2022 WNBA Draft Big Board: Ranking Top Prospects at Every Position

Jackie Powell@@classicjpowContributor IApril 9, 2022

2022 WNBA Draft Big Board: Ranking Top Prospects at Every Position

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    Destanni Henderson, South Carolina Senior Guard
    Destanni Henderson, South Carolina Senior GuardCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    There is a general consensus among multiple WNBA talent evaluators that the 2022 draft will be a lot deeper than it has in years. Indiana Fever interim general manager Lin Dunn believes this might be the best class she's seen since A'ja Wilson went No. 1 in 2018.

    Washington Mystics head coach and GM Mike Thibault and Atlanta Dream GM Dan Padover believe there will be many more serviceable players in this class than there were last April when multiple first-rounders didn't even make it to the All-Star break on a WNBA roster. 

    "This is a draft with some good players, not generational players," said Cheryl Reeve, head coach and GM of the Minnesota Lynx, on her podcast, The Cheryl Reeve show. "It will be interesting to see how this all plays out and who ends up rising up and being able to carve out some space for themselves on a WNBA team this year."

    The event will begin Monday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Before we reveal our final mock draft the morning of draft day, we've compiled a big board of must-know prospects, outlined what makes them pro-ready and noted common concerns about the state of their game.

    Prospects given approximate draft projections are divided into positions and ranked in order of their league readiness. This ranking reflects the skill sets of players rather than team need, which will be included in our final mock draft.


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    Nia Clouden, Michigan State senior guard.
    Nia Clouden, Michigan State senior guard.Associated Press

    1. Nia Clouden  (Michigan State, Guard, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Clouden is a three-level scorer, can create off the dribble and uses her quickness and vertical movements to elevate over defenders. At Michigan State, she took on some ball-handling duties, so she could be slotted at either point guard or shooting guard.

    Questions the prospect raises: This season Clouden has turned the ball over 2.9 times per game, which is a result of her new role as a facilitator. While Clouden is athletic enough to play taller than her listed height of 5'8", she's mismatched against the WNBA's larger guards.

    Projected draft position: Late first round to early second round


    2. Veronica Burton (Northwestern, Guard, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Defense is what makes Burton pro-ready, and her three consecutive Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors is convincing evidence. Her ability to read the opposing offense has set her apart. While steals shouldn't wholly define what a player is or isn't defensively, Burton has still picked pockets at an impressive rate, racking up 117 of her 394 total steals during her senior season.

    Questions the prospect raises: She's not the most efficient inside scorer, although her overall field-goal percentage has exponentially increased over the years. Her efficiency from deep will also need to improve at the pro level. 

    Projected draft position: Middle to late first round 


    3. Christyn Williams (Connecticut, Guard, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: When Williams is on, her athleticism, strength and speed can be difficult to stop. In her final years at UConn, she's proved that those natural skills can be translated over to the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, Williams can score at all three levels and can be hard to guard when she's slashing through the paint. Defensively, she's used her length and quickness to force turnovers and score off them in transition. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Inconsistency has been Williams' downfall throughout her college career and has prevented her from reaching her potential as a guard thus far. Examining her performance in the national championship game against South Carolina versus her clutch showing in the Elite Eight against NC State illustrates those struggles. 

    Projected draft position: Late first round to early second round


    4. Destanni Henderson (South Carolina, Guard, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Henderson understands a big moment, and the body of work she presented in the NCAA tournament not only increased the amount of eyes on her but also improved her draft stock. In a call Friday, ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson communicated how valuable that quality is to talent evaluators: "I think whenever you have a player that can show up on the big stage when their number is called or their team needs some momentum, that's exciting for WNBA coaches and GMs," she said

    Questions the prospect raises: While Henderson was known to step up during critical games this season, her inconsistency, especially on offense, remains her largest weakness. While South Carolina came out victorious in the national championship game against UConn, the concerns were mainly about the Gamecocks' spacing, which was an issue during the regular season and the SEC tournament. While Henderson is well-built and muscular, she's listed at 5'7" and will be bound for mismatches. 

    Projected draft position: Late first round to early second round


    5. Khayla Pointer (LSU, Guard, Graduate Student)

    Pro-ready skill: Pointer can score at a very high level. What set her apart during her collegiate career was her ability to create off the dribble along with her exceptional footwork and a laundry list of pro-ready moves, such as her hesi and crossover. "The great thing about Pointer is she plays taller than she is," Dunn said. "As the game goes along, you'd swear she's 5'9", 5'10". I love that about her. Her speed, her quickness, her ability to score in a lot of different ways."

