Another March Madness is winding down, and, around the corner, the WNBA Draft looms. On April 10, a new class of W hopefuls will assemble their fanciest fits and head to Spring Studios in New York City, anticipating a moment they’ve spent years preparing for, when Commissioner Cathy Engelbert steps to the podium and calls their name.
While most draft science is theoretical, we’re in the middle of a chaotic few years that make this exercise even more volatile to predict. The COVID-19 waiver, which offers each athlete an extra year of collegiate eligibility, means that any player (see: Rickea Jackson) has the option to return to school for another go-around. That—coupled with the uptick in NIL (name, image, and likeness) money and the ever-narrow roster spot availability at the pro level—makes the decision to declare for the W less clear cut than ever before.
Still, disclaimers aside, this exercise is one of my favorite annual articles we put together at Winsidr. This will be the third iteration of the Mock GM Draft, where we gathered seven of our writers and assigned each to a franchise that will make a selection (or two, or three) in this year’s first round. (Plus, if you’re on the lookout for even *more* mock draft content, give a read to version 2.0 of Matt Cohen and Rachel Galligan’s prognostications, with 3.0 currently cooking. Adam Miller also ranked five sleepers for the 2023 Draft.)
In addition to this written piece, Patreon members have some bonus content: we recorded this draft as it went live on Zoom. If you’d like to give that a watch, sign up for one of our three Patreon subscription tiers to support our work and gain access to some really exciting content this upcoming season.
Lastly, here’s how the draft order broke down (with more info on the trade between the Lynx and Wings when it occurs in a bit!). Each Winsidr representative noted in a parenthetical:
- 1. Indiana Fever (Tristan Tucker, @TristanRTucker)
- 2. TRADE: Dallas Wings (Blake Silverman, @blakesilverman)
- 3. TRADE: Minnesota Lynx (Owen Pence, @OwenPence)
- 4. Washington Mystics (Myles Ehrlich, @mylesehrlich)
- 5. Dallas Wings (Blake Silverman, @blakesilverman)
- 6. Atlanta Dream (Ashlee Woods, @ashleemwoods)
- 7. Indiana Fever (Tristan Tucker, @TristanRTucker)
- 8. Atlanta Dream (Ashlee Woods, @ashleemwoods)
- 9. Seattle Storm (Dani Bar-Lavi, @dblfluidity)
- 10. Los Angeles Sparks (Imanni Wright, @ImanniWright)
- 11. TRADE: Minnesota Lynx (Owen Pence, @OwenPence)
- 12. Minnesota Lynx (Owen Pence, @OwenPence)
The lotto balls have all bounced, the order has been set, and it’s go time. Let’s get right into it!
1. Indiana Fever (Tristan): Aliyah Boston, South Carolina
13.2 points per game (PPG), 9.8 rebounds per game (RPG), 2.0 blocks per game (BPG), 59.5 field goal percentage (FG%)
I’m not going to galaxy brain this one. Aliyah Boston, you are an Indiana Fever.
In all seriousness, Boston has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone for the Fever, pairing with NaLyssa Smith to make for one of the highest-ceiling frontcourts the league would see. However, there’s more to this pick than meets the eye. This isn’t just a case of picking the best player available. Boston fits exactly what Indiana needs: everything.
On the offensive side of the ball, Boston raises Indiana’s floor on the interior. Only one player that played in 20 games or more for the Fever last season, Emma Cannon, shot better than 50 percent on two-point attempts. Boston is a safe bet to lift the Fever’s overall percentages and assist numbers in the post, with her ability to dominate mismatches and using her length to easily score inside.
Boston has displayed a bit of untapped potential as a midrange shot-taker. Boston hasn’t taken as many midrange shots as interior shots but, just as we saw with Smith last season, Indiana could look to unlock her range. On a limited basis, Boston is hitting around 50 percent of her midrange attempts in March, according to Mark Schindler.
— Mark Schindler (@MG_Schindler) March 29, 2023
We all know what Boston brings on the defensive end. Anticipation and control are the name of the game for Boston, who is an outright elite shot-blocker with a ridiculous seven percent block rate, putting her in the 93rd percentile. Boston also ranks in the 98th percentile in personal foul efficiency, a metric that contextualizes how often a player fouls in comparison to their block and steal rates.
