If we assume that the first pick in this month’s WNBA Draft is what we’ve been expecting for months: the New York Liberty taking Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu. Then the biggest question mark has to be in Dallas. The Wings enter the draft with four first round picks and a need for some star talent to pair with Arike Ogunbowale.
For now, let’s ignore three of those first rounders that the Wings have. Dallas holds the second overall pick in this draft and a lot of the early chatter was around Baylor power forward Lauren Cox. But, a pair of early-declaring juniors has complicated the picture in Oregon forward Satou Sabally and Texas A&M guard Chennedy Carter.
All three players are potentially in play for the Wings with that second pick. Let’s look at the cases for and against Dallas taking each of those players.
The Case For/Against: Satou Sabally
Sabally’s case to be picked second has been gaining steam lately. The majority of mock drafts now predicting that Dallas will take the Oregon wing.
A big part of why is Sabally’s versatility. She has the size to play power forward at the next level, but also the mobility and shooting to play the three. Dallas has a lot of needs right now. But getting someone who can be a 3/4 might be the biggest, as they’ve got Kayla Thornton, Katie Lou Samuelson, and Kaela Davis. Thornton is a solid starter. But Samuelson is still an unknown commodity and Davis had the third-lowest Player Impact Plus/Minus in the WNBA last year, which doesn’t bode well for her chances of sticking around on this roster long term.
That leaves an easy spot for Sabally to slide into as the starting three.
Having Sabally would give the Wings a very potent one-two scoring punch with her and Arike Ogunbowale. Sabally has the chance to be an elite, multi-level scorer at the next level, someone who can knock down any shot she needs to. Defenses would need to make some serious adjustments to account for the two of them playing together and those adjustments would open things up for whoever is playing all the other positions for the Wings.
Sabally’s playtype profile from Synergy is just wild:
Sabally can do it all. Even the playtype she struggled the most at, pick-and-roll ball handling, still saw her score at a good rate, especially when accounting for the fact that players at Sabally’s position aren’t asked to do as much ball-handling.
She’s also shown she can play up to the pressure of a big matchup, like when she scored 25 points against Team USA:
Just a few notes from the highlights above:
- Sabally has such a nice-looking jump shot, and she just needs a little bit of space to get it up. Use some screens and get her the ball out on the perimeter.
- Her dribbling is a little…clunky at times. But it gets the job done against a team composed of the best players in the world. She should be able to put it on the floor and work inside against normal, not all-star teams, especially because her shots has such great touch on it.
- Smart, skilled defender who can get into the paint and muddle things for the other team when needed. Lauren Cox is clearly the better post defender. But Sabally’s no slouch and has the physical tools to never really be a liability when she does enter the paint.
- I mean, seriously, her ability to stretch the floor.
- Sabrina Ionescu (rightly) gets all the playmaking credit for Oregon, but Sabally can make some nice passes too.
So, what’s the case against Sabally? That’s hard to say. Other options are closer to being ready to make an immediate impact while some of what Sabally brings is still in the form of potential. But the Wings aren’t in contending mode, so they don’t need someone who can be elite from the start.
You could argue that wing is a position that can be filled later in the draft, though. Why not draft a player at a position with more scarcity in this class and then take Megan Walker at five? The Wings have enough firsts that they can treat this draft like a puzzle if they want to, which means which drafting a non-Sabally player at two makes taking Walker or Bella Alarie at the fifth spot more of a reality.
The Case For/Against: Lauren Cox
Lauren Cox would play more of a traditional power forward role for the Wings, though she’s also got the interior defensive chops to play the five at times as well.
Cox is the least flashy option of all three, but she’s such a rock-solid basketball player. She’s got a good shooting touch and can score at the rim and in the midrange. She’s one of the best interior defenders in college basketball. She’s easily the best passing big in this draft class.
She’s also local to the Dallas area, and while we don’t know how much bringing the popular Flower Mound native and Baylor star back home is actually weighing on Greg Bibb and Brian Agler, it’s got to at least be part of the equation, especially when Cox is such a talented player.
