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2022 WNBA Mock Draft: Full 3-Round Predictions, No. 1 Pick Trade Breakdown

Jackie PowellApril 11, 2022

Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The day is finally here. The 2022 WNBA draft is Monday night. After league talent evaluators have watched some of these prospects on film and in person for months upon months, all the hard work comes to a head. Dreams will come true for 36 women's basketball players. 

Our final mock draft comes after a WNBA free-agency period that changed the composition of most rosters, the NCAA tournament and two pivotal trades that came in the final few days leading up to the draft. 

On Wednesday, the Mystics, who drew the No. 1 pick in December, traded their pick to the Atlanta Dream for the third and 14th picks. The Mystics also landed the ability to swap first-round picks with the Dream in 2023. And Sunday, the Minnesota Lynx traded their eighth and 13th picks to the Las Vegas Aces for Vegas' 2023 first- and second-round picks. 

This latest mock draft reflects the above changes in the landscape while also assessing team needs as franchises work on finalizing their training camp rosters.

The consensus among many league talent evaluators is that this draft contains more serviceable players than the past three draft classes. 

But because the WNBA includes only 12 teams with most teams carrying 11 roster spots rather than 12, it's rare for rookies to make it past training camp. Roster expansion and league expansion will be integral to the W's future as women's basketball continues to skyrocket in popularity and relevance.


Round 1: Picks 1-12

1. Atlanta Dream: Rhyne Howard (Kentucky, Wing, Senior)

The Atlanta Dream are the new holders of the No. 1 pick. The Next reported last week following the trade with the Mystics that Howard will be Atlanta's pick. 

As a team in rebuild mode, this move made sense for general manager Dan Padover. He understands that rebuilds often begin with securing multiple lottery picks from consecutive drafts. He is confident enough that Howard will be one of the "pieces that can be with [the Dream] for a long time." The way he phrases this is significant because of how Atlanta's roster is built. Dynamic scorer and Dream mainstay Tiffany Hayes signed only a one-year deal. At 32 and more injury-prone than not, how much longer does Hayes have? 

Why won't the Dream go after NaLyssa Smith, the extremely athletic power forward who might have the highest ceiling out of any of the draftees? Atlanta needs a wing more than a post player or a stretch big. Howard, who may back up or play alongside Hayes depending on the matchups, can score from everywhere, has more size (6'2") than Hayes (5'10") and most likely will be with the Dream for many years to come. 

2. Indiana Fever: NaLyssa Smith (Baylor, Forward, Senior)

Indiana Fever GM Lin Dunn expressed similar sentiments to Padover about the status of her organization. "We're not reloading; we're rebuilding with good, young talent inside and outside," she said Thursday. After trading Teaira McCowan to the Dallas Wings and buying out veteran forward Jantel Lavender, Dunn will begin her draft in the post with relentless competitor and very pro-ready NaLyssa Smith. 

Dunn's previous Fever teams that included Tamika Catchings and Briann January were known to be aggressive and relentless. She told ESPN's Rebecca Lobo that "I am not going to teach someone to be relentless on defense; I am going to draft it." While Smith's defense will need to improve in the pros, her competitive spirit, especially on the boards, will be accepted and lauded by Dunn. 

Offensively, Smith has been prepped adequately for the pro level by former Atlanta Dream head coach Nicki Collen. Smith understands that to be successful at the next level she needed to begin to develop her perimeter game and learn how to play through a pick-and-roll-predicated offense. "She certainly thrived in it this year, more pick-and-roll game, playing multiple people defensively," Mystics head coach and general manager Mike Thibault said. "I think all of that helps a player to get a new perspective on what pro coaches expect."

