The WNBA draft did not disappoint, even if my mock draft is in shambles
Well that went exactly as everyone expected. The WNBA draft is usually beloved for its storylines, the new beginnings for a fantastic crop of athletes, and the excitement of a regular season on the horizon. This draft had the feel of an actual game. I was on the edge of my seat, perplexed, questioning what the general managers and coaches saw (or did not see) that seemingly every WNBA analyst missed.
Dallas sets the tone with #1 and #2
Charli Collier was the number one on most big boards, so it was not surprising when the Wings made the Texas center the number one overall pick in the 2021 draft. She already has the athleticism and skill to be a factor, but at the same time can learn from her new teammates how to be more polished both on offense and defense.
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With the second pick, Dallas selected Awak Kuier from Finland. Kuier is one of the most intriguing prospects the WNBA has seen in quite some time, as she is only 19 years old and is oozing with potential. She can dunk easily at 6’4″, but also has deceivingly smooth ball handling skills. Kuier is a project yet at the same time already primed to be a dominant factor for the Wings.
Picks #3-#6 breakdown
The Atlanta Dream had a decision to make at pick number three, with many great scorers and guards on the board. Ultimately, they bought into the very real hype train that is Aari McDonald. The Arizona product joins Chennedy Carter and Courtney Williams in a scrappy backcourt where she will start her career as a spark off the bench.
This is where things got….interesting. With the fourth pick, the Indiana Fever needed a player who could help transform their franchise for the future, and they decided on West Virginia point guard Kysre Gondrezick. Don’t get me wrong, she drives and shoots the ball well, but compared to some of the other players left on the board it is a head-scratching pick. Most people projected Gondrezick to go in the second round, and you have to wonder whether Indiana could have just traded back if they were set on this player.
The Wings continued their magical night at number 5 with Chelsea Dungee out of Arkansas. The most aggressive scorer in the draft, Dallas got a player who is afraid of nobody and wants you to know it. Dungee will have to fight for playing time, but she is ready for that challenge.
Despite it being the biggest night of Michaela Onyenwere’s basketball career, her massive supporting cast of family and friends spearheaded by her grandma got everyones attention.
The Liberty chose the UCLA forward with pick number 6, and she will need to develop as a more consistent deep ball before being the same offensive threat she was in college.
Late first round rundown
#7 – Los Angeles Sparks: Jasmine Walker, Alabama
LA traded for this selection the day before the draft, and selected one of the most versatile shooters in the class. Walker could be the most productive rookie from an efficiency perspective at the end of the season.
#8 – Chicago Sky: Shyla Heal, Australia
If you have not watched Heal play, go watch and see why James Wade chose her to be Courtney Vandersloot’s successor. She is crafty and already has professional experience under her belt.
#9 – Minnesota Lynx: Rennia Davis, Tennessee
At this point in the draft, I am sure you are wondering why some of the higher projected players are still on the board, but Cheryl Reeve had seen enough and snatched up Davis. In a post-draft interview, the Lynx head coach said that Rennia was #2 on their entire board, and thus felt lucky that she fell so far.
#10 – Los Angeles Sparks: Stephanie Watts, North Carolina
Another somewhat surprising pick considering some of the other players available, but Watts is a proven volume and efficient scorer. She is older than most rookies at 24, which could prove advantageous as the prospects adjust to the league.
#11 – Indiana Fever: Aaliyah Wilson, Texas A&M
Originally drafted by the Seattle Storm, Wilson’s rights were subsequently traded to the Fever for Kennedy Burke. A second questionable pick for Indiana, but Tamika Catchings is smarter than I am so I can’t fault any of her picks too much until we see the product on the court.
#12 – Las Vages Aces: Iliana Rupert, France
The Aces have plenty of talent, and adding an experienced center like Rupert to the frontcourt is just a cherry on top to close out the first round, regardless of whether she joins the team this season.
Notable second round picks
At face value, a lot of the first round selections make sense, until you remember who kept getting passed over.
The ACC Player of the Year Dana Evans of Louisville fell all the way out of the first round to #13 overall. Selected by Dallas, the Wings got a steal to add to their elite class of newbies.
An even further stumble was that of Arella Guirantes, the Rutgers wing who many had touted as the most pro-ready player in the draft. She was not selected until 22nd overall by the Sparks, and Los Angeles should be ecstatic she fell into their lap.
We know there are few rosters spots available for these incoming rookies, but I cannot wait to see them compete once they get to camp.