2023 WNBA Draft Board Top 10 1.0

The 2023 draft has a sure number 1 pick, two excellent players almost certain to be picked in the lottery, and a lot of question marks after that. A medium strength draft, without necessarily the depth of last year nor the multiple top players of next year’s. Aliyah Boston is the most sure thing since her fellow SC player in A’ja Wilson. Haley Jones and Diamond Miller are likely to be 2 and 3 in some order for me all season. 4-10? Much more up in the air. I can not wait to watch all of them play. Hopefully against each other if we as fans are lucky.

  1. Aliyah Boston Big 6’5″ South Carolina

Aliyah Boston could stop playing basketball right now until next April’s draft and she would be the #1 pick. There is no world in which she is not a #1 pick, if she does in fact come out. I had a silly idea before the 21-22 NCAA season that the number 2 player on my board might keep it a bit closer to Boston. But Boston quickly separated herself from the rest of the field by a wide margin. Aliyah Boston is the most complete defensive prospect since Sylvia Fowles. She can do everything one would want a defensive center to do in the modern game. She can switch onto smaller guards, play at the level, or in drop. She rarely gets herself in foul trouble and is a wonderful help defender. She is an elite rebounder who challenges shots without giving up rebounding position.

Offensively she does have a bit of work to do in scoring efficiently in the paint against the centers who can hang with her in size. As a young W player she may end up with some ugly shooting nights. But even then, she can pass, punish switches, and shoot the 3 a bit, so even if it takes her time to be a premier offensive threat, she will be able to excel next to any other offensive creator. Given her defense, she doesn’t need to be Brittney Griner or even A’ja Wilson to be impactful.

  1. Haley Jones 6’1″ Wing Stanford

Full disclosure, Haley Jones has been my favorite player to watch in college basketball for the past few years. However, I think she has an argument for being the #2 pick in this draft. The W has not fully leaned into big wings like the mnba, but as we saw with the Aces, the ability to surround a dominant big with multiple good wings is incredibly valuable.

Jones passes and handles like a point guard. She can defend 1-4 and many 5s. She is a force in transition with the ability to grab and go. Her main weaknesses are a reluctance to shoot 3s and a lack of an elite first step. The shooting is real, but she has shown in the biggest games an understanding that she has to take that shot if that is what the defense is giving her. And her lack of first step is overrated as an issue, since there are other ways to attack the paint. Her handle will continue to improve and her strength allows her to gain angles. Plenty of wings are effective without Kahleah Copper level athleticism.

  1. Diamond Miller Wing 6’3″ Maryland

If Diamond Miller returns to her sophomore form, she will push for the second pick in this draft. A 6’2” wing with elite athleticism who is already a good 3 point shooter is a lottery pick. While she isn’t the passer that Jones is, nor the defender, she can certainly do both those things. She has a better first step than Jones and can slash to the rim well for someone of her size.

Her junior year was rough, but that can be chalked up to injury. Hopefully she has a healthy and productive senior season. Things to watch will be is her shot good, or merely good enough. Is it 35% or better, or more low 30s. Can she get her assist to turnover ratio a bit better? A slightly negative assist to turnover ratio is not ideal.

  1. Jacy Sheldon Guard 5’10” Ohio State

Here begins the more speculative prospects. The gap between 4 and 10 at this point is simply not that big and I would not put too much stock in where I slot players at this point. Jacy Sheldon gets the spot here as a player who shot 55/37/86 with a positive assist to turnover ratio. She is an off guard, but has shown in a pinch she can take on lead ball handler duties. A good, if not explosive, athlete, Sheldon has a good upside as a solid starting guard in the W.

She shows the tools at times to be an adequate defender, though she tends to play with a few good perimeter defenders and so is not asked to do that much. This is something I will definitely be watching more closely, as my feel for her defense is not nearly as strong as it could be.

  1. Rickea Jackson Wing 6’2″ Tennessee

Rickea Jackson is definitely someone who could rise one spot higher or fall out of my top ten entirely. She did not play a full season last year and was more of a W prospect in theory than actuality the season before. But a 6’2” wing looks like she can shoot and has good athleticism will always deserve attention. 

