It’s been a thrilling offseason for fans of women’s basketball. First, the free agency game of musical chairs that significantly shuffled nearly every roster across the WNBA. Then, the NCAA tournament spoiled us all with close game after close game, with elation and heartbreak, with huge performances and stunning upsets. Last week’s WNBA jersey reveals generated further buzz and excitement for the upcoming 25th anniversary season.
Now, continuing to build on all that momentum: the WNBA Draft. It will air this Thursday, April 15, at 7 PM, where Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will read the names of the league’s newest rookies as they’re selected by their future franchises.
Here at Winsidr, we wanted to keep you covered. In recent weeks, you’ve probably seen a lot of mock drafts, but this time, we wanted to try something different. We gathered our staff, divided up the teams based on regional expertise, and went pick-by-pick through the first round.
Let’s get into it. Justin, (for the first of four times), you and the Dallas Wings are on the clock.
|Team||Mock GM||Round 1 Picks|
|Atlanta Dream||B. Terrell||3|
|Chicago Sky||James Kay||8|
|Dallas Wings||Justin Carter||1, 2, 5, 7|
|Indiana Fever||Dani Bar-Lavi||4|
|Las Vegas Aces||Rachel Galligan||12|
|Los Angeles Sparks||John W. Davis||10|
|Minnesota Lynx||Aryeh Schwartz||9|
|New York Liberty||Myles Ehrlich||6|
|Seattle Storm||Chris Wozniak||11|
Pick 1: Dallas Wings (Justin Carter, @juscarts)
Charli Collier, Texas
19.0 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 51.1% FG%
Pick 2: Dallas Wings (Justin Carter, @juscarts)
Awak Kuier, Finland
(Stats from Passalacqua Ragusa, Italy) 8.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 45.5% FG%
So, the Wings had four first round picks. I tried to trade either the fifth or seventh picks just to keep from having to eventually cut a player I like, but no one would bite.
My first two picks were obvious. Charli Collier. Awak Kuier.
Dallas needs bigs. In this scenario, they get the best center in the draft in Collier, a strong presence on both ends of the floor who should succeed in this league despite some struggles in college against elite competition. And then, they get Kuier, who is long and quick and has the ability to be the best player from this class. She could be one of those hybrid fours like Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne who have taken over the league. Still too early to know if she has the ability to be even close to as good as those two, but you can see the prototype there when you watch Kuier play.
Pick 3: Atlanta Dream (B. Terrell, @itsBTerrell)
Aari McDonald, Arizona
20.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.0 SPG
With the third pick, the Atlanta Dream will draft Aari McDonald out of Arizona.
Nobody’s stock rose more in the NCAA Tournament than McDonald’s. Her stellar performances, plus heroic ability to lead her team to victory after victory, were exciting to watch for fans across the country. McDonald is a superb two-way guard with quick hands and can provide scoring from multiple levels. While a streaky shooter, she’s a capable facilitator and understands how to get others involved. On top of that, she also defends at a high level, which is evidenced by her taking home consecutive Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Having capable scorers around her will take the offensive burden off her shoulders and allow her to ease into her game at the professional level. It’s a crowded backcourt in Atlanta, but it’s a challenge I’m sure she’s ready to embrace.
She won’t be called upon as the go-to player to start her career, but being able to produce in a backup role while learning from veteran guards should work well for her game. The Dream were one of the lowest scoring teams in the league last year. For someone with a track record like McDonald’s, the thought of improvement in the offensive categories isn’t that farfetched.
Pick 4: Indiana Fever (Dani Bar-Lavi, @dblfluidity)
Arella Guirantes, Rutgers
21.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, 1.8 BPG
Arella Guirantes may just be the most WNBA-ready player in this draft. The fifth-year senior is best known for her abilities as a versatile, three-level scorer. A bonafide mid-range threat both off the dribble and the catch-and-shoot, Guirantes can create her own offense and function within the context of larger schemes. She has also developed a respectable three-point stroke over her time with Rutgers, her percentage from deep up above 35 percent for each of the last two seasons. But Arella Guirantes is more than just a scoring threat: she’s a well-rounded player that’s going to fill many needs for her WNBA squad from rebounding, to passing and playmaking, to defending multiple positions as a physical, Guirantes is an athletic player with tweener size at 5’11. While we only got to see one tournament game from her this year, with the Scarlet Knights getting upset by Brigham Young in the first round, it was quite the showcase for the Long Island, NY native. She notched 30 points on 10-18 shooting (hitting both attempts from deep), and rounded out the performance by grabbing six rebounds and handing out three assists.