But the most valuable aspect Boston brings to the table isn’t a skill on the court.
From an outside perspective, Boston seems to be one of the most mature leaders and winners the college game has ever seen. General manager Lin Dunn wants the Fever to adopt a defense-first mentality, but she also seems to prioritize culture fits as Indiana picks up the pieces from its rebuild. Boston checks all those boxes and more.
Coming from a dominant program on the brink of potentially winning two straight national championships, Boston is the rare prospect that can end a rebuild. The ball is in the Fever’s court.
Note: We made it one entire selection before swerving from the script. We’ve got a trade! The Dallas Wings have moved up a spot, sending the Nos. 3 and 11 picks to the Minnesota Lynx in exchange for pick No. 2. The Wings are now on the clock.
2. Dallas Wings (Blake): Diamond Miller, Maryland
19.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.1 steals per game (SPG), 1.3 BPG
First, let’s talk about the trade that Dallas makes to move up to No. 2. The Wings currently own three first-round picks, while rostering 12 players (with only one on a training camp contract).
Due to this, I expect pick No. 3 or No. 5 to be available, and can see Dallas interested in packaging multiple of their own firsts to move up. Here, the Wings are able to move up one spot by sending out No. 3 and No. 11 to get a player that will make an impact on day one.
Maryland’s Diamond Miller is debatably the best athlete in this year’s draft class. She does it all on the wing, which is a huge need for Dallas after dealing Allisha Gray to the Atlanta Dream for the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, as well as Atlanta’s first-round pick in 2025.
Miller’s three-point efficiency is a question mark coming into the draft. However, I’m confident that she can improve her long-range shooting as a pro, even after regressing from three as a senior with the Terps.
I love the fit with Miller in Dallas. Adding her as part of a core that includes Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally is fun. The Wings still need to address their glaring three-point shooting need, which they will look to do at No. 5 in this scenario after adding one of the draft’s best prospects.
3. Minnesota Lynx (Owen): Haley Jones, Stanford
13.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 4.0 assists per game (APG)
HALEY JONES HIVE STAND UP!!! Look, it’s entirely justifiable taking Diamond Miller at No. 2. She’s exceptional, and I certainly considered it here. But Minnesota has a few roster spots up for grabs and could benefit from adding another late first-round pick. Ultimately, I wouldn’t do this deal if I didn’t believe wholeheartedly in Jones as a WNBA player. I think it’s silly how she continues to slide down draft boards.
A recent article in The Athletic polling WNBA GMs explored the perception that Jones doesn’t have any one elite, definable skill. I disagree. Ranking in the 98th percentile of Division 1 hoopers in rebounds, and the 97th percentile in assists (per Her Hoop Stats) isn’t elite? Sure, her scoring and shooting has regressed since the breakout 2021 season when Stanford won the title. But why not bet on Jones—an extremely smart and dedicated athlete—to put all the pieces together? It’s not like the version of Jones who won Most Outstanding Player in the 2021 Final Four no longer exists.
Jones has all the tools. She doesn’t need to shoot threes; she simply needs to be efficient in the interior and develop a reliable midrange jumper. Those are totally realistic goals. Her defense is divisive as well, but, again, why not bet on a player who’s ranked in the 80th percentile or higher in block percentage her entire Stanford career? Why not bet on a player who everyone close to her gushes about?
I think Haley Jones will be a really good pro.
4. Washington Mystics (Myles): Jordan Horston, Tennessee
15.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG
Last year, the Mystics ranked dead last in PACE. Sure, some of that has to do with the flow within our half court offense, but this year, they’re looking to run a bit more. They’ve already added Brittney Sykes in free agency, who ranked 14th in the W in points off turnovers last year, and can pair her in lineups alongside Ariel Atkins, who finished ninth in that same category. In Shakira Austin, Washington has a big that can push in transition and get after it on the o-glass. Not to mention EDD, of course, who is the W’s all-time leader in points per possession, and has been in the 98th percentile or better in each year she’s qualified.