    Questions the prospect raises: While the 5'7" Pointer has proved herself as a talented scoring guard, her push passes at point guard could use work. Also, she has been known to struggle finishing over larger defenders. According to Em Adler at The Next, she'll also need to work on her ability to draw contact on penetration.

    Projected draft position: Early second round to mid-second round


    6. Aisha Sheppard (Virginia Tech, Guard, Graduate Student)

    Pro-ready skill: Sheppard is an excellent shooter who can make shots off the dribble and on catch-and-shoot attempts. This season from beyond the arc, she shot 38.7 percent, which places her in the 91st percentile, according to Her Hoops Stats

    Questions the prospect raises: Defensively, her footwork and quickness aren't where they need to be to help contain drives to the basket.

    Projected draft position: Middle to late second round


    7. Joanne Allen-Taylor (Texas, Guard, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Allen-Taylor has proved to be a staunch defender, playing in a system that is predicated upon its high-pressure defense. She also has a reliable mid-range jumper.

    Questions the prospect raises: While Allen-Taylor showed out in the NCAA tournament, averaging 12.8 points in four contests, a glaring weakness in her game is her inefficiency from the three-point line, as she shot 33.3 percent last season. For a guard, the long ball is imperative in the W. 

    Projected draft position: Middle to late second round


    8. Jade Melbourne (Australia, Guard, International Prospect)

    Pro-ready skill: At only 19, Melbourne is an impressive lane slasher playing in the WNBL against WNBA pros Sami Whitcomb, Jackie Young and Marina Mabrey. 

    Questions the prospect raises: According to Peter Kilkelly at Five Out Basketball, Melbourne shot 33.3 percent from three-point range this past season in the WNBL, a stat that will need to improve in the WNBA.

    Projected draft position: Middle to late second round


    9. Kianna Smith (Louisville, Guard, Redshirt Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: All season, Smith was the Cardinals' go-to shot-maker, especially when the defenses collapsed on Hailey Van Lith, a more dynamic guard. Averaging five three-point attempts per game, Smith shot 36.7 percent, which, according to Her Hoops Stats, put her in the 83rd percentile.

    Questions the prospect raises: Smith's calling card is her raw shooting skills, but questions surround how she can use her 6'0" frame to contribute to the game in other ways besides shooting and scoring.

    Projected draft position: Early third round


    10. Jordan Lewis (Baylor, Guard, Graduate Student)

    Pro-ready skill: In her six-year collegiate career, Lewis always had a free-throw rate (a percentage of two-point scoring trips that result in a trip to the free-throw line, according to Her Hoops Stats) in the 92nd percentile or above. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Lewis proved how versatile and tough she is to guard during her graduate year at Baylor. But at the pro level, it's her 5'7" frame that presents her with a steeper challenge. 

    Projected draft position: Middle to late third round


    11. Amber Ramirez (Arkansas, Guard, Redshirt Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Ramirez is an excellent spot-up shooter who canned 40.2 percent from three while averaging 6.5 attempts per game in her final collegiate season. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Ramirez can clearly shoot well from deep, but her field-goal percentage from everywhere else is troubling, as in her college career her two-point field-goal percentage was never above 45.5 percent.

    Projected draft position: On the draft-board bubble


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    Rhyne Howard, Kentucky senior guard/wing.
    Rhyne Howard, Kentucky senior guard/wing.Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    1. Rhyne Howard  (Kentucky, Guard/Wing, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Howard has a lot of skills that will allow her to have success in the W right now. She can score at all three levels, handle the ball and distribute it when needed, play at least three positions (the 2, 3 and the 4) and use her 6'2" size and long arms to defend when she wants to. Emphasis on the "wants to," which was exactly how Dream general manager Dan Padover described Howard on the defensive end. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Her competitive spirit and 40-minute focus in college could be a concern at the pro level. Some have debunked this issue as a product of the team she was on; Howard had to do a lot of Kentucky's heavy lifting throughout her career. While Dunn raised that point, there must have been a reason the Washington Mystics, who value hard workers, traded out of the No. 1 spot. 

