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Inside the W with Michelle Smith: WNBA Draft 2020 Analysis

The emotion and the excitement were anything but virtual Friday night as 36 young women were drafted into the ranks of the world’s best women’s professional league.

The 2020 WNBA Draft was unlike its predecessors in many ways, from the emotional tribute at the top of the show to three young players – Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant and Payton Chester – who died in the January 26 plane crash that killed Kobe Bryant and five others, to the homegrown celebrations of each player and their families that were captured live.

But it was also like so many of the other WNBA Drafts that have come before it – a moment of hope and promise for the future of the league.

These 36 players are now professionals. They will find themselves in new cities with new teammates and new coaches. They will fight and scrap to prove themselves against veterans and fellow rookies.

The legacy, not the setting, is what counted the most on Friday night.

With the start of training camp delayed, these players will have more time to settle into their new realities. In the meantime, let’s analyze how each team did on Draft Day 2020.

Atlanta
Picks: No. 4 Chennedy Carter G; No. 17 Brittney Brewer F; No. 25 Mikayla Pivec G/F; No. 27 Kobi Thorton F.
Mission Accomplished? The Dream has to redefine itself with Angel McCoughtry’s departure, and the prodigious talent of Chennedy Carter is a good place to start. Carter will join a backcourt that includes explosive talents like Courtney Williams, Tiffany Hayes and the steady hand of Renee Montgomery. Getting this group to come together will be one of head coach Nikki Collen’s biggest tasks. Brewer could bring depth inside, while it’s worth keeping an eye on third-round pick Mikayla Pivec, who may have an uphill climb to make the roster. Pivec’s stellar career with Oregon State, however, indicates that she is a hard-working, smart, “glue” type player who rebounds out of the guard spot better than most, is a strong defender and may just find a way to stick.

Chicago
Picks: No. 8 Ruthy Hebard F; No. 30 Japreece Dean G; No. 32 Kiah Gillespie F.
Mission Accomplished? Hard to argue that the Sky could have found a better fit for a young talent than first-team All-American Ruthy Hebard, who will slide well into the Sky’s pick-and-roll offense and is ready to take everything that Courtney Vandersloot is able to dish out and finish at the rim. The Oregon post will learn much from veterans Stefanie Dolson, Jantel Lavender and Cheyenne Parker. Dean could bring depth in the backcourt, and Gillespie, who was projected in the first-round at various points, is a strong third-round pick after a good career at Florida State.

Connecticut
Picks: No. 23 Kaila Charles G/F; No. 35 Juicy Landrum G.
Mission Accomplished? Last year’s WNBA runner-up had just two late-round picks here thanks to the trade with Phoenix for DeWanna Bonner that sent three first-round picks to the Mercury, but did well to find a pair of shooting guards who bring different things to the table. Charles is a strong scoring guard/wing, who led Maryland this season at 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game and scored nearly 2,000 points in her college career. Landrum was one of the top perimeter shooters in the country during her time at Baylor. She set the NCAA single-game record with 14 3-pointers during the collegiate season and is a good on-ball defender.

Dallas
Picks: No. 2 Satou Sabally F; No. 5 Bella Alarie F; No. 7 Tyasha Harris G; No. 21 Luisa Geiselsoder C.
Mission Accomplished? It’s hard to view draft day as anything other than a big success for the Wings, who landed three impact-potential rookies to add to a young roster that will be exciting and intriguing. Sabally has star potential with her length, athleticism and internationally influenced game. Alarie, the 3-time Ivy League Player of the Year out of Princeton, can play inside and stretch the floor and shoot the 3-pointer. At point guard, Tyasha Harris is a floor leader who can add to a backcourt that will include Moriah Jefferson, Arike Ogunbowale, Katie Lou Samuelson and Allisha Gray. Geiselsoder, the No. 21 pick, is not expected to play this season. Safe to say that competition in training camp is going to be fierce in Dallas.

Indiana
Picks: No. 3 Lauren Cox F; No. 14 Kathleen Doyle G; No. 28 Kamiah Smalls G.
Mission Accomplished? The Fever, under new head coach Marianne Stanley, continue to rebuild back into a playoff contending team and they made a big strike with the selection of versatile Lauren Cox with the No. 3 pick. She’s a strong passer, can block shots and plays well in the paint, which will make her a great complement to Teaira McCowan and form one of the best young frontcourts in the league. Cox’s ability to score inside will take pressure and defenders off of McCowan. Doyle is a consistent scorer, averaging 18.1 points a game for Iowa last season. She and Smalls will compete against the Fever’s deep core of guards that includes Tiffany Mitchell, Kelsey Mitchell, Victoria Vivians and Erica Wheeler.

