Less than a week before the 2022 WNBA draft, the No. 1 overall pick has traded hands. The Atlanta Dream now own it after making a deal Wednesday with the Washington Mystics, who won the draft lottery in December. Atlanta will call out the first name Monday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the draft in New York.
The Dream are under new management — owners, general manager and coach all coming in last year — after missing the playoffs four of the past five seasons. Atlanta, which had the No. 3 pick, swaps that with Washington. The Mystics also get the No. 14 pick in the second round, along with the right to switch 2023 first-round picks with Los Angeles, as the Dream have the rights to that pick.
The Indiana Fever have four first-round picks, and how new general manager Lin Dunn and the Fever opt to use their selections will have a big impact on the rest of the first round.
Most of the seniors who were expected to be first-round picks declared for the draft, although the Iowa State Cyclones‘ Ashley Joens and South Carolina Gamecocks’ Victaria Saxton — who was projected to go in the second round — opted to stay for a fifth college season. We have two draft-eligible juniors projected to go in the first round.
With just 12 WNBA teams and 144 roster spots, even being a first-round pick doesn’t guarantee a player will make a roster. It’s harder for second-round picks, and harder still for those in the third round. But at least on Monday night, they all can experience the excitement of being drafted.
Kentucky | guard | 6-foot-2 | senior
Howard finished the season averaging 20.5 PPG and 7.4 RPG. At 6-foot-2 with 284 career 3-pointers, she has a chance to be a really difficult matchup with her size on the perimeter. Howard has gone back and forth between No. 1 and No. 2 in draft projections. The Dream clearly made the deal they did because they wanted someone specifically. And if it’s Howard, then she has the chance to be a pillar for the Dream to build around.
Baylor | forward | 6-foot-4 | senior
The Fever are looking to get better on defense, and they might load up on posts with their top picks. Smith, who averaged 22.1 PPG and 11.5 RPG this season, is a forward who has scored most of her points in the paint, but working with coach Marianne Stanley should help her stretch her game to being more positionless. Smith’s motor is always running high, another plus defensively.
Ole Miss | center | 6-foot-5 | senior
Austin averaged 15.2 PPG and 9.0 RPG this season. It seems the Mystics made the trade to move down from No. 1 because they were comfortable with any of the top three projected players. Austin has the capacity to be a low-block star of the future but also expand her game. Playing alongside the likes of Elena Delle Donne and for coach Mike Thibault will help with that.
Oregon | center/forward | 6-foot-5 | redshirt junior
Because of injuries, Sabally played just 47 career games with the Ducks, averaging 14.2 PPG and 7.5 RPG. But the potential she has at 6-5 to be a big influence on the Fever’s offense and defense — both of which could use a boost — might be enough for Indiana to take the chance on her as a lottery pick despite the injury concerns.
NC State | center | 6-foot-5 | senior
Cunane finished her Wolfpack career averaging 14.8 PPG and 7.9 RPG. She also made 112 3-pointers, shooting 41.1% from behind the arc. The Liberty went for a center in free agency, getting Stefanie Dolson, 30, who is coming off a championship season with Chicago. But adding more size with Cunane, who has shown offensive versatility, makes sense, too.
Louisville | forward | 6-foot-1 | senior
Engstler made a big impact in her one season at Louisville, helping lead the Cardinals to the program’s fourth Final Four. She averaged 11.9 PPG and 9.4 RPG and plays bigger than 6-1. Her constant energy, ability to disrupt the passing lanes and defensive grit should make her appealing to Fever general manager Dunn, who wants better defense.
Tennessee | guard/forward | 6-foot-1 | senior
An early-season injury impacted Burrell’s season, but she still averaged 12.3 PPG and 3.9 RPG. Last season, Burrell’s numbers were 16.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG, and she shot just over 40% from 3-point range. The Wings have good size inside at center and power forward, with Arike Ogunbowale leading their guard corps. Burrell could give them more size and depth at wing.
Mali | center | 6-foot-3
Kone is just 19, and it could help her to spend a season with all-time great Sylvia Fowles, who is retiring after the 2022 season. Kone would be a pick based on her promising potential, which could be enough for the Lynx to take her over any of the remaining college players.
Florida Gulf Coast | guard | 6-foot-1 | junior
Bell, an Ohio State transfer, averaged 23.6 PPG and 9.4 RPG in two seasons at Florida Gulf Coast, while making 143 3-pointers. The strong guard could help the Sparks’ perimeter offense.
South Carolina | guard | 5-foot-7 | senior
If Henderson is still available, the Fever will be happy to add her as both a defensive spark plug and someone who can be a game-changer on offense. We saw evidence of both at the Final Four, as Henderson helped keep UConn’s Paige Bueckers in check while leading the Gamecocks in scoring.
Michigan| forward | 6-foot-2 | senior
Concern over Hillmon’s lack of shooting range might prevent her from going higher, but her relentless rebounding and work ethic could be a boost to the Aces, who can benefit from some more depth at forward.
UConn | guard | 5-foot-11 | senior
Williams struggled against South Carolina’s defense in the national championship game — going 1-of-7 from the field for two points — but she averaged 14.2 PPG this season and might find her best days ahead as a professional.
13. Minnesota Lynx: Evina Westbrook, G, UConn
15. Atlanta Dream: Olivia Nelson-Ododa, F, UConn
18. Seattle Storm: Jade Melbourne, G, Australia
19. Los Angeles Sparks: Queen Egbo, C, Baylor
25. Indiana Fever: Jordan Lewis, G, Baylor
27. Los Angeles Sparks: Kianna Smith, G, Louisville
28. Minnesota Lynx: Reka Dombai, G, Hungary