Carter headlines four-person Atlanta Dream 2020 draft class

The Atlanta Dream selected Chennedy Carter, Brittany Brewer, Mikayla Pivec and Kobi Thornton in the 2020 WNBA Draft.

When it came down to it, who Atlanta would pick Friday night was set in motion months ago.

First, the Dream traded away Brittney Sykes and Marie Gülich in exchange for Kalani Brown. Then they signed Glory Johnson, and then they signed Shekinna Stricklen. And finally, in a three-team trade, Atlanta sent Jessica Breland and Nia Coffey to Phoenix and got Courtney Williams from Connecticut.

All the moves had a purpose. Bring in a valuable piece in the post in Brown. Add high-level shooting with Stricklen. And Williams, of course, brings just about everything. Each addition mixes well with the pieces still on the Dream roster, too, and Atlanta kept building on that mix in Friday’s draft.

It’s no secret that Atlanta needed offense. After finishing last in the league in nearly every offensive category in 2019, the main focus for coach Nicki Collen, general manager Chris Sienko and the rest of the staff was simple — scoring.

“I want to see the ball go in the basket,” Collen said. “That’s the biggest thing. I think that there were so many times that, as a staff, we would go back to the drawing board and I’d say, ‘(Assistant coach Mike Petersen), what can we do better?’ And he’d go back and he’d look at the film and say, ‘You know, we just have to make open shots.’ And we just struggled to put the ball in the basket.”

With that in mind as they scouted players, one name kept coming up for the Dream staff: Chennedy Carter. The guard averaged 21.3 points per game in her junior season and is one of the best scorers in the country, which made her a natural target for the Dream.

They knew throughout the season that Carter might come out a year early and enter the draft, and when she did, she shot to the top of the Dream’s draft board. Nearly every mock draft had Carter going to the Dream at No. 4 overall, and they were right.

“We knew what an incredible talent she was,” Collen said. “But we certainly zeroed in more on her when we made the moves that we made in free agency. Built our post game the way we built it, you know, she just was the player that kinda completed the roster that way.”

Collen projects Carter as a point guard for the Dream, who had Renee Montgomery and Maite Cazorla running the point last season. With Carter running things, the Dream will be able to spread the floor to make room for Hayes to drive inside, Stricklen and Montgomery to shoot and Williams to score. On paper, it should lead to a much improved Dream offense in the 2020 season and beyond.

“Chennedy’s that point guard that we needed,” Collen said. “Depth and talent and ability to score and make us a better offensive team. I think when Kennedy realizes that she’s capable of playing at both ends, I think she’s more than capable of being a great defender as well.”

Added Carter: “I definitely think that this is the best fit for me. I’m gonna go to this team and really find those players that need the ball. Find Courtney Williams. Find Kalani Brown. I think I will be successful here for me and the Atlanta Dream.”

After picking Carter at No. 4, the Dream selected Brittany Brewer with the 17th overall pick and took Mikayla Pivec and Kobi Thornton at 25 and 27, respectively.

Brewer, a 6-foot-5 post out of Texas Tech will add valuable depth in the post and brings some serious rebounding — she averaged 10.3 per game for the Red Raiders this year — to a team that struggled on the glass last year.

“Brittany Brewer was the player that we wanted at 17,” Collen said. “Her size. She really rim runs well. She’s got a really developed low post game. Played incredibly well against Baylor and Lauren Cox. Working on her range but has shown three point ability and will have growth in that area. So, excited about kind of the total package with her, battling for a spot in the post for us.”

The third round picks, Pivec and Thornton, are somewhat long shots to make the roster, but Collen expressed excitement that Pivec fell all the way to the third round.

This season at Oregon State, Pivec averaged 14.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 34.1 minutes per game.

“Just surprised Mikayla Pivec, someone who people had, you know, anywhere from the bottom of the first round to the middle of the second round, to have dropped all the way to the third round,” Collen said. “But she’s just an intense competitor. Nobody tougher in the game. The best guard rebounder in college basketball. It’s not even close. So when you add Courtney Williams who goes and grabs defensive rebounds and a player like Mikayla Pivec, that will help us on the defensive glass.”

Thornton figures to add depth in the post and may challenge Alaina Coates for a roster spot at the end of the bench.

With these draft picks, the Dream have completely retooled their roster for the 2020 season and beyond. Carter seems poised to be the sort of star the Dream could use, and her scoring touch will be called upon right away when games start up. After a disappointing 2019 season, the Dream appear ready to move forward, start fresh and make an impact on the league.

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