3. Washington Mystics: Nyara Sabally (Oregon, Center, Redshirt Junior)

Speaking of Mike Thibault, he is playing a different game, and trying to figure out what his plan is for the 2022 draft after spending the 2021 draft without a single pick is a brain-teaser in itself. Natasha Cloud wrote about her team's plan on her Instagram on Thursday after the Mystics traded the No. 1 pick. "We traded our #1 pick. But then you remember who tf your coach/staff is. You see the vision. Boom Picasso, we like it. Watching people with no clue of the plan go ape. Swinging into the draft unbothered and ready to get mixy."

The Mystics clearly have something up their sleeve and are going against typical conventions, which is why I don't have them picking Shakira Austin third but rather Nyara Sabally. Sabally has the body and skills to be a backup center in the WNBA right now. Outside of Elizabeth Williams, the Mystics don't have a 5 on their roster. Austin technically is a center but plays offensively more like a 4 than a 5. Sabally's game is much more predictable and able to fit in the pegged hole that the Mystics need to compete for a championship. 

4. Indiana Fever: Shakira Austin (Ole Miss, Center, Senior)

Just because Austin's game isn't as predictable doesn't mean she's not talented or pro-ready. She's both. But her skill set is better suited for what the Indiana Fever need rather than Washington. Austin's calling card is how she can play defense as a center, something we know Dunn doesn't want to have to teach. Offensively is where head coach Marianne Stanley and her staff might need to start development. 

While Austin can score like a power forward with a mid-range game, can penetrate on a ball handle and can step out from beyond the arc, centers in the W need to be able to score in the paint too. Or will Austin become strictly a power forward and learn to guard 4s? It's hard to know right now. But what we do know about Austin is her game is malleable and expansive, and she's an exciting prospect for Indiana. 

For a Fever team that's starting all over not just when it comes to player personnel but also team culture, Austin's addition will be welcomed. She's known by talent evaluators to be a player who plays for others and lifts up her peers.

5. New York Liberty: Emily Engstler (Louisville, Forward, Senior)

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When Sandy Brondello took the helm of the New York Liberty in January, she preached that she's not just a really good offensive coach who is a wizard when it comes to swift ATO play-calling. She made it clear the Liberty will play defense at a high level, something Walt Hopkins struggled with in his two-year tenure. 

While on the surface the Liberty's personnel needs are more size in the post and another combo guard if Marine Johannes doesn't come over, New York is going to disregard that and opt for how it can improve defensively, and with Engstler that's close to a guarantee.

Also, ever since GM Jonathan Kolb began drafting talent in 2019, the Liberty have clearly had a respect for players who come out of Louisville (they selected Asia Durr in '19 and Kylee Shook in '20). Engstler's ability to play defense has been compared to Angel McCoughtry's, and offensively she can stretch the floor and play her best in transition, complementing the Liberty and the style they'll play under Brondello. 

6. Indiana Fever: Veronica Burton (Northwestern, Guard, Senior)

Lin Dunn won't have to teach Veronica Burton about defensive intensity. She won three straight Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards. In my previous two mock drafts, I've had Burton being drafted at No. 12 by the Connecticut Sun. My logic was that she'd fill the hole the Sun created when they let Briann January sign with the Seattle Storm in free agency. Dunn is familiar with January's skill set, and it wouldn't shock me if she'd take a chance on Burton having a similar trajectory. 

In a system led by Dunn and Stanley, Burton would most likely lead the second unit and would be called upon to knock down open shots from deep rather than trying to create inside the arc. But also, while Burton has proved to be successful on the defensive end, she'll have to adapt. As Em Adler at The Next pointed out, she'll have to alter from the more unconventional "blizzard scheme" to man-to-man, which is more commonplace in the pros. 

7. Dallas Wings: Kierstan Bell (Florida Gulf Coast University, Guard, Junior)

The Wings will choose the most talented player available, and right now that player is Bell, a versatile option on offense who moves well off the ball and can screen in addition to creating her own looks. She plays a physical style, which will bode well for her alongside Marina Mabrey.

