INSIDR’S 2019 ROOKIE PREDICTIONS

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By Justin Carter, Grant Asfeth, Geoff Magliocchetti

With this year’s WNBA Draft now behind us, a few of us — Geoff Magliocchetti, Grant Afseth, and Justin Carter — got together to think about how the players from this year’s draft class might fit into their team’s plans for the upcoming season. With Geoff looking at the teams picking one to four, Grant at spots five to eight, and Justin at nine through 12, we each selected one draft per pick per team that we thought would have the best chance of making it onto their team’s roster this season.

#1. LAS VEGAS- JACKIE YOUNG

Considering the Aces had a single pick on the 2019 draft board, and it was the top overall pick, no less, there was only one true option here. Sabrina Ionescu might’ve opted to stick it out in Eugene, but underclassmen fever was nonetheless the Vegas headliner.

Young is the latest factor in a women’s basketball revolution in the City of Lights. The team was instantly welcomed in its new surroundings and will host the 2019 All-Star festivities. With power forward A’ja Wilson already in tow, the Aces opted to go with another champion in Young. She’s by no means the most prominent scorer in this draft, but serves as a perfect compliment to a Vegas roster that will welcome back Wilson, Kayla McBride, and Kelsey Plum (one of those obtained in exchange for a draft selection).

#2. NEW YORK LIBERTY- ASIA DURR

The big discussion on draft night might’ve actually centered around the Liberty’s second-round pick, Chinese center Han Xu. But with Han’s 2019 status in question, there’s no doubt the more immediate impact could be made from Durr.

With the Liberty’s future secure in the hands of Joseph Tsai, they’re ready to make improvements from last season’s franchise-worst 7-27 mark. Durr and Kia Nurse can serve as the next generation of New York basketball at guard, while other members from a squad that finished with the East’s best record over the prior three seasons will likewise be back. Durr will have some immediate strong mentors to work with upon her arrival. Hall of Fame guard Katie Smith returns for her second season at the New York helm, while the Liberty recently traded for Tanisha Wright, one of the league’s longest tenured players.

#3. INDIANA FEVER- TEAIRA MCCOWAN

Reeling from back-to-back single-digit win seasons, the drafting of McCowan can finally begin to make things right.

McCowan’s name was popular when it came to the top overall pick debate, especially in the wake of Ionescu’s choice, so she’ll be playing with a chip on her shoulder come the season. The Fever will take it all, as they finished dead last in WNBA scoring last season, as well as the lower half of each major rebounding category, averaging a double-double in each of her final two seasons. With the Fever going through the growing pains of a rebuild (only four players on the current roster have at least five years of WNBA experience), the leadership skills she built at Mississippi State could come up huge as well.

#4. CHICAGO SKY- CHLOE JACKSON

The prominent selection is obviously Katie Lou Samuelson at fourth overall. While there’s no doubt that Samuelson can make her mark as the potential new face of Chicago basketball, the second round selection of Jackson should not be slept on.

Even before playing her first professional game, Jackson has made plenty of transitions, namely those of the transfer variety. A collegiate career that began at North Carolina State soon took her to Baton Rouge and later Baylor. Despite so much travel, Jackson managed to make an impact no matter she went, scoring in double figures in three of her four seasons. She capped off a colorful career on the highest of notes, helping the Lady Bears earned the 2019 National Championship. Her 26 points earned her the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.

#5. DALLAS WINGS- ARIKE OGUNBOWALE

Dallas will be without Skylar Diggins-Smith for the upcoming season but the selection of Arike Ogunbowale with the 5th overall pick could help to fill at least some of the void. She possesses an elite catch-and-shoot ability and that should make her a great complement to Diggins-Smith once she returns to the lineup. The Wings will have more firepower in the playmaking department with a possibly dangerous ‘one-two punch’ between Diggins-Smith and Ogunbowale at some point. In the meantime, Ogunbowale will likely receive ample opportunities to make plays and adjust to the WNBA level.

#6. MINNESOTA LYNX- NASPHEESA COLLIER

There could be a lot of opportunity for Napheesa Collier during her rookie season with the Lynx. The 6th pick will be joining a team that will be without Maya Moore as she will be sitting out next season and no longer has Lindsay Whalen due to retirement. With questions about whether or not Rebekkah Brunson will be playing, Collier could step in and fill an immediate role. She was a highly effective interior offensive threat at UCONN and that is how she can make an instant impact because there will be plenty of shots to go around. She may need to extend her shooting range at the WNBA level but there is a lot to like about her skill-set nevertheless.

#7. LOS ANGELES SPARKS- KALANI BROWN

The Sparks have been in the headlines for months because of Liz Cambage’s desire to be traded to their team. It is unclear if the player that they selected with the 7th pick, Kalani Brown, will ultimately remain in Los Angeles, but there is a lot to like about her fit there if she does. Perhaps the greatest area that she can help is in rebounding considering how they produced league-worst results last season. The 6’7″ center has an efficient interior offensive skill-set with real potential to be an impactful defensive anchor. There should be playing time available for her as a rookie but she may have to play in some jumbo lineup combinations.

#8. PHOENIX MERCURY- ALANNA SMITH

There was a desire from Phoenix to get younger, more athletic, and to add shooting around their star trio of Diana Taurai, Britney Griner, and Dewanna Bonner. They managed to do exactly all of that by selecting Alanna Smith with the 8th pick. She is a highly efficient stretch-four that can post-up and get to the rim. With a cohesive complementary skill-set and pre-existing familiarity with head coach Sandy Brondello from international play, Smith could hit the ground running with the Mercury. It’s hard to think of anyone being a better pick to win the WNBA Finals than Phoenix after their draft haul.

#9. CONNECTICUT SUN – KRISTINE ANIGWE

Y’all wanted some rebounds? The Sun led the WNBA in rebounds last season, and they’re working to keep that up by picking Anigwe. Anigwe was a phenomenal scorer and rebounder in college, and while figuring out the minutes situation in Connecticut is going to be tough, I’d imagine she’ll be the first big off the bench this season since the Sun already have Jonquel Jones and Chiney Ogwumike, but Anigwe should be able to help the team maintain it’s rebounding edge when one of those players sits and can provide a scoring spark as well.

#10. WASHINGTON MYSTICS – KIARA LESLIE

The Leslie pick was the surprise of the first round, but after the Mystics did the same thing last year by surprising people with the Ariel Atkins pick, I’m not going to question it. Leslie has the best chance of any Mystics draft pick to play for the team this year, and she’s a solid defender and an improving shooter who can add some depth to this team.

#11. ATLANTA DREAM – MAITE CAZORLA

The Dream picked Brianna Turner in the first round, but they traded her to Phoenix for Marie Gulich, so I guess I’ll go with Cazorla here. Looking over the Dream roster, it’s hard to see room for Cazorla, but with the Angel McCoughtry injury, maybe Cazorla can find a spot on this roster out of training camp? Cazorla’s a good defender and shoots well, but we’ll have to see if she can end up on the team.

#12. SEATTLE STORM – ANRIEL HOWARD

Seattle chose a potential international stash in Ezi Magbegor, so you have to dive a little deeper into their draft to figure out who’ll make the roster. Of their other picks, Howard, the 24th overall pick, seems a better choice than the final pick of the draft, Macy Miller. Seattle’s a veteran team, but I see there being room at the bottom of the roster for a good rebounder who can step out and shoot from outside (though she needs to hit those at a higher percentage). Expect Howard to fight for the last roster spot. (Update: If Breanna Stewart misses the season after suffering an Achilles injury, Howard’s chances of making the final roster go up, as the Storm would have an extra roster spot to work with.)

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