In a matter of days, some of the best players in women's basketball will learn where they're making the next stop in their careers.
The 2021 WNBA draft is slated to begin Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. As was the case last year, those taking part will do so virtually rather than traveling to a central location.
The Dallas Wings own four of the first seven selections, including Nos. 1 and 2, thanks to a lot of maneuvering by team president Greg Bibb. The Wings moved into the top spot to complete what was a whirlwind day for the Seattle Storm.
Many expect Texas star Charli Collier to come off the board first overall. Beyond that, the rest of the draft is difficult to call because the 2021 class appears to boast depth but lacks much in the way of top-end talent.
Perhaps a team will strike gold like the Minnesota Lynx did in 2019 by watching Napheesa Collier fall into their laps at No. 6.
2021 WNBA Big Board
1. Charli Collier, F/C, Texas
It's not hard to see why Collier emerged as the consensus No. 1 player. She averaged 19.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 31 games. The 6'5" forward also shot 32.3 percent from beyond the arc over three seasons, building some optimism she can stretch the floor.
However, Collier had some notably lackluster performances against tough opposition in her junior year. She scored 17 points in three games against Baylor and went 2-of-10 from the floor as the Longhorns lost to South Carolina in the Elite Eight.
Judging Collier solely on her worst games would be unfair, but the competition is only going to get tougher in the WNBA.
2. Awak Kuier, F, Finland
Awak Kuier was a standout player at the 2018 FIBA Under-18 European Championship for Division B. She averaged 14.3 points and 12.4 rebounds as Finland went on to finish seventh. The 6'4" forward also garnered some attention in 2019 when the NBA Academy's Instagram account showcased how she can play above the rim.
Over 24 games in Italy, Kuier is putting up 8.9 points, 6.8 boards and 1.5 assists per night. While still a work in progress, she'd be a great fit on a team that could afford to let her make a gradual adjustment to the WNBA.
3. Arella Guirantes, G, Rutgers
Arella Guirantes is a 5'11" guard who averaged 21.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists as a senior, which largely encapsulates why she's a top-five player in the class. Guirantes fits the profile of a two-way player and has the size to guard multiple positions.
The Rutgers star also hit 38.2 percent of her threes over her final two years. While not a dead-eye shooter, she's good enough to keep opposing defenses honest.
4. Rennia Davis, G, Tennessee
According to Her Hoops Stats, Rennia Davis finished 2020-21 with a 51.1 percent effective field-goal rate, which underscores one of her biggest problems. The Tennessee star never connected on more than 37 percent of her three-pointers, falling below 30 percent in each of the last two years.
But Davis is nonetheless a dynamic scorer who uses her 6'2" frame well on defense. Her potential on that end of the floor would alone be enough to justify top-five status. Along with her defense, she collected 8.8 rebounds per game in her final season. If her shooting improves, then her ceiling climbs significantly.
5. Aari McDonald, G, Arizona
Nobody helped her draft stock more in the NCAA tournament than Aari McDonald. The Arizona star was the driving force behind the Wildcats' run to the championship game, and she had a chance to bring home the title at the buzzer.
Respect to Aari McDonald. She put on a SHOW in the tournament. 20 PTS, 4 AST vs (14) Stony Brook 17 PTS, 11 REB vs (11) BYU 31 PTS, 5 REB vs (2) Texas A&M 33 PTS, 11 REB vs (4) Indiana 26 PTS, 7 REB vs (1) UConn 22 PTS, 3 REB tonight vs (1) Stanford @AariMcdonald https://t.co/EP7es4ni8k
McDonald would probably be the No. 1 pick if she were three or four inches taller. But at 5'6", she's the same height as Jordin Canada, an All-Defensive first-team guard who has been a valuable piece on two championship-winning Seattle Storm squads.
Like Canada, McDonald is a two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year but wasn't the most efficient scorer, shooting 28.4 percent from beyond the arc over three years at Arizona after transferring from Washington. But McDonald's defense and playmaking should guarantee she has a long, productive career.
6. Dana Evans, G, Louisville
After McDonald, Louisville's Dana Evans is the second-best point guard on the board. She boasted a 1.83 assist-to-turnover ratio in 2020-21, according to Her Hoops Stats.
Evans' assist numbers (3.9 per game) dipped slightly as she became more of a scorer (20.1 points per game). But she projects as a solid backup point guard right out of the gate as she grows accustomed to the speed of the WNBA.
7. Chelsea Dungee, G, Arkansas
Nobody in the SEC averaged more points than Chelsea Dungee (22.3).
The Arkansas star isn't afraid to fight for points inside. Per Her Hoops Stats, she ranked in the 99th percentile in two-point field-goal attempts (284) and the 93rd percentile in percentage of points from the free-throw line (29.4). Those numbers shouldn't overshadow the fact she was a 38.7 percent three-point shooter as a senior.