Sub 30% from 3 and 55% from the free throw line in her last full season is concerning, but her shot does not look broken and as Jackie Young and Gabby Williams show, teams will take chances on wings who can’t yet shoot 3s in the hopes they add that. Jackson would likely be an upside pick, not someone who will walk in and contribute right away.  

  1. Charisma Osborne Guard 5’9″ UCLA

I don’t get Pac 12 network so I did not watch Charisma Osborne nearly as often last season as I would have liked to. But what I saw was promising and I saw more of her as a sophomore. Sub 40% from 2 is tough, but a good free throw shooter makes me optimistic about her future shooting. A good assist to turnover ratio and she is a good athlete. She seems like someone who may be able to play either guard position in a pinch, though she is more of an off ball guard.

Always read Em Adler at the Next, but definitely read Em talking about Osborne on the defensive end in her draft board. A theme for me in watching guards this year is focusing a bit more attention on their defense. Typically, offense is more important for guards, but they do have to be able to stay on the floor and good point of attack defense is valuable.

  1. Ashley Owusu Guard 6’0″ Virginia Tech

At her best plays like Chelsea Gray. Like Gray, lacks straight line speed, but is a big strong guard who can make tough shots. Someone who will benefit from spread pick and rolls at the next level, since she has the passing and good feel, but needs assistance in generating advantages. First two seasons at Maryland averaged 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. 

Low volume on 3s and only one season of being accurate, but something she can potentially add. Defensively would do better in a switching scheme where she can use her size and strength to defend up. Can struggle to defend quicker, shiftier guards.

  1. Ashley Joens Wing 6’1″Iowa St.

In college, Joens is a 4 who uses her size and strength to score down low. In the pros, she will likely have to play more like Jackie Young or Bridget Carleton, a wing with good size who occasionally uses that size when she has an advantage.  Joens as limited upside, so there are certainly players with higher upside I have after her, but this range becomes fairly speculative and I think she would be a good pick for an already good team.

The way Joens plays in college and how she will have to play in the pros are totally different and that makes projection difficult. But a player with her size and strength who shot high 30s from 3 on 7 attempts per game is worth a look. Can she be a good enough team defender to overcome lack of foot speed on the perimeter? How much is that even an issue? Would love to see her get to guard someone like Texas’ Shaylee Gonzalez, to see how she holds up defending on the perimeter, but may not happen much. 

  1. Elizabeth Kitley Big 6’6″ Virginia Tech

Elizabeth Kitley is a dominant offensive center at the college level. At 6’6” with a high release and good touch, she is very hard to stop. 55% effective field goal percentage while barely shooting 3s is impressive. That is roughly where A’ja Wilson was. Offense should be her reason for making the next level.

Defense is going to be the big question. Like with many college centers, they are not asked to guard in space the they will be in the pros. Her performance against Florida Gulf Coast in the tournament last year showed this as she scored 42 but VT lost as they struggled with the five out FGCU offense.

  1. Zia Cooke Guard 5’9″ South Carolina

Zia Cooke has the athleticism to shine at the next level. The questions come regarding how real is her shooting, good some years not others, and ca nshe improve upon her negative assist to turnover ratio. Cooke is hurt by the at times archaic offensive spacing that South Carolian plays in. South Carolina should be favorites for the championship again, so it works, but it doesn’t highlight a player like Cooke’s offensive skills.

With Destanni Henderson off to the W, Cooke may get the opportunity to run the offense more as well. She has tended to have an even assist to turnover ratio. Improving that is important, as she is a bit undersized for the off guard position, so the ability to run a team would be helpful.

Possible entrants to the top 10

Some players who could join my top ten are Ajha Blackell, Grace Berger, and Shaylee Gonzalez. Can Blackwell show more perimeter skill, can Berger improve her 3 point shooting, can Gonzalez remain an effective slasher against a higher level of competition? Sedona Prince is someone to keep in mind as well. She will unfortunately miss the year with an injury, but she could have the size and smarts to play a Mercedes Russell type role. Better shooter, maybe not quite the passer Russell is. Dyasha Fair is a player who I have not seen at all, so will be paying attention to how she does at Syracuse as she moves up in competition.

