee Shook heading to Las Vegas in his latest mock draft. Shook, 6’4″, blocked 86 shots and shot 28-of-76 from deep in her senior campaign.

Like the rest of the league, the Aces’ staff will be relying on multiple screens and conference/video calls on draft night with Laimbeer in Florida, Padover in Connecticut and Vickie Johnson in Dallas. Catch the full broadcast of all three rounds on Friday beginning at 7 PM ET on ESPN.

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