So, the Mystics could go two directions here: pick a player who can be EDD’s heir apparent, a forward out of Nova with touch at every level; or, they can go with a forward out of Tennessee, who was really a two-way player throughout the season.
In the end, the move is Horston, a versatile talent that could slot in now and contribute to a dynamic open court offense that will make DC dangerous the second they touch the ball. Per CBB Analytics, Horston finished in the 96th percentage in fast break percentage last season, and her ability to rebound and defend can make an immediate impact on the second unit’s identity. Against the field, Horston’s steal and block numbers have increased every year, according to Her Hoop Stats, culminating in the 90th (1.6 SPG) and 95th (1.1 BPG) percentiles, respectively.
Graphic courtesy of CBB Analytics
So much of her damage is done early in the clock, so she constantly keeps defenses on their toes, and while that three-point shot needs to develop (just a career 28.5 percent shooter from deep), she’s capable of catching the ball on the move and creating her own looks. With high-powered offenses in Las Vegas and New York, Washington needs a day-one disruptor that can get buckets.
5. Dallas Wings (Blake): Maddy Siegrist, Villanova
29.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 51.2 FG%
The Wings need a professional scorer, and who better to add in the draft than the NCAA’s leading bucket getter?
Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist leads the country in both PPG and field goals made per game. She’s a career 34.7 percent shooter from three-point land at Villanova, while converting on 36.1 percent of her long-range attempts as a senior.
Coming into the W, Siegrist will be able to space the floor alongside her ability to get a bucket from anywhere on the court. She has improved as a scorer each year in college, and I struggle to think that Siegrist’s offensive game is currently a finished product. The volume that she sees at Villanova won’t be there as a professional, but she should be able to make the most of the scoring opportunities that she does get coming into the league.
Siegrist’s usage rating has steadily increased each season that she’s played, while her scoring hasn’t faltered. She has the mold to be a long-term pro. An eventual increased role shouldn’t cause a lull in Siegrist’s game.
Defense is a question mark. But, what Dallas needs here is a scorer. They get just that with Siegrist, and I’m thrilled to add her to the Wings 2023 draft class alongside Miller.
6. Atlanta Dream (Ashlee): Brea Beal, South Carolina
6.5 PPG, 1.1 three-point field goals made (3PM), 39.6 three-point field goal percentage (3P%)
Last year, head coach Tanisha Wright quickly established her trademark defensive style in Atlanta. The Dream were fifth in the league in defensive rating with a 99.8. The key to Wright’s defensive philosophy is her guards. The combination of Aari McDonald, Kristy Wallace, and Erica Wheeler held some of the league’s best scorers in check.
As the Dream look to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2018, half-court defense must continue to be a priority. With this in mind, Atlanta decided to use the sixth pick to select Brea Beal out of South Carolina.
Beal has established herself as one of the defenders in the NCAA. A member of the SEC First All-Defensive Team, Beal is a crucial part of the third-best scoring defense in the country. South Carolina runs much of its half court defense through its guards, so Beal will feel right at home with the Dream.
What made Beal stand out was her ability to guard some of the best scorers one-on-one. There’s rarely a time where she isn’t attached to her player, and, sometimes, she’s even smiling while locking down defenders.
— connecticut hate account (@nmacheaux) February 14, 2023
In 2021, the Dream were one of the worst teams at sticking with their players. The team allowed 62 percent of catch-and-shoot looks that season. While the Dream managed to whittle that percentage to 48 percent, the addition of Beal provides the opportunity to make Atlanta’s half court defense one of the best of the league.
7. Indiana Fever (Tristan): Celeste Taylor, Duke7. Indiana Fever (Tristan): Ashley Joens, Iowa State
21.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.8 3PM
Note: We recorded our mock draft before Celeste Taylor announced that she’d use her COVID exception and exercise her fifth year of eligibility. Tristan pivoted to add the next name on his big board, who thankfully had gone undrafted in our first-round exercise, so his Ashley Joens write-up here helped us to avoid an embarrassing blank space.