    Projected draft position: Within the draft lottery and potential No. 1 pick


    2. Kierstan Bell (Florida Gulf Coast University, Guard, Junior)

    Pro-ready skill: Bell has been lauded for her physicality and versatility on offense. She can move well off the ball, making all sorts of cuts, and can slip quickly through ball screens toward the basket. She's also proved she can take and make threes, although her shots have been more contested as the No. 1 name atop the scouting report. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Defense is where Bell will struggle in the pros. Her footwork while guarding players in the post is a bit lackadaisical, and sometimes she comes across as unfocused. Also, how will she adapt to being more of a serviceable player rather than being the nucleus of what her team does? 

    Projected draft position: Draft lottery pick to mid-first round


    3. Rae Burrell (Tennessee, Wing, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: At 6'1", Burrell possesses the length and athleticism that could lead to her being a key rotation piece. During her junior season, she showed the potential to shoot 40 percent from three, a number that dropped to 32.5 percent in fewer games as a senior. WNBA talent evaluators value prospects who can create a shot from multiple levels, both off the dribble and on a kickout, something Burrell can do with ease. 

    Questions the prospect raises: She began the season with a leg injury, which she might not be completely healed from. It's possible this has impacted her explosiveness and lateral quickness.

    Projected draft position: Middle to late first round


    4. Evina Westbrook (UConn, Combo Wing, Redshirt Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Westbrook's calling card is her versatility, which might be a blessing and a curse. She can guard multiple positions, play both on and off the ball, distribute as a ball-handler and score at all three levels. She also is the type of player who does whatever is asked and takes on whatever role she's given willingly. 

    Questions the prospect raises: While her versatility is her blessing, she can be inconsistent in some of her roles. During her senior season at UConn, there were some evenings when Westbrook showed potential when she was depended on as a primary ball-handler with all others unavailable to play because of injury. And then on the flip side, there were games when Westbrook looked hesitant and afraid to play aggressively. 

    Projected draft position: Late first round to mid-second round


    5. Lexie Hull (Stanford, Wing, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Hull's pro-ready skills are mostly based upon her intangibles, or the attributes that she has that can't be taught. These include her basketball IQ, her consistent motor and competitive toughness and her selflessness as a basketball player. On the floor, it's Hull's ability from beyond the arc that should make her a shoo-in for a spot in a WNBA training camp. During her senior season, she shot 39.3 percent from three on 4.3 attempts per game. 

    Questions the prospect raises: The issue for Hull is her physicality (how strong she is and her ability to absorb contact) and athleticism (agility and quickness) aren't quite there for immediate success and impact. 

    Projected draft position: Middle to late second round


    6. Vivian Gray (Texas Tech, Wing, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Gray can score at three levels and can especially create her own looks driving through the lane and on mid-range fadeaways. She successfully exposed smaller guards who defended her one-on-one. 

    Questions the prospect raises: In her final collegiate season, Gray shot 25.5 percent from three in only 51 attempts.

    Projected draft position: Middle to late second round


    7. Kayla Jones (NC State, Combo Forward, Graduate Student)

    Pro-ready skill: At 6'1", Jones showed the type of matchup problem she can create against smaller guards and slower bigs in NC State's Elite Eight double-overtime loss against UConn. She's an effective screener and makes intelligent reads on the floor.

    Questions the prospect raises: In college, she struggled to defend larger power forwards because of their size and strength, as The Next's Em Adler noted. That won't get any easier in the W. 

    Projected draft position: Late second round


    8. Kayla Wells (Texas A&M, Wing, Graduate Student)

    Pro-ready skill: Wells can score at all three levels, especially succeeding when she creates in space. During the 2021-22 collegiate season, she shot 46.1 percent from beyond the arc on 76 attempts.

    Questions the prospect raises: Throughout her college career, Wells was both turnover and foul prone. She turned the ball over 2.1 times per game and picked up 2.2 fouls per contest this past season.

    Projected draft position: Middle to late third round


    9. Jasmine Dickey (Delaware, Guard/Forward, Senior) 

    Pro-ready skill: ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo expects Dickey to get a shot at a WNBA training camp because of her athleticism and ability to score at a high level. "Good size, good length, great athlete," she said Thursday during a predraft call. "You would expect she would certainly be in a camp."

    Questions the prospect raises: Dickey has fine size as a guard but might be a bit undersized as a wing. She also is coming from a mid-major school in Delaware that didn't allow her to compete against the more pro-ready talents in the country.

