WNBA

2022 Draft Grades; WNBA Style

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The 2022 WNBA Draft was April 11th and, like Spring, winds of change and excitement are in the air, and rookies are ready to land a roster spot.

Now is an opportune time to offer up some draft grades. Instead of the traditional grades of A, B, C, D (how high-school boring), it is fitting to give true WNBA grades.

The grades play out like this:

  • W (Wild = Nailed It)
  • N (Nifty = Pretty Dang Good)
  • B (Basic = Could Have Been Better)
  • A (Amiss = What the Heck?)

Please note the Chicago Sky did not have any draft picks this year, so there is no draft grade for the 2021 WNBA Champions.

Wild – Nailed It

Atlanta Dream

First Round

When a team has the first pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft and selects All-American everything from the University of Kentucky Rhyne Howard, that is wild. As in Atlanta selected a versatile player that is WNBA ready and a potential starter on day one. Howard has the ability to drive and dish to post players, drive and kick out to the wings, drive and score inside, or take her shot from just about anywhere on the court.

Second Round

With only two picks in the draft, the Dream selected Michigan’s Naz Hillmon at the 15th position. Some people may say Hillmon is not WNBA ready but she is a baller. She may not have the size, but she managed to put up 18 points per game, grabbed nine boards a game, and shot 59% a game in her college career. Of course, she will need to develop an outside shot and add a little more versatility to her game, but her ceiling is high. Hillmon may be a wild card but that only makes the Dream’s draft grade that more wild.

Indiana Fever

First Round

Having the second pick in the draft, Indiana selected NaLyssa Smith, the All-American 6’4″ forward from Baylor. Smith has a natural knack for doing all the extra things that make a player great. She has moves on the block, she can rebound with anyone, and she gets after the loose balls like nobody’s business. That is a wild move for an Indiana team that desperately needs an WNBA ready inside presence.

With the fourth selection in the draft, the Fever selected Emily Engstler, the 6’1″ forward out of Louisville. She definitely has potential, but it is tough to justify a fourth pick on a player with career stats of 9.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and a shooting average of 41.9%. Engstler may become a wild selection for the Fever if she can bring her game up to WNBA speed and break into the starting rotation this season.

Moving on to the sixth spot, the Fever selected 6’1″ guard Lexie Hull out of Stanford. This selection is hard to justify based on Indiana’s needs at the forward/center position. Her career stats do not jump out, although Hull offers a 3-point shooting presence and gets after it on the boards. This pick for the Fever may manifest wildness once Hull gets some experience as a role player off the bench.

The 10th pick in the draft, 6’3″ center Queen Egbo from Baylor was wild, providing foul trouble is not an issue. She and Smith already have four years of experience together. This is a huge bonus for Indiana, especially considering there is little experience at the forward/center positions. If Egbo can take heat off of Smith on any level, take her shots, provide tenacity on the boards, and play tough defense, this is a wild, winning combination for years to come.

Second Round

It is still hard to believe that Destanni Henderson (Henny), the 5’7″ guard from South Carolina was not picked up earlier than the 20th pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft. Although her 3-point shooting needs some improvement, Henny is a smooth operator at point guard. Nothing rattles her, she distributes the ball well, she plays good defense and she is definitely WNBA ready. Do not be surprised to see her play significant minutes this season, even possibly taking on a starting role mid-season.

Third Round

The Fever had two selections in the third round, 6’4″ center, Ameshya Williams-Holliday out of Jackson State and Ali Patberg, a 5’11” guard out of Indiana. Patberg was waived April 21st while Williams-Holliday may be the wild card that makes this roster because of Indiana’s needs at the forward position.

Nifty – Pretty Dang Good

Dallas Wings

First Round

In the first round, the Dallas Wings, at the ninth spot, were nifty and selected Veronica Burton, a 5’9″ guard out of Northwestern. The Wings are pretty stacked at guard but Burton can be a viable scoring option and a much needed defensive presence. In addition, Burton dishes the ball well and is not afraid to get in with the bigs for rebounds. Burton might be the formidable piece the Wings need to make a deeper playoff run this season.

Third Round

The Wings had two back-to-back selections in the third round. The 30th pick was Jasmine Dickey, a 5’9″ guard from Delaware. Next, Dallas chose Jazz Bond, a 6’4″ forward out of North Florida. Considering the history of third round picks making a WNBA roster the odds of either of these players making the Wings squad is pretty slim. With 18 players currently on the roster, it is tough to find a spot for either player. Perhaps Dickey and Bond will find success in another league for now. Bond was waived yesterday afternoon by the Wings, along with last year’s fifth overall pick in 2021, Chelsea Dungee.

