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WNBA Draft 2017 Preview: Atlanta Dream

2016 Record: 17-17

Key Offseason Moves:
Re-Signed Layshia Clarendon
Acquired Aneika Henry-Morella from Connecticut for Reshanda Gray

Last Year’s Draft Picks:
1st Round/11th Overall: Bria Holmes
2nd Round/13th Overall: Rachel Hollivay
2nd Round/16th Overall: Courtney Walker
3rd Round/28th Overall: Niya Johnson

This Year’s Draft Picks:
1st Round/7th Overall
2nd Round/19th Overall
3rd Round/31st Overall

2016 Season Highlights:

Atlanta Dream 2016 Season Highlights

Team Needs

The Dream’s 2017 hopes were dealt a major blow about three months ago, when star forward Angel McCoughtry announced she would rest during the upcoming season. McCoughtry has been the face of the franchise for nearly a decade, but she’s always played year-round due to overseas commitments. She wrote in a letter to the fans that she hopes her decision “ultimately will benefit the Atlanta Dream long-term.”

While McCoughtry may indeed return better than ever in 2018 — and the door could still be open at some point in 2017, too — this puts head coach Michael Cooper and his team in a tough spot for the near future. You just can’t replace 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. McCoughtry almost single-handedly carried Atlanta to a first-round playoff win over Seattle last year. With Tiffany Hayes suspended for the game, she put up 37 points and seven assists to help the Dream overcome a halftime deficit.

Fortunately for Atlanta, last season was also a promising one for Hayes, Layshia Clarendon and Elizabeth Williams. All three increased their numbers across the board, and Williams earned the league’s Most Improved Player award in her first year with the Dream. They might not be able to find a replacement for McCoughtry in the draft, but the Dream do boast young players trending in the right direction.

Coming off a strong rookie season, 2016 first-round pick Bria Holmes will likely have a chance to earn the open spot in the starting lineup. The Dream could benefit from added depth in the frontcourt, where Williams paired with Sancho Lyttle last season. Lyttle is a former All-Star, but she’s now 33 and coming off an injury-riddled season. Atlanta ranked among the worst in the league in opponents’ second-chance points (12.9 per game) and points in the paint (36.1) in 2016.

As they attempt to find the right rotation in McCoughtry’s absence, it will be interesting to see what the Dream do with their trio of draft picks. Atlanta is a team that likes to run – having led the league in fast break points three straight years – but everything could change without McCoughtry.