There's only one certainty with the WNBA draft, and that's who will be the No. 1 overall pick.
When the calendar turns to Thursday, the Seattle Storm will be the first team on the clock. It shouldn't take them that long to find a replacement for Lauren Jackson, who announced her retirement in March.
Sue Bird signed a multiyear deal to stay with the only team she's ever played for. Now at 35 years old, it might not be long before the legendary point guard hangs it up, too.
The solution is simple. Her name is Breanna Stewart.
Take a look at this mock draft as we get ready for the actual thing at 7 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN2.
|2016 WNBA Mock Draft - 1st Round|
|1||Seattle Storm||Breanna Stewart||C||UConn|
|2||San Antonio Stars||Moriah Jefferson||PG||UConn|
|3||Connecticut Sun||Morgan Tuck||F||UConn|
|4||Connecticut Sun (via Atlanta)||Rachel Banham||G||Minnesota|
|5||Dallas Wings||Aerial Powers||F||Michigan St.|
|6||Los Angeles Sparks||Tiffany Mitchell||G||S. Carolina|
|7||Washington Mystics||Imani Boyette||C||Texas|
|8||Phoenix Mercury||Courtney Williams||G||S. Florida|
|9||Indiana Fever||Jamie Weisner||G||Oregon St.|
|10||Chicago Sky||Temi Fagbenle||C||USC|
|11||Atlanta Dream (via Minnesota)||Ruth Hamblin||C||Oregon St.|
|12||New York Liberty||Jonquel Jones||C||George Wash.|
UConn Just as Dominant in the Draft
For all the talk about the UConn Huskies being too dominant in women's basketball, at least one thing's certain: The pro prospects will make the WNBA a lot more fun to watch.
And it starts at the top. Associated Press Player of the Year Breanna Stewart is expected to go to Seattle with the top pick, being the heir apparent to Jackson and giving Bird another dominant big to play with toward the tail end of her career.
WNBA prospects have come and gone with just one particular skill set. There are those who dominate in the paint and those who are terrific scorers.
Then there is the minute breed of players who can do everything on the court and make an impact on both sides. Elena Delle Donne is one. Stewart is another.
There aren't many 6'4" women who have the complete all-around game of Stewart. She averaged 19.4 points and 12.8 rebounds, shot 58 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three-point range and blocked 3.4 shots per game last season.
That's literally everything. She can do everything. Stewart has the size of a center, plays like a guard offensively and is a dominant presence on defense. She's the complete package of a player, and she reminds ESPN's Kara Lawson of a dominant big man who made an impact right away, per Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times:
She’s going to one of the top 10 players in the league right away. I hate comparisons, but the player I feel like I would compare her to is Tim Duncan. Not necessarily in the way she plays, but because you’re going (to be) drafting someone that is going to play for a long time and will give you a chance to win a championship every year. It’s franchise-changing.
Stewart will get all the attention from the get-go, but there are two other UConn players expected to contribute from day one. Point guard Moriah Jefferson averaged 12.6 points per game to go along with 5.5 assists (most on the team) last season. She goes to the San Antonio Stars in this mock and should be an immediate upgrade over Danielle Robinson. She averaged five assists for the eight-win Stars last year.
And if Jefferson is anything like the point guard she was at UConn, San Antonio will be in good hands, per UConn Women's Hoops:
And there's also Morgan Tuck, who stays in the state of Connecticut in this mock and goes to the Sun. Connecticut needs a scorer, which it can address with the fourth pick in Rachel Banham out of Minnesota. But completing the UConn trio with the top three picks makes sense.
The beauty with this UConn women's team was the ability to play a balanced brand of basketball. Tuck nearly averaged 14 points and six rebounds playing in the shadow of Stewart last year. Much like Jefferson, Tuck didn't receive much individual praise, but she was instrumental in UConn's run to another national title.
All three of these women are immediate difference-makers to their respective franchises, much like they were at UConn. It wouldn't be shocking if they were the top three in Rookie of the Year voting, either.
Aerial Powers to Take Flight in Dallas
Don't be surprised to not see the Tulsa Shock as a WNBA team anymore. They've just relocated to Dallas and are now the Dallas Wings.
The general team is in place from last year's shocking (pun intended) playoff run. Tulsa made the playoffs without leading scorer Skylar Diggins after she tore her right ACL. The team got major scoring contributions from Odyssey Sims and Riquna Williams.
Diggins is coming back, and Sims will also be playing for Dallas. Williams, however, is now teaming up with Candace Parker in Los Angeles. The Wings need someone who can score and is also a solid rebounder.
Based on talent and name value for the Wings, there's no better player to pick at No. 5 than Aerial Powers.
The redshirt junior from Detroit averaged 22 points and 9.2 rebounds per game for the Michigan State Spartans last year. She also shot 45 percent from the floor.
Dallas is in a win-win situation here. Diggins and Sims make a formidable tandem in the backcourt. Courtney Paris is the team's leading rebounder at 9.3 per game, but she scored only 6.6 points per game last year.
Considering the team made the playoffs last year without Diggins, adding someone like Powers not only forms a tough frontcourt duo of her and Paris, but adds some much-needed scoring inside.
"The fact that she’s going to graduate and has had the accolades and certainly had the efficiency and effectiveness that she’s had here as a Spartan, I mean what else can she do," said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant, per Brian Calloway of the Lansing State Journal. "She’s ready. She’s a pro-driven kid and her body is right. I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to coach her."
Much like the UConn trio, it takes one more player to change the course of a WNBA franchise. The Wings have the pieces to be a contender in the Western Conference next year, but the addition of Powers will make that first year in Dallas a memorable one.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com/WNBA.
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