WNBA Draft Board 2020

My first post on the WNBA. The goal with this blog is for there to be articles twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays. Please follow me on twitter on the right to debate my rankings.

The WNBA draft is happening tomorrow night on ESPN. Thankfully they moved it off of ESPN 2. As we all deal with the coranivirus pandemic, I am looking forward to the draft more than I have ever looked forward to any sporting event that was not an actual playoff game. I am excited to see these players start their professional careers, hopefully in 2020.

This is a list of my personal ranking of the players and where they are likely to be in 4 or 5 years in the WNBA. This does not take into account team needs. I tend to think teams should draft in tiers, only taking into account team needs between somewhat similar players, so I have grouped players in tiers. Stats for 2019 season and height from herhoopstats. If anyone knows where to find players’ wingspans, let me know. Wingspan matters when projecting defensive ability. 

Tier 1: Potential Franchise players.

1. Sabrina Ionescue

5’10” guard, Oregon (51.8 FG / 39.2 3PT / 92.1 FT)

 While there is a chance Satou Sabally has a better career in the W, Sabrina is the real deal. Pick and roll dynamo who can shoot 3s off the dribble with good efficiency. Really impressed with her improved finishing at the rim, something that really stood out in Oregon’s win over Team USA. There are some questions on how she will handle teams switching athletic 3s and 4s onto her 1 on 1. Shooting should allow her to be valuable off ball. Decent size and fight to at least hold her own on defense. 

2. Satou Sabally

6’4” wing, Oregon (46.4 FG / 33.8 3PT / 79.2 FT)

Big wing is the most valuable position in basketball, as they are the hardest to find and impact winning in so many different ways. For recent WNBA champions, each was led by someone who played on offense as a big wing. Maya Moore, Candace Parker, Breanna Stewart and Elenna Delle Donne. Satou has all the tools and has shown the potential to be just this kind of franchise player. Good scorer at all levels, though more of an adequate 3 point shooter than a great one. 80% from the line is a good sign, as free throw shooting is more indicative of long term shooting ability than three point shooting. Fouls a fair amount and turns the ball over more than ideal, but both of those are paradoxically not bad signs for young players as both generally improve with experience. Not a liability defensively, though will be interesting to see whether she simply holds her own or is a plus in time on that end.

Tier 2: 1x or 2x all stars

3. Chennedy Carter

5’7” guard, Texas A&M (45.2 FG / 25.3 3PT / 72.9 FT) 

After big wing, the next most important position is shot creating guard, particularly one that can shoot from 3 off the dribble (see also, Sabrina Ionescu) This is a bet that Chennedy can be that kind of player. Is a better three point shooter than she showed this year, 35% over the course of her three years at Texas A & M. But she is a dynamic enough scorer she just needs to keep the defense honest with the 3, not be Allie Quigley. Undersized, can she guard other 2s or will she have to cross match with a bigger point guard. Or play point guard, which might be her best position long term. With W spacing and more talent around her, she certainly has the ability to be more of a passer and improve on her already pretty good 27% assist rate. Turns the ball over too much, though may be able to do less in the W than on a Texas A & M team that relied on her so much and raise her pedestrian 1.25 assist to turnover ratio.

Tier 3: Solid WNBA starters

4. Lauren Cox

6’4” big, Baylor (46.5 FG / 40.0 3PT / 62.5 FT)

Center is a position that it is hard to justify a high lottery pick with, unless the player can be an offensive hub a la Liz Cambage. Can she defend other 4s and shoot well enough to stretch the floor to play full time at the 4? There are competent centers who can finish at the rim and block shots to be had for relatively cheap in free agency and later in the draft. Look at the Sparks and how many centers they had last year. Lauren has some upside in this area of being a plus offensive player, if she improves her jumper and passing. Her floor is higher than many other players in this draft, but has less upside.

5. Bella Alarie

6’4” big/wing, Princeton (47.4 FG /35.6 3PT / 74.4 FT)

Alarie’s offense should translate. Good shooter, fluid ball handler for a big. Good shot blocker. Among the many losses of no March Madness this year is not seeing Alarie against better opponents, particularly on defense. She played well against Iowa, the best team Princeton faced this year, but more data points would have been great. Moves her feet well defending guards in space at the Ivy League, but may struggle in the W. Still, a lot of potential upside with her offensive ability and rim protection.

