Welcome to my final draft board before the draft. Thank you for reading. I am working on figuring out a schedule to publish more often. I am still committed to writing here. For my fourth year writing about the WNBA draft, I am going to focus on my top ten prospects, as ten players is roughly the number of players who will contribute from a draft. Some years it is more, some less, but that forces me to make hard choices about who I believe in. I will include a few at the end who just missed, in hopes of at least mentioning the names of players who I am too low on, an inevitably in this exercise.
- Aliyah Boston Big 6’5″ South Carolina
No change at the top of the draft. Still the best defensive prospect in years to enter the W, maybe since Sylvia Fowles. Still someone who will be very good on offense, though to be seen just how good she is. Someone who I am very ready to drive the two hours to Indianapolis multiple times this summer to see for the Fever. Not going to simply reiterate what I wrote in draft board 1.0, I stand by that.
- Diamond Miller Wing 6’2″ Maryland
First change from my original board. Miller provides enough more efficiency than Haley Jones to give her a higher floor than Jones. While Miller has slipped from 3, her shooting numbers and willingness to take them still beat out Jones. Miller is also better at attacking the rim and has the better first step.
I would still have Miller and Jones in the same tier. Jones is more versatile as a defender and the better passer. If Jones were to figure out her shooting, her ceiling might be higher, but Miller is more likely to stick as a starter in the W.
- Haley Jones Wing 6’1″ Stanford
Jones slips from 2 to 3 for me, due to a lack of impact outside of the paint or sometimes the elbow. While non-centers can be impactful without any kind of outside shot, it makes it much harder and unlikely. I did not think her percentages would plummet and her attempts dip even lower to basically 0 attempts per game. Particularly discouraging given that this Stanford team is not exactly overflowing with 3 point shooters outside of Hannah Jump.
While Jones does lack an elite first step, I do think her feel and handle will allow her to have success on the ball. Defensively I have far fewer questions as I think she will be able to guard 2-4 at the next level. Jackie Young would be an upper level outcome. If Jones slips out of the lottery, it would not shock me, but I feel the star potential is there. If this were tiers, I’d have Miller, Jones and Horston in the same tier.
- Jordan Horston Wing 6’2” Tennessee
Biggest question is how real is her shooting improvement as a senior. Still not a good 3 point shooter, she really improved inside the arc as a senior. If this is just who she is, she should be third or maybe even second. She was the most baffling oversight in my first draft board. Her lack of efficiency and poor shot selection is why I would have had her 5-8 or so, but she should have been on the board. Horston who is under 40% from the field is a tough piece to fit on a W team. A Horston who is closer to 50% is much more likely to make an impact.
Big wings who can defend and make plays for other are so valuable. A team that drafts Horston, like with Haley Jones, will be hoping her shooting improves enough to keep her on the court and let the rest of her skills sing. Horston can pass, handle and defend, both on ball and off ball. Her impressive rim protection for a wing, similar to Rhyne Howard, should be very helpful at the next level.
- Maddy Siegrist 6’1” Wing Villanova
Siegrist’s impact will be a test of how she fits in a smaller role. Her combination of size and shooting should work well. I’m not that concerned about her as a team defender, if not a stopper by any means. While she lives on a diet of midrange shots a W team won’t want her to take, her 3 point shot is good and a good chance it improves as she works on off ball movement shooting.
Questions about how often or even if she will get to the rim are what put her in the middle of the first round. Also, can she handle against W pressure and play the 3, or will she strictly be a 4 who has to add strength to hang. Either way, shooting is always valuable on the wing if the player can do just enough elsewhere to hang.
- Grace Berger Guard 6’0” Indiana
Can she up her volume of 3s? That is the big question. For as big and athletic as she is, it is hard to see a team putting the ball in her hands, at least early in her career, as she had at Indiana. It will be much easier if she can spot up off ball, while using her strength and athleticism and decent playmaking to attack second side. This will be undermined if teams sag off her cause she shoots 1 3 per 36 minutes. No matter if she is accurate on those threes, if she turns those shots into long 2s, teams will ignore her.
- Zia Cooke Guard 5’9” South Carolina
Three seasons now at 35% from 3 or better and her first season as a senior with a (just barely) positive assist to turnover ratio are good indicators for Cooke. Cooke consistently played in some really clunky offensive lineups where the best offense is often for a guard to miss a shot and a big rebound the ball. Even with the constraints, she was still able to produce.
Defensively she seems fine. Not great, no one will be drafting her to be the next Briann January, but she does her job and has room to grow. Star upside seems unlikely, but at this point in this draft, a spot starter and backup guard would be a fine outcome. Plenty of draft people are higher on both Brea Beal and Laeticia Amihere than me, but Cooke is who generally showed up in the biggest games alongside of course Aliyah Boston.
- Maïa Hirsch 6’5” big Villenueve (France)
Risky to put a player at 8 who I am not even sure is planning on coming to the W, at least anytime soon. But her potential is high and she is one of the youngest players who will get drafted. Hirsch has shades of Ezi Magbegor, but with potentially better shooting from 3. Someone who in time will be able to handle either playing the 4 or 5 and someone who can be at least a solid role player, especially on a team with a ball dominant, non-shooting player at another key position.
- Shaneice Swain Guard 5’9” UC Capitals (Australia)
A potential solid backup combo guard in the W who can give you spot minutes at the 2. Shot 36% from 3 with her grenade launcher shot. She is generally solid at all the things one wants from a combo guard, even if the odds of her becoming a star, or even a starter in the W, are not that high. But given the number of players who returned to school in this draft, at this point a solid backup guard would be a fine outcome. Swain is young, so may or may not come over yet, which could be good depending on the the team that drafts her.
- Laeticia Amihere Big 6’4” South Carolina
One of the widest range of outcomes in a player I have given a first round pick grade too, but when 4 of your initial first round picks opt to stay for a fifth year in school, swings at upside become more appealing. The good of Amihere is her defensive feel, passing, speed and size. Those are foundations for an interesting big who can give minutes at the 4 and 5. While one would not want to rely on her heavily for small ball five minutes, in appropriate doses she could be a key cog in a switch everything scheme that plays a high pressure scheme. Think Toronto Raptors with Scottie Barnes at center.
The other end of the court is the risk though. I mentioned she is a good passer for a big. However what else she does in the half court is a mystery. She can’t shoot, hasn’t typically been asked to be a screener, has not been asked with punishing smaller players in the post. Some of these things she may be decent at, but South Carolina was so big inside that they had no need for her to show off those skills. But if she can figure out how to contribute in the half court, a big if, she could be an all star level player. A big if, why she may fall deep into the second round, but I’d take the risk at this point.
Most Likely to Make Me look Silly
Stephanie Soares and Taylor Soule are my next two picks, jn some order, to round out a first round board. I have questions about Soares defense in space and offense. Taylor Soule may not be quite big enough to be a small ball 4 like she was in college and her offense would need considerable development to be play the 3.
I’m lower on a Brea Beal and the UConn duo of Lou Lopez Senechal and Dorka Juhasz than many. Always possible a player from either of those schools makes me look silly. But Beal is so limited on offense and not as good as a point of attack defender as her reputation suggests. Senechal is a year younger than Arike Ogunbowale. Possible she is can make it, but Kitja Laksa was a better version of the same player and just made it back to the league after years out. Dorka Juhasz is decent at most center things, but doesn’t provide either enough rim protection or inside scoring against other W caliber centers.