Las Vegas Aces

First Round

With the eighth pick, the Las Vegas Aces selected Mya Hollingshed, the 6’3″ forward out of Colorado. One has to believe that the front office and head coach Becky Hammon have some inside nifty intel into this selection. Maybe Hollingshed is a great backup for A’ja Wilson and Dearica Hamby. Maybe she fits into the Ace’s style of play the best. Whatever the case may be, Hollingshed is set up for success learning from the coaches and the veteran players.

At the 11th spot in the draft, the Aces selected Kierstan Bell, the 6’1″ guard out of FGCU. In Bell, Las Vegas gets size at the guard spot and someone who will push the veteran guards to play at a higher level. Bell finds a nifty way to score and rebounds like a paint player. Her 47% shooting percentage is remarkable as well. Bell needs to improve her three-point and free-throw shooting in order to gain starting role status.

Second Round

Another nifty selection for the Aces was choosing Khayla Pointer, the 5’7″ guard with the 13th pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft. It does not hurt that her aunt, Nikki Fargas, is the President of the Las Vegas Aces. However, if there is a WNBA team Pointer belongs on, it is the Aces.  Pointer will bring energy, excitement, and viable minutes off the bench. Look for her and Bell to elevate the guard game of Vegas in numerous ways.

Locked in at the 23rd spot, the Aces selected Aisha Sheppard, a 5’9″ guard out of Virginia Tech. This is a guard heavy team already so this choice could just be a wake up call to the veteran guards on the team. Step up your game every game or there are other players ready to take your place. Sheppard will benefit from getting reps with all the talent on the Vegas roster. Unfortunately, it is unlikely she will be on the Aces roster this season.

Third Round

The Aces chose Faustine Aifuwa, the 6’5″ center from LSU with the 35th pick. Aifuwa was waived on April 20th. She has size and a lot of potential to make an impact in the league. Perhaps a WNBA team needing size and depth will pick her up this season.

Washington Mystics

First Round

The Mystics had two picks in the 2022 WNBA Draft. After trading the first pick to Atlanta, Washington settled in at the third pick and selected Shakira Austin, a 6’5″ center that played two seasons at Ole Miss after transferring from the University of Maryland. This was a nifty selection for the Mystics. Austin will compliment a healthy Elena Delle Donne nicely. She will be a great number two option in the paint and will not only take the heat off of Della Donne but she will help open up the outside shots for the wings.

Second Round

The Mystics had the 14th pick in the draft and selected Christyn Williams, a 5’11” guard out of the University of Connecticut. This may have end up being a very nifty pick for Washington as Williams showed grit, determination, and talent while in college. Unfortunately, Williams sustained a season ending injury recently and will not be available for the 2022 season. On April 22, Williams was waived by the Mystics. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Christyn Williams.

Basic – Could Have Been Better

Connecticut Sun

First Round

The 12th selection in the draft, 5’8″ guard Nia Clouden, out of Michigan State, is a basic choice for the Sun. With all the depth at guard, Clouden will have opportunities to learn from the vets on the team. Clouden has a lot of positive qualities that will eventually lead to a more promising role. For now she will see limited minutes on the court, allowing for a change of pace off the bench.

Second Round

With the 24th pick in the draft, Jordan Lewis, a 5’7″ guard out of Baylor was selected. The Sun have a lot of depth at guard so it will be a tough road for Lewis to travel to make the team. Unless the WNBA expands, Lewis may need a few years in another league before she has a shot at a league roster.

Third Round

The last pick in the draft was Kiara Smith, a 5’10” guard from Florida. Choosing three guards on a team loaded with talented guards was so basic. Again, given the history of 3rd round draft picks, it is difficult to see Smith making the Sun roster. Maybe she will find success in another league.

L.A. Sparks

First Round

With the 9th pick in the draft, the Los Angeles Sparks selected Rae Burrell, a 6’1″ guard out of Tennessee. If Burrell can stay healthy, she brings versatility, length, and speed at the guard position. She has plenty of veteran guards to learn from and bring her game into WNBA form. For now, Burrell will play a basic reserve role, making the most of her minutes when she gets to play.

Second Round

In the second round, the Sparks selected 6’0″ guard Kianna Smith out of Louisville with the 16th pick. Smith may be a long shot to make the Sparks roster. There are currently 10 guards on the roster, and two more that play the guard/forward spot. It is not necessarily a matter of basic talent for Smith, rather too many veteran guards for Los Angeles that make a roster spot a bit improbable. If Smith does make the squad, she has some great leaders to help her get up to WNBA speed.

The other second round selection, the 6’5″ forward out of Connecticut, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, was chosen with the 19th selection. Nelson-Ododa has some serious upside as a WNBA player although she may play a backup role this season for Los Angeles. Her career 56% shooting from the field is impressive although nine points and seven rebounds a game need to translate into better averages in the WNBA. Nelson-Ododa will have an immediate impact in the WNBA this season and for many seasons to follow.