the more i watch arella guirantes, the more i think she has a chance to be the best player in this wnba draft class pic.twitter.com/CXNmkal8lb
— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) April 10, 2021
The Indiana Fever come into this draft in the midst of a rebuild, searching for a direction and an identity as they continue to acquire assets and retool over the next few seasons. In many ways, Arella Guirantes is the ideal rookie for a team in Indiana’s current state, a high upside player who already has the skills and experience to make an impact right away. With her size and multifaceted skill set, Guirantes can easily slot into several positions as needed based on the players brought in around her and Kelsey Mitchell, the Fever’s current top backcourt talent. Guirantes’ fit as a partner on the wing next to Mitchell is one of the things that really excites me about this pick. When they share the floor, Guirantes’ shotmaking abilities will draw defensive heat off Mitchell, while her passing ability will help unlock higher percentage looks for Mitchell. Guirantes would also help spread the offense for Indiana’s young bigs, Teiara McCowan and Lauren Cox, giving them more room to operate inside.
Pick 5: Dallas Wings (Justin Carter, @juscarts)
Dana Evans, Louisville
20.1 PPG, 3.9 APG, 35.3 3PT% on 2.4 3PM
Next time on the clock, I wanted a point guard who can shoot. I love Ty Harris, but I worry a Harris/Arike Ogunbowale backcourt doesn’t have the shooting I want to have long term, so I’d like to add a third young guard who I do trust as a shooter. Evans is undersized, but she can shoot the ball off the dribble and as a catch-and-shoot player. I think she can play with both Arike and Ty, adding some versatility to this backcourt.
Pick 6: New York Liberty (Myles Ehrlich, @MylesEhrlich)
Jasmine Walker, Alabama
19.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 39.8% 3PT% on 2.9 3PM
The direction the Liberty take with the sixth pick will be very telling. Had there not been a run on guards in the three picks preceding mine, I’d have been tempted to add some depth there. If New York went after a backcourt addition, though, it would say a lot about the team’s expectations for Asia Durr’s return this season after the serious lingering effects from the coronavirus, which caused her to miss 2020, as well.
Still, though, there’s a much bigger need down low, even if the team is looking to get Natasha Howard time at the five, while using stretch-fours like Rebecca Allen or Jocelyn Willoughby to space out their shooter-friendly offense. As of now, only Kiah Stokes and Kylee Shook provide further assistance at the center position. (Though, really, what are positions anyway anymore?) So, with the temptation of the splashy guards gone, it came down to which big would be a better fit: Jasmine Walker or Natasha Mack.
Either would’ve been a solid pick here for New York. Pairing Natashas down low would pay dividends in pun potential alone, and her traditional back-to-the-basket offense/rim-protecting defense are a fit to any roster. Instead, though, we opted for Walker, the system fit. Last season, only the Wings attempted more threes than the Liberty. Every team in the league, however, bested New York in three-point percentage. Walker’s ability to take and make threes at such a high volume—along with the offseason additions, plus returns of players like Ionsecu (who has in-the-gym range), Allen (who led the team in three-point percentage in 2019), and Marine Johannès (who has one of the most aesthetically pleasing games in the W, including a smooth stepback three)—will contribute to a long-range Barclays barrage this season.
Pick 7: Dallas Wings (Justin Carter, @juscarts)
Rennia Davis, Tennessee
17.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 48.0% FG%
At seven, I went with the best player available. Rennia Davis is a super athletic wing who has some shooting-related flaws, but who profiles to be a good player in this league. I don’t know if Dallas has room for her, but if she falls to seven, you take her and figure the rest out later. Maybe she becomes a good trade chip. Maybe you maneuver some things around and get Davis on this roster and see if she can adapt to the WNBA floor and become a stretch four for you. Either way, draft her at seven.
