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  • Jess Simpson

2022 WNBA Draft Recap

The talk of the 2022 WNBA surrounded the three players everyone expected to go in the top three - Rhyne Howard, NaLyssa Smith and Shakira Austin. The question was, what order would they go in?

1. Atlanta Dream: Rhyne Howard, G, Kentucky

Rhyne Howard became the newest first draft pick, going number 1 to the Atlanta Dream, as expected by a lot of people. Howard averaged 20.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, shooting 38.3% from three. Howard is an athletic wing that

can make an immediate impact for the Dream, especially with both Chennedy Carter and Courtney Williams departing during the offseason. Given her size, Howard has the ability to guard anywhere from the 1 to the 4, bringing an exciting defensive presence to the court.

2. Indiana Fever: NaLyssa Smith, F, Baylor

With their first of four first-round picks, the Indiana Fever selected NaLyssa Smith, the 6’2 forward averaged a double-double 22.1 points and 11.5 rebounds a game during her senior season. Smith excels on the defensive end, with impressive boxing out skills and an impressive number of blocks during her final collegiate season. With the departure of Tiera McGowan from the fever, Smith is poised to be the new frontcourt leader for the team. None of Indiana’s first-round draft picks for the past three years are still with the team, so let’s hope that this will break their streak of poor draft picks.

3. Washington Mystics: Shakira Austin, C, Ole Miss

Despite originally having the first pick in this draft, the Mystics chose to trade that spot to the Dream, obviously believing that there would be immense talent outside of the first or second pick, and that fact was proven true with their drafting of 6’5 centre, Shakira Austin. Austin is fantastic on the defensive end, averaging 8.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game during her collegiate career. She can be a foundational piece of the Mystics' defence with experience in carrying a team, leading Ole Miss to its first NCAA tournament since 2007, something the Mystics could need with Elena Delle Donne becoming a free agent after next season.

4. Indiana Fever: Emily Engstler, F, Louisville

With their second first-round pick, Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Nominee, Emily Engstler was selected by the Fever. After an outstanding season with Louisville, Engstler shot up draft boards this spring. Indiana interim GM Lin Dunn has been vocal about the team’s need for a defensive presence, and that is what Engstler can bring to this team in a rebuild. Averaging 9.4 rebounds and 2.7 steals, Engstler was a menace for the Cardinals, helping them to the NCAA Final Four. If her offensive game continues to develop, this could be an absolute steal for the Fever.

5. New York Liberty: Nyara Sabally, F, Oregon

Nyara Sabally will be joining former Ducks teammate Sabrina Ionescu in New York after being selected with the fifth pick of the draft. Despite missing out on her first two seasons for the Ducks, Sabally put up big numbers in the 20-21 and 21-22 seasons, with a season-high 30 points and 7 blocks coming in the Ducks’ final game in the NCAA tournament against Belmont, earning All-Pac12 honours for the two seasons she played. Going into the draft, the Liberty were looking for depth in the post, and they definitely found that in Sabally; provided she can stay healthy, Sabally is strong enough to move people around in the paint, but also, as proved by her 19 double-digit scoring games for Oregon this season, has the agility to move around the court.

6. Indiana Fever: Lexie Hull, G, Stanford

A surprising pick, the Fever went with Stanford guard Lexie Hull with the sixth pick of the draft. Hull was projected as a second-round pick, but with the Fever’s hunt for defensive players, this pick starts to make sense; Hull was a part of a stellar Stanford defence, earning 2.2 steals a game this past season. But the defensive quality of this Cardinals season was largely due to other Stanford players, not Hull herself, leaving people wondering Indiana chose to select her this early on. If Hull can adapt to the athleticism of the WNBA, she could grow into a solid player for the Fever, but she definitely would’ve been available later in the draft.

7. Dallas Wings: Veronica Burton, G, Northwestern

The Wings aren’t lacking in the guard area, between Arike Ogunbowale, Marina Mabrey and Allisha Gray, they’re thriving with ball handlers. However, the Wings lacked a defensive presence last season, and by bringing in number seven pick Veronica Burton, they’re certainly tackling that issue. The 5’9 guard was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year during her collegiate career, averaging four steals a game during her senior season. Burton is also a great playmaker and a great shooter from the free-throw line, shooting about 80% through her college career. Burton will have an immediate impact on the defensive end for the Wings, and could easily play alongside any of their current guards.