8. Jasmine Walker, F, Alabama
Jasmine Walker doesn't possess the explosiveness and ball-handling abilities that will let her be an electric individual scorer, but it's hard to argue with the numbers. Over four-plus seasons—she made just five appearances in 2016-17—Walker's three-point percentage steadily climbed to a point where she was hitting 39.8 percent of her long-range opportunities in 2020-21.
Throw in 9.4 rebounds per game and the Alabama forward should be a reliable stretch 4.
9. Natasha Mack, F, Oklahoma State
Natasha Mack transferred to Oklahoma State from Angelina College ahead of the 2019-20 season. In two years with the Cowgirls, she averaged 12.4 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and 1.9 steals and earned the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award for 2020-21.
Mack's career scoring average (18.7 points) may not translate because she was 1-of-9 from the perimeter. Getting a solid glass cleaner and rebounder at the back end of the first round would provide tremendous value for any team, though.
And Natasha Howard is a prime example of how much growing into merely an adequate shooter from three-point territory can unlock the offensive potential of a player with Mack's profile.
10. Michaela Onyenwere, F, UCLA
Michaela Onyenwere is the archetypal tweener. The UCLA forward stands at 6'0", which likely means the 3 will be her best position at the next level. That's somewhat concerning because she played more like a 4 with the Bruins.
Onyenwere has the speed to handle wings defensively and score off the dribble, but she can really unlock her potential by developing a consistent three-point game.
11. Iliana Rupert, C, France
In each of the last two years, the Seattle Storm took a foreign-born prospect at the back end of the first round with the idea of letting her stay overseas for a season. The strategy paid solid dividends early on with Ezi Magbegor, while the jury is still out on Kitija Laksa.
A team could target Iliana Rupert with the same goal in mind. The 19-year-old French big was the EuroLeague Women Young Player of the Year for 2019-20.
12. Kiana Williams, G, Stanford
Kiana Williams not only left Stanford with a national championship, but she is also the program's all-time leader in three-pointers (311). The Cardinal guard dished out 3.1 assists per game while averaging 14.0 points on 41.0 percent shooting overall and 38.3 percent from the perimeter.
Williams would be a dependable lead guard on a second unit.
13. DiJonai Carrington, G, Baylor
It's doubtful DiJonai Carrington develops an elite offensive game in the WNBA. Between her time at Stanford and Baylor, the 5'11" guard averaged 9.6 points and only once over five years had a three-point percentage over 30 percent.
But Carrington was 18th in Division I in defensive win shares (3.1) in her one season with the Lady Bears, per Her Hoops Stats. She could be a good situational defender at the next level.
14. Unique Thompson, F, Auburn
Unique Thompson never finished below the 95th percentile in total rebounding percentage, according to Her Hoops Stats. She was particularly great on the offensive glass, averaging 4.6 rebounds over 107 appearances for Auburn.
That could help allay fears created by her 6'3" frame because she'll be giving up a lot of size to opposing centers.
15. Shyla Heal, G, Australia
Australia collected a bronze medal at the 2018 FIBA Under-17 Women's Basketball World Cup, and Shyla Heal was a big reason why, averaging 16.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals.
16. Kysre Gondrezick, G, West Virginia
Kysre Gondrezick's efficiency at West Virginia didn't quite match the 42.9 percent three-point clip she enjoyed as a freshman at Michigan. Still she went 34.9 and 36.4 percent, respectively, over her final two years with the Mountaineers.
Gondrezick also averaged 1.7 steals in 2020-21, so she's likely to start plenty of fast breaks on the second unit of a WNBA team.
17. Lindsey Pulliam, G, Northwestern
Lindsey Pulliam averaged 16.5 points and 2.0 assists over her Northwestern career and flashed a solid mid-range game. Her future in the WNBA will likely hinge on whether she can return to the shooter she was in 2019-20.
As a junior, Pulliam connected on 35 percent of her threes before watching that number fall to 24.5 percent as a senior.
18. N'dea Jones, F, Texas A&M
Upon becoming a regular member of the rotation in 2018-19, N'dea Jones never finished a season with fewer than 10.3 rebounds per game. She was also worth 9.2 defensive win shares during that span, per Her Hoops Stats.
Even if Jones doesn't provide a ton of value on the offensive end, her defense and rebounding could earn her minutes on a WNBA team.
19. Chelsey Perry, F, Tennessee-Martin
Chelsey Perry averaged 23.1 and 22.9 points, respectively over the past two years and was the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year for each season. She also improved her long-range jumper to where she went 35-of-83 (42.2 percent) in 2020-21.
The questions about the level of competition Perry faced will persist until she's tested against pro players. But it's certainly worth seeing whether the scoring translates.
20. DiDi Richards, G, Baylor
With so few roster spots to go around in the WNBA, it can be difficult for a player with DiDi Richards' profile to stick around.
The Cypress, Texas, native averaged 6.7 points and attempted exactly one three-pointer over four years at Baylor. But Richards was the Big 12 and national defensive player of the year in 2019-20. In the second round of the WNBA draft, teams might as well target players who have a clear speciality, and Richards could be a lockdown defender on the perimeter.