    Projected draft position: Middle to late third round


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    NaLyssa Smith, Baylor Senior Forward
    NaLyssa Smith, Baylor Senior ForwardAssociated Press

    1. NaLyssa Smith (Baylor, Forward, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Smith's ceiling is so high because of the amount of athleticism she possesses in conjunction with her competitive spirit. The way she approaches crashing the boards is the sum of those parts. Even when Smith has a defender with similar size guarding her, what makes her unique is her ability to elevate above the defense and score at 6'4".

    Questions the prospect raises: While Smith has developed her game quite quickly after only a season under former WNBA coach Nicki Collen, her perimeter play still has a ways to go if she is to reach her potential. While Smith also can defend well, according to Em Adler of The Next, she can take some dribbles off that lead her to being disadvantaged while defending drives to the basket.  

    Projected draft position: Potential No. 1 pick and within the draft lottery


    2. Emily Engstler (Louisville, Forward, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Engstler's defensive feel and anticipation have been compared to those of Louisville legend and WNBA superstar Angel McCoughtry. Enough said. Offensively, Engstler's versatility is what makes her so valuable. At 6'1", she's a post player who can facilitate, move well off the ball and score fluidly in transition, and she's proved she can make a catch-and-shoot jump shot from beyond the arc. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Engstler's limits on offense, especially her ability to score on the inside, might prevent talent evaluators from taking a chance on her. She also has the qualities of a tweener, a player who can theoretically play both power forward and small forward. Another question is: Will she improve her lateral quickness to defend other 3s when she plays on the wing rather than in the post? 

    Projected draft position: Middle to late first round


    3. Naz Hillmon (Michigan, Forward, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: When Mystics head coach and general manager Mike Thibault was asked to speak about Naz Hillmon's upside as a WNBA prospect, he praised her motor and ability to finish around the rim and rebound at a high level using her 6'7" wingspan. Hillmon is also a proven winner. She took Michigan to the Elite Eight for the first time in 2022. 

    Questions the prospect raises: While Hillmon has notable intangibles, she has glaring downsides. Hillmon has underdeveloped perimeter skills as a 6'2" forward, as she's only able to score at one level. She also struggles to recover on defense and isn't a great help defender.  

    Projected draft position: Early second round


    4. Lorela Cubaj (Georgia Tech, Forward, Fifth Year)

    Pro-ready skill: Cubaj's most transferable pro skill set is on the defensive end. She was a finalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award alongside South Carolina's Aliyah Boston, Stanford's Cameron Brink and Northwestern's Veronica Burton. She's an elite rebounder (11.1 per game in 2021-22) and has impressive anticipation as a help defender. Her footwork for a 6'4" big is impressive as she excels at preventing dribble drives.

    Questions the prospect raises: While she's an effective playmaker, her scoring ability has been inconsistent. She has trouble finishing at the rim, has limited post moves on the block and shot 42 percent from the field last season. 

    Projected draft position: Late second round


    5. Mya Hollingshed (Colorado, Small Forward, Fifth-Year Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Defense is where Hollingshed stands out the most. Her athleticism will allow her to adapt to more pro-level defensive scheming. In addition to her prowess on the non-glamorous end, which includes solid rebounding and help defense, Hollingshed can expand opposing defenses with a three-point shot that she's been improving exponentially throughout her collegiate career. 

    Questions the prospect raises: While Hollingshed's shot has improved, it's still not mechanically as sound as it could be. She'll also struggle to defend post-ups because of her slender 6'3" frame and how strong her pro opponents will be. 

    Projected draft position: Late second round


    6. Chloe Bibby (Maryland, Forward/Guard, Graduate Student)

    Pro-ready skill: For a big, the 6'2" Bibby can stretch the floor and hit three-point shots at a clip above 30 percent on around four to five attempts per game. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Bibby's athleticism and lack of lateral quickness are things she'll struggle with if she makes it to a WNBA training camp.

    Projected draft position: Middle of the third round 


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    Shakira Austin, Ole Miss Senior Center
    Shakira Austin, Ole Miss Senior CenterAssociated Press

    1. Shakira Austin (Ole Miss, Center, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Austin's defense is pro-ready, as she has a solid handle on her footwork at 6'5". She's an exceptional rim protector who can hedge in addition to function in drop coverages. How much potential she has at her size is what might make Austin most exciting to WNBA talent evaluators. 