Dallas' main roster holes are on the wing with Allisha Gray and maybe Kayla Thorton able to play the 3. Bell will help fill that gap but will have to get used to being on a team with a ball-dominant guard in Arike Ogunbowale. How will Bell figure out how to make an impact on a team that doesn't function and revolve around her talents and strengths? We'll see. 

8. Las Vegas Aces: Khayla Pointer (LSU, Guard, Graduate Student)

New Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon shouldn't have an issue with a smaller guard who, according to Lin Dunn, plays "taller." When Hammon was introduced as head coach in January, she noted a desire for players who are competitive by nature and exude a certain amount of toughness. If Hammon opts to play both Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum together, she'll want another explosive guard waiting in the wings. 

While the Aces re-signed Riquna Williams, she's more of a shooting specialist from beyond the arc and can create coming off screens in the mid-range. Pointer can score at all three levels with speed that can't be taught. Similarly to Aces guard Kelsey Plum, Pointer can function both on or off the ball. 

9. Los Angeles Sparks: Rae Burrell (Tennessee, Wing, Senior)

The Sparks have made it clear they need another wing to complement Katie Lou Samuelson, and head coach and GM Derek Fisher is looking for versatility. "I think there are a lot of players who fit that … a wing player who was a forward in college and has the ability to slide over to the wing. We'll look at that closely," he told Mirijam Swanson on Sunday. Ideally, they need someone who can slash and penetrate and spread the floor.

While there are questions still about Burrell's health after she was out for most of November and all of December with a leg injury, she scored 19 and 22 points in two of Tennessee's three NCAA tournament games. 

10. Indiana Fever: Christyn Williams (Connecticut, Guard, Senior)

Set Number: X164002 TK1

Williams isn't as known for her defense but has proved in her final years at UConn that she's figured out how her athleticism and strength can translate into better defense. 

In recent seasons, the Fever have struggled to establish their preferred pace of play, and with GM Lin Dunn calling Kelsey Mitchell the "centerpiece" of the franchise, players who are brought in ought to complement her. Williams projects to function well in concert with Mitchell off the ball, as both can move and push the ball with a similar speed.

She's at her best when using her athleticism to slash and draw defenses, but Williams will have to adapt to inevitable cold shooting streaks and find other ways to impact the game. 

11. Las Vegas Aces: Evina Westbrook (UConn, Combo Wing, Redshirt Senior)

The Aces made the trade with the Lynx for good reason: to get Minnesota's eighth and 13th picks. With the departure of Liz Cambage, Las Vegas is going to be starting games with two-time Sixth Player of the Year Dearica Hamby at the 4 more often. Jackie Young is going to slide over to the 3, so the Aces need a versatile guard who can also play the wing positions and guard larger forwards.

Enter Westbrook, who was asked to take on a variety of roles, especially during her final year at UConn. While consistency was an issue, she showed flashes of what the Aces would need from her: three-level scoring, playmaking and defensive intensity that can lead to easy offense in transition. 

12. Connecticut Sun: Destanni Henderson (South Carolina, Guard, Senior)

Aside from Emily Engstler, Henderson's WNBA draft stock improved the most during the NCAA tournament. It also helps that her team, the South Carolina Gamecocks, was the last one standing. While I haven't been bullish on Henderson because of her inconsistencies on the offensive end, especially during the SEC tournament, she proved she can show out when her team needs her on the biggest stage. 

Henderson fits a void head coach and GM Curt Miller is looking to fill: a backup point guard who values defense and can knock down open threes when the defense collapses. That role sounds familiar to what was asked of Henderson at South Carolina. Henderson played with one of the most dominant post players in Aliyah Boston.

In Connecticut, she'd play alongside another post-focused team, as Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas define the Sun's identity.


Round 2: Picks 13-24

13. Las Vegas Aces: Olivia Nelson-Ododa (UConn, Forward/Center, Senior)

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Imagine if the Aces could land a player who provided similar defensive stability to Kiah Stokes but could play through the pick-and-roll and facilitate through it too? Poof! It's Nelson-Ododa, also a product of UConn. 