Third Round

The Sparks chose 6’0″ forward Amy Atwell out of Hawaii with the 27th pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft. Unfortunately Los Angeles has 20 players currently on the roster, and it will be tough to basically justify Atwell being one of the 12 permanent players on the team. Atwell may gain experience in an Australian league for a season or two with the idea of making a WNBA roster a few years down the road.

Minnesota Lynx

Second Round

Drafting at the 22nd position, the Minnesota Lynx selected 6’1″ forward Kayla Jones from NC State. The Lynx have plenty of depth at forward so basically Jones is going to have to make a huge splash during training camp in order to make the roster. Her shooting average during her last season was 54% from the field and 41% from three-point arc. If she can improve in scoring, rebounds, and assists, Jones has an outside chance of making a roster this year.

Third Round

The 28th selection in the draft, Hannah Sjerven, a 6’2″ forward out of South Dakota has the makings of a basic made-for-tv movie. Unfortunately, just about everyone drafted after the second round is in the same boat. There are not enough teams and not enough roster spots in the WNBA and Sjerven will most likely not make the Lynx roster. Being from Minnesota may help her cause but she will be better served getting more experience in another league before attempting another shot at the WNBA.

Phoenix Mercury

Third Round

The Phoenix Mercury had a pretty basic 2022 WNBA Draft. The team had only two third round draft choices and selected Maya Dodson, a 6’3″ forward out of Notre Dame at the 26th spot. At the 32nd spot, Phoenix selected 6’2″ forward/center Macee Williams from IUPUI. Williams was waived April 21st. There are no guarantees that Dodson will make the team especially with 18 players currently on the roster. Perhaps another WNBA team will pick her up or she will find success on an overseas team.

Seattle Storm

Second Round

With the 17th pick, Elissa Cunane a 6’5″ center from NC State offers some basic promise. Will she make the roster with Mercedes Russell and Ezi Magbegor locked in at center already? With Russell missing training camp, Cunane has the opportunity to showcase her talents. If Cunane can prove herself as a versatile forward/center there may be room for her as role player off the bench.

Selecting Connecticut 6’0″ guard Evina Westbrook at the 21st spot, more than solidified the Seattle Storms’ basic affinity for former Huskies players. This may be a tough team for Westbrook to find her niche on. With that being said, Sue Bird is in her final year and Briann January and Epiphanny Prince are not getting any younger. Maybe a long shot to find a roster spot, but the Seattle Storm/Huskies may find a nifty exception.

Third Round

With the 33rd pick in the draft Seattle selected Jade Melbourne, a 5’10” guard from Australia. Besides the plethora of Connecticut alumni, the Storm enjoy their basic relationships with Australian players. Melbourne is definitely a more than outside shot to make the Seattle squad. It may be an opportunity for Melbourne to get a taste of WNBA competition. Perhaps in a season or two she will be ready for the league.

Amiss – What the Heck?

New York Liberty

First Round

The New York Liberty had a lot of heads shaking on draft night.  And the heads are still shaking and some eyes have probably rolled out of heads. There is definitely something amiss about the 2022 WNBA draft for the Liberty.

New York had two draft choices for this season’s draft. With the 5th selection, the Liberty chose Nyara Sabally, a 6’5″ forward from the University of Oregon. Sabally has a lot of upside but injuries have really slowed her progress as a player. Maybe New York was drafting potential but it appears that the pick was not well spent.  After the draft, it was reported that Sabally will miss the 2022 WNBA season due to injury. With the talent that was still available at number five, would New York have been better off drafting a healthy player capable of making an immediate impact?

Third Round

The other draft selection the Liberty had was at the 29th spot. New York chose Sika Kone a promising 6’3″ center from Mali. After the draft, it was revealed that Kone will not be in the United States in 2022. Of course that means she will not be suiting up for the Liberty or any other WNBA team this season.

Trade

On draft night the Seattle Storm traded its number 18 pick, 6’4″ forward Lorela Cubaj out of Georgia Tech, to the Liberty. Cubaj earned two-time ACC defensive player of the year honors and may provide a defensive spark off the bench for someone in foul trouble or if a starter needs a breather.

Final Thoughts

For the most part the 2022 WNBA Draft played out as it usually does. There were selections that went as everyone expected and there were selections that raised a lot of eyebrows. It is really disappointing that the 2nd round of the WNBA draft is a crap shoot and the 3rd round is pretty much meaningless. In the near future, may the WNBA expand its teams and its rosters so all of this talent is not left on the outside looking in. May it become the blueprint for all women’s professional sports teams in the future.

About Sharon Ostrom

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