    Questions the prospect raises: While Austin is listed as a center, her offensive game is more suited to power forward. She can drive with the ball well, can spot up shots and can especially score at the short corner. Will a WNBA team play her at the 5 for her defense or the 4 for her offense? 

    Projected draft position: Draft-lottery hopeful to middle of the first round


    2. Nyara Sabally (Oregon, Center, Redshirt Junior)

    Pro-ready skill: Sabally is a center with a pro-ready body who is more equipped to handle the physicality of W than some of her peers. She's quicker on her feet while mid-post-up, which allows her to plow through defenses on her finishes. She also can stretch the defense on a pick-and-pop and slips well on pick-and-rolls. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Sabally only played in two collegiate seasons due to two ACL tears, and during the 2021-2022 season, she reinjured her right knee. How much has this affected her athleticism on defense, and how much of a concern is her health to talent evaluators?

    Projected draft position: Draft-lottery hopeful to middle of the first round


    3. Elissa Cunane (NC State, Center, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Cunane is a solid post scorer who thrives with her back to the basket. In her entire collegiate career, her field-goal percentage hasn't been a hair below 53 percent. Pro-talent evaluators will value that she has a shot from beyond the arc, although she wasn't always allowed to play as often on the perimeter. 

    Questions the prospect raises: When I saw Cunane live and up-close, it was clear she needs to improve her defense. Her lateral movements are quite slow, and she struggles to execute and recover on hedges. She also struggles to adapt to the physicality needed when she's faced with a double-team. She's slow to change angles to get better positioning. 

    Projected draft position: Late first round to early second


    4. Olivia Nelson-Ododa (UConn, Forward/Center, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: While Paige Bueckers was out for a couple of months, Nelson-Ododa proved how versatile she can be as a point-post player. Her basketball IQ is very high, allowing her to make the proper reads on both sides of the floor. While scoring most likely won't be what she hangs her hat on at the next level, she can be relied upon to set a solid screen, roll and find the best look. 

    Questions the prospect raises: While Nelson-Ododa stands at 6'5" and has long arms, she has struggled with physicality and strong finishes. She'll need to work on getting a lot stronger to succeed. 

    Projected draft position: Early- to mid-second round


    5. Maya Dodson (Notre Dame, Forward/Center, Graduate Student)

    Pro-ready skill: In her fifth year of eligibility at Notre Dame, Dodson proved she can crash the offensive glass at a high level. She grabbed 115 offensive rebounds last season, finishing within the top 20 in the country. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Dodson played her best basketball with the Irish in 2021-22, but how she matched up against Elissa Cunane in her final collegiate game was concerning. Cunane isn't known for imposing her will physically, but Dodson struggled against her in the Sweet 16.  

    Projected draft position: Early third round


    6. Hannah Sjerven (South Dakota, Center, Redshirt Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Sjerven put her name on the map after three double-digit scoring performances against fellow W prospects in Shakira Austin, NaLyssa Smith and Naz Hillmon in the NCAA tournament. In four of her five collegiate years, Sjerven finished in the 93rd percentile or higher in total field-goal percentage.

    Questions the prospect raises: I had to do a double take when I saw that Sjerven is listed as a center. While her three-point percentage exponentially increased during her collegiate career, Sjerven's 6'2" size will come into question—especially defensively against taller and stronger centers.

    Projected draft position: Middle of the third round


    7. Jenna Staiti (Georgia, Center, Graduate Student)

    Pro-ready skill: At 6'4", Staiti can stretch as a mid-range and three-point jump-shooter. In her four years at Georgia, she didn't finish below the 97th percentile in blocks per game. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Staiti will need to work on her mobility outside the paint and improve her efficiency from beyond the arc. During the 2021-2022 season, she only shot 25.7 percent on 35 total attempts. 

    Projected draft position: Later in the third round


    8. Queen Egbo (Baylor, Center, Senior)

    Pro-ready skill: Egbo had difficulty adapting to new coach Nicki Collen's system at first, but according to Rebecca Lobo, talent evaluators appreciate the 6'3" Egbo's length and tenacity at the defensive end. 

    Questions the prospect raises: Collen's system was much closer to what Egbo would be put into at the pro level. Although at 6'3" she has length and size as a post player, she also struggled with physicality and staying out of foul trouble. In her final season, she registered 2.7 fouls per game, the highest rate of her career. 

    Projected draft position: Later in the third round