Since 2008, the Atlanta Dream have failed to make the playoffs just three times. With nine games left in the regular season, all signs are pointing toward an absence for a fourth time in 12 seasons. While the franchise is still one of the most successful in the WNBA, the Dream will be eligible for the WNBA Draft Lottery (picks 1-4) by missing out on the postseason this year. With the 2020 draft featuring some of college’s bright stars, they’ll look to receive help instantly.
Atlanta’s last time in the Lottery worked well
The last time Atlanta had a lottery pick was 2009. They got the first overall pick and drafted Angel McCoughtry from Louisville. We all know how that turned out. Angel went on to become the WNBA Rookie of the Year, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a two-time All-WNBA First Team, and a five-time All-Star. She also helped lead Atlanta to three WNBA Finals. Not bad, right?
Angel is now a seasoned and highly capable veteran. But she also is coming off a knee injury, which has sidelined her for the entire 2019 season. Angel may also be interested in finding a new team for the next chapter of her career. So now may be the time for the Dream to think about finding their next star. With their lottery pick, the Dream could get that next star very soon.
The Crown Jewel: Sabrina Ionescu
The 2020 draft class could provide players that will not only be able to contribute right away, but also command a crowd. Sabrina “Miss Triple-Double” Ionescu from Oregon leads the fantastic group of prospects. She is sure to be on the radar for all teams — lottery or not. A player of her caliber would convince teams to negotiate trades in order to move up to get her.
Sabrina has already tallied 1984 points as a Duck with a career average of 18.2ppg along with 7.3 assists. She would improve the Dream’s floor spacing and provide a point-guard with high-level scoring capabilities. Landing in Atlanta would also pair her with Oregon teammate, Maite Cazorla.
Other top prospects
If the Dream were to miss out on Sabrina, who are some other stars that could boost the Dream’s scoring along with commanding an audience? Two that come to mind are Baylor Bear Lauren Cox and potential early-entry candidate, Chennedy Carter from Texas A&M. They are two different types of players that may not address the immediate needs of the Dream franchise. But they’re both go-to players that aren’t afraid of the moments with the game on the line.
Carter is 5’7″ guard who is no stranger to big shots and know how to make them. Cox has a winning pedigree while providing rebounding and shot blocking. The Dream currently lead the league in blocks and are top three in rebounds. Adding Cox will boost to those numbers even higher.
Prospects with Atlanta Ties
If they decide to go the local route of taking a player from Atlanta, there are quite a few players to consider. Te’a Cooper out of Baylor and Tynice Martin from West Virginia are both from the ATL.
Cooper has attended several Dream games across multiple seasons and seems to know the team and/or coaches well. She also is loved and recognized by fans in the area. While Atlanta is home for Cooper, the love for Cooper is partially due to stints at neighboring Tennessee and South Carolina. Martin is a high-scoring guard that has a pro-ready frame and presents physicality. Both could have the opportunity to play in front of family and friends.
Coach Nicki Collen has spoken about taking local players in the draft previously. “Absolutely we’re always going to look [picking players from Atlanta]. At the end of the day, my job is to win games, and so I’m going to draft players that we feel like fit our system best and fit our roster the best. As important as that is, I think this is an Atlanta community that is going to support a winner,” she said around the 2019 WNBA Draft.
“We would have loved to have Asia Durr [from nearby Douglasville, GA], but that wasn’t going to play out that way. We’re always going to look at that, but we’re going to choose players based off what needs we have over necessarily what they call their hometown or home university.” Coach Collen and the Dream are currently 5-19 and are again still at the bottom for attendance. One of the two will hopefully change soon and a player from Atlanta could help them change that.
South Carolina Prospects
When you think of attendance, it doesn’t get much better than the South Carolina Gamecocks. They’ve led the nation in women’s college basketball attendance for five consecutive seasons Their fans aren’t afraid to travel, and often do so in the hundreds via bus trips in order to show support. Currently five former South Carolina Gamecocks play in the WNBA, including Alaina Coates who the Dream recently acquired. Games against teams featuring a former Gamecock at State Farm Arena are usually heavily attended with garnet and black sprinkled throughout.
The Gamecocks have two players eligible for the draft in Tyasha Harris and Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan. While they are likely to be drafted later than the others I mentioned, both could come in and potentially provide solid production from a bench role. Harris is a true pass first point guard. She also has the learning experience of playing with and against both Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird during a 2018 training camp with the USA Basketball Women’s National Team for that year’s World Cup. Herbert-Harrigan can provide rim protection along with a seemingly automatic midrange jumper. Her best player comps are Candice Dupree of the Fever or the Dream’s Jessica Breland.
The season isn’t over, and the Dream aren’t yet eliminated from playoff contention. Should they make the playoffs, then there’s no lottery. No lottery means no chance at Ionescu or, according to some mock boards, even Cox (without a trade). While all of the players mentioned aren’t projected as lottery picks, some could have great senior (junior for Carter) seasons that may lead to an improved draft stock.
With nine games left in 2019, the Dream’s chances of snagging a top four pick increase with each loss. Next season may seem far away. But the planning and building process should start well before the final buzzer on September 8th.
This week the Dream are on the road against the Phoenix Mercury. They then return home for an August 20th matchup versus the Chicago Sky.