Ranking The WNBA’s Young Cores

The 2021 WNBA Draft was two weeks ago. Teams loaded up with some more young talent. But, which team has the best young talent?

To figure that out, I’m going to be looking at each roster and isolating the players who will were born after May 15th, 1995, which means we’re looking at players who will be 25-years-old when the season tips off on May 14th. (I hope my math is right here!)

We’re also only looking at players who I feel have a somewhat good chance to actually make the team’s final roster or young players who could stay overseas but are eventually going to maybe be part of the roster. No real need to talk about a lot of training camp contracts here.

 

12. Connecticut

Kaila Charles, Natisha Hiedeman, Brionna Jones, Beatrice Mompremier, Kamiah Smalls, DiJonai Carrington, Micaela Kelly

 

The Connecticut Sun are really the only team in the league who don’t have a young player with the potential to be a high-end player in the W. There are good players here who can play some useful roles, but this roster’s star power is concentrated on their older players.

 

11. Los Angeles

Kristine Anigwe, Nia Coffey, Te’a Cooper, Maria Vadeeva, Sydney Wiese, Arella Guirantes, Jasmine Walker, Stephanie Watts

 

Did I want to put them way higher because of Guirantes, who I thought was a lottery talent this year? Yeah, but the reality is that she’s a late second rounder whose spot on the roster isn’t guaranteed. Beyond that, Te’a Cooper is really cool and can be a strong Sixth Woman, Jasmine Walker is going to stick in this league as a stretch four, and Maria Vadeeva is good but also will probably be questionable to show up to the W most years.

 

10. Indiana

Julie Allemand, Kennedy Burke, Lauren Cox, Kathleen Doyle, Teaira McCowan, Kelsey Mitchell, Chanelle Molina, Trinity Baptiste, Kysre Gondrezick, Unique Thompson, Aaliyah Wilson, Chelsey Perry

 

The Fever have some good players, but they also have a ton of question marks. Will Julie Allemand show up in 2021? Will Lauren Cox be able to give Indiana the kind of production she gave in college? Will Teaira McCowan finally get consistent minutes? Can Kelsey Mitchell be a star? Will Kysre Gondrezick and Aaliyah Wilson show that they were worthy of first round selections despite most mock drafts having them as second rounders?

 

9. Chicago

Ruthy Hebard, Azura Stevens, Gabby Williams, Shyla Heal, Natasha Mack

 

While there’s no star power here, there’s a lot of talent. Stevens is a high-end starter. Hebard and Mack could both be extremely effective frontcourt options. Heal has shown a lot of promise overseas. Williams is rumored to be traded, but gave the Sky 24.8 solid minutes per game last year. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this young core—there’s just not a potential star here.

 

8. Seattle

Jordin Canada, Haley Gorecki, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, Kitija Laksa, Ezi Magbegor, Mercedes Russell, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kiana Williams, N’dea Jones

 

Is there a potential star here? No, not really, though I know as soon as I publish this, I’m going to open up the Winsidr Slack and have at least one person yelling at me about Ezi Magbegor. I like Magbegor a lot! I also like Jordin Canada, who has the potential to be one of the best guard defenders in the league. Herbert Harrigan should get a lot of open looks from the perimeter, as will Katie Lou. This is a good core, but the team’s best player is a little too old to be included here.

 

7. Atlanta

Monique Billings, Kalani Brown, Chennedy Carter, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Aari McDonald, Lindsey Pulliam, Raquel Carrera

 

Was Aari McDonald drafted too high? Yeah, probably! But her and Chennedy Carter could one day form the most electric backcourt in the WNBA. There’s not many young players on this roster beyond those two that excite me, but I’ll just say this: CHENNEDY CARTER AND AARI MCDONALD

 

6. Phoenix

Sophie Cunningham, Kia Nurse, Alanna Smith, Brianna Turner, Megan Walker, Ciera Johnson

 

Kia Nurse was an All-Star two seasons ago in New York but had a really rough bubble campaign. Injuries contributed to that though, and if she winds up playing a lower-usage role in Phoenix, she can be a really effective scorer. 

Beyond Nurse, Phoenix also has the player who I personally think is going to win Defensive Player of the Year this season in Brianna Turner. She is just So Good on defense. She’s a versatile shot blocker who can stop virtually anyone one-on-one.