What she’d do for the Wings: Immediately shore up interior defense issues, providing the team with someone who can defend the rim but also has enough speed to get out and challenge stretch fours. She’d also create an intriguing front court with Astou Ndour that can work both inside and outside on both ends of the floor. That would help with spacing concerns that you might usually have when you draft a power forward who isn’t quite at the level as a shooter to hang around the three-point line.
One of the concerns about Cox is that she’s had two major injuries in the last year. But as I mentioned in a longer piece about Cox that I wrote for Dave Campbell’s Texas Basketball, Cox’s injury issues feel overblown. The injuries affected different legs and, before she left the 2019 National Championship Game with a knee injury, Cox had missed just one game in her Baylor career. I also think concerns about how Cox’s diabetes could impact her game are ignoring the fact that she’s largely avoided dealing with any issues from that over her time with the Lady Bears. There are reasons Dallas should take someone else over Cox, but injury issues shouldn’t be one of those reasons.
One of those reasons is that even with Imani McGee-Stafford leaving the team to go to law school, there’s some solid front court depth here. Aside from Ndour, the team’s also got Isabelle Harrison plus a pair of second-year players in Kristine Anigwe and Megan Gustafson. And while the caliber of bigs in this class feels slightly less than the caliber of wings, players like Ruthy Hebard and Beatrice Mompremier will be around when the Wings make later draft picks and could provide solid backup options behind whoever Dallas starts at the four and five.
The Case For/Against: Chennedy Carter
Carter might not be as much of a need for Dallas, as they have a solid backcourt with Ogunbowale and Moriah Jefferson, but her tremendous upside and the ability to form a backcourt that could — if Arike and Carter both reach their full potential — one day be the league’s best one has to be enticing for the Wings.
For months, the conversation about Dallas has been about Sabally and Cox, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carter go here, or to see Dallas take one of the others and then work a trade to add Carter.
Like Cox, Chennedy Carter is from the Dallas area and would offer the Wings an exciting, hometown prospect. She’s shown a clear ability to lead an offense at Texas A&M and to score in a variety of ways. She’s a good passer. She finishes well at the rim. She’s got all the tools offensively.
She also shot around 25% from three this year and there are questions about her defensively. I think both issues are things that could be fixed — Carter’s shot well before and she has the physical tools to be a serviceable defender, which is all she’d really need to be — but I wonder if Dallas values one of the players with fewer major holes more.
That said, if Carter fixes those holes, she’ll have a long, productive career ahead of her, and while the conversation about what the Wings will do has long revolved around Cox and Sabally, some recent comments from GM Greg Bibb in an interview with Reginald Adetula from DFW radio station 105.3 The Fan has me wondering some things.
Two notable things from that interview that have me wondering about Chennedy Carter being the pick:
- Bibb was asked about needs for the team, and the first place he went with his answer was to point guard and how the team didn’t really have one last year. While he mentioned the acquisition of Moriah Jefferson and Marina Mabrey, Bibb ended the part of his answer by saying that “looking at our options at the point guard position in the draft is certainly on our list.” That’s…an interesting place for Bibb to start an answer about the draft, and while it could just mean they’re looking at a more pure point like Tyasha Harris or Crystal Dangerfield, it’s still worth noting how the discussion unfurled.
- Two other things that Bibb brought up: adding shooting talent and, when talking about Imani McGee-Stafford leaving the team, discussing how the team’s roster has a lot of post players already and are well-positioned going forward. Could this end up being a choice between Sabally and Carter? Am I reading too much into all this? (Bibb mentioned defense as an important thing for Brian Agler’s team, though also hedged a little on that by talking about the team’s youth, so nothing’s super clear here.)
What Do I Think Dallas Should Do?
I’ve spent a lot of time watching Chennedy Carter and Lauren Cox over the last year. I love what both of them bring to the floor.
But Satou Sabally is the right pick here. I think the fit between Arike and Carter would be a little too hard to figure out, and while Cox is going to have a long, successful WNBA career, she feels more like the kind of player you add to a team that’s closer to contention. I’d love to see her in Atlanta on a Dream squad that just brought in a lot of good, veteran talent that could make use of all the subtle things that Cox does well.
Dallas, though, needs upside. Even if Sabally doesn’t end up better than Cox or Carter, a team that’s young like this needs a wing player with the potential to grow into an elite wing player. That’s why I’d go with Satou Sabally.