The 2022 WNBA draft will be judged a lot based on how much Indiana Fever improved after dominating the first round with four picks. The Fever had seven picks overall, and players who secured a spot on the roster would have the opportunity to be the changemakers for a franchise that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2016.
With so many picks on Monday, it’s no surprise that Fever leads the scores for ESPN’s WNBA draft. Indiana threw one curve ball to most forecasters in taking Stanford Cardinal guard Lexi Hull in the first round. But Team Fever wants players who will come hungry to make a difference, and Hull has that kind of personality on the field.
While it was a busy night for some teams, Chicago Sky was just a draft watcher because the WNBA champions’ defenders had no choices. The Minnesota Links and Phoenix Mercury had four picks between them, three of which were in the third round, so those picks might not make much of a difference.
How did teams like Atlanta Dream and Las Vegas Aces, who have done deals to get certain targets for enlistment day, do fair on Monday? Did Sophie Washington take the right step in dealing with Choice #1?
Below is the WNBA’s draft 2022 estimates, with a breakdown of it all.
Emily Engstler joins NaLyssa Smith as she was selected as 4th place by Indiana Fever.
Anthology: 2 – Nalissa Smith, Baylor, BF; 4. Emily Engstler, Louisville, BF; 6. Lexi Hull, Stanford, SG; 10. Queen Igbo, Baylor, C.; 20. Destiny Henderson, South Carolina, PG; 25. Ameshya Williams-Holliday, Jackson State, C; 34. Ali Batberg, Indiana, St. Germain
General Manager Lin Den said she wanted young, energetic players who could defend themselves, and it looks like she’s got it. Hull was a surprise as the third of Fever’s four picks in the first round, but Dunn clearly believes in her engine. Hal has led the Cardinals in robberies (78) this season. Smith and Igbo have been Baylor’s teammates for four seasons, so they bring harmony. The always-moving Engstler is a defensive force and plays like she’s competing for Dunn.
Even after a great performance at the Final Four, Henderson went in the second round. But if you can make the list, Henderson also plays the kind of defense that Fever is looking for. It would be hard for Williams-Holliday to secure a place on the list, but her selection is a boost to HBCUs everywhere.
Anthology: 1. Rhyne Howard, Kentucky, SG; 15. Naz Hillmon, Michigan, PF
The Dream was under new management and a new coaching staff, and they knew who they wanted in Howard and were willing to barter to get it. Howard must energize to see how much of a dream he believes in her to do so. It’s a huge legacy that should be the #1 choice, and Howard has the potential to land the role. New Dream coach Tanisha Wright was highly regarded for her leadership and defense as a WNBA player, and she should be a great mentor to Howard.
As great a player as Helmon was in college, her second-round selection underscores that WNBA teams have concerns about her size and shooting range. What they can’t fully measure is her heart and maturity – both of which are off the charts. These qualities should help her secure a place on the list and prove that she can continue to add to her game.
Anthology: 3. Shakira Austin, Ole Miss, C; 14. Kristen Williams, Ocon, SJ
The trade with Mystics worked: Dealing with the #1 pick still gives them a premium player in Austin, who are limitless if you progress steadily as a pro. Washington also got an additional option to pick Williams, who has the UConn pedigree in her favour.
Much has been said about Williams’ ups in college, but the track record of ex-Husky in the league is beyond impressive. In Washington, she can thrive without too much pressure.
The Washington Mystics uses the third pick in the WNBA draft to select Ole Miss’ Shakira Austin.
Anthology: 9. Ray Burrell, TN, SG; 16. Keanna Smith, Louisville, SG; 19. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn, C; 27. Amy Atwell, Hawaii, SF
Sparks emerged from the disappointment of not making the playoffs last year. But they made big casual moves by acquiring Liz Cambage and Chennedy Carter, and may have filled some needs with the draft. Burrell has good size and wing skills, and Smith and Nelson-Ododa both have Final Four experience.
Atwell, Big West Player of the Year, deserves a look in the camp. They may not all be on the list, but Sparks have made the most of their recruiting sites.
Anthology: 5. Niara Sabali, Oregon, PF; 18. Laurella Cobage, Georgia Tech, PF; 29. Seka Kony, Mali, C
Liberty needed the size and strength inside, and they got it. Sabali, if she can stay healthy, is a versatile addition that the New York Rangers can take advantage of as another goal.
Cubaj was the foundation of Georgia Tech’s first defensive success. Connie has gone later than many expected, but she is only 19 and could be a player in Liberty’s future.
Atlanta Dreamcatcher selected Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard with the first pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft.
Anthology: 12. Nia Clawden, Michigan State, St. Germain; 24. Jordan Lewis, Baylor, P.G.; 36. Kiara Smith, Florida, St. Germain
Clawden is a strong scorer, and Lewis is a very good distributor. It’s always a numbers game with the list, but getting more depth into the guard is a positive for the sun. Smith is a pick for the future, having suffered a season-ending knee injury during the SEC Championship in March.
Anthology: 7. Veronica Burton, Northwestern, PG; 30. Jasmine Dickey, Delaware, SG; 31. Jazz Pond, North Florida, PF
Given all of the Wings’ draft picks in the past two years, they don’t have much room on the list. But they got a good score from Burton’s pick alone. Three-time Defensive Player of the Year Big Ten adds peripheral rigidity at that end of the field that the wings need.
Dickie and Bond are the two types of guys you really want to have a higher chance of playing, but the roster numbers crunch is painful.
Anthology: 17 – Elisa Konany, NC State, C; 21. Evina Westbrook, UConn, P.G.; 33. Jade Melbourne, Australia, PG
Cunane is probably the best 3-point shooting game for positions in the draft. Although she slipped into the second round, she has a lot of potential to find her way into the WNBA if she can make up the Storm roster.
Some believe that Westbrook might rise quite a bit with her 6 foot size and ability to be a combo keeper. She’s a player who always plays hard, and that can make a difference. Melbourne is 19 years old and probably a choice for the future.
Anthology: 8. Mia Hollingshead, Colorado, PF; 11. Kierstan Bell, Florida Gulf Coast, SG; 13. Khayla Index, LSU, PG; 23. Aisha Sheppard, Virginia Tech, SG; 35. Faustine Aifuwa, LSU, C.
That rating may be a bit off-putting, but it comes down to this: the ace struck a deal Sunday with Minnesota for picks #8 and #13; Did they make the most of these choices? If Hollingshead proves to be as good as the Aces think, then yes. If not, the estimate may be too accurate.
The size of the bell on the perimeter should be a good choice. Hollingshed, Pointer, Sheppard, and Aifuwa were all 5 year olds, so they mature, although it’s unlikely that all will last.
Anthology: 22. Kayla Jones, NC State, SF; 28. Hannah Servin, South Dakota, C
By trading the number 8 and 13 picks with Aces’ 2023 picks, Lynx made it clear that this draft wouldn’t be a huge factor for them. This makes sense, given the limited cover space. Jones and Cervin are hard-working players who have had great college seasons, with North Carolina State making the Elite Eight and South Dakota sweet 16. Both deserve a look in the camp, but it would be hard for either of them to make it to the list.
Anthology: 26. Maya Dodson, Notre Dame, PF; 32. Massey Williams, IUPUI, C.
Mercury is in a similar position to that of Lynx, and not much is expected from this draft. Both of Phoenix’s picks were in the third round. With Britney Greiner held indefinitely in Russia, I thought Mercury would pick the adults with their picks, and both Dodson and Williams had really good seasons. Again, the list scores would be high, but at least both can satisfy a need.