 

5. New York

Asia Durr, Joyner Holmes, Sabrina Ionescu, Jazmine Jones, Leaonna Odom, Kylee Shook, Jocelyn Willoughby, Han Xu, Michaela Onyenwere, DiDi Richards

 

Here’s where we have to project.

Sabrina Ionescu has played two and a half games in the WNBA because of an ankle injury, but in the second game of her career, Ionescu had 33 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. And in the first 12 minutes of her third game, she was at 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting before her season ended prematurely.

Ionescu was one of the best college prospects in recent memory. I firmly believe she can be an MVP-level player in the WNBA, but it’s also just tough when her rookie season was basically a wash. But Ionescu has a blend of shooting and strength and playmaking ability that just feels so unique, and her small sample size last year was already enough to show the “Ionescu isn’t quick enough for the W” crowd that they were wrong.

Beyond Ionescu, there’s a lot of interesting talent, but it’s just way too early to know if anyone of that talent can actually stick in the league. I think Jocelyn Willoughby is definitely a good-enough shooter to make it. I’m still high on Asia Durr if she’s able to return, but her recovery from COVID has been a long, slow journey and it sounds like we might not see her until 2021. This year’s first rounder Michaela Onyenwere and second rounder DiDi Richards are both really interesting defensive prospects. 

 

4. Washington

Ariel Atkins, Myisha Hines-Allen, Stella Johnson, Aislinn Konig, Kiara Leslie, Erica McCall

See Also

 

Another team who has two really good young players. Myisha Hines-Allen broke out last season, averaging 17 points per game for the Mystics, plus 8.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Should there be concerns about how the Mystics can eventually afford to keep her? Sure, but I’m not letting that influence these rankings too much. MHA became a bonafide WNBA star last year, and while her numbers will suffer because Washington has so many mouths to feed, she’s still really good!

The other big name here is Ariel Atkins. After a 2019 season in which Atkins didn’t really build enough on her rookie campaign, she came up big last year, averaging 14.8 points per game with a 43.8/41.1/88.6 shooting split. With more players to take the pressure off her, Atkins should be on the short list of “players who could lead the WNBA in three-point percentage” this season.

Stella Johnson and Kiara Leslie have some appeal too, but MHA and Atkins are the big names here.

 

3. Minnesota

Bridget Carleton, Napheesa Collier, Crystal Dangerfield, Mikayla Pivec, Jessica Shepard, Rennia Davis

 

I think you can make a compelling and correct argument that Napheesa Collier is the second-best young player in the WNBA. Minnesota also has reigning Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield—and yeah, she’s undersized and we can’t just pencil her in as a star in this league yet, but she’s really good. The team also got a steal in the draft when they took Rennia Davis.

 

2. Dallas

Bella Alarie, Megan Gustafson, Tyasha Harris, Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale, Satou Sabally, Charli Collier, Chelsea Dungee, Dana Evans, Awak Kuier

 

Dallas has a LOT of young players.

Arike Ogunbowale is the headliner here. She’s one of—if not the—best scorers in the WNBA and while efficiency concerns/her three-pointer remain issues for Dallas going forward, Ogunbowale is going to have a long WNBA career, and the talent of the players beside her should help her become a more efficient scorer.

And those players beside her—whew, there’s talent. Satou Sabally. Charli Collier. Awak Kuier. Those players have all tremendous upside and could be top 25 players in this league down the line. The chances that all three get to that level feels a little remote, but it’s possible. Plus, there’s a bunch of other young players on this team who can be solid role players going forward. 

 

1. Vegas

JiSu Park, A’ja Wilson, Jackie Young, Destiny Slocum, Illiana Rupert

 

This could be a controversial pick because the Aces only really have one elite young player, but when that player is the reigning league MVP, you kinda have to rate them this high, right? The WNBA is a star-driven league, and Vegas is the only team that we know for sure has an MVP-level superstar that’s 25 or younger. Wilson averaged 20.5 points last year, as well as 8.5 rebounds per game. She shot a career-high 48 percent from the floor and took the Aces to the Finals.

Beyond A’ja, Jackie Young still has some appeal. The No. 1 overall pick in 2019, Young is a tough guard who took huge strides last season, averaging 11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game off the Vegas bench. Maybe she won’t be a star, but she can be one of the league’s best backup guards.

 

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