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Atlanta Dream Acquire No. 1 Pick in 2022 WNBA Draft in Trade with Mystics

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 6, 2022

BRISTOL, CT - DECEMBER 19:  Renee Montgomery  of the Atlanta Dream during the 2022 WNBA Draft Lottery on December 19, 2021 at ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021NBAE (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Dream have shaken up the first round of the 2022 WNBA draft.

The team announced Wednesday it acquired the No. 1 overall pick from the Washington Mystics in return for the No. 3 and 14 picks in this year's draft. The Mystics will also have the opportunity to swap first-rounders with what was the Los Angeles Sparks' 2023 first-round pick, which went to Atlanta in the Erica Wheeler trade.

Atlanta Dream @AtlantaDream

The No. 1 Draft pick is headed to the 🅰️‼️ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DoItForTheDream?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DoItForTheDream</a> <a href="https://t.co/sJqOtGwW9Q">pic.twitter.com/sJqOtGwW9Q</a>

The Dream must covet Baylor's NaLyssa Smith or Kentucky's Rhyne Howard, who are widely considered the two best players in the 2022 draft class.

Smith averaged 22.1 points and was one of the country's best rebounders. She collected 11.5 boards per game and ranked 50th in total rebounding rate, per Her Hoop Stats. Howard is a more natural scorer, averaging 20.5 points and shooting 38.3 percent on three-pointers in her senior year with the Wildcats.

Had Atlanta stayed at No. 3, there's little chance Smith or Howard would still have been available.

The Dream are a bit of a blank slate under general manager Dan Padover, who was hired last October. They didn't make any significant moves in free agency, and their biggest transaction was sending Chennedy Carter to the Los Angeles Sparks.

With only four players under contract in 2023, Padover seems to be laying the foundation for the future. To that end, either Smith or Howard would make sense.

Elizabeth Williams signed with the Mystics, so Howard would serve as a long-term replacement for the 2017 All-Star. The departures of Carter and Courtney Williams created the need for a scorer, though, and the 6'2" Howard would add size in the backcourt next to the 5'6" Aari McDonald.

Dream fans might have felt a little underwhelmed this offseason because hiring Padover, a two-time WNBA Executive of the Year, certainly sent a message. After winning 23 games over the past three years, the franchise is tired of irrelevancy.

Between having the No. 1 pick in 2022 and a ton of salary cap space in 2023, big things could be coming for Atlanta over the next few years.