A'ja Wilson could use a less scoring-oriented high-low partner, and that's what she could get in Nelson-Ododa. She'll need to bulk up to handle W bigs, but Nelson-Ododa can play in a more guard-oriented offense, which Hammon will likely favor. 

14. Washington Mystics: Naz Hillmon (Michigan, Forward, Senior)

Mike Thibault goes for it with the 14th pick and selects someone whose skills don't seem translatable to the W. But Thibault believes in the power of potential and player development. I imagine he sees potential for Hillmon. He should appreciate her work ethic, pro-level motor and competitive spirit, common attributes of the players he has drafted and signed.

"I think every coach appreciates somebody with the motor that she has," he said Thursday.  "Everybody would agree there are things in her game that she needs to work on, particularly at her size, to be able to extend her range and do things, but I think you know that you have a worker, that she's going to put in the work to do it."

Does Thibault imagine Alysha Clark's trajectory for Hillmon? She'll have to become a much better defender than she was in college to begin that process. 

15. Atlanta Dream: Elissa Cunane (NC State, Center, Senior)

The Atlanta Dream don't have a natural center. Monique Billings and Cheyenne Parker are both forwards.

Cunane is a dependable back-to-the-basket player who can also stretch defenses when needed. Her growing pains will come on the defensive end of the floor, where in the pro game players are a lot stronger and faster. When I saw Cunane play live, I noticed how difficult it was for her to move her feet quickly and execute hedges on defense. 

16. Los Angeles Sparks: Aisha Sheppard (Virginia Tech, Guard, Graduate Student)

The Sparks have a bunch of guards who can't stretch the defense, and Sheppard is one of the better pure shooters in this draft class. In her last collegiate season, she attempted 248 three pointers (eighth-most in the country, according to Her Hoops Stats). She made 96 of them, sixth-most in the country. Her shooting style is off screens and dribble handoffs, which will work at the pro level. 

L.A. might not love her lack of defensive quickness, which would be the problem for L.A.'s defensive wizard/assistant coach Latricia Trammell in training camp. 

17. Seattle Storm: Nia Clouden (Michigan State, Guard, Senior)

Clouden could be the steal of the draft. She's a dynamic combo guard who scores at all three levels and creates shots from multiple spots on the floor. She also can create for others, though she's most comfortable playing off the ball.

Without Jordin Canada at backup point guard, the Storm are slower. Clouden could provide that punch to one of the older teams in the league in Seattle, which will still be playing relatively fast. In 2021, the Storm played at a 96.24 pace, a number within the top five leaguewide. Will Clouden impress enough to beat longtime veteran Epiphanny Prince for a spot on the roster? 

18. Seattle Storm: Lexie Hull (Stanford, Wing, Senior)

When Storm head coach Noelle Quinn was asked how she approaches a draft with her first pick in the middle of the second round, she explained what she's looking for.

"It's about doing our due diligence in the draft and drafting players that are high IQ that can—understanding our training camp is so short—can pick up our system, can just provide good-quality presence within our camp," she said Thursday

Quinn's description brought Hull's name to mind. Hull became known at Stanford as a high-IQ and versatile player. She is also highly regarded by a league evaluator as a good cultural piece.

While Hull's shot to make the final roster is slim, she's the type of player who will fight and claw and make training camp as competitive as it should be. 

19. Los Angeles Sparks: Joanne Allen-Taylor (Texas, Guard, Senior)

The Sparks appreciate guards who know the defensive side of the ball and play with a level of grit and passion. That's who and what Allen-Taylor was during her career at Texas. Did her draft stock increase after the NCAA tournament, in which she averaged 12.8 points per game? Not as dramatically as those of Emily Engstler or Destanni Henderson, but her performance stood out. 

While Allen-Taylor's defensive IQ and tenacity is impressive, her three-point shot will have to improve for her to beat some of the Sparks' non-shooting guards such as Te'a Cooper or Arella Guirantes. 