There are a number of different directions the Fever could take with the seventh pick. Lead guard was a consideration, but Indiana signed Erica Wheeler and is banking on the progression of second-year guard Destanni Henderson, so that didn’t feel right. The two-guard spot felt like another potential target spot, but Lexie Hull has impressed this offseason.
Ultimately, the most glaring hole on the roster is on the wing. Particularly, the Fever need either a defensive wing stopper or a pure scorer at the three. Beal, Siegrist, Celeste Taylor, Laeticia Amihere, Grace Berger, and Ashley Joens were the realistic available options I honed in on. With Beal and Siegrist off the board, Taylor became my original pick.
But when Taylor decided to go back to school, I thought of Joens first.
The Fever’s offense was dismal last season. Adding Joens, who has one of the quickest releases in the class, would do wonders for this squad. Joens finished the season on a high note, averaging 25.8 PPG and 11.5 RPG on a 37.5 percent clip from downtown (on 10 attempts per game, no less).
Offense wouldn’t run through Joens like it did at Iowa State, but I buy into Joens’ skills to serve as an excellent complementary role player who can become a spot-up shooter. Joens could be the final connecting tissue for an offense that ranked second in PACE last season and would be a solid offensive fit in lineups featuring Hull and Kelsey Mitchell.
8. Atlanta Dream (Ashlee): Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech
18.2 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 55.7 FG%
As Atlanta continues to solidify its defensive identity, the attention now shifts to offense. The Dream needs to add efficiency at the center position to bolster up their half-court offense. With this in mind, Atlanta selects Kitley from Virginia Tech.
Kitley’s game is similar to centers of the past, but what sets her apart is her footwork. Her lateral movement in the low post fits what Atlanta needs. Because her movement is already pro-level, it gives the Dream an extra midrange threat. This past season, she made over 70 percent of her jumpers. That’s largely due to her height, but coupled with her improved footwork, Kitley has become tough to guard.
One point of concern is Atlanta’s pace—the Dream were among the top of the league in PACE last year. Kenny Brooks has built his offense to be more on the methodical end. However, I do believe Kitley’s movement can help her adjust to the speed of the WNBA game.
Kitley is the polished frontcourt player the Dream need to assist their already lethal backcourt.
9. Seattle Storm (Dani): Grace Berger, Indiana
12.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.8 APG
Before discussing my pick, a word about Seattle’s outlook going into the draft. The 2023 offseason has been one of intense upheaval for the Storm, losing the services of two Hall of Famers in Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, players who have become synonymous with Seattle’s brand, identity, and on-court product. With this pick, I’ve done my best to tune out that noise. Framing this pick as an attempt to find a “successor” to either Stewart or Bird creates an impossible task; it’s the ninth pick.
Putting on my GM hat, I had to focus on the present, and on building around the Storm’s remaining superstar: Jewell Loyd. With that in mind, I really like the fit for guard Grace Berger from Indiana next to Jewell, and within the wider Storm guard rotation as currently constituted.
Berger, standing 6’0” and jacked as all hell, brings the Storm a sizey, athletic guard that can slot in at either the point or the two guard, as she had throughout her collegiate career with Indiana. With Loyd at the one, the two would form an extremely skilled defensive backcourt with a formidable physical profile. Offensively, Berger has come into her own as a point guard, averaging a career high 6.2 APG in Big 10 play this year. Berger can also function as a low-usage shot creator, hitting 45.5 percent of her shots from midrange, per CBB Analytics. Her midrange shooting and defense help Berger continue to provide value even in lineups where she’s not the primary ball handler, such as next to Loyd in games where she’s particularly ball-dominant or next to free agent signing Jade Melbourne, who figures to play most of her minutes at the point. Over her college career, Berger’s game saw only one major offensive hole—her three-point shooting. However, she’s shown strides in this area this past season, shooting 42.1 percent from deep as a senior (albeit on only 1.2 attempts per game). I love the idea of Berger continuing to develop her three-point shot next to Sami Whitcomb, an excellent model for the kind of playmaking, three-and-D combo guard that Berger could blossom into as a pro.
