2022 WNBA Draft Big Board: Latest Rankings for Rhyne Howard, Top Prospects

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2022

2022 WNBA Draft Big Board: Latest Rankings for Rhyne Howard, Top Prospects

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    If the buildup to the 2022 WNBA draft is any indicator, Monday could be an eventful night.

    The Atlanta Dream didn't make a lot of noise in free agency, but they suddenly became the talk of the league when they acquired the No. 1 overall pick from the Washington Mystics. The Mystics moved back to the No. 3 pick as a result of the swap.

    It appears Atlanta covets one of Kentucky's Rhyne Howard or Baylor's NaLyssa Smith. The pair are widely considered to be the two best players in the draft class, and neither would've probably been available when the Dream were originally supposed to be on the clock.

    The last three Rookies of the Year were selected outside of the top five, with 2020 winner Crystal Dangerfield a second-rounder. Failing to add Howard or Smith won't be the end of the world.

    Here are the best players on the board.

Nos. 1-5

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    1. Rhyne Howard, G, Kentucky

    2. NaLyssa Smith, F, Baylor

    There may not be much drama as it pertains to the identity of the No. 1 pick. Following Atlanta's trade, Spencer Nusbaum of The Next reported Howard has emerged as the likely candidate for the Dream.

    Which of the two is better isn't quite so cut and dry and might be down largely to personal preferences in terms of what skills translate best in the WNBA.

    Howard is the superior individual scorer. Over four years at Kentucky, she averaged 20.1 points and shot 44.0 percent from the field. While she wasn't an elite sharpshooter, her 38.3 percent clip on three-pointers illustrates how that's clearly a tool in her arsenal.

    Unlike Howard, Smith wasn't a star right out of the gate at Baylor and steadily worked her way toward the elite tier. As a senior, she averaged 22.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks, and she was 50th nationally in total rebounding rate (19.2 percent), according to Her Hoop Stats.

    Because of her size (6'4") and ability to work inside on both ends of the floor, Smith might have the higher floor between her and Howard.

    3. Shakira Austin, C, Ole Miss

    4. Kierstan Bell, G, Florida Gulf Coast

    5. Nyara Sabally, F, Oregon

Nos. 6-10

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    6. Emily Engstler, F, Louisville

    7. Elissa Cunane, C, North Carolina State

    Assuming a general manager doesn't reach too high for her, Elissa Cunane will be a good value pick in the middle of the first round.

    The North Carolina State center averaged 13.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in the 2021-22 season, displaying a polished post game and capable enough rim protection. According to Her Hoop Stats, her 1.22 points per scoring attempt were 88th nationally, and her ability to space the floor—she was a 41.1 percent shooter on 112 attempts—might be critical toward her carving out a place in a WNBA rotation.

    In general, Cunane profiles as the kind of center who checks a lot of the necessary boxes without the kind of athleticism that would help her join the elite at the position. A lot of teams around the W would benefit from the depth she'd provide at the 5.

    8. Sika Kone, C, Mali

    9. Destanni Henderson, G, South Carolina

    No one player probably did more in the NCAA tournament to impress WNBA scouts than Destanni Henderson. On the basis of her wider resume, Henderson did enough to earn late-first/early-second round consideration. She averaged 11.5 points and 3.9 assists and shot 39.9 percent from beyond the arc. But in the national championship, the 5'7" guard was electric as she dropped 26 points on Connecticut.

    While there are exceptions, teams aren't really expecting to land major difference-makers at this stage of the first round. At worst, Henderson should be a dependable backup point guard for a long time.

    10. Veronica Burton, G, Northwestern

Nos. 11-15

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    11. Rae Burrell, G/F, Tennessee

    12. Christyn Williams, G, Connecticut

    The injury to Paige Bueckers was a major blow to UConn, but it presented Christyn Williams with an opportunity to show she could carry the Huskies in Bueckers' absence. Instead, she failed to elevate the team in a way that might've made an impression on WNBA talent evaluators. Going 1-of-7 for two points in the title game didn't help, either.

    Still, Williams averaged 14.2 points and 1.5 steals in 2021-22, and she displayed the kind of two-way game that could go a long way at the next level. Like Dangerfield, she's the kind of prospect who can make an immediate impact but might not have much more left to her ceiling.

    13. Naz Hillmon, F, Michigan

    14. Nia Clouden, G, Michigan State

    Naz Hillmon (21.0 points) and Nia Clouden (20.0 points) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in scoring in the Big Ten. They went about far different ways to get those points.

    Hillmon attempted just six three-pointers over her career at Michigan. The 6'2" forward was a steady presence inside, shooting 57.3 percent from the field and hauling down 4.5 offensive rebounds per game, sixth-best in Division I. Creating so many second-chance opportunities was one reason why she poured in so many points.

    Clouden, on the other hand, averaged 2.0 made three-pointers per game and eventually improved to hit nearly 40 percent (39.6) of her long-range efforts. The 5'8" guard exploded for 50 points against Florida Gulf Coast in December, with 15 of those points coming from the charity stripe. She's not afraid to welcome contact in the paint. 

    15. Evina Westbrook, Connecticut

Nos. 16-20

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    16. Jade Melbourne, G, Australia

    17. Lorela Cubaj, F, Georgia Tech

    18. Queen Egbo, C, Baylor

    19. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, F, Connecticut

    20. Mya Hollingshed, F, Colorado

    Spending a fifth year at Colorado might have helped Mya Hollingshed in a big way. Not only did she attempt a career-high 134 three-pointers, but Hollingshed shot a personal-best 39.6 percent from beyond the arc. Per Her Hoop Stats, 36.4 percent of her points came from threes, a number that hadn't climbed above 30 percent in any of the three previous seasons.

    At 6'3", Hollingshed would be undersized as a traditional power forward, but she can operate as a stretch 4 when a team wants to play small. That's why her improvement as a shooter was critical toward allaying some of the fears about how her game will translate to the next level. 

Nos. 21-25

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    21. Khayla Pointer, G, LSU

    22. Jenna Staiti, C, Georgia

    23. Lexie Hull, G, Stanford

    Lexie Hull was a three-time All-Pac 12 and two-time Pac-12 All-Defensive guard in her four years at Stanford. Like many of the guards who are hovering in this range, Hull doesn't have a sky-high ceiling but offers some pro-ready skills.

    The Washington native peaked at 39.3 percent from three-point territory as a senior and ranked in the 97th percentile in steal percentage (3.7), per Her Hoop Stats. Throw in her 2.0 assists per game and you have a guard who can run the offense or play off the ball in a second unit.

    24. Maya Dodson, F, Notre Dame

    25. Kianna Smith, G, Louisville