20. Indiana Fever: Lorela Cubaj (Georgia Tech, Forward, Fifth Year)

Cubaj won't need defensive lessons either, which is exactly why she makes sense for Indiana. Since the Fever don't have Teaira McCowan, who took up significant space defensively, Indiana will need another big who can prevent dribble drives, which Cubaj can do much better than the Fever's projected No. 2 pick, NaLyssa Smith.

Cubaj can also fit around Mitchell. She's a big who can facilitate and push the ball in transition—a dream for Mitchell, who thrives when she can run ahead of the defense in transition. 

21. Seattle Storm: Sika Kone (Mali, Forward/ Center, International Prospect)

While other mock drafts have Kone in the first round, I think her age and recent injury to her right meniscus will factor into a drop. While an ESPN profile explained Kone's injury wasn't as grim as what was initially diagnosed, is this year really the best one to come over to the W? Remember: After this season, a bunch of WNBA legends, including Slyvia Fowles, will likely retire. 

While offensively her athleticism is impressive, it's been pointed out by NBA and WNBA draft analyst Hunter Cruse that her closeout stance needs work. Also, the Storm can afford to hold on to Kone's rights, and if Breanna Stewart leaves the team in 2023, she might be worth developing. 

22. Minnesota Lynx: Mya Hollingshed (Colorado, Small Forward, Fifth-Year Senior)

The Lynx have only two picks. Would Hollingshed have enough to impress Cheryl Reeve and her coaching staff during training camp? Hollingshed is a three-and-D player who could give a team clutch shots, solid help defense and a lot of effort on the boards. Those are the types of intangibles Reeve appreciates.

But will Hollingshed make it to camp if the Lynx select her? It's up in the air right now, especially if Minnesota doesn't part ways with one of its unprotected players. Will the 22nd pick be traded during the draft as well?

23. Las Vegas Aces: Kayla Jones (NC State, Combo Forward, Graduate Student)

Jones is exactly the type of forward/wing the Aces desire. A player who can create a matchup problem, out-muscle smaller guards and out-run larger post players. At 6'1", she has size to play on the wing but struggled guarding power forwards in college. 

During her last collegiate season, she shot 41 percent from three on 78 attempts. While that's a relatively small sample size, it's enough to prove she does have a long-range jump shot. 

24. Connecticut Sun: Jade Melbourne (Australia, Guard, International Prospect)

The Sun have an older point guard in Jasmine Thomas, and it would be smart if they had the rights of a younger guard. While Melbourne's three-point shot needs improvement, she's only 19 and has time to develop. Miller's team is built to function out of the paint rather than the perimeter, and Melbourne's slashing ability should appeal to the Sun GM and head coach.


Round 3: Picks 25-36

25. Indiana Fever: Kianna Smith (Louisville, Guard, Redshirt Senior)

26. Phoenix Mercury: Queen Egbo (Baylor, Center, Senior)

27. Los Angeles Sparks: Chloe Bibby (Maryland, Forward/Guard, Graduate Student)

28. Minnesota Lynx: Anna Wilson (Stanford, Guard, Sixth Year)

29. New York Liberty: Maya Dodson (Notre Dame, Forward/Center, Graduate Student)

30. Dallas Wings: Jasmine Dickey (Delaware, Guard/Forward, Senior)

31. Dallas Wings: Vivian Gray (Texas Tech, Wing, Senior)

32. Phoenix Mercury: Jenna Staiti (Georgia, Center, Graduate Student)

33. Seattle Storm: Jordan Lewis (Baylor, Guard, Graduate Student)

34. Indiana Fever: Hannah Sjerven (South Dakota, Center, Redshirt Senior)

35. Las Vegas Aces: Kayla Wells (Texas A&M, Guard, Graduate Student)

36. Connecticut Sun: Reka Dombai (Hungary, Guard, International Prospect)

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