10. Los Angeles Sparks (Imanni): Taylor Robertson, Oklahoma
11.3 PPG, 2.8 3PM, 43.5 3P%
The Sparks are most definitely going to need some depth and help from beyond the arc. They finished last season shooting 32 percent from the three-point line. Robertson—the record holder for three-pointers made in women’s Division 1 basketball history—is their answer.
She finished her career shooting an impressive 44 percent from three, along with being the Big 12 and Oklahoma career three-point record holder. Per CBB analytics, as shown in the table below, 69.5 percent of Robertson’s shots this year were above-the-break threes. For context, the NCAAW average is 25 percent from that range.
The shooting guard is also the NCAA active leader in free throw percentage, and, over her career, she made 91 percent of her free throws.
The Sparks adding Robertson would offer them a sharpshooter that could come off the bench and immediately impact the flow of the game. Knowing that she is on the floor, teams will more than likely spread out their defense, offering more driving lanes for other players along with herself. She will be in good company, learning from other sharpshooters like Lexie Brown and Katie Lou Samuelson (though it’s to be seen how much, if at all, the latter plays this season).
Defense is a point of improvement for her, but, over time, I think she will be able to adjust to the league’s speed and physicality.
11. Minnesota Lynx (Owen): Charisma Osborne, UCLA
15.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.5 3PM
Anyone who watched UCLA’s round two victory over Oklahoma need not be convinced on the merits of this pick. Osborne exploded for 36 points on 11-of-21 shooting, snaring a team-high eight rebounds, dishing four assists, and nailing all 12 of her free throws. She exerted control over every aspect of the game. Defensively, she menaced opponents, then eviscerated them on the other end. It was a brilliant performance that launched the Bruins into the Sweet 16.
Players who can get a bucket at any time and contribute in a number of other areas always make good pros. Per Her Hoop Stats, Osborne ranked in the 91st percentile of Division 1 hoopers in assist percentage as a sophomore and junior, and in the 83rd percentile as a senior. Osborne is an unselfish number one option; she has the ability to rack up points, but she’d often rather facilitate for her teammates. She doesn’t shy from dirty work; she’s ranked in the 80th percentile or higher in rebounds all four years at UCLA. Osborne brings it defensively as well. She’s averaged at least 1.4 SPG for her entire college career. There simply aren’t many things Osborne doesn’t do well.
I keep coming back to the free throws versus Oklahoma. I want a player who won’t shy from the moment, who will step up to the line and calmly sink shot after shot to secure a victory. Osborne is a steal at this juncture of the draft.
12. Minnesota Lynx (Owen): Zia Cooke, South Carolina
15.1 PPG, 1.8 3PM, 35.2 3P%
Cooke’s growth over her time at South Carolina has been rewarding to witness. She’s always been able to score. I’ll never forget Cooke’s 25-point performance in the 2021 Final Four against Stanford, a game the Gamecocks lost in devastating fashion at the buzzer. On nights like that, Cooke’s potential was clear. On others, when her shot wasn’t falling, her professional basketball future was hazier. Cooke was sometimes a detriment to South Carolina’s chemistry, trying to shoot herself out of a funk and instead shooting the Gamecocks into quicksand.
Now? Cooke makes an impact even on off-nights. When her shot isn’t falling, she digs in defensively, living in opponent’s jersey’s and hounding them around the court. Her decision making can still improve, as can many elements of her game. But the first steps toward that end goal have been taken. Can her passing get better? Absolutely. Yet, there were moments this past season when I expected Cooke to jack up a contested jumper, and instead she dished to a teammate. Will her turnovers need to be addressed at the next level? Absolutely. She averaged fewer turnovers in 2022-23 than she had in her previous two seasons.
Ultimately, this pick came down to team needs. In a vacuum, I’d choose Cooke’s teammate, Laeticia Amihere, here. But Minnesota needs guards who can score, and Cooke is exactly that. Her three-point percentage jumped to north of 35 percent this season, and she hit nearly 40 percent of triples as a sophomore on significant volume. Minnesota should bet on potential here, and Cooke’s is sky high.
That concludes the 2023 Winsidr Mock GM Draft. Think we nailed it? Got a glaring omission you’ve got to cape up for? Sound off on social media to share your thoughts!