#ZEROout! love y’all🧡 pic.twitter.com/bzlfRdfbry
— Rennia Davis. (@Legend_Hooper) April 1, 2021
Pick 8: Chicago Sky (James Kay, @James_M_Kay)
Kysre Gondrezick, West Virginia
19.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 36.4 3PT% on 2.5 3PM
After acquiring Candace Parker—arguably the biggest free agent signing in WNBA history—the Sky’s head coach and general manager, James Wade, has all but one hole on his roster to figure out: back-up point guard. All signs point to the team being in win-now mode and finding a ball-handler who can take some of the burden off of Courtney Vandersloot is crucial. Vandersloot earned All-WNBA First Team honors for yet another prolific season as the league’s best facilitator but the Sky struggled when she was off the floor. In 2020, Chicago’s net rating with Sloot on the court was 9.3 but plummeted to -18.7 when she was subbed out.
Since Evans and McDonald are no longer on the board, I am going with a wild-card selection here: Kysre Gondrezick. The safest pick would be to grab Stanford’s Kiana Williams but the thought of Gondrezick pushing the pace in James Wade’s second unit is too tantalizing. Gondrezick proved she can be both an on- and off-ball threat during her time at West Virginia and displayed the kind of offensive versatility Wade has valued so far in his successful WNBA tenure.
A crazier scenario would be the Sky drafting Williams at no. 8 and, if she is still available, Gondrezick at no. 16. With former 2015 first round pick Brittany Boyd being invited to Chicago’s training camp, the competition for the final spot on the roster could make for one of the most interesting storylines in the league heading into the preseason.
The Sky are ready to compete for a championship now (they only have three players signed through 2022, according to Her Hoops Stats) and if they value fit over talent, Gondrezick fits the bill for what the Sky need this season.
Pick 9: Minnesota Lynx (Aryeh Schwartz, @WinsidrAryeh)
Chelsea Dungee, Arkansas
22.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.1 3PM on 38.7% 3P%
It is always tough being middle to late first round, you can have your top choices but often you are reliant on how the dominoes fall.
Coming into the draft, I really had a single need after the great free agency moves I made (I get to take credit for Reeve making great moves, right?): a two-way guard that can create with the ball in her hands. With Dana Evans, Aari McDonald, and Arella Guirantes already taken and Evina Westbrook opting to not enter the draft, my options were limited. I had to adjust my thinking just a little bit. I set out looking for a player that could attack the basket and get to the line (79 percent on 224 attempts this season), while still making the defense respect the three ball (33 percent on 150 attempts this season). Dungee made it an easy choice. In particular, her big game in handing UConn its only regular season loss stood out, as well as her resiliency in bouncing back from a down year last season. Does the 5’11 wing have some question marks? Yes, but I feel confident that—with a clearly defined role and the great coaching staff we have—she can succeed as an important role player for a champion contention team.
Pick 10: Los Angeles Sparks (John W. Davis, @johnwdavis)
DiDi Richards, Baylor
6.3 PPG, 6.3 APG, 1.2 SPG
Richards is by far the best perimeter defender in the 2021 WNBA Draft. That’s why she was recognized as the 2020 National Defensive Player of the Year. And the quickest way on to the court in the W, is by playing exceptional defense. Becoming a lockdown defender at the next level will also be key to Richards’ longevity in the W.
In her final game at Baylor, Richards’ impact on defense was on full display. The 6’2 guard was tasked with covering Paige Bueckers in the Elite Eight. After holding the freshman phenom in check for most of the game, Richards was sidelined by an injury late in the third quarter. Immediately, Connecticut began to generate good looks, spurring a 19-0 run that ultimately turned the tide in favor of the Huskies. Before that, Richards, used her length, tenacity, and experience to hold Bueckers in check and power Baylor to a double-digit lead deep into that second half.
However, there is one major drawback to Richards’ game, which is outside shooting. The LA Sparks offense is being re-tooled around versatile perimeter and wing players. To be successful, they will need above average three-point shooters. At the moment, that’s not part of the Richards game. The 6’2 point guard did not attempt one three pointer all season. That will simply have to change and change quickly for Richards to be a viable player in the W.