Las Vegas
Picks: No. 33 Lauren Manis F.
Mission Accomplished? The Aces had just one pick in this draft after having the No. 1 pick three years running. Manis is the first player ever drafted out of Holy Cross and averaged 18.6 points and 11.5 rebounds a game in her senior season. She will be a long shot to make the roster.

Los Angeles
Picks: No. 20 Beatrice Mompreimer F; No. 22 Leonie Fiebich G; No. 34 Tynice Martin G.
Mission Accomplished? The Sparks had no pick in the first round, but getting Mompremier at No. 20, when it had been projected that she could be a first-round pick, feels like somewhat of a steal. At No. 22. L.A. took 6-foot-4 German guard Fiebich, who will likely not play this season in the WNBA. Martin, from West Virginia, will bring some depth into training camp at shooting guard.

Minnesota
Picks: No. 6 Mikiah Herbert Harrigan F; No. 16 Crystal Dangerfield G; No. 26 Erica Ogwumike (via trade with New York for Stephanie Talbot)
Mission Accomplished? The Lynx pulled off the first big surprise of draft day by taking South Carolina’s Herbert Harrigan with their No. 6 pick when many thought they would be looking for a point guard. Herbert Harrigan was the MVP of the SEC Tournament and is a versatile 6-2 forward who averaged a career-best 13.1 points a game in her senior season. UConn’s Crystal Dangerfield will join former Huskies’ teammate Napheesa Collier and could fill the need at guard, and was surprisingly still available at No. 16. The last bold move of the day for Cheryl Reeve was trading Stephanie Talbot to New York for Erica Ogwumike, the third Ogwumike sister to enter the WNBA ranks. A stellar guard at Rice, Ogwumike is not guaranteed to stick in Minnesots, but she certainly has the pedigree that will make it a distinct possibility.

New York
Picks: No. 1 Sabrina Ionescu G; No. 9 Megan Walker F; No. 10 Jocelyn Willoughby G/F (via trade from Phoenix for Shatori Walker-Kimbrough); No. 12 Jazmine Jones G; No. 13 Kylee Shook, F; No. 15 Leaonna Odom F
Mission Accomplished? It’s a new day in New York and they have the plethora of draft picks to prove it, starting with the team’s new franchise player in Ionescu. The fact that the first run of Ionescu’s Liberty jersey sold out on Friday is a sign of the enthusiasm that comes around this pick. And then New York and new head coach Walt Hopkins added even more talent with No. 9 pick Megan Walker out of Connecticut, a trade that netted No. 10 pick Jocelyn Willougby as well as Louisville standouts Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook. Now it’s a matter of putting all of these pieces together and blending them with Asia Durr, Layshia Clarendon, Kiah Stokes, Kia Nurse and Amanda Zahui B.

Phoenix
Picks: No. 18 Te’a Cooper G: No. 29 Stella Johnson, G.
Mission Accomplished? The Mercury traded their first-round draft pick, Jocelyn Willoughby at No. 10 to New York for third-year guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, bringing them more needed experience in the backcourt. Walker-Kimbrough won a title in Washington last season as a reserve guard, averaging 6.7 points, 1.6 rebounds. Competition will be tight heading into camp, as the Mercury will be carrying 11 players to start the season due to salary cap limitations. Cooper and Johnson will come in and look to fight for spots in the backcourt. Cooper played a big role at Baylor, and Johnson was the nation’s leading scorer this season, averaging 24.8 points a game at Rider.

Seattle
Picks: No. 11 Kitjia Laksa F; No. 19 Joyner Holmes, F; No. 31 Haley Gorecki, G.
Mission Accomplished? It was a relatively quiet draft for the Storm, who took Laksa out of South Florida (where she played three seasons), a player they have had their eye on for a while. Laksa, from Latvia, is coming off an ACL injury and likely will not be available to play this season. But when she arrives, she will bring strong 3-point shooting. Holmes will compete for time in the post, while Gorecki’s strong senior season at Duke made her a draft pick but a roster long shot as a rookie on a team that looks pretty set heading into the season.

Washington
Picks: No. 24 Jaylyn Agnew F; No. 36 Sug Sutton G.
Mission Accomplished? The Mystics accomplished their mission when they landed seven-time All-Star center Tina Charles earlier in the week. It’s tough to imagine a scenario in which a pair of late second-round draft picks crack the roster of the defending champs. Still, Agnew was the Big East Player of the Year at Creighton and Sutton played alongside Ariel Atkins at Texas.


Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes columns on WNBA.com throughout the season and offseason. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.