6. Kitija Laksa

6’0”, South Florida. (39.9 FG /38.2 3 PT / 96.5 FT)

Shooting shooting shooting. The WNBA is moving forward more and more with the realization that 3 > 2 each year. Seattle and Washington both one shooting the lights out, and Las Vegas showed the limits of talent and size overcoming a lack of shooting. Kitija Laksa is the best shooter in this class, when taking into account both volume and accuracy. Has some ball skills, isn’t just a stand still shooter. Decent size. Defense may not be a strength at first but has decent size. Allie Quigley but taller is a possibility. Needs to improve finishing and shooting in the paint.

Tier 4: Borderline starters, valuable backups

7. Ruthy Hebard

6’4” big, Oregon (68.5 FG / NA / 69.5 FT)

Being the third option on a loaded college team can create difficulties in projecting to the next level. Devin Booker the classic example from the men’s side of the game.  Hebard says she can shoot more than she has shown. Would be more valuable if she could even stretch out to 15 feet. Even without a shooting touch though, her elite efficiency at the rim stands out. Not the biggest center, but should be able to bang with bigger centers, a la Latoya Sanders. Not a back to the basket player, but given how much more efficient pick and roll is than posting up, used right could be a force. High to draft a center, but has a clearer path to effectiveness than players after this. 

8. Crystal Dangerfield

5’5” guard, UCONN (46.3 FG / 41.0 3PT / 86.0 FT)

Shoots and passes like a WNBA level point guard. Runs off screens well, knows how to set up bigger defenders and run them off of picks. Issues are size on defense and finishing over wnba length. Finishing an issue, though shows touch on floaters. Competes on defense and gets steals, but 5’5” is generous. Because of that, she is a floor raiser in the regular season and at worst a good back up point guard, but the question is if she is good enough to justify hiding her on defense, particularly in the playoffs when teams search out mismatches. 

9. Tyasha Harris

5’10” guard, South Carolina (42.6/38.4/85.7) 

Good at everything one wants from a point guard, but is she great at anything? Similar to Jasmine Thomas, at her peak. Career high 38% this past year from 3, up from 30% the prior 3 years. If that is real does provide the ability to play off ball. Is a good defender and has good size, could cross match and guard 2s to protect a smaller shooting guard teammate. Dangerfield has a longer history of shooting better. Harris has better assist numbers, but particularly this past year, much more dangerous teammates.  Basically a coin flip between the two with slight edge to Dangerfield’s ability to score off screens and be more dangerous on offense.

10. Megan Walker

6’0” wing, UCONN (47.7 FG /45.1 3PT / 82.1 FT)

    Similar to Laksa, her value will be shooting. But she took half as many attempts this past year as Laksa did in her most recent full NCAA season. Can she ramp up her shooting, especially off the dribble? Average at best athlete. Does she have the athleticism to hang on defense and attack off the dribble? May not be big enough to play more than spot minutes as a small ball 4, where UCONN played her quite a bit this past year. Though does fight and rebound fairly well at the 4.

11. Te’a Cooper

    5’8” guard, Baylor. (43.8 FG /41.5 3PT / 73.0 FT)

    Good defender against pgs, but may not have the size to defend bigger shooting guards. Good at the simple pass, but not an exceptional passer. Swing skill will be the 3 pointer, which was much improved this past year. Given average free throw shooting, might be closer to a low 30s three point shooter. Good burst, particularly in transition, but not a great finisher.

12. Beatrice Mompremier

Big 6’4”  (52.1 FG/ 30.8 3PtT / 70.5)

Has the potential to be an excellent center at the pro level. Will be helped if surrounded by shooting. Good shot blocker and rebounder. Too upright defending on the perimeter, gets blown by too easily. Could stand to improve finishing at the rim. Face up game only useful when she can use speed advantage, not much craft. Given that decent centers are easier to find,  taking a gamble on another wing might be a better use of draft pick in this range. 

Also receiving consideration:

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan big, South Carolina

Kiah Gillespie wing, Florida St.

Joyner Holmes big, Texas