Meanwhile, with Richards’ preseason spinal cord injury that temporarily paralyzed her and her recent hamstring injury suffered in the NCAA Tournament, I could see a scenario, where Richards becomes a valuable draft and stash player in 2021. That would allow her time to recover and at the same time develop a three-point shot overseas before the 2022 season. However, if Richards is 100 percent healthy before training camp, I expect her to immediately compete for one of the 12 coveted roster spots on the Sparks.
Pick 11: Seattle Storm (Chris Wozniak, @wlohaty)
Kiana Williams, Stanford
14.0 PPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG
Taking over Seattle, with a roster that’s been significantly changed from last year’s title-winning season through free agency transactions, I knew there were no trades to be made here. The Storm look to repeat, still led by Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and Sue Bird. They have 10 players signed who I consider locks to feature on the roster in 2021, with an additional four wings in Kitija Laksa, Haley Gorecki, Stephanie Talbot, and Tamera Young fighting for the remaining spots. Coming into our draft, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of initiators, especially assuming that Sue Bird will miss some games to rest (as she should). Seattle could go into the season relying on Jordin Canada and combined powers of Loyd and Epiphanny Prince to set up their offense in those cases, maybe even using Stewie as a point forward at times, but I identified this as the most pressing issue.
Knowing we needed a point guard who can fit into the team, help right away, and backup Bird narrowed the selection pool. Add the fact that Seattle picks at #11 and most of my decisions would be made for me, as guards were being snapped to teams higher up the board. With the tremendous Aari McDonald and Dana Evans gone before pick number six, Evina Westbrook back to UConn for another year, and DiDi Richards and Kysre Gondrezick being chosen before my time, I was happy to finally put on my GM cap on and announce the selection of Kiana Williams from Stanford, a player I had been targeting all along.
A freshly crowned national champion, full of resiliency and toughness, who definitely knows how to lead a healthy offense, takes care of the ball and most importantly can space the floor. Williams made 38.3 percent of her threes this season (including a whopping 50.9 percent in the tournament), averaging almost six attempts a game in her college career. I could see her slotting in nicely in this Seattle team, freed up for more open looks from deep, while playing a valuable supporting role.
Pick 12: Las Vegas Aces (Rachel Galligan, @RachGall)
Natasha Mack, Oklahoma State
19.8 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 4.0 BPG, 52.9% FG%
A season after making the WNBA Finals, Las Vegas returns with an even more imposing roster, with Liz Cambage (COVID opt-out) and Kelsey Plum (Achilles injury) back from the 2019 team, and Chelsea Gray added via free agency. With defending MVP A’ja Wilson lining up beside Cambage down low, this roster construction is a dream come true for Coach Bill Laimbeer.
Natasha Mack would add another young big on the interior with imposing size, length, and athleticism to this already seemingly loaded Las Vegas roster. Mack led the country in blocked shots this year at 4.0 blocks per game. Her ability to spread out, take up space, and alter shots makes her unique to this draft class. Mack hasn’t reached her ceiling—imagine her potential after playing alongside the top post players in the world for a season or two? Las Vegas gets deeper in the paint and a valuable asset to develop for the future.
Final draft order
|Team||Mock GM||Round 1 Picks||Selection|
|Dallas Wings||Justin Carter||1||Charli Collier|
|Dallas Wings||Justin Carter||2||Awak Kuier|
|Atlanta Dream||B. Terrell||3||Aari McDonald|
|Indiana Fever||Dani Bar-Lavi||4||Arella Guirantes|
|Dallas Wings||Justin Carter||5||Dana Evans|
|New York Liberty||Myles Ehrlich||6||Jasmine Walker|
|Dallas Wings||Justin Carter||7||Rennia Davis|
|Chicago Sky||James Kay||8||Kysre Gondrezick|
|Minnesota Lynx||Aryeh Schwartz||9||Chelsea Dungee|
|Los Angeles Sparks||John W. Davis||10||DiDi Richards|
|Seattle Storm||Chris Wozniak||11||Kiana Williams|
|Las Vegas Aces||Rachel Galligan||12||Natasha Mack|