8. Las Vegas Aces: Mya Hollingshed, F, Colorado

Mya Hollingshed is an out and out 3-and-D player, which is exactly what the Aces needed going into this new season. With the introduction of Becky Hammon to the team, this style of play, spacing the floor more, is to be expected. Hollingshed shot almost 40% from three in her final collegiate season, where she started in all of the games she played. While she probably could’ve been grabbed later in the draft, this is a great move for the Aces that makes a whole lot of sense for their future.

9. Los Angeles Sparks: Rae Burrel, G, Tennessee

Despite a lacklustre senior season due to a knee injury, Rae Burrell went to LA with the number nine pick of this draft. Through the 2020-21 season, Burrell averaged almost 40% from three and 82.5% from the charity stripe with almost 17 points per game, bringing some much-needed help to the Sparks on the wing, provided she can stay healthy. If she can, there is a clear path to WNBA success with the size, agility and athleticism she possesses.

10. Indiana Fever: Queen Egbo, C, Baylor

Another shock pick for the Fever was projected third-rounder, 6’3 centre Queen Egbo out of Baylor. While Egbo will reunite with Baylor teammate, NaLyssa Smith, this isn’t college anymore, and it is up to question whether Egbo will be able to adapt to the speed of the WNBA. It is clear what the Fever were trying to achieve this draft - frontcourt players that could work hard on the defensive end, but there were many other options that the Fever could’ve gone with. This is another pick where it feels the player would’ve been available much later.

11. Las Vegas Aces: Kierstan Bell, G, Florida Gulf Coast

This was another excellent pick from the Aces. After going with a big for their first pick, they focused the eleventh pick on the perimeter, selecting 6’1 guard Kierstan Bell. After averaging 22.8 points per game and 47.2% FG accuracy in the 2021-22 season, Bell makes perfect sense for this Aces team. After playing in one of the most modern offences at FGCU, Bell will fit right in with the Hammond run team. It was a shock that Bell was still available this late in the draft, so this was an absolute steal for the Aces.

12. Connecticut Sun: Nia Clouden, G, Michigan State

One issue for the Suns in the past few years has been keeping the pace in games and continuing to get good looks when that pace slows down. With the signing of Courtney Williams in the offseason, they are clearly looking to address that issue, and that was solidified with their selection of Michigan State guard Nia Clouden with the last pick of this first round. Clouden is an impressive shooter both spot up and off the dribble, as shown by her collegiate career average of 16.1 points and 42.7% FG accuracy per game. It’ll be interesting to see Clouden and Williams work together on the Sun's backcourt.

Second round results

13. Las Vegas Aces: Khayla Pointer, LSU

14. Washington Mystics: Christyn Williams, UConn

15. Atlanta Dream: Naz Hillmon, Michigan

16. Los Angeles Sparks: Kianna Smith, Louisville

17. Seattle Storm: Elissa Cunane, NC State

18. New York Liberty: Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech

19. Los Angeles Sparks: Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn

20. Indiana Fever: Destanni Henderson, South Carolina

21. Seattle Storm: Evina Westbrook, UConn

22. Minnesota Lynx: Kayla Jones, NC State

23. Las Vegas Aces: Aisha Sheppard, Virginia Tech

24. Connecticut Sun: Jordan Lewis, Baylor

Third round results

25. Indiana Fever: Ameshya Williams-Holliday, Jackson State

26. Phoenix Mercury: Maya Dodson, Notre Dame

27. Los Angeles Sparks: Amy Atwell, Hawaii

28. Minnesota Lynx: Hannah Sjerven, South Dakota

29. New York Liberty: Sika Kone, Mali

30. Dallas Wings: Jasmine Dickey, Delaware

31. Dallas Wings: Jazz Bond, North Florida

32. Phoenix Mercury: Macee Williams, IUPUI

33. Seattle Storm: Jade Melbourne, Australia

34. Indiana Fever: Ali Patberg, Indiana

35. Las Vegas Aces: Faustine Aifuwa, LSU

36. Connecticut Sun: Kiara Smith, Florida


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